Reveal: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice is the book from Books & Beginnings XVI. Sting wrote a song on his solo debut album called “A Moon Over Bourbon Street” inspired by this book. I adored the song. I adore New Orleans. I love the book.
I had loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it’s brooding creepiness. The concept of a vampire was far more terrifying psychologically than any film could ever convey. Then came Anne Rice and her Vampire LaStat and poor Louis. It was gorgeous. Most of the gibberish produced about vampires after paled in comparison. There is a far deeper frightening aspect for the monster that is deeply human. Which is why I never much went for glittering, soulful vampires. It never struck me as real. What makes the vampires of Rice so interesting is being forbidden the sun, their inability to age (a problem if you’re frozen in pre-pubescent form), their horrifying strength and their vulnerability. Good stuff.
Up Next: I never read anything like this before and although this author has a famous protégé, he will never be replicated. No other author is able to execute flippant fourth-wall breaking prose style with such brilliance. Whenever I needed a laugh, to this author I would turn.
This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn’t pretend to answer all or any of these questions.
It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.
Reveal: The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin comes in at Books & Beginnings XV. I wonder how copies of this classic I have brought. The copy I leant my daughter barely holds to its bindings. I ordered a new copy just to have a picture and a reliably bound version.
I have written extensively about my fascination with Ursula Le Guin since her recent death. Such a way of looking at things. Imagine, a world without gender. I couldn’t. Not until I read this book. Her ideas and stories were revolutionary in the sci-fi world, and still push the boundaries of the genre.
Up Next: A musician of note lead me to this tome. At least my crush on this iconic star gave me something of value.
“I see…” said the vampire thoughtfully, and slowly he walked across the room towards the window. For a long time he stood there against the dim light from Divisadero Street and the passing beams of traffic. The boy could see the furnishings of the room more clearly now, the round oak table, the chairs. A wash basin hung on the wall with a mirror. He set his brief case on the table and waited.
Reveal: The Gunslinger, Book I of The Dark Tower by Stephen King makes the list at Books & Beginnings XIV. Yes, it is Stephen King again. I never read anything else like this. I tore through the first three books like a reading locust, devoured them and then was made to wait like ten years or something for the next. I wish they had not bothered with a film of this one. It belonged in the vast world of the imagination, such an unusual and yet common tale. Good pursuing evil across a desert. Then intersecting with a modern boy. So strange. So familiar. So brilliant.
Up Next: I found a book that I should have discovered years earlier.
I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of imagination.
Reveal: Pawn Of Prophecy Book I of the Belgariad by David Eddings makes the list at Books & Beginnings XIII. A whole bunch of my friends were reading The Belgariad at the same time as I was. We all became obsessed with the characters. It was that kind of story where the people in the adventure made it sing. This is one of the few series that I wish HBO or some group would make a film series similar to Game of Thrones. Except I would be scared they’d muck it up. David Eddings does storytelling well but character even better.
Up Next: A book that took me on such a great journey between realms. Spell-binding from page one…
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.
REVEAL: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand makes my list in Books & Beginnings XII. My distrust of authority never recovered from my study of Ayn Rand. In fact, one of my favorite lines of all time comes from Atlas Shrugged.
It comes after a long monologue after quite a long conflict between a man who creates something invaluable the government wishes to control that would be free to everyone if the government would stop getting in the way. This is an over-simplification but the line is simple:
“Get the Hell out of my way.”
Up Next: My love of fantasy was reborn in this simple adventure with magnificent characters.
The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor’s farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into the bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and security, and above all, home. No matter how high Garion rose in life, he never forgot that all his memories began in that kitchen.
Reveal: Ulysses by James Joyce is the beginning from Books & Beginning XI. I ended up writing my Master’s thesis on James Joyce and William Faulkner. It was a phase I was going through – this stream of consciousness thing. I must admit my love of Joyce dwindled after finishing my studies at University. I have never picked him up again. But the influence was profound.
Up Next: The next book came from my mother’s obsession with the author. I had not liked the first few books I had read by this writer. This one floored me.
“Who is John Galt?”
The light was ebbing, and Eddie Willers could not distinguish the bum’s face. The bum had said it simply, without expression.
Reveal: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is the opening from Books & Beginnings X. I struggled with whether or not to include it given the recent revelations about the author. I decided I don’t care. Orson Scott Card wrote brilliant books and I don’t give flick about an author’s ideology, skin color, or any of it. Contrariness is part of what creates great art.
Art ought to be uncomfortable. It ought to challenge how we think of the world around us. Art reveals truth in that it shows how people actually think during a given time period in history. It is a much more reliable compass than a book of dates and events, and a well-governed accounting of laws passed and treaties signed.
Ender’s Game is brilliant, both Hugo and Nebula well-deserved. It further flamed my distrust of big government. In Card, he portrays this huge one-world government as a solution where everything in society is controlled, including breeding, turning humans into work animals. This terrifying government directs the creation of a little boy, carefully bred by regulation, to instigate a genocide. It is chilling what is done to Ender, what he becomes without his consent. This is a great story and it will make you think.
Up Next: I spent some of my university education in London. I was treated to a fascinating Irish professor who introduced me to authors I thought I already knew. One that I had already decided I could not stand. This professor changed my mind with a book most find incomprehensible.
Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.