Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The shape of thoughts

Many have bounced off this fun Slate piece, in which various folks recall the book that most influenced them during their college years. My favorite contribution is by Nicholson Baker—appropriate, since I devoured Baker's The Mezzanine during college, as well as U and I (I enjoyed, to a lesser degree, Room Temperature and Vox).

I'm not quite sure how I came to The Mezzanine; I do remember buying about six copies afterward, to give to friends as gifts. I read a lot of Nabokov in college, especially senior year; probably the most influential assigned, non-Nabs book for the young Ed was Borges's Labyrinths. (Best bookstore discovery in those days: The TriQuarterly issue devoted to JLB!)

Extracurricularly, I quite enjoyed Mark Leyner back then. I started reading Ishiguro...and I believe my first exposure to Frederick Exley was in college (Pages From a Cold Island before A Fan's Notes—Pages was deeply discounted at the Co-Op!). And Lester Bangs!

I have a feeling I read more poetry then—García Lorca, Neruda. On the comix front, the first installment of Art Spiegelman's Maus had a big impact on me, and I remember Spiegelman coming to speak about it. (Bill Griffith and Harvey Pekar were other big likes.)

I feel old and vaguely depressed now but also amused.


Blogger HeyZeus! said...

I posted a long screed on Jenny's blog where I went through all the books that I've considered formative throughout college. I think the ones that I decided on were Absalom, Absalom! (which I read in class) and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (which I did not). But there's so many more.


10:09 AM  
Blogger Jenny D said...

I think "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" was the Borges story that really got to me at that age...

I remember discovering Nicholson Baker while taking an AMAZING course with Philip Fisher on silent reading and the history of the novel; he just read openings of 25-30 major novels in the European tradition, plus some criticism, but he periodically recommended things that were quite recent but that picked up on some of the same techniques we often talked about in class. So he described VOX (it must have just come out) as a sort of sequel to the epistolary novel, with phone sex replacing letter-writing, and of course I went and read it at once; and I remember also going and reading Shusaku Endo's novel SCANDAL, another novel he mentioned (though I have forgotten in what context).

10:52 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hello! Very interesting — I was thinking about Absalom!-squared; Faulkner was another formative experience. And then of course Ulysses...

Re "Silent Reading"—a connection: I've only read one Endo novel, SILENCE, which I think about rather a lot. I must find SCANDAL!

There's a great bit in ROOM TEMPERATURE where he (I believe) is *listening to his wife read*. I think she must be reading with a pencil, marking the book...

11:58 AM  

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