Archive for Books

There’s more to life than books, you know. (But not much more)

Posted in Books, Me with tags , on March 27, 2008 by frumpunk

Frum Satires latest post is an interesting read. We don’t share the same taste in books at all. He’s completely outdoors focused while the closest to the outside I get is when I see it while closing the blinds so my little cozy cave of bed is darker.

But reading is my earliest passion. One of my earliest memories is seeing the words “FP is an avid reader” on a first grade report card. I immediately asked what avid meant and a vocabulary which is both magnificent and underused was pictured in its baby steps.

I would read anything. I remember reading a book of Roald Dahl short stories when I was 20 and wondering why a certain story was so familiar when I realized I read the book when I was about 6. I even finished ‘Go My Son’ (arguably the longest and best of all the holocaust books) before the age of 10. I literally read any random thing that was grown up. I read a biography of Paul Getty around the age of 8. I never read it again, but I’ll never forget the whole bit about his grandson who was kidnapped. He famously refused to pay the ransom saying that “if I pay for one kid, they’ll kidnap all of them”. They cut his ear off with a razor (described in very graphic detail, especially for a kid my age) and sent it to Paul in a parcel. When they realized he was serious about not paying the ransom, they released the kid. I remember being struck by the fact that his biggest upset about the whole ordeal was the fact that he could no longer wear sunglasses. I read a book on the Golom of Prague until I got too scared. I must have been 5, and the book was telling a story of a Priest who tried to start a blood libel that the golom stopped. It described him tempting a boy into the church where he slit his throat with a dagger shaped like a cross and draining his blood. Whichever rabbi wrote that, could have had a brilliant career writing horror books and film scripts.

I used to like gedolim biographies, until I realized they were all the same. I’m convinced Artscroll has a template and they just churn them out by auto-replacing names and locations. (Born poor to a pious family, brilliant and precocious child. Memorized Chumash and Tanach by 5, Mishnayos by 7, Talmud Bavli by 10, at 13 he traveled across: Poland/Russia/Lithuania (pick one) to learn by the gadol of his generation. He learned with the brightest students and outshone them all even though he was so young. etc…).

I was the only one I knew of who enjoyed books in school. I thoroughly enjoyed the novels we had to read (everything from ‘Hatchet’ to ‘Goodbye Mr Chips’ (I was so sad at the end)). I also read ahead in my history and politics textbooks. Even though the latest president in them was Reagan! My school had a list of approved books of course and our english teacher did the best he could with what he had to work with. To teach us racial tolerance we read ‘Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ although the sequels were banned, I believe because Cassie got pregnant in the second one.

Modern times: Lately I’ve been reading Woody Allens works over and over. He wrote four books of the best short stories ever. They’re everything that could appeal to me; witty, wise, philosophical and unabashedly ridiculous. Actually short stories are my new thing. They’re like novels on concentrate. No need to fluff the story up with side plots, just enough time to cover the whole point and distill it down to its purest form. And you can knock out a couple every break, no need to read 400 pages over 3 weeks of lunch breaks and keep wondering whats going to happen next. Edger Allen Poe (remember The Raven from high school) is of course the classic master, but check out Jeffery Archers books, as well as his best novel, ‘Kane and Abel’. Also the aforementioned Roald Dahl, and I’m talking about the adult stories, not ‘The Witches’ or ‘Matilda’ (though those are also brilliant. I just feel his adult stories are under-appreciated). The two most recent books I’ve read are a biography on The Smiths and… erm… a Bloom County collection.