t’s Top Tensies, Part Two(sies?)

So. Assuming that you’ve ALL read Monday’s post (and I KNOW that you all did!), I’ve no need to explain why with this post, we’re starting smack dab past the middle, at number six…

6 – “A Clockwork Orange,” by Anthony Burgess

Of the ten, this is the only one I don’t currently own, and I don’t currently own it for a couple of reasons. First off, I’ve read this book so many times, I feel as if I know it by heart. Secondly, it’s a damned tough read. As you can see by clicking through to the more in-depth review above, Burgess created for his near-future adventure, a near-future language to go along with it. And this in turn, required that a near-future dictionary of sorts, be included with the story itself. Residing at the back of the book, so that you can keep flipping forward and back sporadically, as you try to keep up. Read it at least once, and make damned sure you get the 21-chapter version when you do. It makes all the difference in the world.

7 – “Stranger In A Strange Land,” by Robert A. Heinlen

This book was actually a present for C from her brother. She never read it, and I’ll be forever glad that I did. It turns what we normally think of when we hear “space alien” on its ear in that, in this story, the man from Mars literally is a man. One of us, but not. Like so many of the other books on my list, this one uses science fiction as it’s base, but it’s the interweaving of the personalities that makes it so good. That, and the exploration of possibilities normally thought of as absurd (everyone gets to go to the heaven of their making, to worship the God that they personally believe in? Insane! Especially given the time in which it was first published). Oh, there’s also a bit of sex in there as well. And hey, as any reader of Heavy Metal Magazine knows, science fictional lovemaking is always the best.

8 – “The Book Of Lost Things,” by John Connolly

Every cute fairy tale you’ve heard as a child gets turned upside down and queasy-like in this little gem. This little, very disturbing gem. I was going to provide you with a quote to help solidify my argument, but this book has become a bit of a lost thing itself, as it has been on an overly extended loan to my sister-in-law. Note to self – do NOT loan out books that are liable to be ranked amongst your top ten at some point in time, and then needed to help provide a solidifying quote. At any rate, it’s a tale a young boy dealing with not only the death of his mother, but a shady character known only as “The Crooked Man” as well. I liked the story, as it was written with relish, and though some of the scenes are quite disturbing, you can almost “see” them through Connolly’s word choice. Creepy, but good.

9 – “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Of course he had to make the list. And this one is my favorite. A scary tale about the day (soon coming), when all books will be illegal, all independent thought, frowned upon. Sadly, if this ever comes to be, all of us in Blogsville will be looking for a new hobby. In the case of the story – as I’m sure you all know – “firemen” don’t stop fires, but rather, set them. Burning every book that’s found, scrounged upon or being hidden away. The main character is one such servant of the law, but he also has an addiction to the very thing he’s been charged with the destruction of. His journey provides hope in an otherwise blasé world, and the story works well for me, because it helps to prove that there will always be those who are “outside,” who don’t fit in, but who all the better for it.

10 – “Death Of A Salesman,” by Arthur Miller

This is only coming in at number ten, because it’s actually a play. And again, it’s MY list. Anywho, I am Willy Loman. Just as my dad before me was. Or at least that’s how I’ve always felt. Possibly one of the bleakest stories I’ve ever read, it truly did speak to me about how you need to pay special attention to what you work towards, for your liable to obtain it in the end. Sad for those who are working for no reason whatsoever, sadder still for those who think that their path is true, when in fact it’s not. This is one of the few books that brings me to tears. Every single time I read it. I haven’t done so since dad died. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to again.

•••

Well, that was pretty easy. My literary top ten, all wrapped up in two posts! Now, and because I’ve no idea how to truly do a Top Ten that is actually just ten in it’s count, here’s one more submission to the list that is absolutely VITAL to anyone’s reading list:

Honorable Mention – “Harold And His Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson

I used to work with a self-serving douche (trust me, he was) that at one point asked me what my favorite book was when I was growing up. My immediate response was the above title, and I followed that up with a “why?” “Well you see,” he said, “I believe that our favorite book from that time dictates the person we’ll eventually become. My favorite was ‘The Giving Tree,’ and that’s why I’m so generous to everyone and always giving of myself.” See? I told ya he was a douche. He did have a point though, I later realized. And while I don’t have my own purple crayon, I do feel as if I’ve spent my life trying to create a life (versus simply riding along with it), and while some of the things that I’ve created along the way have scared me, I do feel as if eventually I’ll get there. Wherever the “there” is, I suppose. Harold taught me that with imagination and belief, you can’t do just anything you want, but you can get close enough – and in the end, arrive safely home.

•••

PS: click here if you want to see my Top Ten books on Poetry.

Briefly…

So, is it OK if a Word Song prompt, promptly – almost forcibly – prompts you over to an entirely different song, which in turn then prompts you – in conjunction with the original prompt – to your 100 word submission?

I suppose we’ll find out from Leeroy this week if that’s cool by him… Here is this week’s 100 Word Song.

