“I think about a world to come / Where the books were found by the golden ones / Written in pain, written in awe / By a puzzled man who questioned / What we were here for…”
You’ve no doubt heard — David Bowie passed away last night after fighting cancer. He was 69 years old.
In response, Twitter has reminded us that Bowie was a serious book lover. Geoffrey Marsh, who curated an Art Gallery of Ontario exhibit on Bowie a few years back said Bowie was “‘a voracious reader’ who is reputed to read as much as ‘a book a day.'”
So we want to say goodbye the best way we know how: by talking books. Here is a list at Brain Pickings of Bowie’s 75 favorite books, and an article at Open Book Toronto that expands the list to 100. There is lots here that you would probably expect — Orwell’s 1984 and Nabokov’s Lolita — as well as a few interesting choices like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
These are the recommendations on books from Bowie. Any recommendations from readers out there on the best of the more than 60 books that have come out about Bowie? Here’s one we liked.
At the center of the many characters and plot lines in David Gilbert’s new novel & Sons is an aging New York novelist named A.N. Dyer. Dyer’s debut work about young men in a Northeastern boarding school is an American classic, beloved by almost all who read it, most of whom do so as teenagers. Dyer has been deeply secluded in his New York apartment for years (in the opening scene at a funeral, some attendees have brought books to try and get signed). He has been in trouble for a dalliance with a much younger woman. And within 25 pages he has referred to someone as a “sporty bastard.”
The parallels to J.D. Salinger here are obvious. There are other touches throughout the book. Characters crying at the natural history museum. “Fuck You” scrawled on a ceiling. A rain-soaked scene of emotional release at the Central Park carousel. One character, Jeanie Spokes, who works at Dyer’s literary agency and handled correspondence to the famous author, seems to be based on a woman who worked at Salinger’s literary agency and handles letters to the famous author. Dyer’s live-in nurse Gerd bears a passing resemblance to Salinger’s last wife Colleen, a nurse.
But & Sons is not a novelization of the imagined life of J.D. Salinger, and the famously reclusive author is only the most well-represented of several literary fathers here. Continue reading
“He was Bro, plain Bro, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. He was Brolo in slacks. He was Broheim at school. He was Broseph on the dotted line. But in my arms he was always Brolita.”
“Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur little dudes who, to certain silver foxes, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is 100% bangable; and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘dudelets.'”
“Brolita, when he chose, could be a most exasperating brat. I was not really quite prepared for his fits of disorganized boredom, intense and vehement griping, his sprawling, droopy, dopey-eyed style, and what is called goofing off — a kind of diffused clowning which he thought was tough in a gangsta rap way. Mentally, I found him to be a disgustingly conventional little dude. SportsCenter, beer pong, artisanal pizza, The Wall Street Journal online, Brooks Brothers and so forth — these were the obvious items in his list of beloved things. The Lord knows how many AmEx cards I swiped in the Uber cabs that we hailed!”
IN “A SINGULARLY TASTELESS DEVICE,” Fiction Advocate Brian Hurley traces the genealogy of the Hurley clan back to a character in Nabokov’s masterwork of misdirection, “Pale Fire.”
Earl Hurley had three sons (including my father Tom) who were called the Hurley boys. They were infamous in Lexington for their roughhousing ways. Nabokov would have met them in 1951, when he traveled from Cornell, where he was teaching, to Washington and Lee on a lecture tour.
What other clues did Nabokov plant in his story, to pique the suspicions of a young Brian Hurley?