(photo credit: Sam reading in Badlands by Julie Falk on flickr.com. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode.)
Even though I admit to skimming over a lot of what Buzzfeed produces, I rarely stop to read their material carefully. But today, I came across “12 Famous Writers Told Us the Book They’re Most Thankful For,” (buzzfeed article here) and actually read through the copy, word for word. I’m always looking for book recommendations, and who better to look to, as a writer, than those who’ve found writing success.
I was disappointed.
While they all chose books that impacted them or changed their lives, few of them chose books that I’m likely to pick up and read for pleasure. There were a few that intrigued me (Sup, Close To The Knives and Between the World and Me) and a few I’d already read (Dandelion Wine, The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton), but there wasn’t that book that sounded so incredible that I wanted to pick it up immediately.
However, I happened to also read the cover review (The Complete Works of Primo Levi by Edward Mendelson- link to it here) from last week’s New York Times Sunday Book Review, and discovered something to put on that list my family keeps asking me to make about things that I would like as presents.
I’ve known about Primo Levi for a long time. I recall my mother reading his book/memoir, The Periodic Table, in the early 80s and I knew that he was a survivor from Auschwitz, a chemist, and a writer who committed suicide when he was in middle age. But, beyond those details, I wasn’t sure of who he was or what he wrote about. Now I have more of an idea.
This is the kind of stuff that drew me in: “For Levi, any attempt to “understand” or “comprehend” either chemical reactions or Nazi genocide risked the error of generalizing about the “almost-the-same”: “What we commonly mean by the verb ‘to understand’ coincides with ‘to simplify.’ . . . The desire for simplification is justified; simplification itself is not always. It is a working hypothesis that is useful as long as it is recognized for what it is.”
Maybe not your cuppa. Definitely mine.
Now it’s my turn to answer the question: what is the book you are most thankful for?
No hesitation here. It’s The Lover by Marguerite Duras (purchase here). The writing style is brilliant. The story fascinating. The touches of history interesting. Here’s the Amazon.com description of the book:
Set in the prewar Indochina of Marguerite Duras’s childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. In spare yet luminous prose, Duras evokes life on the margins of Saigon in the waning days of France’s colonial empire, and its representation in the passionate relationship between two unforgettable outcasts.
Now it’s your turn. What book are you most thankful for?
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