March 6, 2002
11:09 PM   Subscribe

So in the spirit of this New Yorker Talk of the Town piece on different city's choosing books for everyone to read, what book would you like to make everyone in YOUR city read? And, what city would that be?
posted by adrober (31 comments total)
I live in a thriving college town full of young people, so my bid is for 'Independence Day' by Richard Ford. The last half of this book told me alot about how the young and slightly older interact. At one point in the novel Frank Bascombe, the main character, advises his troubled adolescent son that he should try not be "a critic of his own age" (or thereabouts). Without the surrounding dialogue it seems usesless, but it definitely made me see how cynicism and angst only builds a wall around oneself.
posted by ttrendel at 11:28 PM on March 6, 2002

New York:
"Up In The Old Hotel" by Joseph Mitchell
"Low Life" by Luc Sante
posted by liam at 11:40 PM on March 6, 2002

I'd love to say Gain by Richard Powers, but he lives here, so people would tend to be underwhelmed since they run into him at the Mirabelle's bakery downtown, and David Foster Wallace is a fireball of ideas, but he grew up here, and has some sort of position at ISU, so people probably wouldn't stretch, since a local boy produced it, so ....

Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories
by Joseph Mitchell, for my adopted hometown of Urbana, Illinois, just because Mitchell can say so much in one small sentence. See for yourself where John McPhee learned that trick of making the everyday fascinating.
posted by dglynn at 11:44 PM on March 6, 2002

Dammit, Liam! Teach me to preview a rewrite. Ah well, at least I got the link right. ;)
posted by dglynn at 11:46 PM on March 6, 2002

Literary New York, swiftly recognizing the underfunded pallor and nervous glances of the out-of-town reading-is-good-for-you bunch, did not disappoint. Ann Douglas, a Columbia University professor and the author of "The Feminization of American Culture," told the Times, "Chicago is different. The New Yorker disdains to be a booster of his own city or of his own culture. That is for the provinces. . . . We are the most important group of readers and critics in the country and even possibly in the world." Harold Bloom, the eminent canoneer, agreed: "I don't like these mass reading bees. . . . It is rather like the idea that we are all going to pop out and eat Chicken McNuggets or something else horrid at once."

you don't say.
posted by moz at 11:48 PM on March 6, 2002

Cherri's Passion

"Cherri's husband is always away on business, so she gets fed up and starts looking for satisfaction with college students, cops, even a clerk at the hardware store. No man or woman is safe from this babe's appetite."
posted by pracowity at 11:57 PM on March 6, 2002

San Francisco/Kingsport, Tennessee:
"The City, Not Long After" by Pat Murphy
posted by Kikkoman at 12:04 AM on March 7, 2002

The Tipping Point
Media Virus

I'd probably recommend them to any city, fantastic ideas/theories in both.
posted by owillis at 12:09 AM on March 7, 2002

I believe Richard Ford now lives in Missoula, MT, longtime home of the poet Richard Hugo, author of "Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg".
posted by liam at 12:17 AM on March 7, 2002

Dammit, dglynn, now you mention McPhee, I have to practise my linkskills. Everyone not from the Swiss alps should probably read "La Place De la Concorde Suisse".
posted by liam at 12:30 AM on March 7, 2002

pracowity: I loved Cherri's Passion as well, but what city is it for?
posted by sylloge at 12:43 AM on March 7, 2002

Although Harold Bloom and Phillip Lopate worry about consensual hallucination, I'm more inclined to expect collegial discourse. It's fun to take the trouble to read common texts and scrap with your friends about how you and they feel about them. When whole city-states engage in this sort of discourse, something's gonna show up, the best sort of public discussion, a subconscious public desire and will, focused into a narrative, then forced up and filtered into an agreeable casual and public discussion. Regarding the challenge to current copyright law, Los Angeles may well consider "Fahrenheit 451".
posted by ovrflt at 12:47 AM on March 7, 2002

> I loved Cherri's Passion as well, but what city is it for?

Prince Rupert.
posted by pracowity at 12:51 AM on March 7, 2002

Bradford. I'd make them read Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson. One chapter begins "Bradford's role in the world is to make everywhere else look better by comparison. In this it succeeds remarkably well." Then I'd say "I lived in Brighton when he wrote that" and look suitably smug.
posted by vbfg at 12:56 AM on March 7, 2002

Miami: The Florida Driver's Education Handbook

Florida: Any of Carl Hiaasen's books, but especially his non-fictional "Paradise Screwed" and "Team Rodent".
posted by groundhog at 5:43 AM on March 7, 2002

I live halfway between Washington, DC and Baltimore. For the Baltimoreans, I'd go with Anne Tyler's Earthly Possessions. Ms. Tyler lives in Baltimore, and it's a splendid novel.

