There’s been a lot going on. Too much really, and all that sort of stuff that to understand this story I have to tell you this other story first and then this other story third.
There’s the old sufi story, “When sewn into a bag of oats one can panic or one can be like the mouse and slowly eat your way out.” Or one can think about other great stories and the state of the world. Hence, here’s my list of the five greatest American novels.
- The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler – To me, this is still the greatest American novel. It doesn’t explain the world just the fabric and soul of a nation as encapsulated within Los Angeles. As everyone knows, as Hollywood goes so goes the world. In this story about friendship and devotions all the people are portrayed as human, faces loved by someone. Everyone has dreams, desires and a trace of nobility if one is open enough to see it. Even the evil and contemptible offer something glorious to the world and if you can’t see it then it is because of the evil in you. There’s plenty of politics here, all of the self serving and corrupt type. Politics makes even men of vision and hope finally succumb to the weariness of this world till they become as callous and embittered as the evil they seek to destroy.
Robert Altman made of movie of this. It was terrible beyond believe.
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – Sadly, almost ridiculously this book is more pertinent today then it was to its contemporaries. The only thing is that the “bosses” have gotten more corrupt, more clever, and more ruthless and more heartless. This story holds up to the light the evil we have accepted and come to envy. How we have forgotten the Populism and drive that led us to love our fellow man is made clear in the way minor characters in the story are now harbingers of a grim future as apocalyptic as any cheesy sci-fi novel’s worst dreamings.
It’s a story of people. The Joads are easy to identify with, in their simplicity, dumbness and urge to survive. That life is a black top highway is common knowledge to all of us from the Far West.
This book is so full of story and people that just skimming the film from the top of it like the skin from a hot cocoa gives enough material to make a great movie. And that happens so seldom except with those heavy Russian novels that are portentous and no fun at all.
This book entertains, horrifies and educates. Looking at the past we can see our present and foretell the future. Politics, yeah we got it by the bucketful, and it’s the politics we wish didn’t exist.
- The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen – America wasn’t a superpower yet. Believing in her was betting on the underdog, the mongrel. It’s easy now to be a jingoist xenophobia. We won and now we’re fading out to join those other great empires of the past.
Patchen’s novel takes the same journey as the Joads took in Grapes of Wrath, but it is a different highway through a different country side. One where Adolph Hitler and Jesus Christ are hitchhikers riding in the same back seat of the same old Buick. And Hitler and Christ are only incidental characters we note almost in passing.
It’s a violent uncompromising vision of America. Accurate too. Right up to the final disintegration.
- The Naked Lunch by William Burroughs – We need great books that make us laugh out loud. I first read this is high school. I passed it along to my friends and before long the entire team was yelling quotes at each other in the hallways and classrooms. We gave certain teachers and coaches nick names based on characters in the novel. Now I wonder what the school thought about their best, handsomest champions shouting out things like :I am the great Slashtubitch. You cannot fake the orgasm on me. I can tell if you come by the wiggle of your big toe.”
They made a weirds movie of this book, by David Cronenberg. The movie wasn’t great at all. The novel is and will take you to an America ruled by caricatures who give into their basest desires and then put off the evil and monstrosities as being for our own good.
- Ironweed by William Kennedy – The story of a second baseman.
They made a movie of this book. When they announced it I said to people that it could be a great movie so long as they didn’t cast Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in it. So of course it starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep and of course it sucked.
This is an amazing book.
This is the latest podcast. I’m still surprised that there are as many downloads of these as there are. Who knows why.
I’m proud of this one. It’s what I wanted my wife’s birthday podcast to sound like.
The Cool and The Crazy 8
Travoltas – Endless Summer
Plimsouls – Good Times
Dorktones – Everlasting Love
Ramones – She’s A Sensation
Third Bardo -Five Years Ahead Of My Time
Florian Munday & The Mundos – Rip It Up
Mink Jaguar – Red Queen
Boss Martians = Hey Hey Yeah Yeah
Bill Loyd – Trampoline (alt)
Wet Willie – Shout Bamalama
Exciters – Tell Him (unedited)
Red Cross – Yesterday Once More
Chesterfield Kings – Somewhere Nowhere
Jello Biafra – Convoy In The Sky
Teen Machine – Bitchin’ Camaro
Crimson Ghost – Attitude
Trashmen – My Woodie
Astronauts – Our Car Club
DiMaggio Brothers – Every Breath You Take
Bob Dylan – You Belong To Me
Eddie Cochran – My Way
Big Daddy – Eye Of The Tiger
Everly Brothers – Gone, Gone, Gone
Blasters – Samson And Delilah
Outsiders – Time Won’t Let Me
Brogues – I Ain’t No Miracle Worker
Plan 9 – I’m Not There
King – Come As You Are
Herb – The Work Song
Yep – Waterloo Sunset
Come Ons – Strangelove
Toxic Audio – Lean On Me