Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellI think that I can say without doubt that I have never read a book by A.M. Riley that I didn't love; even when she pushes on the key that is usually not my cup of tea, like BDSM or menages, I nevertheless like what she writes. And Amor en Retrogrado is probably one of the best Gay Romance novel of the last years. So, please, welcome her and her list; she asked me how she did... as always she did perfectly!
A.M. Riley's Inside Reader List
I’ve been dawdling over this list because it is so hard to point to ‘favorites’ in literature, the arts, even television. My favorite thing this week, depends on my mood, what I need what I want etcetera. So I decided to go for ‘pivotal’ favorite books. I.E., books that are on my list of bests but that also had a strong impact on me for other reasons. So, in chronological order:
1) White Fang by Jack London. Okay, maybe a six year old should not read a book in which bad men are savagely attacked and killed in the middle of the night by a vengeful white wolf. Maybe my parents should have been more vigilant about what I brought home from the library. But they weren’t and I was scarred for life. I was a very very good little girl. On account of the wolves out there.
Paperback: 188 pages
Publisher: Prestwick House, Inc. (March 1, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://www.prestwickhouse.com/p-11531-white-fang.aspx?view=1
Amazon: White Fang
White Fang is Jack London’s classic adventure story of a wolf’s struggle to find his place in the frozen Yukon Territory. Born of a half-wolf mother, White Fang is torn between his domestic and wild heritages and struggles to understand his place in the cruel and kind world of men. This tale of adventure, bravery, greed, and survival was an instant success and is a perfect companion piece to London’s The Call of the Wild and is a great choice for reluctant readers.
2) The Once and Future King by T.H. White. From which I realized that life is tragic and being good is no guarantee of safety. Those wolves might come after anyone. But also, from which I learned that the tragedy of life is also what bequeaths it with beauty, heroism, love, hope. And in which I read the bit of philosophy that would inform the rest of my life:
"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then - to learn. Learn why the worlds wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.”
Sorry for the length of the quote. But it’s important.
I’ve read reviews of this book by adults and children. Some of whom have just read it for the first time. Some of whom re-read it every few years. It is a masterful wonderful fantasy that, like every good fantasy, is based on truths about the human condition. My current copy is a yellowed, underlined, ragged-cornered mess. I think its my third. I need a forth.
Paperback: 688 pages
Publisher: Ace Trade (October 1, 1996)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780441003839,00.html?strSrchSql=0441003834/Once_and_Future_King_T._H._White
Amazon: The Once and Future King
The whole world knows and loves this book. It is the magical epic of King Arthur and his shining Camelot; of Merlin and Owl and Guinevere; of beasts who talk and men who fly, of wizardry and war. It is the book of all things lost and wonderful and sad. It is the fantasy masterpiece by which all others are judged.
3) The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. You know I was given the book because of my, by then, apparent obsession with King Arthur. My mother saw me toting TOaFK around and so she bought me this.
Here’s the thing. It’s a first person narrative of a young man written by a middle aged woman. That androgynous voice that I recognized immediately as being like my own. The story, of course, is the tragic Merlin story. The magic wrapped around intrigue and personal sorrow. Nice.
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st Ballantine books trade ed edition (September 29, 1996)
Amazon: The Crystal Cave
Mary Stewart tells the Arthurian legend in her own unique way, bringing to life one of the world's greatest legends and mysteries, shedding a fascinating new light on the turbulence and mystery of fifth-century Britain. An enthralling work, Ms. Stewart once again reveals those qualities of suspense and romantic adventure that have made her one of the world's most widely read novelists. "A master storyteller." --Best Sellers
4) Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Skip forward to adolescence. And a wise old librarian whose name I never knew (or have failed to remember) who spied a weird little tomboy sitting in the stacks and slipped her a copy of a book that would let her know that she wasn’t the only oddball in the world.
Bless all wise old evil librarians.
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Bantam (April 1, 1983)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553278866
Amazon: Rubyfruit Jungle
Rubyfruit Jungle is the first milestone novel in the extraordinary career of one of this country's most distinctive writers. Bawdy and moving, the ultimate word-of-mouth bestseller, Rubyfruit Jungle is about growing up a lesbian in America – and living happily ever after. Born a bastard, Molly Bolt is adopted by a dirt-poor Southern couple who want something better for their daughter. Molly plays doctor with the boys, beats up Leroy the tub and loses her virginity to her girlfriend in sixth grade. As she grows to realize she's different, Molly decides not to apologize for that. In no time she mesmerizes the head cheerleader of Ft. Lauderdale High and captivates a gorgeous bourbon-guzzling heiress. But the world is not tolerant. Booted out of college for moral turpitude, an unrepentant, penniless Molly takes New York by storm, sending not a few female hearts aflutter with her startling beauty, crackling wit and fierce determination to become the greatest filmmaker that ever lived. Critically acclaimed when first published, Rubyfruit Jungle has only grown in reputation as it has reached new generations of readers who respond to its feisty and inspiring heroine.
