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As a teenager my bedroom walls became covered in Roger Dean posters. It is the mid–1970s. Pocet money was spent in the ‘Kard Bar’ in an arcade that wadsubsequently consumed by the Eldon Square complex, Newcastle on Tyne.
Forty years later at the other end of the country I am driving around East Sussex looking for furniture. I stumpledupon Trading Boundaries at Sheffield Park courtesy of a road close between Haywards Heath and Newick. I find several pieces and also learn that Roger Dean, the rock artist and sci–fantasy illustrator is putting on an informal show of his work: originals and sketches from drawing pads and signed posters.
One image takes me into my childhood bedroom where I first put up a Roger Dean poster. Another image takes me into my teens, into the larger guest bedroom in the house and a growing collection. I must have recognised a dozen. I’d need to check my diary entries for that time to get an idea of price. £4 or so in the 1970s?
I was reading the likes of ‘Time Enough for Love’ Robert Heinlein. The teenage boy fantasizing about ‘the world beyond … ‘ I even have my efforts age 13 at writing science-fiction that became Blue Lagoon in space I called ‘Adam & Evie’.
My son joined me. He is interested in urban art and graphic design. He’s always loved designing fonts so perhaps this would inspire him. He puzzled over untangling the e from ‘Yes’ – the many logos, album sleeves and posters Roger Dean created for the band. We saw a 2010 cover for Cliffe Bonfire Society which explains his presence in this part of the world – Lewes attracts artists.
100 Books (mostly FICTION)
The non-fiction choice, Book 101, is ‘The magnificent Mrs Tennant by David Waller’.
Having kept a diary since my early teens in which I recorded what I was reading (including school text books), I have an extraordinary insight into what was being put in front of my mind. What I find remarkable is how, if courtesty of the Internet and Ebay I dig out these books how quickly my mind can pick up where it left off 30+ years ago. This ‘window’ is a short one, at this level. In a few years I abandoned the set format of the ‘Five Year Diary’ with its specific pages to complete. On the other hand, are there not blog and social media platforms that go out of their way to encourage you to reveal something of yourself through what you read, watch and do?
This list is fluid and understandably incomplete. I have not put in Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci’ for example, as I feel it would have to come with a caveat – I read it to find out what the fuss was about. I felt as if I’d been made to play a game of snakes and ladders through an alternative and ridiculous world. It may also have put me off ever believing I could compete as a commercial author if this is what it requires. My excuse might be quaified by the French Movie Director Francois Truffaut who argued that you had to read everything, especially the ‘trash mags’ – indeed, the trashier the book the easier it is to turn into a film?
What attracts us to lists?
I should create a list of the books I’ve tried to read but could not: Ulysseys, War and Peace, Enid Blyton … any other Dan Brown! (Actually, Michael Crichton, even Stephen King, can be as daft and crass).
I see too there are still a few non-fiction works in here; I’ll filter these out in due course as I build my 100 Non-Fiction list.
I am also electing to leave out books that had to be read at school, so I ought not to have Thomas Hardy, T S Elliot or Shakespeare. Nor do I include a book if all I’ve done is see the film, which is how I suspect the ‘popular’ lists compiled by the likes of the BBC are created.
As an exercise, you make a list and immediately start to change it, indeed, I’ve just thought of a very important piece of ficton I read based on recommendation; these often turn out to be the best reads, from people who know you. All my reading of Haruki Murakimi is the product of being part of a writer’s group for a while.
As I edit I will be seeking to keep books in that matter to me, that I could discuss and defend and that I’d like others to read.
Some choices are informed by a friend who read English at Oxford; others from the Guardian’s ‘Thousands Books’ you must read before you die, which, where the library could supply them I would follow, though often having to read something else by the same author (or getting distracted by something else on the shelf).
I will also extract children’s books, those I recall reading as a child, but also those I have read to my children.
