Friday, July 11, 2008

Why We Like Bears

I was talking to doug candano a couple of weeks back at Route 196 and we got to mentioning some of our favorite writers. Though doug's taste is in a different reading field altogether, he's not ignorant of the fantastical (not fantasy, mind) with Angela Carter, Steven Millhauser, Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borge.*

One of the books he recommended to me was Dino Buzzati's The Tartar Steppe. Curious, I did a google-check on the latter and found out he had also written The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily. Now, this book rang a bell in my head: whether as someone's recommendation online, a book I saw on the shelves or even a dream I had, I'm not sure. But I figure, what's not to like about a book that has bears invading a part of Italy, an army of boars, talking cats, and what-not? And this quote by Buzzati is quite endearing:
It seems to me, fantasy should be as close as possible to journalism. The right word is not "banalizing", although in fact a little of this is involved. Rather, I mean that the effectiveness of a fantastic story will depend on its being told in the most simple and practical terms.
Check out that great cover. And yes, the categorization is a children's book hence the introduction and end notes by Lemony Snicket (and the question remains if Snicket is writing or is being written).

This is one reason why I like finding out about writers (whether fantasy or fantastical) I normally wouldn't have known about and why I try to read outside the genre (and outside the area of North American or British Isles for that matter) when I can.

Anyone else have recommendations or suggestions? Here's a quid pro quo: I once suggested for dean a very fine book in Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red. A murder-mystery novel that gives a look at Istanbul in the late 16th century, I'm still savoring the wonderful writing of this one chapter by chapter. (And if you've paged through this book, you'll know what I mean by chapter.)

*Ironically, I also have this interesting bibliophile habit of selecting only one work from each great literary writer. For Carter, I've picked The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, for Millhauser it's Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, from Calvino it's Invisible Cities, while with Borges, it's Labryinths (unless I have a different book altogether).

It's something to do with me looking over the shelves of bookstores as a child and some book titles sticking to my mind until I was older.
Weird, I know.

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