Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers and other bookish bods to share the names of three books that mean a lot to them. The idea is that it might raise the profile of certain books and introduce you to new titles and new bloggers.
Today’s guest is East Sussex-based Tom Cunliffe from A Common Reader.
Tom took early retirement from a career in IT and now divides his time between reading, walking and playing the guitar and mandolin. He also maintains a magnificent blog that concentrates primarily on literary fiction, biography, history and current affairs. He is my “go-to” source when it comes to finding out about 20th century European books in translation.
Without further ado, here’s Tom’s Triple Choice Tuesday selections:
I have spent more time in the company of Mr Charles Pooter than I care to remember. His character never fails to amuse with its mixture of pomposity and innocence. Poor Mr Pooter, the butt of so many jokes by his friends and relatives, and yet his ability to dance in the back-parlour with his wife Carrie shows that even the most straitlaced Victorian gentleman can enjoy himself.
Although it was first-published in 1892, this book is so very modern, with a satirical cutting edge which must have offended many in its day. Apart from its humour, it is also an accurate picture of Victorian lower-middle-class manners and mores. It always surprises me how many of these still hang over into today’s English society — I would never name names, but I know more than one person with Pooterish characteristics. Heck, I think I might even have an inner Pooter inside me waiting to get out!
I read Crime and Punishment when I was 18 years old and entered the world of the Russian novel with a sense of revelation. I’d always been a reader but this was something else. I was impressed by the sheer complexity of the character of Raskolnikov, the young student who decides that murder can be justified if the ends are noble, but finds after the event that his conscience is unimpressed by his previous justifications.
Crime and Punishment was long, dense and difficult, but showed me what writing at its best can achieve and lifted my sights to so many other examples of great world literature. Some people say that this is the best novel ever written, and while claims like these can be a little pointless, Crime and Punishment is definitely a landmark book, a standard by which other novels can be judged.
I have read this book several times and find more to it every time I read it. It’s impossible to categorise — is it satire, humour, philosophy, Zen? I really don’t know.
The shoe-tester is paid to walk all day around the city of Frankfurt, testing up-market shoes and writing reports for the manufacturers. The job is a pretext for meandering dissertations on life and its un-liveability — and a number of amorous adventures along the way. The unnamed narrator’s main concern is that his life is lived without “inner authorisation”: nobody ever asked his consent to his being alive, and this affront perplexes him from the start of the book. As he walks he sees the uniqueness of each moment (“through the open door I once again hear the little noises the birds make as their tiny feathered bodies take off with a dense and compact flutter”). Will he eventually find the “inner authorisation” that he seeks? Read it and find out.
Thanks, Tom, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I must say there’s some really interesting picks here. The only one I have read is Crime and Punishment, and I agree it is a “world-changing book”, and one that I am keen to re-read. The other two have promptly gone onto my wishlist!
What do you think of Tom’s choices? Have you read any of these books?