My friend Joe challenged me to complete The Perfect Book Tag. Perfect is a tall order, and according to Zeno’s paradox almost impossible to achieve. I don’t know how close to perfect I can come, but I will use the opportunity to highlight some pretty good books and showcase my ignorance.
The Pretty Good Genre
A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift
If you haven’t read A Tale of a Tub there’s no way that I can explain it to satisfaction. Swift was a clergyman, and later on in life wanted to get a cushy church job; not to be! He butchered too many sacred cows in this book for that to be a realistic possibility. Good for the rest of us, as his lack of career success gave him more time to write about Lilliputians. A Tale of a Tub may not be perfect, but it comes as near to the limits of perfection as Liebniz’s ham sandwich.
The Pretty Good Setting
Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen
I’ve never seen Peer Gynt on stage, but I really want to. Reading it I can’t help thinking that it seems almost unproducible if only for the fact that title character ages 60 years or so over the course of the play. The Norway/fantasy land where Peer Gynt resides has got to be one of the better places ever imagined in literature.
The Pretty Good Main Character
When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss
Yes, I can choose non-fiction if I want. Growing up in Wisconsin I always heard old geezers talking about Vince Lombardi in hushed tones, but it wasn’t until reading Maraniss’s excellent biography that I really got it. Lombardi is a fascinating and complex character. Very paradoxical, but also inspirational. I love biographies, but haven’t read many that moved me to tears.
The Pretty Good Best Friend
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Rab Silsbee would be a pretty good best friend. He’s probably a slightly better person than Johny Tremain, but he doesn’t lord it over him. He’s thoughtful and smart, but also a really good listener. He not afraid of getting into a little trouble, and he speaks his mind. When I read this as a a kid I always imagined that Rab was my friend.
The Pretty Good Love Interest
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Elizabeth Bennet, duh! She’s smart, she’s pretty, she’s funny and she loves reading. Shoutout to my wife Elisabeth, who is also smart, pretty, funny and loves reading. I think I did pretty good here.
The Pretty Good Villain
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee William
Stanley Kowalski is pretty terrifying.
The Pretty Good Family
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
Once again dipping into non-fiction, but you would be hard pressed to find a better or more functional family than the one described in Little Britches.
The Pretty Good Animal
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Got to go to Narnia on this one. There are so many Narnians to choose from, but Mr. Beaver has to be one of the better characters that Lewis conjured up. He’s sensible, loyal and would only describe himself as “pretty good”.
The Pretty Good Plot Twist
In Defense of Sanity by G.K. Chesterton
Why stick with just one plot twist, when you could have several? Chesterton was a master of the long, seemingly pointless anecdote that leaves you devastated. In Defense of Sanity is actually a collection of essays, and almost every one twists the knife in the last couple of sentences and leaves you gasping. I wish this guy was alive today. His blog would be pretty good.
The Pretty Good Trope
R.U.R. by Carel Capek
Capek invented the word “Robot” for this play, so that’s pretty cool. Mankind inventing machines that end up taking over the world and destroying him, in the process trying to figure out what it means to be human and have a soul? This is basic sci-fi at its best, and Capek was at the forefront of the genre.
The Pretty Good Cover
The Samuel French Actors Edition
The new cover, not the old one which is totally racist. It seems like most of my plays are from Dramatist Play Service, which makes a vastly inferior cover. Shadowlands is also pretty good.
The Pretty Good Ending
The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote
Horton Foote really nailed it with The Trip to Bountiful. The ending leaves you with so many mixed emotions it’s kind of hard to process. I have always loved The Trip to Bountiful, but I always see something different in the ending depending on where I am in my life. I think that shows a real depth.
My tags for this go out to Herb and Brothers Campfire. I would ask Bruce to complete the challenge, but if he put this on his blog I might miss out on learning a new murder technique, and you never know when one of those could come in handy.