A few days ago, a New York Times blog published this post, about Times' writers favorite novels. A former journalist myself, I shouldn't be surprised there's so much overlap between their lists and mine. Mine, if it existed. How does one pick five favorite novels? If I could make a top-ten or top-twenty list, though, it would include The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Infinite Jest, and maybe Franny and Zooey and Anna Karenina. I prefer On Beauty to White Teeth and A Widow For One Year to Owen Meany, which I haven't read and doubt I ever will due to the eye strain-inducing way the dialogue was written.
Reading this list was like flipping through an old photo album. I remembered a college professor harrumphing about the baseball team's loud get-pysched music in the class where For Whom The Bell Tolls (which I didn't care for) was discussed. White Noise is also a college memory; I first read it in an honors seminar for a philosophy class. I can see how someone would think it was overrated, but I find myself thinking about it and referring to it 11 or 12 years later all the same. I can't separate Remains of the Day (god I love that book so much) from the memory of the last summer I spent in Ithaca, in a cramped and devestatingly charming studio apartment without proper window screens, and with no money whatsoever, working an unpaid internship at City Hall and a night job at the local paper. Graham Greene -- nerd camp, summer, 1995, Alanis Morisette and Green Day and not being old enough to drive and hating it. Invisible Man -- the shoebox of books my uncle salvaged from the end of a library sale and mailed to me from Michigan. That's how I got The Awakening too, now that I think of it. Anything by Henry James reminds me of the time my best friend and I both tried to check Washington Square out of the library at the same time, just a few months into knowing each other, 14 years ago.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is the book of moving to New York.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is the book of being here, no longer a recent arrival.