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2 very good lists of music/films/books


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So you want to be well-read in classy 20th Century American Literature as painlessly as possible? I can get you there in ten reads. Read them in order and you will gradually move to the more difficult books in steps that will make it easier to read and absorb. When you're done you will have accomplished something very few have and you'll probably be like really smart, too.

First Step: J.D. Salinger

Step one is a book a lot of people have read. 'The Catcher in the Rye' is so easy to read most people have to read it by high school. This is the story of a teenager who wanders around New York City after getting kicked out of school. It's pretty good and pretty short and a nice easy first step.


Step Two: F. Scott Fitzgerald

The second book to read is another one you may have read in high school. A lot of people consider 'The Great Gatsby' to be the greatest of all American novels. Gatsby is a guy who has been driven to make a shady fortune so he can fit in with the "rich". He still can't quite fit in and finds they aren't all they're cracked up to be anyway. It's not very hard to read and while the story is pretty good the way Fitzgerald uses language is really what makes it so great.


Step Three: Ernest Hemingway

Next read 'Sun Also Rises' by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway has a direct style with simple language and so is very easy to read. This is a story about cool people drinking, dancing, and hanging out in cool locations.


Step Four: Kurt Vonnegut

Now for something a little different. 'Slaughterhouse-Five' is considered science fiction by some. It's about a war-traumatized man whose mind starts to take him to his memories in the past and delusions of the future. It's very different and very interesting to read.


Fifth Step: Jack Kerouac

Getting back down to earth, the next step is the great novel of the Beat Generation, (for younger people they were like the original Slackers.) 'On the Road' is about heading out across the country in a car with not much more than a few friends. It makes you want to grab a couple of friends and head out yourself.


Step Six: Saul Bellow

You're halfway there when you start 'Henderson the Rain King (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)'. You don't hear about Saul Bellow the way you do about people like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but he's right up there with them. Henderson is a millionaire who seems to have it all, but feels unfulfilled. He goes to Africa, goes tribal and on this most primitive level he finds himself.


Step Seven: Joseph Heller

'Catch 22' is the classic satire on the insanity of war and bureaucracy. Everybody knows what a catch-22 is. The expression comes from this cynical black comedy about an American bomber squadron in World War II. This is a little more difficult than today's average best-seller, but it's funny and will make you think about how life's absurdities are accepted.


Step Eight: Ralph Ellison

Never heard of him? 'Invisible Man' (not that invisible man) is the greatest novel of the black experience in America. The narrator realizes that he himself is "invisible" to whites who don't see him, but rather their own preconceived ideas about who he is. The reason this book is so great is because its examination of black/white issues is just a context for ideas about all humanity. This is a great book that is timeless in what it has to say.


Step Nine: John Steinbeck

You're almost there! Your next to the last step is 'The Grapes of Wrath (20th Century Classics)'. Some people have to read this in high school. It's slow developing and pretty long so I wouldn't recommend that (unless the student has followed my steps), but how hard could it be if some people have to read it as teenagers. It's the story of a family displaced during the Great Depression, but it's a whole lot more. Steinbeck is the voice of the common man and shows thathumanity and dignity are not limited by social class.


Final Step: William Faulkner

This is it. If you can read the 'The Sound and the Fury' you are a black belt of American literature. This is not a long novel, but it is difficult. While it is about a old family in the south falling apart it's really about how three minds see things differently and think differently. It has three sections that give the background of the story from the point of view of three different people. Each section is actually like being in the mind of that person. It uses "stream of consciousness" which just describes the characters' thoughts as they come to them. Finally, in a fourth section a conventional third person narrator describes what happens on the day to which the first three sections have led. This novel is something special; a masterpiece by a writer's writer. The greatest novel in the English language is supposed to be ULYSSES by James Joyce and this is a great lead up to that extremely difficult masterpiece which also employs stream of consciousness.


