1774. The Perfect Book Tag

Imagine my excitement in having just returned from taking the dog for an extended walk (and in the process collected a bucketful of wild mushrooms) to discover that someone has challenged me to complete The Perfect Book Tag (even though I’m a free spirit and not taggable). That someone blogs at Dumbest Blog Ever; a blog that is self-described as Stu(pidity) on Stareoids. The postings range from the erudite to the enjoyably stupid, from the sublime to the cor blimey. The blog is well worth the visit (I reckon).

This posting sees a departure from the daily story, and is a bit longer than usual. Of course nothing is perfect, not even myself when I was eleven, but these are some literary works I have enjoyed over the years.

Some snippets of these reflections you may have heard before. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I’m not averse to repeating myself. I hope the selection (which borders on the classic and boring) doesn’t show me up to being a tedious snob. I’m not averse to repeating myself.

The Pretty Good Genre
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

This is the title of O’Connor’s collection of short stories, and contains the best short story ever written – also entitled A Good Man is Hard to Find. Even though you know from the start what’s going to happen your hair stands on end as it happens. The writing is both funny and horrifying. I’ve always been a fan of Flannery O’Connor and a big fan of the short story genre.

“She looked at nice young men as if she could smell their stupidity.”

The Perfect Setting
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and the Yorkshire Moors are the perfect setting for this extraordinary novel – which surprisingly a lot of people haven’t read. The plot IS the setting. The setting IS the characters. The setting IS the theme. Everything in this novel is integrated into the one thing. Perfectly constructed. I guess I’ve read it maybe 50 times or so.

“I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk.”

The Pretty Good Main Character
The Book of Thel by William Blake

Thel is the character in this longish poem by Blake. She is too afraid to come into existence, because that begins the journey towards death. Thel is ephemeral.

Ah! Thel is like a watry bow, and like a parting cloud,
Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face,
Like the doves voice, like transient day, like music in the air.

The Pretty Good Best Friend
A Certain Age by Cynthia Jobin

Many readers will be familiar with the poetry of the late Cynthia Jobin. She took a keen and positive interest in so many bloggers and posted her brilliant poetry on her blog. Her final poem Night Draws Near, Brother Ass is heart-rending. I was unaware she had died when I received in the mail from her a collection of poems by William Stafford called Even in Quiet Places.

Let me down easy
the way hints of winter
fall exquisitely today
scattering icy lacy flowers
from a cloud bouquet

The Pretty Good Love Interest
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

I’m not heavily into love stories, although I have read a great number of novels by Danielle Steel and enjoyed every bit of them. Shhh! But I chose Richardson’s Clarissa because it’s one of the earliest books written in English and I got through the hundreds of pages of love letters never once being able to work out if “they were doing it”. It was all insinuation. Clarissa Harlowe is abducted by Robert Lovelace. That was the gist of it, and I found it pretty riveting really. Besides, I had to read it for exams at university.

“Love gratified, is love satisfied — and love satisfied, is indifference begun.”

The Pretty Good Villain
Richard III by William Shakespeare

I know it’s predictable but it’s inevitable. Richard III is one of my favourite plays. That horrid movie with Ian McKellen missed the point because the film omitted Queen Margaret’s great cursing scene. Each curse comes true, bit by bit.

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog!
Thou that wast seal’d in thy nativity
The slave of nature and the son of hell!
Thou slander of thy mother’s heavy womb!
Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins!
Thou rag of honour! thou detested—

The Pretty Good Family
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My sisters adored this novel in my childhood. Once I grew up I was old enough to be seen reading it. When I studied in Boston, USA, I would go to Walden Pond in New Hampshire. The Alcotts, Hawthorne, and Thoreau lived within walking distance from one another. It must’ve been something in the water.“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

The Pretty Good Animal
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter

I loved this story as a kid – and still do. I think it was because Jemima wanted to hatch out baby ducklings and I kept ducks as a kid and was forever hatching out babies. I didn’t mind the fox in the story because in New Zealand we don’t have foxes. There is something quite magical about a bird’s egg!

