This week a friend of mine sent me this quote from Davies. My friend is a reader, too. He understands the gift of good books. He understands the power of the written word. He understands lasting value in a world shot through with kitsch.
As I thought on the Davies quote, it encouraged me to share with fellow bibliophiles (and future bibliophiles) a handful of books I have read recently that have become some of my favorites:
- Annie Dillard: Holy the Firm
- Charles Dickens: Oliver Twist
- Larry Brown: Tiny Love
- N.D. Wilson: Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl
- Ted Geltner: Blood, Bone, and Marrow
I gain nothing from sharing my thoughts except the encouragement of fellow readers, those who are likewise mysteriously drawn to the power of the written word. In a world of Youtube, and all visual media that assaults us, I cannot explain how good books still endure but they do. And I, quite literally, thank God for that reality.
It staggers my mind how folks can spend their lives in video after video after video, and feel no guilt. How do they not sense their lives flowing away, like so much sand being washed from the shoreline of their allotted days?
But somehow, thankfully, writers press on in their solitary crafts and good books get written and some publishers take a chance, and literature continues. And I, for one, am grateful.
Here’s a very brief assessment of each of the five pieces I listed above:
- Dillard is a masterful wordsmith. This piece of hers is a blend of Christian allusion, pantheistic motifs, solitude, and contemplation. Her wordsmithing is as striking as the nature she describes. Read it slowly. Read it aloud. Then read it again.
- I must show my cards with Dickens. I am a disciple. For characterization, ear for dialect, and capturing of human foibles, Dickens remains for me a treasure in literature almost unsurpassed. I read my first Dickens novel as a high school student, and I was hooked for life. In Oliver Twist, Dickens takes on human greed, the exploitation of children, and the beauty of compassion.
- Larry Brown is one of my favorites, too. He writes of the “rough South,” Mississippians mostly, who are down on their luck, prone to drink and violence, persistent, lonely, and yet loving. If you like Cormac McCarthy, William Faulkner, William Gay, Eudora Welty, and Flannery O’Connor, you’ll probably like Larry Brown’s collection of short stories.
- N.D. Wilson is a brilliant thinker and imaginative storyteller. This is one of his most important books, in my opinion. The upshot of this book? The world is magical. And we have forgotten that. And that is a big problem. I love this book.
- The last book is a bio of a writer I adore: Harry Crews. Crews’ works are not for the delicate. He spares nothing. He writes of brutality, usually by way of the “freakish.” Like Flannery O’Connor, he is demonstrating the hypocrisy of which we are all guilty. We wear one face for the world; meanwhile, our faces, if seen truly, are grotesque. Crews’ stuff is tough. You’ll be shocked at some of the episodes in his fiction. But he wrote truthfully, and that can be often ugly. Geltner does an excellent job in this bio of Crews in explaining what Crews wrote about and why he wrote about it. A touching, balanced, compassionate treatment of the brutal life and brutal works of Harry Crews.
2 thoughts on “The Depth & Pleasure of Good Books”
Brother Jon….Can you recommend an initial Harry Crews book ? Your description of his writing is intriguing. Thanks, Jim
A Childhood: The Biography of a Place is my favorite, Jim.
You feel Crews’ love for the soil that fed his soul, and how it never left him, and how he, in his writing, never left it.