I’ve really slacked off on my reading lately as I caught up on back issues of Rolling Stone. I’ve been in music mode for a while now, and I really enjoyed diving into that as we began to get some nice weather and I was able to sit out on the deck. Now that I’m all caught up, I’m getting back into some books.
After a book about politics, I decided to get back to the Modern Library Top 100 list. I’m on #62, From Here To Eternity, and I started it today. It’s a monster, over 800 pages, so it might take me a while to get through, but I can say that it grabbed me from the beginning with its clear and accessible writing (although I don’t understand all the WWII-era slang). The novel was published in 1951, and since there is already talk of prostitution and “the clap,” I’m going to bet that it was a bit controversial at the time!
This isn’t a review...I’m just barely into it! But I love it already for a couple of reasons. First, since it is set on a military base in Hawaii in 1940, it makes me think of my Dad. Not that he was ever stationed in Hawaii, but the characters are the kind of guys he would have been stationed with. It makes me think of my Dad in that situation, and these are happy thoughts. One of the characters is even a Chief Warrant Officer, which is what my Dad was. I also love the snappy banter that is so evocative of movies from that era. The rapid-fire dialogue can be a little hard to follow, but you can imagine people saying it.
I love this exchange between a couple of soldiers.
“And remember,” Warden said, “Mon-sewer O’Hayer says you got to straighten this mess up sometime today.”See? Snappy banter! Can’t you just picture these guys talking to each other? I sure can.
“Your face,” Leva said.
“Your mother’s box,” Milt said, “Get to work.”
But what really got to me was this descriptive line.
“...two electric bulbs like burning tears dangling from the ends of chains increased the gloom.”*swoon*
Now that is some fine writin’ right there. Anyone who is a reader or who enjoys writing will appreciate that particular turn of phrase. I’m still in awe of that line. It jumped out at me immediately.
I’m happy to be getting back into this list, because what I’ve found with many of these Top 100 novels is that the writing is just mind-boggling. There are current writers who can do that to me; Stephen King is one of them. In Joyland, the line that jumped out at me was, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” Perfection! And so true. Some more than others!
I’ve noticed that many of these literary classics have more of such amazing lines. Lines that don’t just make me say, “Hey, that’s good,” they make my jaw drop and make me say, “Holy SHIT, that’s good!”
Some of these books have been a slog, and there have been a couple where I conceded defeat. (James Joyce, anyone?) But I’ve also revisited a few that I’d read years before and enjoyed from a new perspective (A Clockwork Orange, for example), and found some new favorites that I never would have read without this list (Angle of Repose). It’s been a lot of fun branching out a bit with some of these books, and it’s fun to get back into it.
Happy reading, Citizens!