And here is what I woke up to this morning, you know, after first logging in…

Took forever, even for an anonymous blog, but I’m thinking that’s pretty cool, right?

 

t’s Top Tensies

OK, so as some-to-many of you know, I’ve done a couple of book reviews for the kids over at 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, and I’ve a couple more due to them as well (I swear Ms. Oh Waily, I’m working on one right NOW – promise!!!!).

When I first started to write my latest review, it dawned on me – who in the hell has ever read enough books to know which 1,001 should be on your “must read” list, before you expire? And how many more books have had to have been read overall, to whittle down the list to a paltry 1,001? Shortly thereafter it dawned on me further that of the 1,001, only five would ever make it to my list, if they made it all. And then it dawned on me thirdly, what in the hell, exactly, is on my list?

After all that dawning, my brain started to ache. So I took a little break before I jumped out of bed, grabbed a piece of paper, and scribbled down what I thought would be my top ten. Several days later, I was finally able to translate just what in the hell I had written, and here they are, as follows:

1 – “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams

Obvious choice. AND, since it’s my list, I’m talking about the single-book version containing the entire five-book trilogy. Above every other writer, Adam’s is the man who inspired me to first beat the crap out of my keyboard, in the attempt of making words pretty. Reading him is like going on a mental roller coaster. If you ever dropped me off on an island, all I would need to survive would be this book. And sunscreen. And a pocketknife, I suppose. Oh, and definitely a towel. Why a towel, you ask? Read this book, and you’ll find out.

2 – “Inferno,” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

This one has a special place in my heart, as it was originally my dad’s book. Along with “Lucifer’s Hammer,” this was one of the first “adult novels” I remember reading as a kid. And as it was until just recently out of print, about a year before his passing, dad gave me his copy. As “hard” science fiction writers, these two do an awesome job of placing their main character right into the bowels of hell. Which, as it turns out, actually is exactly as Dante described it. A fun read, full of adventure, demons, and a main character who – as a result of his overly staunch atheism – refuses to believe he is where he is.

3 – “The Great Divorce,” by CS Lewis

OK, to be clear, Lewis could have a “Top 10” list all to himself, but for the purpose of this task, I chose this story to be his representative. And yes, I chose it over the “Screwtape Letters.” It’s very similar to “Inferno,” in that a man goes to hell, but this one knows it; and just for a spell. The majority of this story however, doesn’t take place in hell or heaven, but rather, in That Place that lies in between. And That Place in between is where residents from both lands meet. Those from hell, in the hopes of getting into heaven – and those from heaven, hoping to help the damned to achieve just that. There’s a wealth of different personalities, and if you pay close attention, you can find a little bit of yourself in almost each and every character. Well, I did at any rate.

4 – “The Gargoyle,” by Andrew Davidson

I cannot express how real this book was to me. It honestly left me winded. A love story like none I ever read before, about a former porn star and a woman who is insane – or not. I’m going to move on to the next entry now, but only because I’m sitting here still, dumbfounded, as to what words I can use to describe what an achingly terrifying, sensual, hopefully hopeless and delightful read this was.

5 – “The Prophet,” by Khalil Gibran

I’m sure that this one is on most everyone’s list, and as well it should be. For some reason, I feel that Mr. Gibran would be delighted as well, to find it sitting in the exact middle of my top ten. There are two books in existence that serve as my guiding light in the realm of parenting. This is the second. If you read it only on the surface, you could be done with this book by day’s end. If you read deeper however, this one will take you at least a month to drain all the wisdom from it. Well balanced, and true, this book should be required reading in our schools. I feel as if our future would be much brighter, if it were.

•••

OK, so seeing as I’m up to somewhere around word 761 already, I suppose that I should save numbers six through ten for another post. I know I don’t usually do this sort of thing, so I apologize if I bored you. But hopefully within this list, you may be able to find a new author, style or tale that you can enjoy. Please let me know if you do! And if you don’t, then at least you get to start your week of with a little Limahl…

Briefly…

As of today, I’ve committed 2,600 words to the 100 Word Song Cause, with a full 1,600 of them going into my “100 Words” tale. That’s gotta mean something, right?

Here’s words 2500 – 2600 for this weeks 100 Word Song.

And here is the song that I immediately think of whenever I hear the title to today’s prompt (yes Lance, this version – not Iggy’s). Don’t ask, as I’ve no idea what the two have to do with each other…

Freedom, wealth and ocean views

“Retire Rich” was emblazoned firmly across the cover of the Fortune magazine I happened upon in the public restroom where I work. I didn’t read the article, in part because it’s a subject I don’t feel I’ll need to be “boning up on” any time soon, and more importantly, because – as I noted previously – it was residing in a public restroom. It’s hard enough for me to actually walk into one, let alone touch anything that happens to be lying about on the stall floor. Directly beneath the headline, there’s an image of a healthy, well-dressed white couple – far too young in appearance to be retired yet, if you ask me – standing on the bow of what appears to be a yacht, overlooking the ocean.

