catcher in the rye, on the road, heartbreaking work of staggering genius, the unbearable lightness of being, everything is illuminated, updike in general, bukowski in general. it’s good too if you can get lunch poems under your belt before you turn into a cold-hearted snob, but as long as you get early exposure, o’hara is forever rereadable.
I think (maybe) that if a novel affects you in a very radically different way after age 22, you’ve either lost touch with your roots, found them, or grown so wise that you lost all feeling. I have no idea what I just said.
Plath. If you read her during that time frame, you can maybe have nostalgic love once you’re post-22. But I don’t think you can pick up The Bell Jar for the first time at 28 and not just want to punch her in the face.
Steppenwolf, Richard Yates, Howl, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Jesus’ Son, On The Road, The Journal of Albion Moonlight, The Prophet, Lord of the Rings, The Naked Lunch. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge …
i am pretty shocked that this post hasn’t yet devolved into yet another protracted (i almost wrote prolapsed) tao lin flame war. it probably will, now that i’ve made this comment. tao lin arguments are the rumpelstiltskin of arguments.
I don’t like to say there is such a thing as girl books or boy books, but I think part of the appeal of The Bell Jar (I can’t really speak about her poetry) is having someone else understand what it’s like to be a nineteen-year-old girl. Just as I’m sure I’m probably missing something deep and meaningful in Catcher by not having once been a teenage male.
The earlier you read Jesus’ Son the better. I read it at 28 or 29 and thought ‘oh god, this really would have fucked my shit up if I had read it earlier.’ I think Jesus’ Son is blatantly apparent in a lot of the work talked about here and with a lot of college/recently post college folks.
epic of gilgamesh, greek tragedies, winesburg ohio, on the road, howl, godot, the stranger, blood meridian, the elementary particles, unbearable lightness of being, rosencrantz and guildenstern are dead, something plato, shakespeare, dostoevsky, nietzsche, wilde, hemingway, viriginia wolf, faulkner, nella larsen, richard wright, flannery oconnor, frank ohara, kafka, murakami, delillo, raymond carver, john cheever
Richard Yates and Jesus’ Son are both great after 22. In fact, I think I would’ve found Yates too quiet (which is to say boring) at 17-22. I would’ve liked Jesus’ Son because of the humor and the drugs, but probably would’ve missed a lot of the deep shizzle going on in that there text.
I’m 32, Canadian and when I was at the ages 17-22 I was reading Canadian novels like Obasan by Joy Nozomi Kogawa, Mordechai Richler – The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and its like. These are what my high school thought imperative to discover. Not until I was in University that I began to discover Milton, Robert Browning, Beowulf. Some of the writing was stifling and I realized the lists were never perfect so I realized I had to go out on my own. If I had it my way this is what those ages groups should read, Top Ten:
Allen Ginsberg – Collected Poems
Charles Bukowski – Women
Donald Barthelme – The Dead Father
Lawrence Durrell – Justine
John Fante – Ask the Dust
Richard Wright – Black Boy
Unknown – Beowulf
Miguel De Cervantes – Don Quixote
Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
B.P. Nichol – The True Eventual Story of Billy the Kid
I believe Mr. Con is referring to the novel “Richard Yates” by Tao Lin, not the writer Richard Yates, who wrote “Easter Parade” and “Revolutionary Road,” among other things. This is something that sometimes gets confused because of Tao’s Lin choice to name his most recent novel after one of the more famous writers of the 20th Century. He did this to infer the emotional weight the writer Richard Yates often wrote with and at the same time to make a (sly?) gesture that Lin’s own novel is also “autobiographical fiction,” like what Yates himself said he wrote (though one could argue that the book Richard Yates is straight non-fiction, with names changed to famous movie stars). Please don’t feel bad if you didn’t catch it, everyone thinks it’s ridiculous that Lin named his novel after Yates too. It’s just some people have to pretend otherwise, for personal reasons.
Also, I wholeheartedly agree with the Klosterman, rock bios, Heartbreaking Work, On the Road, and Bell Jar suggestions. Brilliant question.
damn, was really ridiculous when picasso named a drawing of a woman and her hands “war and peace.” what is he think is. was really ridiculous when james joyce named one novel after a character from another book, an epic poem no less, and then he named his next book after a pub song. why’d duchamp name a toilet “fountain.” that’s ridiculous it’s not a fountain when i was 17 i played with childish things when i got to be 22.1 years of age i put aside childish i said i have no i have friends personal reasons serious put aside serious writer to myself i said everyone thinks it’s so ridiculous that it’s ridiculous that he ridiculous everyone
honestly it seems pretty strange to say ‘this book must be read’ at all, regardless of age. to some degree if you’re really into literary studies, you do need a grounding in some of the ‘big novels.’ but otherwise who gives a shit, people will read what they read when they read it.
Is this comment an inside joke? I really can’t keep them straight so you’ll have to enlighten me Stephen. But thank you(not really, I am using sarcasm here) for your interesting history and literature lesson. I was so dense before!(again, sarcasm).
Maybe you typed your very lucid(not really, this is sarcasm) comment from your Blackberry or from gchat. That would explain everything. And then later when someone asks, “Stephen, why could you not construct one coherent sentence?”
You’ll just say, “Well, I was typing this on from my Zune-Pad, don’t you get it?”
Again, though, great topic, I also second Howl, Fear and Loathing, and Catcher in the Rye.
Nonsense begets nonsense style. I typed that on my computer. I don’t like snobbery, I don’t like bullshit, and I don’t like the dismissal of young people. I’m not using sarcasm this time. You don’t know me, Jeffrey. I’m not sure what you know. I construct many things. We’re not on the same level. Interpret that inside.
I thought maybe you were channeling Molly Bloom’s soliloquy or something with the devolving language. (I may be way off here, I know.) I liked it, (and it doesn’t really matter where it came from). Try not to get upset or feel too bad.
“everyone thinks it’s ridiculous that Lin named his novel after Yates too.”
That’s not really true, I don’t think it’s ridiculous.
It’s actually a pretty amazing novel. Howard Roark is a memorable, strong character. Absolutely read it at your first opportunity. Just try to read it as a novel. We all hate Ayn Rand, but The Fountainhead was a fucking novel’s novel. Never got around to Atlas, Shrugged, and still don’t have intentions to.
Jeffrey, you’re right, I was referring to the novel RICHARD YATES by Tao Lin, not the writer of the same name.
I’d like to stress my list isn’t in any way condemnatory. I simply believe
there are some books more acutely encountered when one is young, though I’d never discourage anyone from reading them once one has reached a level of maturity and independence.
One error in my list: I meant to type ‘Naked Lunch’ not ‘The Naked Lunch’.
JEFFREY WHO IS EVERYONE WHERE DO THEY HANG OUT. WHERE ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE WHISPERING THAT TAO LIN WAS “SO PRESUMPTUOUS” TO NAME HIS BOOK “RICHARD YATES”. ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT ANYONE WOULD WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE THEY ONLY WANT TO TALK ABOUT REALLY PETTY UNIMPORTANT STUFF.