When you have a chance, could you please make a list of 20 or 30 book titles that you loved as a 12/13 year old that I can use for young Gustav? Would be GREAT and I’d really appreciated it! I can’t think of a better person to look to for some guidance on this.
Well, I didn’t start reading seriously until I was fifteen. The titles I read beginning at 15 would probably not be of much interest to him, unless he wants to read Blake, Nietzsche and Shelley. Then again, why not?
On the other hand, I did read many books about baseball and Rock’nRoll at his age, not to mention ghost stories, bible stories, particularly about Joseph and Samson, and books about UFOs and the possibility that Aliens colonized earth 6000 years ago, creating what we know now as “civilization” — big mistake, if true.
It was that amazing biography of The Beatles, Shout!, now considered a “classic” beyond the typical “music fanzine” stuff, and biographies of Dylan, Janice Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, and that mythography of Jim Morrison, No One Here Get’s Out Alive, that turned me on to reading, then writing, in the first place — again, big mistake, but alas true.
Lennon, Harrison, Dylan, Morrison, Janice Joplin, Grace Slick, Gerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Hendrix — all of them actually, were deep, serious readers. As were Patti Smith, Exene Cervenka and John Doe (X) Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Lydia Lunch, Ian Curtis (Joy Division) Joey Ramone, Darby Crash (Germs), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Joe Strummer (The Clash), Iggy Pop and all the first, influential punk-rockers. Not to mention “punk-novelist” extraordinaire, Kathy Acker.
By looking for and reading the writers who influenced them — Lewis Carrol, Joyce, Salinger, the Beats, Nietzsche, Camus, Shelley, Byron, Keats etc. — I realized that Lennon, Morrison and Dylan, while great lyricists and Rock’n’Roll poets of their time, were not in the league of Shelley, Rimbaud, Ginsberg, Rimbaud, etc. The book that most influenced me in my life-time, to this day, is Richard Holmes’ now-classic but then just published (1980) biography of Shelley, The Pursuit, which in a sense, I’m still following, like Shelley, to the bitter end.
So really, you never know what books, “quality” or not, might influence someone toward further, deeper study of more and better books that might lead them to their own particular “pursuits…”
How would I have known to read 19th century existential philosophers, Romantic poets, and 1950s beats had I not come across them in books about my real interests at the time, 1960s-era Rock’n’Rollers?
What is and/or who are the kid interested in? Get him books about these people/subjects and either he’ll take it from there, or he will not. On the other hand, part of the excitement of reading about Rock’n’Rollers instead of doing your homework, then going on to great poets and philosophers, who are a helluva lot more valuable than whatever mediocrities inevitably fail to teach them, is part of the excitement of The Pursuit.
Sooner or later, he’s gonna rebel against everything you stand for, not to mention his teachers, so it might be wise to guide him toward subject matter than will provide avenues for him to pursue himself…as was the case with Lennon, Morrison, Dylan and before them, Shelley, Byron and Rimbaud etc. going back to the first great books and the first schools and “authorities” to studiously ignore them. I don’t recall Burroughs or Pynchon on the regular high school curriculum … and Joyce, as he recounts in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, his own “banned books,” almost got kicked out of school for reading Byron. Holden Caulfield had similar experiences before the book he appeared in and the writer who wrote it were, of course, banned…until the “rebels” who read the Joyces and Salingers and Ginsbergs and Byrons created their own art forms and aesthetic standards…
My own two cents: kids, especially gifted ones, should be encouraged; but Tennis Mothers should be avoided at all costs. If you were to look down on “Tin-Tin,” as you did while mentioning the “crap” young Gustav was reading, in the presence of Charles M. Schulz, Ralph Bakshi, Crumb or Art Spiegleman, you’d get the same reaction as John Lennon, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison gave their parents and other authorities for “disapproving” of Elvis — or urging them to stop wasting their time on Kerouac, Burroughs, Corso, Ferlingetti, and read “real” literature (i.e. “books I think are real literature…”)
Also, since you brought it up, the idea of quantifying books is typically middle-mind American deranged. If you’ve read X-number of books, it’s better than reading X minus 1 number of books, it “goes without saying.” Forty books, as “everyone knows,” is better than 20 books.
But say one is supposed to read “at least 40 books” during a semester, but reads only three? That person is not “applying him/herself,” not “living up to his/her potential,” no? That the three books were Joyce’s Ulysses, Ellison’s The Invisible Man and the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson (which in this type of measurement, would be classified as “one book”) would be meaningless, according to the “written assignment,” because “40 books is 40 books.” It is not “three books” by any definition of the term. On the other hand, it would be difficult indeed to find 40 books of equal or comparable value to the aforementioned three.
One must assume that a “Complete Plays and Sonnets of Shakespeare” collection would count as only one book, while purchase and perusal of all 37 plays individually, plus the sonnets, would comprise 38 — at least according to the on-line bookseller when calculating sales and shipping and handling fees, and perhaps his teachers, who would credit young Gustav with “one book read” for the collection, yet 38 — two shy of the mark — for reading each play and the sonnets as separate packages.
Most people don’t read “40 books” in their life-time, let alone one year/semester/what-have-you. Most who are forced to, especially during a time when their time might be better spent playing ball or simply just walking around, observing stuff, seldom read than many, or any, again, once liberated from the constraints of “school.” I sure didn’t read 40 books in any one year until I was fifteen, nor for that matter, did any of the big-shot poet-professors I studied under in college, from what they’ve told me. Nevertheless, they more than made up for those “missed years” of doing what 12-year-old boys have done and were expected to do since time immemorial — have some fun — in terms of both quantity and quality of books read.
On behalf of a very young boy not even old enough to be considered a “young man,” having been one myself, especially in light of this deranged quantity-over-quality culture, not to mention “if you want to get into a good school” type competition, I would generally say, “Give the kid a break.” He did his damned homework assignment. Why encourage him to “slack off?” Which is what you’re doing. “You already read the assigned number of books? Well then, you must read more, whether you like them or not.” If the kid is as sharp as you say he is, he’ll “get wise” to the game and make damned sure he takes his sweet time completing whatever future “assignments” he is given…especially if the reward for excellence and achievement is…more work, instead of play or leisure, formerly just-recompense for a job well done…
You rock, Yitzhak! I have to run as I’m in the office for the next 6-8 days and have to get menial chores done so I can work with a free mind. Young Gustav takes after me- and is a total B personality- and has PLENTY of fun. He’s irreverent and doesn’t take much seriously. The kid savors life and the experiences it has to offer- but things are a bit different than when we were kids and the generations before us in certain ways- and we’ve got to work with the existing system to a certain extent. It’s a bummer but the way it is.
“We’ve got to work with the existing system to a certain extent. It’s a bummer but the way it is,” said prisoner number 12987643 as he split a bar of soap with prisoner number 29876532 (there was no longer enough for everyone to get their own) and they headed glumly, stoically, to the “shower….”