“Quack?“ said Jemima Puddle-Duck, with her head and her bonnet
on one side.

The Pretty Good Plot Twist
The Leader by Eugene Ionesco

This short ten minute play by Ionesco is one of my favourites. Mind you, all of Ionesco plays are my favourites! The leader off stage is watched by fans on stage. They go ape-shit over him/her. They go goo-gar. “He’s patting a pet hedgehog! He spits a tremendous distance.” (Incidentally, the actor who said those lines in a production I once directed became the Prime Minister of New Zealand in reality!) When the leader does appear at the end he/she is headless. “Who needs a head when you’ve got charisma?” Ionesco used to write to me but his letters stopped once he died. Strange.

“Shut up! Shut up! You’re ruining everything”

The Pretty Good Trope
Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame

Janet Frame was a New Zealand novelist and this was her first novel. It tells the story of a women with mental problems, who gets shut away in a mental hospital and watches the mountains through the keyhole in her cell. (The story is a lot better than that). Throughout the novel, Frame creates associations with images, so at the end of the novel she only has to mention all these jolly images and you burst into tears! (At least I did).

“She grew more and more silent about what really mattered. She curled inside herself like one of those … little shellfish you see on the beach, and you touch them, and they go inside and don’t come out.”

The Pretty Good Cover
A Guide to Folk Tales in the English Language by D.L. Ashliman

I bought this book for about $250 around 25 years ago. It has a summary of 2,335 folk tales. Back then I earned a living writing for children to perform on stage so such a book came in handy! I don’t care too much about covers, although for a novel I don’t appreciate an artist showing me what a character should look like. That’s the writer’s task. It’s why I’ve never seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies – they ruin the imagination. I like this cover. It’s plain, and in another life I learnt the skills of a book binder and could create plain covers like this!

The Pretty Good Ending
The Playboy of the Western World by John Millington Synge

I think this is my favourite all-time play (at least for today). At the end Pegeen Mike whispers: “Oh my grief, I’ve lost him surely. I’ve lost the only Playboy of the Western World.”

“… it’s great luck and company I’ve won me in the end of time – two fine women fighting for the likes of me – till I’m thinking this night wasn’t I a foolish fellow not to kill my father in the years gone by.”

Thanks for reading!

28 thoughts on “1774. The Perfect Book Tag

  1. Yvonne

    Oh, seeing Cynthia in your post reminded me once again, what we lost when she died. How I wish I could have met her.

    the name of Janet Frame rang a loud bell, also. What a woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I nearly put Janet Frame’s autobiography “An Angel at my Table” etc in one of these categories as it is stupendous. I was also honoured in the last year of Cynthia’s life to introduce her to Frame’s autobiography trilogy – which she (Cynthia) thought was stunning.

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  2. dumbestblogger

    Very impressive, and if I don’t miss my mark it took you much less than three months to assemble this. I have read some of these books, but there are many I have not. I considered “The Playboy of the Western World” for the ending as well. You’ve made me remember the place that “A Good Man is Hard to Find” should have on my to be read list. She was one of my Mom’s favorites. Her college acting thesis was, I believe, a one woman show based on the life of Flannery.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks for the challenge. I can see why your Mom chose Flannery for a stage presentation. Her life is a short story in itself, and her perceptive wit amidst all her trials is made for story-telling. I can also see where you got your interest and talent from!

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      1. dumbestblogger

        Definitely! I’m glad you accepted. My Mom was brilliant, and quite the artist in her younger days. But for some reason she didn’t put as much effort into that sort of stuff after having ten children. I can’t imagine why.

