Sunday, December 17, 2006

Towards a Top Ten

So the year is drawing to a close, and, never one to pass up the opportunity to reccommend books, I thought I'd list my ten favorites. In the interest of imposing rules (so as not to range all over as I am wont to do), I limited myself to books published in the last year.

I do hate ranking things though, so these aren't in any sort of order, just the order that they come to mind. And in the interest of not exhausting you, poor reader, with too much reading material to take in at once, I'll be posting my selections, with excerpts from each, in dribs and drabs over the next few days.

These first two seem like they should go together. I'm often introducing books to one another in this way, placing them side by side on the bookshelf as if I were seating them next to one another at a dinner party (and so this is why Elizabeth Cook's Achilles can be found between the Fagles Illiad and Tom Clark's Light and Shade. I do have a system, after all).

1. What is the What, by Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng.

I was sitting with my mother, helping her boil water. I had found kindling and was feeding the fire, and she was approving of the help I was providing. It was unusual for a boy of any age to be as helpful as I was. There is an intimacy between mother and son, a son of six or seven. At that age a boy can still be a boy, can be weak and melt into his mother's arms. For me, though, this is the last time, for tomorrow I will not be a boy. I will be something else -- an animal desperate only to survive. I know I cannot turn back so I savor these days, these moments when I can be small, can do small favors, can crawl beneath my mother and blow on the dinner fire. I like to think I was luxuriating in the final moment of childhood when the sound came.

2. Grief Lessons:
Four Plays by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson.

Midnight my ruin began.
Supper was over, sweet sleep was drifting down,
after songs and dances and sacrafice
my husband lay in our chamber,
his spear on its peg.
He was not watching
for Greek sailors
to come walking into Troy.

I was doing my hair,
I was binding my hair,
staring down into the bottomless lake of my mirror,
before I fell into bed --
a scream cut the town,
a roar swept the street...

I left my bed in just a robe
like a Spartan girl
to supplicate holy Artemis. Useless! Sorrow!
I saw my husband killed.
They drove me down
to the salt sea.
Then I looked back as the ship set sail,
pulling me further and further from Troy
and I fainted away.

1 comment:

momeester said...

What a useful way to do a list, making us really look at each one.

And even better, I haven't read either one!!

In case the system does not recognize me