f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Books That Made Us

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Books That Made Us

In the 21st-century, for better or more likely worse, we are our taste. We're defined by the things that we like. Blogs are only reinforcing this trend...and while it's a wonderful decentralization of power in terms of whose opinion matters, the practical outcome is that we will become defined by those tastes.

That said, what about those foundational works that formed us and go beyond taste? I think we'd all agree that we have likes and dislikes for things that move past pure "opinion" into something a little more mystic. We like a song that has long since gone out of fashion for instance. Or treasure a movie that nows seems dated. Some of the pieces may even hold up over time, but our love for them simply can't be explained on their merit alone.

Given that we like to talk about books at this site and that I've got nothing else pressing, I thought we'd spend a week chatting about them.

One of my foundational series of books were John D. Fitzgerald's GREAT BRAIN series. Man, I loved those books. Set in 1880s Utah, the books were narrated by John D., presumably the author's childhood alter ego. Mostly they were the misadventures of a young con man (Tom) the narrator's older brother who is too smart for his own good.

I've read a few recently and was delighted tha the books really hold up well. There's plenty of humor and adventure and history to entertain. Lots I realize I missed too, in particular the problems of religion that the Catholic Fitzgerald family faces moving into a primarily Mormon land.

What I find deeply interesting now is the character of Tom. He's an anti-hero in a lot of respects. What were you supposed to learn from this kid who benefitted from letting others trip over their own idiocy?

Mostly it was an early lesson that not all characters (and thus not all people) were going to be "good" or "bad." Tom was gray as can be. And also that fiction need not be idealized or sanitized. And not even always sympathetic. But always interesting. And true to their nature.

What's ONE of your foundational books? (Remember we'll be doing this all week.)