Saturday, March 5, 2016

Larry Kramer, only ten books, and a desert island? There's gonna be trouble, you mark my words.

From the New York Times, a surprisingly sedate list of ten books the contentious author and playwright Larry Kramer has picked for an imagined desert island sojurn:

“Remembrance of Things Past,” Marcel Proust, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff

The greatest (gay) novel, translated by its great (gay) translator. I much prefer this original English translation to all the subsequent attempts by others to make it into “In Search of Lost Time.”

“A Handful of Dust,” Evelyn Waugh

Waugh, along with P.G. Wodehouse, was one the greatest users of the English language. Both men just loved words and how to use them to their unusually best advantage. Anyone trying to master the English language would do well to study either one. Any of Waugh’s novels is impressive, but this one may be the best.

“The Iceman Cometh,” by Eugene O’Neill

This, with “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” are the great American plays.

“Sweet Bird of Youth,” Tennessee Williams

A very underrated Williams play, written for his friend Tallulah Bankhead.

“IBM and the Holocaust,” Edwin Black

How one of America’s greatest technology companies came to Hitler’s aid. This will utterly and completely shock you, or it should.

“Eichmann in Jerusalem,” Hannah Arendt

Arendt was one of the greatest political philosophers and thinkers of the 20th century, and this is her masterpiece.

“The Big Sleep,” Raymond Chandler

Chandler is another great writer who loves words and language.

“The Adolescent,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The greatest Dostoyevsky novel for me. I first read it in the MacAndrew translation for Anchor Books, which bowled me over. The Penguin Classics edition, retitled “The Devils,” and translated by Jessie Coulson, is also good. Coulson was a great translator of Chekhov, so I have a warm spot for her. The Vintage edition is translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky, the current darlings of the purists.

“The Progress of Love,” Alice Munro

In fact, anything by Munro.

“Voices from Chernobyl,” Svetlana Alexievich

From the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, comes one of the most heartbreaking records of destructive humanity that I’ve ever read.

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