A Gift, From Me To You.

A conversation I was having with a chap on Twitter this evening inspired me to make a list of 5 books that I think you may enjoy.  Books that I love and treasure, and ones that I think everyone should love and treasure.  Call it a wee gift, from me to you.  They are in no particular order, though the first book is the one I recommended on Twitter this evening, and the one that prompted this post.  I hope you enjoy them.  This may, or may not, become a regular feature.

Fup, by Jim Dodge.
Fup, is quite simply a wonderful little book.  It has a duck, a boar, a gentle giant making fences, and an immortal grandfather who spends his days distilling Ole Death Whisper whiskey.  I first read this book on the train between Glasgow Central and Wemyss Bay, and devoured it in less than 45 minutes.  It’s a book I haven’t read in a while due to giving all my copies away – they don’t come back – but it still has me smiling like a loon just thinking about it.

Sombrero Fallout, by Richard Brautigan.
Richard Brautigan is one of my very favourite authors.  I think it is tragic he is seemingly not very well known.  Sombrero Fallout is unlike anything you will have ever read.  It is surreal, absurd, profound, concise, bittersweet, and quite beautiful.  It is the tale of a writer’s lost love, and of an ice cold sombrero that falls to earth bringing chaos to a small town in America.  Brautigan has a style all of his own, short sentences that deserve to be read out loud for the pleasure they bring as they trip off the tongue.   All of his books are fabulous, but this is my personal favourite.

The Good Fairies Of New York, by Martin Millar.
This is a book that took me by surprise.  It was sent to me by a good friend of mine in Scotland, a guy who I would think the last person to recommend fairy stories.  But this is a fairy story with a difference.  It’s a story about two kilted, punk fairies on the run from their clans in the UK, who end up in New York.  There is sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, fighting, and more crazy fairies than you can shake a stick at.   With one of the most memorable opening pages I have ever read, this is another book that made me laugh out loud, a lot.

Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut.
Kurt Vonnegut is quite possibly my favourite writer, and Slaughterhouse 5 is probably his most famous book.  It is a satirical black comedy, with a dash of sci-fi, and personal memoir thrown in.  It is ostensibly about Vonnegut’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden at the end of World War Two, but it is also very much more than that.  This is a book both funny and disturbing, horrific and humane, serious and surreal, which should be required reading for armchair generals everywhere.

Hunger, Knut Hamsun.
This is an incredibly intense and powerful book about the travails of a desperately poor writer trying to make enough money from day to day in order to live.  Rarely have I had such an emotional involvement in a character.  Here is man who’s pride leads him to the very edge of starvation, a starvation that is somehow made palpable for the reader.  The test of a good book, for me, is in it’s memorability.  I have only read this book once, about ten years ago, an ex-girlfriend has my copy, and I can still remember the emotional rollercoaster it put me on as if it was yesterday.  And by no means is this an irredeemably bleak book, it has many humorous episodes too.

Rachel Corrie Shall Never Be Forgotten.

I have just been reading this article and the subsequent comments, and now I just want to curl up into a ball and cry.  What a fucking world we live in.

Some of you may not know who Rachel Corrie is, or was.  You should know.

Rachel was a young American woman, just a few weeks shy of her 24th birthday, who was murdered in 2003 while trying to do something good and kind and noble and beautiful.
Rachel died trying to stop something wicked, criminal and barbarous from happening to Palestinian families and homes in the lands under illegal military occupation by Israel.
With others in the International Solidarity Movement, she tried to use her body to prevent the destruction and theft of Palestinian land and homes by the State of Israel.  Can you imagine getting told to abandon your home?  No compensation, no nothing, just go, because one of these things was about to knock it to the ground?

Caterpillar Armoured Tractor

Your land now belongs to someone else.  You are homeless and nobody cares.

But Rachel cared.  And they killed her for it.  Rachel tried to stand between the bulldozers and the homes of innocent people.  But the bulldozers didn’t stop.  She died a horrible and heroic death.  This week she was once again denied justice by an Israeli court.   And Jesus wept….

“We should be inspired by people… who show that human beings can be kind, brave, generous, beautiful, strong – even in the most difficult circumstances.”  Rachel Corrie.

Rest in peace.

“Three years after Corrie’s death, an Israeli army officer who emptied the magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl, Iman al-Hams, and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years oldwas cleared by a military court.

Iman was shot and wounded after crossing the invisible red line around an Israeli military base in Rafah, but she was never any closer than 100 yards.  The officer then left the base in order to “confirm the kill” by pumping the wounded girl full of bullets.  An Israeli military investigation concluded he had acted properly….”

Further reading –

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/28/rachel-corrie-verdict-exposes-israeli-military-mindset
http://rachelcorriefoundation.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Corrie
http://edinburgheye.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/tragedies-and-names/