Sunday, February 12, 2006

Three Great Books

Good things often arrive in threes ! I have abandoned reading the newspapers this last week due to reading these three wonderful books.

Hand to Mouth - Paul Auster [Picador. 2003], a brilliant short memoir of the young writer struggling to find his way in the world and having adventures en route. Anyone seeking to be a writer can benefit from this one.

He says: 'Becoming a writer is not a "career decision" like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don't choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accept the fact that you're not fit for anything else, you have to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days.'
See Literary Review review here.

The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine by Paul Collins [ Bloomsbury.2005]
This extraordinary and wonderful book follows the author through space and time as he unravels the journey of Tom Paine's bones [dug up by the radical William Cobbett and shipped to England] and gives us a wonderful picture of the radical life and times of the 1700s. [The information in this book supersedes the 'bones' story given in my previous Tom Paine posting to be found here. ]
See reviews here: Bookslut, The Telegraph,

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson [Methuen 2006]. To be serialised this coming week on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour, this wonderful beat memoir takes you right into the heart of the Greenwich Village mid-1950s scene throught the eyes and experiences of the young girl who became one of Jack Kerouac's girlfriends. Beautiful and insightful on many levels.

This is the legendary journalist Al Aronowitz [who sadly died last year] on this book: 'As part of my research, I pick up a book the young woman wearing a sweater which seemed to have more button holes than buttons wrote about her two-year romance with Jack Kerouac and her travels with Jack through the then-embryonic Beat scene. As I start to read the book, I find that behind that woman's icy wall of superiority is a talented writer who offers eyewitness history with compelling storytelling style, keen perception, extreme sensitivity and total candor. Published some 20 years after the party described below, the book is called Minor Characters, a title which might leave browsers with the impression that the author considered herself to have been one: a minor character. Actually, the title is meant to be ironic, referring to the women of the Beat Generation, all shoved out of the spotlight shining on the Beat Generation's stars, Kerouac, Cassady, Ginsberg. Minor Characters not only tells about the heroes but it also celebrates the heroines. The young woman wearing a sweater which seemed to have more button holes than buttons was certainly one. The fact of the matter is that, some 40 years later, she has emerged in Beat annals as a very, very major character.'

See more of Al's work at The Blacklisted Journalist

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