Feeling that restless violence that is Wolf building up again. All those things that were traits of that me…the acute awareness of the moon, and the desire to prowl at night…the irrational need to consume meat products…
And the need to form lists and categorize things to take my mind off of it.
We saw a list that someone who used to be a good friend of mine posted on FB, and have been thinking about it all day. What our list would be.
It was supposed to be the top ten books that have influenced you, and I figured it would be hard to decide…and it is, but not for the reasons I thought. I assumed I’d think of more than 10 books that have had a profound effect on me, but that’s not so. I’ve actually had trouble thinking of ten.
Still, here is what I’ve got, in the order which they were introduced to me:
1. The Hobbit.
I have only a vague recollection of reading this book when I was maybe 8-9 years old…but I remember crying when Thorin died, and I remember really wishing I had a ring that made me invisible. Not a lot to go off of, but this book marked a shift in my reading stories mostly about animals to reading a greater assortment of books.
2. The Lord of The Rings.
I remember taking a very large chunk of my fourth grade year to read through these books, since I wasn’t that fast of a reader at that point, especially with a story that complex and with words that I couldn’t work out because they weren’t in English. But I remember finishing this story and feeling what was profoundly sad for a nine year old, and not knowing quite why…but I felt like it was important that I read those books again when I was bigger and could understand them better.
3. Harry Potter. (which, of course, I must include as a complete series)
What can I say? I grew up with these books, and was part of that group that started out with Harry being our age, and finished the series when we were only just a bit older than him. It was a great progression of character development, and as I read the books, I remember thinking how clever it was to get readers thinking about not just the story in the book, but about the characters and how things they do affect plot lines years afterward…and how it was a very well concealed way to get readers to think about people they know as characters who are vastly more complex than their surfaces let on…
4. Oryx and Crake.
This book was morbidly fascinating for me. Any time you mix morbid stories with whimsical nonsense that is supposed to be reassuring and turns out to be anything but, it’s interesting to me…but this book had the added bonus of weaving a mythology unique to the story’s universe, and great characterization to boot. I was kind of conflicted about it, because I felt like there was a lot of sex going on and I hadn’t encountered much of that in the books I tended to like, but all the good points of Oryx and Crake won me over. Mostly the narrative characterization. For all the reading I do, I don’t encounter that many characters whose internal monologues make me feel like I really understand them. I have a suspicion that this is the first book I really got interested in that had an obsessive narrator.
5. The Sun Also Rises.
I think I liked this one so much for ultimately the same reason as I liked Oryx and Crake–the obsessive narrator–but I felt like this one was different because the narrator is much less explicitly expressive, and there’s no imminent doom approaching…it was a much quieter, more controlled obsession. I think this book gave me a better appreciation for things unsaid, which is a big departure from the type of writing I typically enjoy, that gives you details out the wazoo.
6. The Sound and The Fury.
Mmm…I developed a bit of an obsession in college, regarding obsessive narrators. Quentin Compson is one of my favourite fictional characters, and he doesn’t even narrate the whole book. The book as a whole introduced me to the idea of stream-of-consciousness narration, which did and still does appeal to me a lot. Incidentally, there is a movie adaptation coming out sometime soon (I can’t find a definite release date), and I’m really curious as to how they’ll try and put it together. For the copious amount of detail given to each narrator’s thoughts, there is precious little action in the story…I have no idea how that can be accurately translated to the screen. But I really want to see this movie.
7. Interview with The Vampire
I went for a long time thinking that I had seen a movie adaptation of this book, and that it was really stupid (I have no idea what that movie was, but the actual film version of Interview with the Vampire isn’t terrible), but I was 100% wrong. I picked this book up when I was initially looking into the idea of what Goth was, and wondering is I really was interested in the things that Goths are interested in. This book seemed like as good a place as any to start, and I did enjoy it very much. It was a little bit of a break from the obsession with obsessions that I’d picked up, and instead of being all about gore or creepy Transylvanian laughter (or sparkling, since Twilight was starting to pick up right around the timeframe I read this), it seemed much more inclusive as far as characterization of a vampire goes. I liked the idea of vampires as being complete, rounded people.
8. The Vampire Lestat.
I did get pulled back into the obsessive pattern though. Because Anne Rice’s vampires tend to be obsessive, and being undead, they have a lot of time in which to obsess. This one makes me laugh a little though, because what I took away from this book was a self-awareness about how ridiculous you seem when you’re melodramatic, but at the same time…I was excited to see a possibility that others understood the pleasure of being melodramatic.
9. Absalom, Absalom!
Ah, this book was awesome. I remember being assigned to read it for a class, and failing utterly because there just wasn’t time…I didn’t read a single page in this book until the summer after I got my degree. It’s very hard for me to articulate how important this book was to me, but when you are unemployed and your friend imports you to another state because she feels sorry for you, and you spend all day laying on the couch and reading this book and then half the evening talking to her about the same situation that you have spent years already talking to her about…welp. It sticks with you. Because that’s basically what this book is…two friends rehashing again and again a scenario that one of them has been obsessing over for years. And doing it in sentences that take up pages and pages without any clear punctuation.
10. Teatro Grottesco.
This is a great book. It doesn’t have my favourite story from this author, but that’s alright. I’ve read it more times than I’ve read most of the books I own, including several of the ones I listed here. And I guess I should just admit now that the thing I love so much about this book is not the plots of the stories, but the way the author cultivates the sense of obsession, and pairs it with the idea of doom to produce a narration that doesn’t always end conclusively within the narration, but that is because the narrators have always known what the eventual ends would be because the nature of their obsessions does not allow for any other ending.
Great stories, these. For me, at least.
I’d apologise for my recurrant reasons for having enjoyed these books, but I am not sorry. I feel frequently like obsession is not something one can really apologise for. It seems like a thing that is just inherent in one’s nature. Or not.
Not that the mode of expression that obsessive feelings take can’t be terrible or frightening or altogether not okay…but the expression isn’t the thing. Hence my lack of remorse.
And…I guess that brings me back to where I started. Because the obsessiveness is what the wolf me grew out of. And despite the recent dormancy, it’s still a part of me. Just like these books.