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 William Rycroft from Just William’s Luck.
William, who is the father of two boys under the age of three, has an extensive blog that covers books, film, music, theatre and art. He also takes some pretty awesome photographs.
On top of that he is an actor, and is currently performing in War Horse in the West End.
Is there anything this chap cannot do?
Without further ado, here’s Will’s Triple Choice Tuesday selection:
If you were to force me to choose a favourite writer then I would have to plump for Philip Roth. After reading many of his books I find myself continuously impressed by his intelligence, perception, skill and passion. Whilst I could have mentioned any of a few here, American Pastoral is the one that blew me away when I first read it and then did exactly the same when I came back to it.
Part of Roth’s ‘American Trilogy’ (completed by I Married A Communist and The Human Stain), it is narrated by Roth’s alter ego Nathan Zuckerman and tells the story of his boyhood hero, Seymour “the Swede” Levov. Whilst he might appear to be an all-American hero: an athletic star with beautiful wife, daughter and large house it isn’t long before Zuckerman delves beneath the veneer and finds a story that packs a punch far stronger than I was expecting, delivered with the kind of skill that has you indignant on behalf of the characters you’re reading about, angry and upset by what makes them angry and upset.
I won’t mention anything about the plot, but set in a period during the 60s and 70s in America, it allows Roth to comment on race, politics, war, violence, family, urbanity and provides one of the most visceral depictions of a man struggling to cope with the opposite sex I have ever come across. For that last reason it’s a book that should be read by both men and women and then talked about. It’s amazing where different readers place their sympathy. A must read.
Bear with me here. I didn’t use to be such an avid reader. I was within the sheltered confines of a vocational boarding school when I read Burgess’s iconic novel, roughly the same age as its teenage protagonist, and nobody I knew had read it. As soon as I began I felt like I was reading a secret text, one that required decoding, and as I slowly came to terms with nadsat, the language Burgess invented for Alex and his droogs, I began to realise the power of words and the exhilaration of reading, I could feel myself becoming an adult reader. Never had reading felt particularly cool before but I knew I was reading something controversial and this new language felt like one only a few people were party to. It was the first time I realised how controversial books could be, how provocative, what conflicting emotions they could stir and how complicit the act of reading was.
For a few years afterwards it seemed to be a book which continued to influence my life. I got a chance to see the infamous film whilst it was still banned (and protested inwardly that, like the US edition of the book, it didn’t contain the final chapter which is, in my opinion, totally integral to the book, perhaps the whole point of the story) and then later at drama school found myself with the opportunity to play the role of Alex in a production we later toured around Europe. I didn’t think that it would be the answer to this question initially but it honestly seems to have been the book that awoke my inner reader and also helped to define what I now do for a living (acting, not being a violent gang member!).
This is a really tough one. I could have chosen Amos Berry by Allan Seager, a fascinating and genuinely lost masterpiece about what drives a man to commit a murder in rural America (but McSweeney’s have already re-discovered him by printing one of his stories). I could also have chosen The Cottagers by Marshall N Klimasewiski, a gripping psychological thriller (but Peter Ho Davies already picked that one in this great article about overlooked books).
What I have chosen is a book that genuinely deserves a wider audience having been denied one initially by certain circumstances. The cover for example. It looks like chick-lit, doesn’t it? Right away you have guaranteed that half the population are unlikely to even pick it up. Which is a shame. It is a début novel about obsessional love which contains lots of humour as well as the painful detail and emotion of an intense relationship, breakup and its fallout. I suspect that some, particularly female readers, will nod along in agreement if they’ve ever been there themselves, whilst the men may well run for the hills! But underneath the dramatic pitch of the novel there is so much truth about what it takes to hand yourself over to someone else and the danger of what happens if they ever let go.
Thanks, Will, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I’ve not read any of them, although Clockwork Orange has been sitting in the TBR for about 8 years! Maybe it’s time to dust it off…?
What do you think of William’s choices? Have you read any of these books?