Books We Read When We Were Young

I had a conversation with Daniel Mason, the young author of The Piano Tuner and the subject of books we read when we were young came up. I had recently watched Milos Forman’s film version of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and was thinking of the other books that were part of the ‘60s canon: Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan, Slaughterhouse-Five and Thank You Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine by Kurt Vonnegut, Siddartha and Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, books by Anais Nin and Germaine Greer, Rd Laing and Fritz Perls and Ouspensky. And of course, On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Howl by Allen Ginsberg and Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul On Ice. And, to be sure, many others that I can’t recall. I suppose it is some kind of truism to say that I was influenced by these books. But I think only in that I was impressed in some way with their connection to a world that I was just finding out about. In high school I could never read Hawthorne or Melville or Austen (a habit I have carried on into adulthood). In surveying what I have read in past 10 years or so I have read almost nothing that wasn’t written before the mid ‘80s (except for Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Graham Greene’s The Comedians and Our Man in Havana and Gabriel Garcia’s 100 Years of Solitude). Hmm.

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