Here is a list of the best books that Vollmann has ever read (as reported in “Something to Die For,” The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Summer 1993, Vol 13, Issue 2, p. 25):
Tadeusz Konwicki, A Dreambook for Our Time
Lady Murasaki, The Tale of Genji
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate
Tolstoy, War and Peace
Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country
Hemingway, Islands in the Stream
The Poetic Edda
The tales of Chekhov
The tales of Hawthorne
Sigrid Unset, Kristin Lavransdatter
Melville, The Piazza Tales
London, Martin Eden
Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch
The poems of Emily Dickinson
Faulkner, Pylon and The Sound and the Fury
Homer, the Odyssey and the Iliad
Nikos Kazantzakis, The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel
Heidegger, Being and Time
Poe, The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym
Pushkin, Eugene Onegin
Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes
Blake, Songs of Experience and Experience
Gyorgi Konrad, The Loser
Issac B. Singer, The Family Moskas
Bruno Schultz, The Street of Crocodiles
The poems of Lorca
The poems of Mandelstam
The tales of D.H. Lawrence
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Ivan Ilich, Tools for Conviviality
Mishima, the Sea of Fertility tetraology
Kimon Nicolaides, The Natural Way to Draw
The poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
Jane Smiley, The Greenlanders
Vollmann then writes:
Doubtless some people will want to complain about the women, blacks, reds, whites, blues and greens I left out, but I don’t really give a damn.
The beauty in these books would flourish more widely if the following social changes were made:
1. Abolish television, because it has no reverence for time.
2. Abolish the automobile, because it has no reverence for space.
3. Make citizenship contingent on literacy in every sense. Thus, politicians who do not write every word of their speeches should be thrown out of office in disgrace. Writers who require editors to make their books “good” should be depublished.
4. Teach reverence for all beauty, including that of the word.
© 2005, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.