Thursday, November 01, 2007


I’m sitting at Chapters as usual, drinking a Starbucks Grande Bold. Just chilling out, reading this excellent autobiography of Eric Clapton.
I have always loved Clapton, and he has so many great LIVE concert DVD’S, I swear I could watch the guy play guitar forever.
His style fascinates me.
Not only his lyrics, but his vocal phrasings, have always made me feel that this is a man that knows much about life.
He has been around the block a few times.
The fine folks at Random House sent me a review copy of this new book, and I must say, I am eating it up! It is grand.
But then something on the shelf yonder made me put Clapton down and get out of my chair. It’s this thing, shown here, called 501 Must-Read Books.

My first thought was probably much the same as yours would have been.
Hmmmm…. how many have I read?
So I flipped through the thing. It is actually quite neat. A huge book.
I went to the Classics section. Here, I must admit, I could use some work.
According to this book, I am a bit “classics” deficient.
But I was sort of pleasantly surprised as I flipped through the Great Books of the 20th Century chapter.
Hey, I’m doing not too bad.
It was so neat to see, almost every time I turned a page, a familiar face! I’ve been here. I’ve done this.
I’ve probably read about 30% of the ones listed here.
I am choosing “good” books, I guess.

Lately, [the last two books I have read] I have been really enjoying my personal “discovery” of John Irving.
Here, in 501 Must-Read Books, they list his The World According To Garp as a must-read. So, I make a mental note.
Here in this chapter is Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and V.S. Naipaul’s A House For Mr. Biswas, and Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast.
Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies.
Books I have loved.

But, at the same time, I think… who, who can CHOOSE what are the BEST books of a century?
How would these be rated? Against what non-subjective criteria?
According to sales? According to critical reviews?
One person’s BEST BOOK may be the next person’s WORST BOOK.

I am not a bestseller type.
Yet it is nice to feel that one is reading with other people, you know?
It is nice to sense some sort of camaraderie.
Don’t you just LOVE IT when you see someone else reading a book you have loved?
A few weeks ago I was on a plane reading Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance.
[It is listed here in 501 Must-Read Books, by the way!]
And a stewardess saw, when I turned the book over to mix cream and sugar into the coffee she had just handed me.
“Oh my. Isn’t it good? I loved that book. I read it twice.”
“Yeah, I love it. It’s good.”

“I know, it so makes you appreciate the comforts that we have here in Canada…. like my God, the struggle, the times that these people lived through blah-blah-blah….”


She went on, “I’ll come back in a bit and show you what I am reading now.”
“Sure” I said, not at all expecting her to return.
But a little while later, sure enough, she did return, dragging ANOTHER STEWARDESS. [Or, as they are now called “Flight Attendants”]!
And they were both holding their current reads!

Anyhoo, now I’ve got TWO STEWARDESSES, this is what you’ve got to understand here….. two of them.
And each of them hotter than the tar melting in the cracks of Highway 401 last July!
One of them sits in the seat next to me, [the plane was not full], the other, she is perched on the armrest deal.
The first one, she was reading something by Ursula Hegi [I forget the title, but vividly remember the black-benyloned calves] and the other was reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, [written by….. E. Venbetter Calves] and there was CAMARADERIE, I tell you!
We talked for longer than I can even now, believe to be true.

Reading is fun. And people that read are fun.
I am not really sure of the literary value of speculating upon what may be the 501 Must-Read Books, like I said, my own choices have nothing to do, really, with popularity. Or sales, which are, nowadays, too often one and the same thing.
But wow, it is nice, now and then, to have two sizzling flight attendants interested in more than pouring your coffee.
As for my own general disregard for Bestseller Lists, I hear that old curmudgeon, my Splash du Jour guest as recently as, well today, saying Do not suppose, however, that I intend to urge a diet of classics on anybody. I have seen such diets at work. I have known people who have actually read all, or almost all, the guaranteed Hundred Best Books. God save us from reading nothing but the best.
-- Robertson Davies --


Stefanie said...

Camaraderie and nice calves :) I know what you mean about meeting people who are reading a book you love or who just love books and you get into a conversation--have you read? and Oh, I loved that one! It's a great feeling. Because reading is such a solitary act it is a good reminder to meet another reader and realize that while I may be reading alone I am not alone. One reason why I love book blogs like yours so much Cip!

Beth said...

Initially, I was confused. Is this post about books or babes? And then I realized it's about book-reading babes - and you.

Yes, people who read are fun. Perhaps because we have a greater frame of reference?

Melanie said...

What a wonderful story! I can just see it.
My friend Steven, while never having had hot flight attendants talk to him about his reading, once bumped into Margaret Atwood coming out of the bathroom on a plane, while he was reading one of her novels. She signed it for him, later of course!

cipriano said...

Thank you for reading, dear Readers.
I encourage you all, even if you ARE or are NOT, stewardesses, to get Eric Clapton's book and read it.
It's great.

Beth: My blog actually has three dimensions.

Melanie: [True story] Once, Margaret Atwood walked right past my table [swear to God] when I was in a Starbucks. But this, this bathroom thing, is even better. More awesome.

Stefanie: I remember when I was reading Ken Follett's massive The Pillars of The Earth.... I could not believe how many people, whenever seeing me with the book, had to comment about how much they enjoyed the thing. So, once I was finally done with it, I punched a massive hole through it and I now wear it around my neck. It is amazing, the people I am meeting.