Great Time With an Old Friend

Nothing frustrates me more than a messy office. Were you expecting something worse.  Like most people, I associate a messy room with a messy mind. Recently, I had a guest coming in a matter of hours and was in a total panic about the stacks of old papers lying around. No not books. I keep them securely stored in alphabetical order. I am now referring to years of old computer printouts on every imaginable subject—many are plot summaries of my favorite books. Remember, I mentioned that I read a lot.

Now it was time to put things in better order and I got out my paper shredder from Shredder Lab to see if it still worked. It made for quick disposal of outdated documents, and I got the room ready in no time flat. Although a cheap model, the machine still had the strength to devour dozens and dozens of discarded papers. It was then easy to toss a few plastic bags in the trash. Throw on a nice bedspread and a few cute pillows and I was ready to receive my friend.

When my friend arrived, we could spend time discussing old times and sharing favorite new reads. When she remarked on the cleanliness of her room, I just laughed and gave a nod to the shredder still sitting in the corner, looking a bit satiated and tired. The two of us decided to write down our ten all-time best novels to see if we agreed on writing quality. Here is what I wrote. What would be on your list?

Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (now that’s an oldie, but sublime and fabulous)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward (it took ten tries just to spell the author’s name)
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (a tough one—so unimaginable)
James Joyce, The Dead (also a great movie with Angelica Huston)

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries (an all-time favorite female writer)
anything by Margaret Atwood, Carson McCullers or Liane Moriarty—yes, more women
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter (let’s hear it for the English dudes)
D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent (exotic and intense)
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (there is room for more men on my list)
Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man (I will never forget it)