In honor of High Fidelity, I have been compiling a list of my own All-Time Top-Five favorite novels. But I couldn’t limit it to five, because, although I could put five novels in the top slots, I could not dismiss the rest of the list. But before publishing today, I decided to browse Freshly Pressed, and so discovered a problem with my list (and even more, with my reading.) Here is my list (Maybe you will see the problem right off, but I didn’t.):
- Pride and prejudice by Jane Austen
- Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck
- A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Book Thief Markus Zusak
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Last night at the Lobster by Stewart O’nan
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom
I’m a little nervous to tell what the problem is, because I don’t want to diminish the importance of the books I have chosen in any way. In my opinion, they are all worthy to be there. All of these books mean something to me personally, and I feel they have great potential to influence society. For example, number 9. I am lucky to have had Stewart O’nan as a customer somewhere I used to work years back, so I’m probably a little partial. However, he is a phenomenal author with the ability to capture the essence of everyday life for the everyday person. Not doctors, lawyers, private investigators, FBI agents, but in the case of Last Night at the Lobster, restaurant workers. His work is deep and resounding, and important.
With that said, here is the issue I found with my list. I read this blog post on Progress on the Prairie and came across the idea that women writers are underappreciated (to say the least) in the publishing world, and in the realm of literary criticism. Obviously, this under appreciation can affect readership. So, looking at my own list, I realized that only 2/10 (20%) are by women.
This realization raised some questions for me. Do I read mostly male authors because of the influence of the education system (many of these authors were read in school, while my literary tastes were forming)? Or is this, as Progress on the Prairie suggests a problem of sexism within the literary world? Is it both? Is it something else entirely? These questions certainly deserve some digging around on DuckDuckGo.
But for now, it will suffice to say that whatever the cause, I have made a definite commitment to read more women authors. After all, women are a necessary part of life, and a wonderful part of society. We have much to contribute, and we should learn from each other, grow from each other, and help each other be heard.
I’m curious to know, what are some of your All-Time Top books (regardless of gender of author)? And what are some of your favorite works (fiction or non-fiction) by female authors?
Source: purchased from Borders
Spook Country is a novel that blends every day technology with a cutting edge use into an underworld lurking just beyond the surface of everyday life. I think Gibson’s aim in this novel is to show the reader a new world, a spook country, that exists in and interacts in the everyday world, but which most people are completely unaware of. The world this story is set in is our world, but it isn’t at the same time. It is the seedy, steamy side that we don’t see in our every day lives. A world that probably doesn’t exist in real life the same way it manifests in fiction and movies, yet we are all addicted to this high-energy, exciting world of crime and mystery. Gibson is a master at weaving technology into this setting, making it a vital part of it, and he does it without alienating the non-techy reader, yet without boring the technically savvy. Into this setting Gibson pulls Hollis Henry, an ex-rock star turned freelance journalist to whom this world is as strange as it is to the reader. Hollis finds herself employed by a magazine called Node which may or may not actually exist, on assignment to write about an emerging new art form called locative art. She is charged with finding a pioneer in the “production” of this art form, Bobby Chombo. Parallel to Hollis’ story is the story of Milgrim, a junkie (and translator of rare Russian dialects) held captive by Brown, some sort of intelligence agent, who is chasing an information smuggler named Tito who is part of a Chinese-Cuban crime family operating out of New York.
I think Gibson does an excellent job creating spook country, and bringing it to life. I don’t think the story line was the main point of this novel, I think the point is to illustrate the [possible] existence of spook country, and it’s relationship to everyday life through the cutting edge use of everyday technologies like GPS. In this respect, this novel was amazingly well done.
I found myself page-turning from the very beginning, maybe as much to find out how the multiple story lines could possibly be connected as to find out where it was all going. Gibson has a way of drawing the reader into the story while hardly giving any facts about what is going on until the very end. I page turned until the last few pages, and this is where the problem comes in. After I first finished reading, I felt the ending to be a bit weak, which was very disappointing to me. I felt there were a lot of loose ends not tied up, and a general lack of resolution and explanation of the main story line. It felt to me as if Gibson was rushed to end an otherwise fantastic tale. And as a reader I felt like I invested a lot of time into something that just dropped off the edge of a cliff. Yet I still can’t say that I wouldn’t recommend this novel, because I feel like the ending, or rather the lack thereof, was meant to facilitate the knowledge that “real” life goes on, right next to life in spook country, and all the action, and all the grit doesn’t even cause a ripple on the surface of what most of us perceive in our surroundings. And that, is what the author was after in the first place, isn’t it?
** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.