5) Death Trick by Richard Stevenson. I first found this book at the Sisterhood Bookstore in Westwood, CA. Even the most radical lesbian feminist could appreciate the wit, intelligence and truth of Stevenson’s Donald Strachey and co. By then, I was a mystery freak and had read absolutely every good mystery I could find. This was the first that had MY people in it. And they were clever and kind and they didn’t die at the end. Thank Christ. And thank YOU Richard Stevenson. Whose books can still be found at MLR press. : P
Paperback: 228 pages
Publisher: MLR Press; Reissue edition (January 30, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=DEATHTRK
Amazon: Death Trick
Gay activist and accused murderer Billy Blount's missing, but Albany PI Donald Strachey doubts Billy's guilt. The 1981 book that launched Richard Stevenson's pioneering series is a cracking mystery and a fascinating trip into bygone gay culture - before HIV, in the bad old days of bath houses and gay disco, police corruption and tacit policies of harassment. (Originally published 1981.)
6) Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard. Annie Dillard is a national treasure. Well, maybe she isn’t old enough to be called that yet, but she follows the tradition of Thoreau and Emerson. This isn’t a novel, but it’s a must-read. It is a series of essays written while she lived in the woods of New York, with (it seems) a bunch of other philosopher kooks. And thought a lot about stuff. Annie Dillard is fearless. She lives out there in the woods and dares the wolves to find her. Maybe she even encourages them.
In one of the essays titled: Living like Weasels, she describes the nature of the animals. Their tenacity. One was found, she says, its skull still clinging to the neck of an eagle which had attacked it. She says, and you’ll forgive, I hope, the length of another quote:
“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you’re going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.”
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Revised edition (July 20, 1988)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780060915414/Teaching_a_Stone_to_Talk/index.aspx
Amazon: Teaching a Stone to Talk
Here, in this compelling assembly of writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard explores the world of natural facts and human meanings.
How many books is this? Six? Which kind of brings me, chronologically (and if I skip the poets) to the period in which I consumed books like candy bars. Like my brain was a drought and I needed words words words to fill it. I end up not with works but with authors. Michael Connelly, James Elroy, Hansen, Koontz… until I succumbed to a kind of literary hypoglycemic shock. I had to stop with the fluff for a while and go with protein rich literature.
7) Snow in August by Pete Hamill. Give me doppelgangers, religion, innocense and baseball clumped together in a work about love and faith and I’ll follow you anywhere. Pete Hamill has written two books thus far. They are lovely. Of the two I consider this a must-read. He skillfully blends fantasy and fact as a young boy experiences it. I simply can not do this book justice in a short review. Read it and thank me later.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (October 1, 1999)
Publisher Link: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780446675253.htm
Amazon: Snow in August
Set in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood in 1947, this poignant tale revolves around two of the most endearing characters in recent fiction: an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy named Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a refugee from Prague.
8) Crazy Love by David Lozell Martin. Nothing like a harlequin romance. Damaged people, ruined, sad, angry people. Abused animals. Why was I crying and smiling as I closed this book? Because real love is messy and ugly and it transforms us. It redeems us. Our ability to love is the best thing about us and makes us more than men. It makes us magic. What I want to know is where the heck is Martin’s next book?
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (December 8, 2008)
Publisher Link: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Crazy-Love/David-Lozell-Martin/9781416566632
Amazon: Crazy Love
David Martin has proved to be an unusually versatile writer, both of acclaimed thrillers like Lie to Me and of love stories like The Crying Heart Tattoo. Now, in Crazy Love, Martin has created remarkable characters and his richest story yet: a chronicle of passion and heartbreak. Joseph Long, known locally as Bear, is a farmer ridiculed by neighbors for his strangeness. Lonely nearly to the point of madness and so desperate for human touch, he leans against the hands of the barber giving him a haircut. Katherine Renault is a successful career woman, wondering why, if she has the perfect job and the perfect fiancé, does she feel so hollow inside -- even before the illness, the disfiguring surgery. They should have nothing in common -- though he has a magical touch with animals, he considers them property, while she can't tolerate their mistreatment. She's a sophisticated city dweller who can't abide violence, and he's never traveled beyond the local town and has blood on his hands. But love is crazy, and soon they are rescuing the injured of the world just as they rescue each other. Enduring violence and loss, they live in a domestic bliss wide and deep enough to dilute most of life's dramas, until fate tests them again. Funny, erotic, emotionally powerful, yet surprisingly unsentimental about our relationships with each other and with animals in our care, Crazy Love will heal broken hearts.
I was going to leave out the poets, but I find that I can’t. I carry around the following.
9) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. If you know me, you know about the poetry thing. This is the book I can quote on command. I’ve been reading it for twenty years ands it’s etched in my mind like verses of the Bible ought to be.
“Sure as the most certain sure, plumb in the uprights, well entretied, braced in the beams,
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.”
Imagine they mystery of life as a tall, dark stallion. Makes your scalp tingle, doesn’t it?
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (September 3, 2009)
Amazon: Leaves of Grass
One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Over the course of Whitman's life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author's experiences and the nation's history changed and grew. Whitman's ambition was to creates something uniquely American. In that he succeeded. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character. From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman's work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.
10) Collected Poems by James Merrill. I know you are sick of the quotes by now. Google ‘The Black Swan’. Seriously.
