Welcome to Triple Choice Tuesday. This is where I ask some of my favourite bloggers, writers and readers 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, new authors and new bloggers.
Today’s guest is Philip Young of To Be Read.
Philip reads a lot of books but buys even more, hence the name of his blog. He is currently buying and possibly reading anything that features a journalist or a PR practitioner, or is written by a Scandinavian. Or an Argentinian. Or an African. Or published in 1972. Undoubtedly he will have found another challenge/obsession before reading, never mind blogging, about most of these buys.
His ideal Christmas present would be something new written in a language of which he has little knowledge but a fierce determination to one day be able to read…
Without further ado, here’s Philip’s choices:
It is one thing to choose a favourite author, quite another to choose a favourite book. In the end I went for Madame Bovary on the grounds that I have read it several times and could easily read it several more. The basic story is none too remarkable — woman gets bored of provincial life, has affair, spends too much money, pays terrible price — but it is the brilliance of Flaubert’s telling that makes it a classic.
As well as the joy of reading the novel, it has inspired some remarkable reflections from great writers, including Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Perpetual Orgy and, of course, Julian Barnes’s Flaubert’s Parrot (and yes, I have been to the museum at Rouen). As Flaubert said: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi!”
Not a very original choice, but that’s the way it is! A friend introduced me to Kerouac when I was 17, and On The Road was my bridge into grown-up literature. It was sheer excitement of the ride, the way Kerouac’s urgency and lust for life shines out through the prose. There I was, apparently stuck in an A-level physics class, understanding nothing, but really I was cruising into Denver with Charlie Parker be-bopping in my ears. I bought the On The Road iPad app the other day, and within hours I was plotting my own road journey across the USA.
I spend a lot of time in Sweden and read a lot of Swedish fiction, so thought about choosing something by Hjalmar Soderberg, Per Olov Enqvist or Pär Lagerkvist, but in the end I have hopped across the border to Norway and gone for the opening novel of Jan Kjaerstad’s Jonas Wergeland trilogy.
Wergeland is a highly successful TV documentary maker, the golden boy of Norwegian media. He is incredibly good at almost everything and seems to have the world at his feet. Then one day he returns from a business trip to find his wife’s body on the living room floor. After 600-plus pages you might expect to have discovered who killed her — I won’t say if the police suspicions that it was Wergeland himself turn out to be true — but it takes a writer of some confidence to tell the same story twice more, painting in further detail, shifting the angles of vision ever so slightly, with the equally weighty The Conqueror and The Discoverer, before the conclusion becomes clear.
This is a very funny novel, easy to read, but thought-provoking; writing that compels you to have a noteboook to hand to record Kjaerstad’s wise and witty observations:
So how do the pieces of a life fit together? Like an organ in which the pipes sound from different corners, even when the keys you are pressing are right next to one another.
Thanks, Philip, for taking part in my Triple Choice Tuesday!
I read On The Road in my early 20s (but didn’t fall in love with it), and have both Madame Bovary and The Seducer in my reading queue. I hadn’t clocked that The Seducer is part of a trilogy — it sounds like a major commitment — but I admit I’m more intrigued than ever to give it a go…
What do you think of Philip’s choices? Have you read any of these books?