I always laugh at Will Smith’s delivery of this line in Men In Black, but of course to have the drive to be the best of the best is not something to laugh at but something to strive for, so just lately I've been searching for the books that are considered to be the best in their genre, or literary style.
What is considered to be the best is of course subjective depending on what it is we are each looking for in what we read. I look for use of language; characters that I will never forget (such as Owen Meany) as well as a damn good yarn that will make me think or, in the case of horror, will unsettle me.
Best Short Story
The Dead by James Joyce is widely considered to be the best short story written in the English Language. It is the last story in the Dubliner’s collection but it also works well as a stand alone novella. It was the title, of course, that brought it to my morbid attention when I stumbled across it on iTunes!
The story centres on an annual dance given by two elderly sisters in
Ireland around Christmas time. The
main character is an insecure and socially awkward man by the name of Gabriel,
who attends the party with his wife. We experience some of Gabriel’s
awkwardness as he makes his way through the dances, dinner and speeches. When the party is over Gabriel and his wife return
to their hotel and it is there that she reveals something shocking to him. I was expecting some really awful revelation,
but it isn’t so bad. What it does do though
is make you think about the people that you know from your past and the
influence that they have had on your life.
It also highlights that no matter how much you think you know somebody, you never
really know them.
This story is beautifully written and you do feel for Gabriel as he deals with his wife’s revelation. I had never read James Joyce before and I think that this is probably a perfect introduction.
The Funniest Novel
Apparently the trip is easy to re-create and many fans of the book travel the route and stop in at the pubs and inns mentioned along the way.
Greatest (Living) Author
Don Delillo has 10 out of 16 books on the 1001 books you must read before you die listing that I follow, which is equalled only by Charles Dickens. Surely this would make him THE greatest author? I have never read him so Ratner’s Star will be going on my reading list very soon.
The Best Book Ever Written
Having an idea about the storyline didn’t really prepare me for the amount of WORDS that there are on each page, it’s very daunting each time I pick it up. I've gone from audio to Kindle back to audio in order to try and get through this monster-piece. From what I have read so far (half) it has mainly been very entertaining but there are some awfully long monologues and short stories which detract from the plot. The best of these though was the story of Anselmo and Lothario titled The Impertinent Curiosity which I enjoyed very much, and I have since learned that the term Lotharian was derived from this story.
The humour that worked back in the 1600s still works today amazingly, and Cervantes is quite cheeky in some of his observations, sometimes relating comments back to his own authorship. I confess for me it has been a bit of a trial to read (almost as painful as Melmoth the Wanderer) but the characters and the humour will help me see it through to the end.
Until next time,