Paperback: 885 pages
Publisher: Knopf (November 5, 2002)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780375709418
Amazon: Collected Poems
The publication of James Merrill's Collected Poems is a landmark in the history of modern American literature. His First Poems—its sophistication and virtuosity were recognized at once—appeared half a century ago. Over the next five decades, Merrill's range broadened and his voice took on its characteristic richness. In book after book, his urbanity and wit, his intriguing images and paradoxes, shone with a rare brilliance. As he once told an interviewer, he "looked for English in its billiard-table sense—words that have been set spinning against their own gravity." But beneath their surface glamour, his poems were driven by an audacious imagination that continually sought to deepen and refine our perspectives on experience. Among other roles, he was one of the supreme love poets of the twentieth century. In delicate lyric or complex narrative, this book abounds with what he once called his "chronicles of love and loss." Like Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden before him, Merrill sought to quicken the pulse of a poem in surprising and compelling ways—ways, indeed, that changed how we came to see our own lives. Years ago, the critic Helen Vendler spoke for others when she wrote of Merrill, "The time eventually comes, in a good poet's career, when readers actively wait for his books: to know that someone out there is writing down your century, your generation, your language, your life . . . He has become one of our indispensable poets." This book brings together a remarkable body of work in an authoritative edition. From Merrill's privately printed book, The Black Swan, published in 1946, to his posthumous collection, A Scattering of Salts, which appeared in 1995, all of the poems he published are included, except for juvenalia and his epic, The Changing Light at Sandover. In addition, twenty-one of his translations (from Apollinaire, Montale, and Cavafy, among others) and forty-four of his previously uncollected poems (including those written in the last year of his life) are gathered here for the first time. Collected Poems in the first volume in a series that will present all of James Merrill's work—his novels and plays, and his collected prose. Together, these volumes will testify to a monumental career that distinguished American literature in the late twentieth century and will continue to inspire readers and writers for years to come.
11) Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich. Anything by Adrienne Rich. Our very own feminist poet who turned down the mantel of poet laureate when it was offered because she disapproved of the war. Oh, and she has the most amazing eyes. Don’t look me like that. Ask anybody. Her eyes are vacuums of questions. She wonders.
Paperback: 72 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 1994)
Publisher Link: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=12908
Amazon: Diving into the Wreck
In this reissue of her seventh volume of poetry, Adrienne Rich searches to reclaim—to discover—what has been forgotten, lost, or unexplored. "I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail." These provocative poems move with the power of Rich's distinctive voice.
12) Bonus Book: October Light by John Gardner. Anything by John Gardner, but specifically "October Light". Who also wrote 'Grendal' which everyone has to read at some point. NO, you simply must. Currently, I'm re-reading his book "The Art of Fiction" which is gentle but irresistable, like erosion.
Paperback: 440 pages
Publisher: New Directions (October 27, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.wwnorton.com/orders/nd/021637.htm
Amazon: October Light
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. New Directions is excited to reissue the Gardner classics, beginning with October Light, a complex relationship rendered in a down-to-earth narrative. October Light is one of John Gardner's masterworks. The penniless widow of a once-wealthy dentist, Sally Abbot now lives in the Vermont farmhouse of her older brother, 72-year-old James Page. Polar opposites in nearly every way, their clash of values turns a bitter corner when the exacting and resolute James takes a shotgun to his sister's color television set. After he locks Sally up in her room with the trashy "blockbuster" novel that has consumed her (and only apples to eat), the novel-within-the-novel becomes an echo chamber providing glimpses into the history of the family that spawned these bizarre, sad, and stubborn people. Gardner uses the turbulent siblings as a stepping-off point from which he expands upon the lives of their extended families, and the rural community that surrounds them. He also engages larger issues of how liberals and conservatives define themselves, and considers those moments when life transcends all their arguments.
Is that ten? I’m not ‘leaving people out’. I can’t list everything and everybody. Some of my favorite authors you all know and love as well.
How’d I do, Elisa?
About A.M. Riley: AM Riley is a film editor, and sometime poet, living in Los Angeles. Riley writes primarily LGBT paranormal and murder mysteries, and has been published with Torquere Press and Loose ID.
No Rest for the Wicked by A. M. Riley
Publisher: Loose Id
Publisher Link: http://www.loose-id.com/No-Rest-for-the-Wicked.aspx
Adam has gone through a lot of changes in the past year, a new taste for 'O' neg blood and allergy to sunlight being the least of them. Maybe it's the cute young grad student who has been sniffing around Adam's longtime sex partner, Peter. Or maybe immortality gives a man a little too much time to think. But Adam's feeling motivated to change a few of his ways. If he could just get Peter to stop working long enough to notice.
Peter has his own issues with dating a dead man. And after over a decade of being in love with a commitment-phobe, he's finding it hard to believe that Adam isn't sampling the goods of the hot young vampire he works with.
They manage their issues the way they always have. By not talking about them...until a high profile computer software genius turns up drained in Hollywood, revealing a new vampire gang in Los Angeles, and all of their troubles come to a head. There's no rest for the wicked.