You've Reached a Higher State, Buddha

You'll now be much smarter, won't like TV or comic books, and will be thinner and better looking in an artistic sort of way. Carry any other classic around with you and other smart people (old style, not new style techno-geek smart people) will come up and start talking to you in your new strange language.




So, you wanna be a hip, angry indie betty? Wear clunky Doc Martens, knee socks, big blocky black glasses, your hair pulled back in colored barrettes? You want to listen to 'Velvet Underground & Nico', watch 'Sid & Nancy', and knowledgably discuss 'Ghost World', 'Slaughterhouse-Five', 'Catch 22' and 'The Crying of Lot 49'? You want to dye your hair pink, shop at the Goodwill, stop going to church, cheese off your parents, skip school, get pierced, get drunk, get arrested, get laid, go to jail? Of course you do. Start here. Shop lift when possible; buy only when necessary.

Kurt Cobain is your new St. Jerome. Listen to 'Nevermind' and 'In Utero' at volumes reserved for aircraft taking off. Then listen to them quietly in the dark under the floating glow of your '16" Lava Lamp'. Read 'On the Road' and 'The Catcher in the Rye' by its neon glow. Crank up 'Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols' and 'London Calling' when your parents tell you that you're ruining your eyes. They're YOUR eyes. Ruin them if you like. Sit too close to the television and watch 'Heathers (THX Version)', 'Trainspotting', 'Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Special Edition)', and 'A Clockwork Orange'.


Your parents no longer understand you. You've been locked in your room for 48 days. That's longer than Noah spent on the Ark. You look at the cover of 'Goo'. It mentions something about killing your parents. DON'T KILL YOUR PARENTS! How will you hit them up for money when you need to buy 'OK Computer', 'Doolittle', and 'Is This It'?


Plus, your parents were young ONCE upon a time! Pillage their record collection and steal their copies of 'Revolver [uK]', 'Village Green Preservation Society (+Bonus Tracks)', 'Pet Sounds', 'Bringing It All Back Home', 'The Best Of The Doors', 'Let It Bleed', and 'The Very Best of Elvis Costello'. See? Your parents were cool once. I don't know what happened, but don't let it happen to you!


Hey, and remember: you hip, angry indie girls need love! Go settle in with a big bucket of popcorn, a skinny tall double half-caf latte, and maybe watch 'Amelie' or 'Harold and Maude'. Put 'If You're Feeling Sinister' on the stereo. Listen to it with your headphones. Dress like Thora Birch in 'Ghost World'. Live like Franka Potente in 'Run Lola Run'. Read 'The Bell Jar : A Novel' while taking public transportation. Hum along to 'Pink Moon'. Grab your copy of 'Let's Go Europe 2002' and get out of there! You are a 'Rebel Without a Cause'. Only with a cause.

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I've read Kerouac's "On the Road" twice and just don't get the hype. Ginsberg and Burroughs wrote superior beat material in my mind. I remember teachers in my High School ONLY being able to teach Keruoac, though, because it wasn't too weird and didn't use copious amounts of the 'F' word.


Plus, I would have to say that Chuck Pahlaniuk's "Fight Club" is an American classic. I've never read a more real portrayal of how I feel before in my life. It represernts everything I'm about; I hate my job, think there should be more to life than there seems to be going on in my own, and prefer to hanging and doing stupid stuff with the boys than wasting my time and money on dating and women (not that I don't do these things, it's just my preference; there's gotta' be SOME time and money for women, I mean I got needs).


And I hate, hate, HATE, Sid Vicious. That turd ruined the Sex Pistols and couldn't even PLAY bass. Nver Mind the Bullocks is the only Sex Pistols album because it was the initial scam. All the rest, which includes Sid (and Nancy) is garbage: warning to all who are even remotely interested in so called "Punk Rock" (start with the Ramones and work up from there).

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I think I might give this first list a shot (the gauntlet has been laid down!). I own about four or five of these books already (but haven't read all of about 3 out of 5).


We'll see how far I get before I throw one of these classics across the room (probably happen sometimes around "On the Road").

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