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  3. umashankar

    The post is a perfect ballad for Lockdown Times, and a long one at that. I realise I have a lot of catching up to do. There is one book among those I am also passionate about, and I may not have met her (I can’t bear calling the saga ‘it’) as many times as you have said, but I have surly lost the count. I am not surprised by the invocation of Cynthia Jobin; I am certain she hasn’t written anything that cannot be quoted with a certain impact. I too have that volume, but couldn’t muster enough courage to post a review, although I look forward to doing that some day. I will now proceed to enjoy my breakfast, and I may resume commenting after that, for when I reread this post, I may feel Like interjecting a word or two.

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  4. umashankar

    Alright, here I am once more, having catered to my belly. First thing first, I visited the Dumbest Blog Ever and attempted to post a comment on the very first post, but was confronted by the login mechanism even though I had accessed it through the Reader.

    I have been meaning to read A Good Man is Hard to Find, and now you have reinforced the idea. The brief description of Wuthering Heights lived up to the mood of the opus of Emily Brontë, I felt like escaping to the moors one more time. I was once offered to co-author a paper on Ibsen & Ionesco, but I figured I was expected to do unpaid drudgery without the final outcome having to bear any trace of my name. The prospect has left me permanently scarred about the two luminaries for no fault of their own. However, I might relent if you choose to insist.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Apart from both names starting with I it would take some imagination to discuss Ibsen and Ionesco together!? I like both of them. I think it’s time to reread W.H. but I’ve started on Nicholas Nickleby so that first!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. umashankar

        Now that you say it, I recall there were a couple of more l’s in the title, as in Influence, Inter— whatever. It happened about 30 years ago, about the time the Tank Man appeared in China. Nonetheless, I did ghostwrite a sizeable part of the doctoral thesis for my friend on R. K. Narayan —who should be available online for free— and it incensed the Head of the Department, as the request on Ibsen et al had come from his favourite student, thus sealing my fate forever in terms of securing a teaching assignment in the university.

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          The road to hell is populated by such people as the aforementioned HOD. These days one can survive such a person simply by not touching them, or touching ones own face in desperation.

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  5. umashankar

    My daughters adore Little Women, and have several editions of the book. I figure it shouldn’t be hard to borrow one from them. Further, it’s rather late in the day for me to begin reading The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

    As a consequence of the string of perfect tags you have sent my way, I feel impelled to recommend the following book to you. I may not be able to furnish a tag about it, but read it if you can: Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I shall seek the Mistry book out- presumably it’s not online – but once this shutdown is over… When I visited the Alcott house I bought a couple of rag dolls of Jo (in the story) and sent them to my sisters. They still have them sitting on their pillows during the day!
      You should “do” the Perfect Book Tag” – I can’t “tag” anyone because I refuse to join all this social media business.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. umashankar

        You know what, the title of my abandoned doctoral thesis was ’Comic Apocalyptic Fiction with Special Reference to Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon and John Barth’, an ambitious project for both me and my guide, Professor R. N. Srivastava, who was a ‘direct disciple of a direct disciple of T. S. Eliot’, and was in possession of a slim volume of ‘The Waste’ Land passed on by the legendary author himself, but isn’t that another story? My point is, I am quite the personality (minus the muse) of what Thomas Pynchon used to be —secretive to the extent that some even doubted his existence. I avoid being tagged even if it were the last funny thing on the Earth.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          Your thesis title is very impressive. I like the fact that you’re like Thomas Pynchon – you only need to refind that Muse. It might well lurk in a rediscovery of Ibsen.

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  6. Andrea Stephenson

    On the contrary I think your selection is interesting and eclectic. I can’t claim to have read many of them, but I might have to revisit Janet Frame – I know I’ve read some of hers but can’t remember which ones (I have a bad memory for books once I’ve read them)!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I have a fairly bad memory on that count too. I wondered why I wasn’t reading much these days – and I think it’s my reading glasses- they no longer work properly! Obviously the glasses have changed and not my eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

I delight in having my dull life coloured by your intelligent perceptions, your wit, and your vivacity.

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