Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Reading Map

Over at Omnivoracious, an Amazon blog, there’s a pretty great project going on through late November, inspired by a new book. Tom Nissley -- with the help of occasional guests -- is posting lists of books representing each state, with the number of books matching the number of delegates that state has in the Electoral College (eight for Georgia, 15 for South Carolina, 31 for New York, etc.) The rules are pretty loose. A book can be written by someone who was born in that state, moved to that state, got a flat tire in that state, died in that state -- or the book can just be about that state.

You can really get lost over there. Many of the chosen books are classics, but others -- like The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by humorist Will Cuppy (Indiana) -- might be new to you.

Nissley’s instincts seem admirable. For instance, not only does he list The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson under Ohio, he asks: “Is there any piece of American art about whose sheer awesomeness there is such unanimous agreement?” Indeed, no.

He also lists Andrew Beyer’s classic Picking Winners: A Horseplayer’s Guide under Maryland, proving that he’s after at least this reader's heart.

The project will probably inspire you to add several books to your wish list. Perhaps the one I’m most eager to read is The Death of Picasso, a collection of nonfiction by Guy Davenport. In the Kentucky entry, guest curator John Jeremiah Sullivan singles out this passage from one of Davenport’s essays:
The best display of manners on the part of a restaurant I have witnessed was at the Imperial Ramada Inn in Lexington, Kentucky, into the Middle Lawrence Welk Baroque dining room of which I once went with the photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard (disguised as a businessman), the Trappist Thomas Merton (in mufti, dressed as a tobacco farmer with a tonsure), and an editor of Fortune who had wrecked his Hertz car coming from the airport and was covered in spattered blood from head to toe. Hollywood is used to such things (Linda Darnell having a milk shake with Frankenstein's monster between takes), and Rome and New York, but not Lexington, Kentucky. Our meal was served with no comment whatever from the waitresses, despite Merton's downing six martinis and the Fortune editor stanching his wounds with all the napkins.
(via Maud Newton)

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