Sunday, July 15, 2007

Books with covers you conceal

I'm always a little skeptical when magazines or newspapers run their perennial lists of what celebrities are reading, usually under the rubric of "guilty pleasures." I mean, if they're really guilty about it, they're not going to be totally frank, are they?

But Time magazine's July 23 issue has a nice twist on this: What writers are reading at the beach. Judging by some of the titles, they're being pretty honest. The biggest surprise: Joyce Carol Oates 'fesses up to being a huge fan of Mad magazine, concluding with this remark: "...the fatuously grinning Alfred E. Neuman with his perennial query ("What, me worry?") prefigured the improbable presidential cartoon character George W. Bush many years later." Ah, poor George. Talk about a legacy.

On the same list, I notice Nathan Englander recommending the mystery "Literary Murder" by Batya Gur. Sounds interesting -- anybody else read this?

I'm not sure I read anything I'd categorize as a guilty pleasure, since since most of it would probably be sneered at in literary circles anyway. I suppose anything by Stephen King -- although the man is a much better writer, and probably a lot more enduring, than he's gotten credit for. Speaking of King, his groundbreaking book "Carrie" is the guilty pleasure of author Martha Southgate.


Peter said...

Nice that these writers seem to be honest about what they're reading. Of course, Joyce Carol Oates pubishes stories in EQMM, so one expects honesty from her in such matters.

In re guilty pleasures and dishonesty, the Philadelphia ******er publishes a little feature in which it asks some local leader what he or she is reading, listening to, what famous person he or she would most like to dine with, what book he or she finds most "inspiring," etc. I always got the feeling that business leaders would lie. They'd always cite the most obvious respectable, mid- to highbrow titles, and they'd get titles of works of art just wrong enough that you knew they had read about them somewhere or maybe glimpsed them on a rushed tour through a museum once.

I have Batya Gur's Murder in Jerusalem lying around. I've flipped through it; there's lots of sprawling, miniseries-type detail about the setting (a Jerusalem TV station, all the problems of the people who work there, etc.). It reads a bit like what I think it was: an off-shoot of a TV project. But I think she did a better job than most with such details (I think it was her last book; she died young, around 60 or maybe younger.)

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dave Knadler said...

It's the same with presidential candidates: they always purport to be reading these high-minded tomes on history and philosophy, when they're all probably re-reading "The Secret." Or worse, they're not reading anything at all.

I still laugh at the time George W. Bush claimed to be reading Albert Camus' "The Stranger." Call me cynical, but somehow that just did not ring true.