I guess I’m like a lot of people. I love stories so much, I’ll take them in any format. I’ll read the books, I’ll see the movies, I’ll listen to the elderly man in the park tell his tale, I’ll read the message on the wall.
I remember some graffiti I saw on a wall in Coney Island one winter when I used to live on the East Coast. The beach was deserted and cold and the message on the wall read, “Did you ever dream you were drowning?”
It made me recall a weird recurring dream I used to have where I crouched on the bottom of the sea with tons of ocean above and all around me. It made me want to write something. Or read something. Or go see a movie. I enjoy being shoved off balance sometimes. I love a jolt of stark imagery. I love being slapped in the face with it.
Go ahead, slap me. I can take it.
If you’re like me, this bunch of books may give you that special literary spanking you may desire. I know you know the movies already, so just in case you didn’t know their counterparts existed, here they are:
I haven’t seen “Atonement,” but the book of the same title by Ian McEwan was beautifully written, the story dark, troubling, the entire premise stemming from and teetering on and around one simple lie.
The story was like picking your way over stepping stones, distancing yourself further and further from the opposite shore where happiness was but unable to stop because you’d already come this far…
Everyone must have seen “The Color Purple” by now, but I can’t imagine many reading Alice Walker’s book. It’s a rough read: the first paragraph immediately deals with rape; possibly incestuous at that. But if you can pull your way through it, it’ll leave you exhaling with that kind of satisfied exhaustion that seems so rare today.
Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” is exactly as exhausting as “The Color Purple,” but for different reasons. Namely because it’s the end of the world.
If you can don yourself in mental and emotional battle armor beforehand, the simple language of this post-Apocalyptic book will lead you in a straight line to one of the most beautiful closing paragraphs ever written, in my humble opinion.
The movie “Under the Skin” was extremely disturbing, so for those who would like more, read the novel by Michel Faber. Faber’s language shines, as can be seen, for example, here: “Even in the nacreous hush of the winter dawn, when the mists were still dossed down in the fields on either side, the A9 could not be trusted to stay empty for long.”
The novel brims with details the film had no room for, fleshing out the personalities and nefarious activities of characters so that they’re not such a complete and utter mystery.
Remember “Deliverance”? When I finally read the book, I was completely caught off guard by its lyricism. But that was sadly just ignorance on my part, not knowing that author James Dickey was a poet. His marriage of masculine macho with iambic pentameter sensibilities is awe- inspiring.
One of his quotes is: I want a fever, in poetry: a fever, and tranquility.
That almost perfectly summarizes the feeling for me. A fever is a more gentle way of saying, “I want a slap in the face,” a more subtle way of expressing the desire to be roused from a semi-slumber by something bigger than myself, something icy cold or burning hot, something paralyzing or comic or tragic.
Something that makes you dream that you’re drowning.