They’re rich. They’re retired. And they’re together. But alone. No one else is in the shot with this couple who’s far too young in appearance to be retired yet. And it bothers me that there isn’t. It bothers me that in the year 2012, we still find ourselves dealing with these snake oil salesmen. You see, I believe that the magazine didn’t just trail up and down the coast in search of a healthy, well-dressed, white, far-too-young-in-appearance-to-be-retired-yet-if-you-ask-me couple. I believe they very specifically chose whom they did, and they then plunked them down in the exact spot needed, to best serve the magazine’s goals. Now I won’t go off about the couple’s race, because I’m certain that Caucasians were only chosen because we seem to work best in seafaring settings. I will however, go off on several other items, but before we move on – a quick digression first:

I said “Caucasian” on purpose. As I for one, am sick and tired of having to be so careful as to what name I use when addressing other races, yet when in regards to us, plain old “white,” still works just fine. For the record, I’m not white – I’m Polish-American. Polish-bald and slightly overweight with a panache for music appreciation-American, if you’re being specific.

OK, back on topic. I was trying to make a link between the magazine and snake oil salesmen because after all these years, there are folk out there still trying to sell us on the idea of eternal youth. Of happiness through wealth. Of – well – apparently owning the damned ocean’s view, by mere fact of financial independence. I mean, what gives? I’m no Rockefeller, and I’m still allowed to take a peek at the ocean if I want. True, I can’t do it from the bow of a yacht, but it’s still there for me. And that I guess, is the part of the cover that bothers me most. Had the couple been trapped in the surroundings of wealth one normally associates with the stinkin’ rich, I think I would have felt better (or at least not noticed as much) about their being far too young in appearance to be retired yet. But with the ocean setting, it almost seems as if the magazine is saying that the wealthy are freer than the rest of us. Freer than us poor working stiff-types. Free enough to take ownership of what is free already. And that sort of pisses me off. Not because it’s a lie, but because it’s simply not true.

You see, I believe “freedom” is a lot like “wealth,” in that both are concepts very subjective to the beholder. While I can acknowledge that the rich have more goods and products, I can’t see whereas that makes them wealthier than I. And while they may have more time to spend with these goods and products, I can’t see where that then equates to true freedom. To me, true freedom doesn’t have a price tag, but true freedom does cost you everything you own. I know, I’m starting to make less and less sense – right? Let’s see if this works to help clear things up – being able to spend a week in Disneyland, while providing me with a certain amount of freedom, doesn’t make me free. Eventually I must return from my momentary freedom, and work to save up for the next time. Conversely, volunteering with the Peace Corps most assuredly removes every shred of freedom you may have previously enjoyed, but at the same time, it frees you wholly from the existence the rest of us find ourselves trapped in. And not only that, it betters you – frees you to accomplish even more. The time you spend away from worrying about “retiring rich,” allows you to come back a much richer person in the balance. One who will be glad to forego retirement altogether, to focus instead on the pursuit of Life.

Now, I’m not saying that I have ever volunteered for the Peace Corps (or have been to Disneyland for that matter), but I feel as if I have tried to use the opportunities provided to me in my time, to carry on with that sort of a spirit. As I’ve told my children – when I die, God is going to have a LOT of questions for me, but how much money I made is not gonna be one of them. I truly believe that (both parts, by the by), and I wish more people felt the same. I wish that those rich couples would stop staring at the damned ocean from the safety of their yacht and jump in with the rest of us. There’s a lot we could accomplish if we did so collectively. But apart, all that results is a small few on yachts, and the rest of us treading water. Building their yachts for them, as they sail along carefree, right over us.

So, is this just a poor person rant against the rich? Could be, I suppose. But I hope it’s not, and hope even more so that it is not perceived in that vein. I would never tell a rich person to give to the poor what they have worked “so hard” for. But I would invite the rich to stop working so hard for only themselves. It is that very ideology that drives us ever onward to tearing ourselves apart as a species. The very thing that ensures that we will never reach our full potential.

OK, I guess I’m done now, but I do feel as if before I clamber down from my soapbox that I should mention – hey you people living on welfare? You know, the ones who do it just to avoid having to actually work for a living? Yeah, that goes for you too. Let’s all work together, stop making yachts, and start making room at the ocean side for everyone to catch a glimpse, OK? I promise that if we do, then we can all retire rich.

Ghosts found while sifting through my phone’s camera

They are both ghosts now.

He, because he stopped living. And she, because she continued to grow.

•••

Briefly…

Honest, I’m not being a music snob. Well, not this time at any rate. It’s just that this week’s tune has always been one of my absolute favorites from the underly-appreciated and overly-drugged Anita O’Day.

What will most likely be considered a stand alone piece to my “100 Words” tale, here’s this week’s 100 Word Song.

And here is Anita’s playful take on an awesome tune…