For the Washingtonians, I'd go with Faulkner's Light in August. Just because.
posted by anapestic at 5:49 AM on March 7, 2002

In Lisbon, definitely Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet. It was recently translated into English - here's a rave review from George Steiner.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:57 AM on March 7, 2002

Miguel...I recently finished The Book of Disquiet, and I agree it was fascinating. It reminded me of Fight Club's "I am Jack's sense of rejection...etc." Great read.

For Dallas, I would have to go with Edmund Bacon's Design of Cities. We have alot to learn about sprawl in Texas.
posted by Benway at 6:14 AM on March 7, 2002

I'm not particularly fond of my town.

I'd pick The Losers by David Eddings. A thoroughly depressing book about a promising mans fall from grace, brought down by the people and town around him...
posted by KnitWit at 6:51 AM on March 7, 2002

I live in Columbia, SC, where there's a persistent Civil War myth that General Sherman deliberately and predjudicially burned the town as part of his March to the Sea. The truth is considerably murkier and more complex, and to get some of the "Fergit? Hell, no, never!" crowd to shut the hell up for a while, I'd recommend this book.
posted by alumshubby at 6:52 AM on March 7, 2002

I live in New York and I think the idea of the entire city reading one book is silly. Given the diversity of the city one group would always feel left out by whatever selection was made. It's also sort of creepy. These points, and more, made by the Moby Lives website:

Why, it's almost un–American, suggested Larry Jarvik, the proprietor of the online literary journal The Idler, in a letter–to–the–editor at MobyLives. He said he didn't like having "some central committee decide which book everyone in a given town should read" and probably putting "'peer pressure' on those who don't follow their lexical marching orders."
posted by haqspan at 8:04 AM on March 7, 2002

I live in Oxford, UK, and was living in Walton Well Road, Jericho, when ITV filmed 'The Dead of Jericho', the first Inspector Morse mystery (before author Colin Dexter killed off half of the city's middle class!).
I was working in Oddbins Wine store , Summertown, near to Colin Dexter's house around that time and also remember his fondness for inexpensive southern french reds. Colin Dexter appears in (almost ?) every episode, and the link above will take you to the 'Dexter Alert', to help you spot his cameos. The series is filmed in real locations in and around Oxford, and the Bookbinders is a genuine 'locals' pub (now more popular than ever)
The filming caused quite a stir in the small community that i lived in; little did we realise it would become a long-lasting international hit.

So, close to an endorsement for a telly prog, I know, but... need I add that Mr. Dexters cryptic plots and stinky red herrings are of course essential to the films!

- john
posted by dash_slot- at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2002

The Water-method Man by John Irving
posted by chris0495 at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2002

Slate has an article about this topic, with opinions from a variety of writers.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:09 AM on March 7, 2002

Well, I'm in Atlanta.... "To Kill A Mockingbird" might do some people here some good, though it's probably not urban enough for an Atlanta crowd. Ahh, after just searching my bookshelf I have the perfect book for us mock-Southerners; a perfect meld of Southern values clashing with Northern of my favorite books: William Styron's "Sophie's Choice." And now I must to the mayor's office!
posted by adrober at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2002

i would like to make Toronto read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

I would also make everyone in my small hometown, Charlottetown, read a lot of Mark Twain.
posted by will at 9:19 AM on March 7, 2002

Cadillac Desert is a great read for anyone living in the Southwest, especially California. Of course there's always the TV series for those that don't want to read it.
posted by euphorb at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2002

ovrflt wrote: Regarding the challenge to current copyright law, Los Angeles may well consider "Fahrenheit 451".

apparently, some people agree with that suggestion. according to the originally linked article, the city of los angeles is reading that very book.
posted by mlang at 10:32 AM on March 7, 2002

I would like my town to read Please Kill Me, by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
posted by rodii at 7:01 PM on March 7, 2002

Adrober, I was going to suggest To Kill a Mockingbird for Pittsburgh as well, for probably many of the same sorry reasons that you think Atlantans would benefit from it. I think the whole nation could probably derive some benefit from it.
posted by Dreama at 9:34 PM on March 7, 2002

Mel Gibson's company is making a movie version of Farenheit 451, supposedly. Not to be confused with the Trouffault adaptation.
posted by bingo at 10:04 PM on March 7, 2002

« Older Pinocchio Fetish?   |   Best Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments