Top 10 Books I’m Glad I Read
I love Top 10 lists, not that I think they are ever binding or even stable. Talk to me tomorrow, and the list below may have changed—either in its order or its items. But top ten lists are fun to make: they organize your thoughts and sometimes give a map of your memory or imagination to whoever is interested. The list is fiction, but eclectic—from many historical times, and at varying degrees of difficulty. I don’t mind working when I read, if it pays through.
I’d imagine there’s a little bit of each of these books lurking in my novel Vine, like a literary genetic code. I write with these stories in mind, all for different reasons, and I write with the hopes that my stories are somehow worthy of these.
10. Gerald Gottlieb. Adventures of Ulysses.
A kid’s version of the Odyssey, probably written at elementary or middle-school level. It retold Homer’s story in lively, one-monster-after-the-other chapters (which meant, I would find out later, that it conveniently avoided half the epic, but who cared when you were seven?). It got me started with the fantastic, with myth, and is the first book I remember fondly.
9. James Joyce. Ulysses.
Another version of the Odyssey, written at a much much more complicated reading level than the Gottlieb. Difficult, flashy, spectacular, funny. It’s what made me realize how the old classical myths are still in play in our own times. Take a deep breath and try it.
8. Edgar Rice Burroughs. A Princess of Mars.
OK, I picked it up at twelve because there was a scantily clad girl on the cover. And it’s clunky prose, unsophisticated characterization, and (unfortunately) not-so-subliminal racist. But it was my first example of world-building, of high-falutin’ heroic adventure in a mythic novel. I loved it then.
7. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.
On the other hand, I love this book now. Shelley was so young when she wrote this, and yet the book is so psychologically profound. Its multiple points of view and stories within stories a fascinating look at how more contemporary ways of telling a tale were being explored in the early 19th century. Though I love the films, what I love about the book is sheer novelistic appreciation.
6. John Milton, Paradise Lost.
That’s right. The long, difficult, Baroque epic poem. Talk about world-building! Milton runs every variation possible on chapters 1 and 2 of the Book of Genesis. He fleshes the story out as epic fiction, and we have characterization, plot and subplot, intermingled with mythic characters. Plus the best blank verse ever written in English. Buckle up and try it.
5. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber.
Fairy tale meets twentieth century meets feminism and Freud. Unlikely intersections at the time of writing, now it’s more standard fare in literature and literary criticism. But Carter did it so well, and with such a range of knowledge and talent. Dark fun for an attentive reader.
4. Hermann Hesse, Demian.
My favorite coming-of-age story (and what writer hasn’t tried one of those?) In most of these kinds of stories, the adventures are outward, as the hero grows into his world. Demian is one of the first I can think of where the growth is inward, and Hesse makes it interesting by weaving the self-examination with strange encounters, mysticism, and veiled threats. I love all his work, but this one is the most influential.
3. Ovid. Metamorphoses.
The grandfather of all mythologies. Here’s the great classical myths, told by a keen poet with a novelist’s eye. These are not the only versions of the stories, but for the most part, these are the versions we inherit, complete with their humor, sexiness, and psychological insight. A must-read for anyone interested in writing fiction with a mythic turn.
2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
My favorite modern novel. The story of an imagined South American town through a century of myth and wonder. Profound and bawdy and funny. I can’t say enough in its favor, except that if you haven’t read it, go out immediately and buy, borrow, or steal a copy.
- J.R.R. Tolkien. Lord of the Rings.
Bedfast for a summer because of a baseball back injury, I was lucky to have a pair of cousins, both wiser and more hip than I could hope to be; they set before me a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—a long book, they told me, to shorten the summer boredom. And shorten the boredom it did: I read the trilogy three times that summer. During that first reading, there was an instant of awareness that sealed a summer’s (and a lifetime’s) devotion to that book, to fantasy literature, and to reading itself. This was the book that changed my life—not the best book, maybe, but the most transformative and wonderful. I would not be myself without it.
Vine: An Urban Legend Tour
Presented by First Rule PR
Genre: Mythic Fiction
Amateur theatre director Stephen Thorne plots a sensational production of a Greek tragedy in order to ruffle feathers in the small city where he lives. Accompanied by an eccentric and fly-by-night cast and crew, he prepares for opening night, unaware that as he unleashes the play, he has drawn the attention of ancient and powerful forces.
Michael Williams’ Vine weds Greek Tragedy and urban legend with dangerous intoxication, as the drama rushes to its dark and inevitable conclusion.
Michael Williams was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Much of his childhood was spent in the south central part of the state, amid red dirt, tobacco farms, and murky legends of Confederate guerillas. He has spent a dozen years in various parts of the world, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, with stopovers in Ireland and England, and emerged from the experience surprisingly unscathed.
Upon returning to the Ohio River Valley, he has published a series of novels of increasing oddness,combinations of what he characterizes as “gothic/historical fiction/fantasy/sf/redneck magical realism” beginning with Weasel’s Luck (1988) and Galen Beknighted (1990), the critically acclaimed Arcady (1996) and Allamanda (1997), and, most recently, Trajan’s Arch (2010). His new novel Vine will be released this summer.
He lives in Corydon, Indiana with his wife, Rhonda, and a clowder of cats.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
· Michael Williams Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/michael.williams.33046
Michael Williams Blog: http://michaellwilliams.blogspot.com/
Vine: An Urban Legend Tour Dates:
12/28 – Fighting Monkey Press – Review
12/29 – SpecMusicMuse – Review
12/29 – Free Book Dude -Review
12/30 – Bee’s Knees Reviews -Review
12/31 – Celtic Lady reviews -Review
1/1 – Full Moon Bites –Interview
1/1 – Read2Review – Review