Now I’m starting to sound like a bookstore 🙁
1 Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
4 Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
5 Remembrance of Things Past – Marcel Proust
6 Tides of War – Steven Pressfield
7 Gates of War – Steven Pressfield
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 Return to Arms – Ernest Hemmingway
10 Fatherland – Robert Harris
11 The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer
12 Harlot’s Ghost – Norman Mailer
13 The Executioner’s Song – Norman Mailer
14 Engelby – Sebastian Faulk
15 The Birds and other stories – Daphne Du Maurrier
16 Sunset Song – Lewis Grassick Gibbon
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Regeneration Series – Pat Barker
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Life Drawing – Pat Barker
21 One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 The Gulgag Archipelago- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams
29 Vox – Nicholas Baker
30 The Decameron – Giovanni Boccaccio
31 How the Dead Live – Will Self
32 Time Enough for Love – Robert Heinlein
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 The Foundation of Paradise – Arthur.C.Clarke
35 Enigma – Robert Harris
36 The Ghost – Robert Harris
37 Pompeii – Robert Harris
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Orlando – Virginia Woolf
40 Girl in a Coma – Douglas Coupland
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Space Trilogy series – C .S.Lewis
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
45 A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
46 The Wind-up Bird Chronicles – Haruki Murakami
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 The Time Machine – H.G.Wells
52The War of the Worlds – H.G.Wells
53 The Invisible Man – H.G.Wells
54 Tono-Bungay – H.G.Wells
55 The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
56 The Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell
57 The Island – Victoria Hislop
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 The Lost Continent. Travels in small town America – Bill Bryson
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – James Joyce
65 Decline and Fall – Evelyn Waugh
66 Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller
67 Sexus, Plexus & Nexus – Henry Miller
68 Quiet Days in Clichy – Henry Miller
69 The Crimson Petal and The White – Michel Faber
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Under a Glass Bell – Anais Nin
72 House of Incest – Anais Nin
73 The Diary of Anais Nin (7 volumes) – Anais Nin
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson.
75 Boy – Roald Dahl
76 The Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
77 State of Fear – Michael Crichton
78 The Last Juror – John Grisham
79 A Painted House – John Grisham
80 The Testament – John Grisham
81 A Time to Kill – John Grisham
82 Duma Key – Stephen King
83 Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
84 Stranger in Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
85 Going Solo – Roald Dahl
86 Crash – J.G.Ballard
87 Timeline – Stephen King
88 Super-Cannes – J.G.Ballard
89 Atomised – Michel Houellbecq
90 Platform – Michel Houellbecq
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 Steve Jobs: The Authorised Biography – Walter Isaacson
93 The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 Macbeth – William Shakespeare
96 I, Claudius – Robert Graves
97 Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl.
100 Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sandak
(Blogified 25/09/2004. Accessed 22/01/2011)
‘A writer spends his professional time in solitary confinement, refusing to accept telephone calls and declining to see visitors, surrounded by a dreary forest of reference books and somewhat-organized papers.’
Robert A. Heinlein. 1980.
In 1975, Heinlein was my god. ‘Time Enough for Love’ was my bible. Send me a copy, I still need it.
I am this writer, when the opportunity offers itself to me. I have my den, my office, my space, and my shelves to the ceiling. I am like a fattening guinea pig unable to give birth because of the number of ‘kittens’ I have in the making.
I will burst from this space above a Red Cross Charity Shop in Lewes, East Sussex, England and spill my brains onto the street. I am will have fame posthumously at this rate.
I cannot ‘get anything out.’ I clock up the words, I fill pages, I print the stuff off, but I can never look back.
Writing needs to be like an exam and needs to take place under exam conditions. Exams that got me into Balliol College, Oxford to ‘read’ modern history required A and B grades in three ‘High School’ exams, I produced two As and two Bs. The ‘Oxbridge Exam,’ I have the papers somewhere, were and additional test, five papers over three days? I don’t remember?
I swam then, surfed them, and ran with them.
I found answering these papers exhilarating. I knew all there was to know; I had methods to ‘extract’ detail from my head. That’s how writing should be, a flurry of surfing waves, of jumping mounds of snow, an exciting ride that ends as you planned a minute or so after time is called on your work.
This is how I write.
I write in bursts, at best, three hours at a time. Not in 30 minutes, not in 24 hours … but in three hours.
I have a hundred ‘mind bursts,’ three hundred hours of writing to cohere, to fix, to finish and send out.
I miss my online lovers, I miss my contacts, I miss this silly world where we miscreants share our lives.