Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Book Pride

Turning 180-degrees from yesterday’s acknowledgement of Book Embarrassment, here are two books whose covers I’d wear as a sandwich board:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. It was the 1960s and I was very young, on a family road trip where all I heard was my mother saying, "Yossarian." All I saw was her laughing so hard she could barely keep reading aloud to my dad as he drove. Decades later, I learned Yossarian is the protagonist in a war novel (anti-war; anti-bureaucracy, really), and more decades later I finally picked up the book. The mess of its incoherent, non-linear presentation tempted me to set it aside, and the only thing that kept me in it was the hilarity.

I’ve talked to more readers who abandoned the book than finished it, so there’s an element of pride in having persisted through a difficult read … and come out loving it. Because, counter-balancing the hilarity, Heller does things like arranging just six discrete words to haunt us about the horrors of war:

"I’m cold," Snowden said. "I’m cold."
"There, there," said Yossarian. "There, there."

If you’ve read the novel, you’ve gone now to get a tissue. We’ll wait.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. I stumbled on this book about creativity (by a former sketch artist at Hallmark) while on a lunch break during a business conference. The title annoyed me and I remember leafing through the book and thinking, "Yech!": the pages were a mess of weird fonts and weird art and scribbles. I put it back.

But then I pushed myself to take another look. It would do me good to stretch toward something eclectic, I decided. And I found the content as different from what I was accustomed to as the design: Creative. Spontaneous. Curious. Encouraging. Supportive. Fun.

Read the first chapter ("Where Have All The Geniuses Gone?") and you’ll be hooked. (Hint: the geniuses are all still here. They're us.)

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