Wednesday, August 1, 2007

All Hail John Puchniak, America's Best Reader ... Or At Least, Collector, of Books

It goes without saying, I am a reader.

I'm not one of those people who would say they couldn't live without books, but I would say that my life is dramatically improved by books. I might even go so far as to say that books are a part of my reason to live. The characters and the stories and the participation in the lives of others make life sometimes manageable, and other times, downright worth all the weariness of it.

That having been said, I'm no John Puchniak, a man who was evicted from his Philadelphia apartment for having too many books. His landlord told him his collection of over 3000 books was a "fire hazard and an immediate danger to all the other tenants." This is a guy who would probably say he couldn't live without books. Unfortunately, he can't really live with them either.

Who better to get a book suggestion from than John Puchniak himself, who, in addition to reading a busload of books written in English, also reads novels in Hebrew, Spanish, and Polish. If he had all the time in the world to read, he says he would start with Murasaki Shikibu's, "The Tale of Gengi," which documents Japanese courtlife from 950-1050 A.D. After that he would like to read all of Proust's, "Remembrances of Things Past" - the Montcrieff edition, of course.

If I had all the time in the world -- well, I try to read like I do. Otherwise I would just get overwhelmed. They say Wordsworth was the last person who could have possibly read everything ever written. I am striving to read at least 1% of everything ever written. I think John Puchniak might reach 3% of everything ever written. Maybe 5%.

Toward my 1%, I'm currently reading Carson McCullers, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Anyone who wants to have a little online book club with me in reading this would be welcomed and appreciated. Also, discussions and insights into other items on my summer reading list would also be appreciated. This includes but is not limited to: Martel's, "The Life of Pi," most of Jeanette Winterson, Coetzee's, "Elizabeth Costello," and Coelho's, "The Alchemist."

For more on the inspiring Mr. John Puchniak, go here:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12334796

7 comments:

Diana said...

I read some of The Tale of Gengi, but it ended up being too tough of a slog for me (and you know I hate to admit that). It's disjointed and difficult to relate to in a way that most books aren't for me, so I finally was honest with myself that I didn't want to finish it, and set it aside.

Foxygen said...

I read the Life of Pi last winter - I'll talk about that!

And they're making a movie of it, which is even more to talk about since, well, how the hell do they make a movie of a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat? But the director of Amelie is making it and I haven't totally given up on it yet.

Molly said...

I heard about this movie thing with the Life of Pi. I am also terribly curious about how they will do this. But then, The Neverending Story translated remarkably well to film even with the Luck Dragon and the Nothing, so I think they can manage a tiger. I'm more concerned how a child actor will handle that level of interior life on film.

About the book, without giving too much away, what do you think actually happened?

Foxygen said...

I don't think it matters what actually happened. Either way, it's extraordinary that he survived. One is a fantastic story, the other is sad and horrific. I need to revisit the whole thing - and that island still confuses me (will be interesting to see that on film), but the ending kind of reminds me of Pan's Labyrinth (which I would expand on but I don't want to give away the ending to that)

It comes down to this: There's a story and there's a reality. Maybe they're the same, maybe they're not. But does it really matter in the end?

Anna Redsand said...

I'm in for the online book club & shall hie me to the library tomorrow to get The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. I read The Alchemist> during the school year last year and recommend it highly. His penultimate book, Eleven Minutes, is fascinating, though, except for simplicity of style, quite quite different from aforesaid. Life of Pi also fascinating, and vis a vis Molly's comment about the movie, I experienced him more as an adolescent, altho memory may be failing me.

Molly said...

Oh Anna! Let me know when you're through with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I have so many questions and many directions of consideration.

Kelila said...

You write very well.