Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Great American Novel

Browsing through the bookstore today I noticed that Micahel Charbon has a new book out, Telegraph Avenue. The dust jacket blurb announces it is "the great American novel we've all been waiting for." That remains to be seen.

Charbon's third novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 and is in my personal list of the top five novels of all time. His next novel was a children's story, Summerland, and was, by all accounts, a financial success but all I can muster is "it was okay." His next offering, Gentlemen of the Road, was first serialized in The New York Times Magazine before being published in book form. I only now remember that I bought it, gave it a quick glance, and put it on a shelf unread where it remains and remains unread. In retrospect I may have to dig it out from whichever shelf I buried it in and give it another try.

Hard on the heels of Gentlemen of the Road Charbon offered us an alternative history with the publication of The Yiddish Policemen's Union which won a Hugo Award. I however, gave it the shelving award and buried it also after a few chapters. I just couldn't get into the alternative history genre nor the "hard boiled crime." Perhaps I should give it another try as well having mastered the alternative history genre by reading a couple of Harry Turtledove's books and have begun to appreciate the resurgence of hard boiled crime ala Stephen King.

Telegraph Road has gotten some excellent reviews but the literary circle loves Charbon and they would give him rave reviews if he wrote the ingredient list on a box of Corn Flakes. I am a little tougher.

Telegraph Road sat on a shelf in the bookstore surrounded by copies of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I was overcome by waves of nostalgia. The Amazing Adventures is one of those books I wished I hadn't read so I could read it again for the first time. That nostalgia and a wish for another read as good as that loosened my purse strings and I bought Telegraph Road. For now it joins the other two score books on my night stand that haven't been read but I hope to get to it soon.

I also hope it is as good as the critics say even if it isn't another Kavalier and Clay. I am getting tired of buying his books for them to become merely wall insulation.

Oh, yea, my best books of all time list?

1) The Last of the Justby Andre Schwarz-Bart
2) The Heart Is A Lonley Hunter by Carson McCullers
3) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Charbon
4) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
5) A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
6) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
7) The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
8) Snow in August by Pete Hamill

9 and 10? I am not sure I have read them yet.

It Can Always Get Better

Whenever I hear the phrase "it doesn't get better than this" I usually think to myself, yes it can. I will spare you the philosophical ramifications of that and a discussion on man being a creature that is never really satisfied.

The problem is that we all have individual tastes and what blesses the socks of you may make me gag.

The following is a case in point. While I sometimes use the phrase "it doesn't get better than this" to describe some piece of music, for example, in truth it can get better even for me. I love Eric Clapton and for my money his Unplugged album is the best he ever did. I have listened to it scores of times and I am never bored with it. But it does get better than this. For me anyway.

I know what follows isn't every one's cup of tea. A lot of you will hate it and I am sorry that you were not brought up properly so you could enjoy it.  The majority of the rest of you having acquired attention deficit disorder as a result of the instant gratification offered by our dumbed down society won't take the time to listen. Maybe only one other person here may listen and if you do, this is for you. You join the other 529,638 people in the world who has enjoyed this putting you in select company.

So, this is my real "Song Saturday" posting except it isn't a song. It does prove, however, that things can indeed "get better than this" most of the time.

My favorite composer, Antonin Dvorak and my favorite conductor, Herbert von Karajan, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, playing my all time favorite piece of music, Dvorak's 9th Symphony "From the New World.'

Get a glass of wine, settle back in your favorite chair, and close you eyes. (You may have to turn your speakers up a bit at the beginning.)

Give it a try. You may be surprised.

Song Saturday, Layla

It is a shame this man never learned to play that instrument.