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C. Columbus Day: Now with Life Altering Literature!

Categories: This Writer's Life.
Shameless Cross-Promotional Plug: My friend Sarah Walker’s book, Really You’ve Done Enough: A Parents’ Guide to Stop Parenting Their Adult Child Who Still Needs Their Money But Not Their Advice has been released from Tow books. It’s very funny. If you’re interested, Google it, then hit one-click purchase on Amazon to buy it and the
Fantastic Four – Rise of the Silver Surfer (The Power Cosmic Edition, 2-Disc Set) DVD. Or off of the Tow books website at www.towbooks.com. Get some.

Today is Columbus Day (or, as they’ve called it in Venezuela since 2002, the “Day of Indigenous Resistance”). So in honor of the holiday celebrating the discovery of The Bahamas by a guy that was kind of a self-promotional (fill in your own four-letter word here), I too am going to offer my own form of discovery under the guise of 25-42 word anecdotes re: 5 books that forever altered my mental landscape and the reasoning behind said alterations.

1. The Great Brain Series by John Dennis Fitzgerald: Tom Sawyer-esque stories revolving around the escapades of the narrator’s mischievous older brother “T.D.” in late 19th century Utah, these books taught me valuable lessons about small town culture, religious tolerance, and water closets. They were scary, climatic, and prescient: In The Great Brain is Back, for example, T.D. breaks up a Michael Vick style dogfighting ring.

2. The Kid Who Only Hit Homers by Matt Christopher: Matt Christopher writes about heavy topics (divorce, death, immigration) under the veil of books about kids playing sports. As a kid, I thought I loved them because I, too, loved sports, but I found out much later–upon revisiting a Matt Christopher book in my mother’s basement during a spell of acute boredom– that helped me deal with stuff going on in my own life. Plus, who hasn’t wanted Babe Ruth’s ghost to inhabit their body while playing little league?

3. A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Wait… you can write funny, haunting, stream of conscious prose with a semi-clueless cocky narrator and have it be considered American Literature? Seriously? The book that probably ruined any chance I had to go into a money making profession, I was stereotypically obsessed with Catcher, read it (on my own!!!) six or seven times in high school, and used one of its most obnoxious lines as my senior quote: “It’s really hard to be roommates with someone when your suitcases are much better than theirs.” Not. Cool.

4. A Prayer for the City by Buzz Bissinger: Before he wrote the book that became the Greatest Non-Cable Television Show of Our Era, Friday Night Lights, Bissinger wrote this classic chronicle of city life and politics through the eyes of (then mayor of Philly now governor of Penn) Ed Rendell. After reading this book for an Urban Politics class in college, I immediately turned around and read it again then applied for an internship at a free city paper, hoping to write the exact same type of stories about Hartford. Unfortunately, college life, access and talent intervened, but the book remains an indelible mark on my writing conscious.

5. On Writing Well by William Zinsser: Nothing has done more to influence and create my own voice and literary aspirations than this man and his simple, elegant, how-to guide to writing. Post reading this, writing became significantly less scary and increasingly simple and his term “to commit an act of literature” remains one of my favorite phrases of all time.

Anyway, I’m off to commit several acts of literature amongst the hippies at Espresso Royale. Enjoy your Day of Indigenous Resistance. And be sure and drop your own stories of mind altering literature in the Comments.

All Out of Love,

Air,
Supply

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6 Responses to C. Columbus Day: Now with Life Altering Literature!

  1. Andrew says:

    Weirdly enough, I remember reading that S.E. Hinton was making Ponyboy Curtis the male version of her!

  2. Genevieve Cancienne says:

    Andrew,

    The sequel was The Pigman’s Legacy, right? I remember liking it. About The Outsiders, when I was thirteen I thought that Ponyboy Curtis was the male version of me (or that I was the female, grunge version of him). Even now if I get stuck on a story I’ll sometimes type the first line from The Outsiders and for some reasson it helps me find my place. "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the moviehouse I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home."

  3. B’SD

    Amy Tan’s 100 Secret Senses changed my whole approach to appreciating writing techniques. WHAT a story! Captivating, crisp, clear prose.

    Yocheved Golani
    Coping with a Medical Crisis?
    Make the Changes You Need in Your Life.
    http://itsmycrisisandillcryifineedto.blogspot.com/
    http://www.yochevedsbookshelf.com

  4. Andrew says:

    Genevieve, you are my inner female. I read those exact two books in consecuive summers, and they inspired me to be a writer! Don’t you love how the mains in those books feel like they are based after you? Have you read the Pigman sequel?

  5. Genevieve Cancienne says:

    For me it was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and The Pigman by Paul Zindel. I read those in the same summer and knew that I wanted to be a writer. Of course, I imagined that I would be rich by now. That’s almost, but not quite, as funny as the line, "to commit an act of literature." The mind-altering novel I discovered as an adult was Middlemarch, which I discovered last year. The dialogue was incredible. To me reading that book was like walking up to a gorgeous, immense painting and weeping at the sight of it. Sniff!

  6. Gabrielle says:

    Dude, "The Great Brain" series are incredible! I think I’ve read all of them. They are some of the funniest little-known books ever.

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