Author Photo And Bio
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877). Probes deep into the human condition by proving people haven’t changed that much, and men and women were always fucked up and crazy.
2. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905). Ditto. After reading this novel, I understood why Scorsese was moved to do a Wharton adaptation. Her underlying attitude is as tough and gangsta as Goodfellas and Mean Streets.
3. Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (1934). Beautiful and crushing. An immigrant childhood at the turn of the last century. Small impossible lives described in language that makes everything seem possible.
4. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes (1957). Funny, acidic, tight, and cool. Himes was the kind of writer who didn’t try to knock you out with every punch. He just saved his best stuff for when he had you on the ropes.
5. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (2003). Sometimes I think a good piece of writing shouldn’t necessarily comfort you; it should bruise you a little. I read this more than ten years ago and I’m still a little sore from it.
6. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (1989). How can one know so much about music, love, and ladies’ underwear?
7. Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. And then there are books that just make you go, “Damn, I’d like to do that!” A novel that strolls ever so deceptively from detective fiction into horror, casually whistling until it cuts you to the bone.
8. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara (1934). Cheever and Updike are great. But they’re ginger ale drinkers by comparison.
9. American Pastoral by Philip Roth (1997). I could have picked a number of the great books he wrote in the great late streak where he took that powerful instrument he has and finally aimed it toward the world at large.
10. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939). Because it all starts with Hammett, Hemingway, and this guy.