Monday, September 15, 2014

Ten books I remember

Credit: paulbailey / flickr

List 10 books that have stayed with [you] in some way, without thinking too hard about it. They don't have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.

...goes a meme that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook lately.

I wrote down the first ten I could think of. Then I shuffled them randomly so that I didn’t feel like I was playing favourites. These are those books.

The Last Samurai, Helen De Witt

On the surface, De Witt’s 2000 novel is a coming-of-age story; a precocious young boy, raised by his equally gifted and eccentric mother, who finds a kind of independence as he seeks out his biological father. But The Last Samurai is so much more than that: it is about cross-generational bonds formed by intellectual kinship; autodidacts swimming in ponds far too small; it is about adventurers and explorers finding new roots in unknown lands; cinematic craft (the mother, Sibylla, raising the boy, Ludo, on Kurosawa’s 1954 Seven Samurai), and the art of storytelling; the loneliness of genius; the disjointed pace of parenthood (fragmented sentences and avant-garde paragraph breaks littering Sibylla’s narrative and suggesting an all-encompassing harried-mindedness); the semiotics of music; the ways in which even the very young look out for their elders.

I have read The Last Samurai only once. I intend to read it many times more. The prose is strange but mesmerising, and the themes speak to me on so many different levels that I get shivers just seeing the book lying patiently on my bedside table.

Still from Seven Samurai (七人の侍), 1954.