Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Diagrams and Charts

I drew this diagram to help me understand why I don't read much in these three areas anymore. The central red area (area #1.) represents an author G.K. Chesterton, new to me, but his writing got me thinking... In the past I wouldn't have included mystery in my diagram, and I would have had a simple venn diagram of sci fi and fantasy. Not all fantasy includes sci fi though.

G.K. Chesterton’s the Man Who Was Thursday( a Nightmare) is a wild mystery story filled with strange yet entertaining twists. The story begins in the Saffron Park neighborhood of London. The hero of the story, Gabriel Syme rebells against the status quo and refuses to be zany. He speaks out as a normal person. Being a regular guy, the crazy world he lives in seems even more surreal. As I read the book, the thought popped into my head -- Vonnegut must have liked Chesterton -- then my mind wandered to Douglas Adams, Tolkien ... so I began assembling a list of other authors that might appeal to Chesterton fans. I had put Orwell down, but later did a little online research and discovered that while Orwell read everything that Chesterton wrote, he had declared that G.K. was the worst sort of anti-semite. (Orwell defended his friend P.G. Wodehouse when Wodehouse was accused of playing footsie with Nazis.)

More research showed other people creating what looked like sky maps of authors. One author in the center of the reading universe with others hanging in the blue space around him.

My primitive chart was going OK until I decided 1. to add Poppy Z. Brite (which lead somehow to adding Kafka ) and 2. I didn't know enough mystery authors to make the chart work. I started this chart awhile back and now I can't figure out how it works. Should have made notes.

My charts lead me to other subcategories. I'm reading a good Forensic Mystery by Kathy Reichs now. The chart could grow and grow... subcategories abound. I researched Vonnegut, who seemed to say no other author had influenced him, but great socialist leaders did. That didn't sound right to me, since Kurt was a great reader of fiction as a child and young adult, so... how can you not be influenced by the creativity in stories you devour? Maybe he was misquoted.

I was in line once at a post office near Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in NYC, reading a paperback-- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I heard people whispering behind me somewhere. It was a long inefficient line, so typical. I thought I heard a writer's name being whispered, and some book titles. I finally turned a little to see what the strange muttering and whispering was about. Directly behind me, looking really exhausted, was Kurt Vonnegut, holding a large box. Too dumbfounded to speak to him, I just smiled-- there was eye contact, but I couldn't think of anything to say. My thought might have been Me Friend, Me not talk about you as if you not here. I looked beyond him to the jerks whispering about him in line. Maybe I should have offered to let him go ahead of me, but I didn't think of that. I turned back and stayed facing forward as people in front of me turned and gawked at him. Who is He? someone asked in a loud whisper.
Now I was sorry I had turned and looked at him. He was in this long line with people and no one said "Hi Kurt" or anything, they just mumbled stuff, and explained who he was to others standing in line. It felt awful to me, and I'm sure it had some kind of depressing affect on him. The line was stalled, we had maybe a dozen people ahead of us and a half dozen behind us. The slowest postal worker ever was doing something in slow motion behind the counter. Outside it was a brilliant breezy spring day, lots of daffodils in planters, budding trees along the avenues. Inside it was overheated and airless. We stood and waited.


runmotman said...

That is a sad story. I remember seeing Mr. Vonnegut at our main library maybe 25 years ago, or more, and he was very engaging as a speaker; when it came time to sign autographs, i don't think he was having a very good time with it, and he signed my book with a *, if you've read Breakfast of Champions you will know what that meant...I already miss him.

R.L. Bourges said...

Ahm...your chart? I'm looking at it and...notes might have been useful (e.g. Charlotte Bronte Franz Kafka and Flannery O'Connor leading to or from Poppy Z. Brite? Or is that Agatha Christie inspiring Robert Heinlein to... no, never mind. The world awaits your revelations, Avid Reader.

I agree with runmotman: the Vonnegut story is sad. As if the man wasn't part of the human race, or something. As if he could be talked about like an animal in the zoo.

That said, you tell the story very well. The contrast between the line and the gorgeous day out there.

Now, let's see: Lewis Carroll facing off with Isaac Asimov and ... I give up :-)

Enjoy the day, A R.

R.L. Bourges said...

oh, and Kathy Reichs has a great website

Marianna said...

OMG Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors. So jealous you got to meet him! I would definitely start a conversation, maybe talk about my favorite of his books "breakfast of champions" or "Slaughterhouse-five" (only in my dreams though cause Greece is a bit far eh?) lol

Thanks for sharing this story. Oh and maybe you can add Italo Calvino on the list lol

Take care
peace and love

tut-tut said...

Hi Avid: a Venn diagram always cheers me up, but I can't read fantasy or sci fi. Well, children's fantasy, but not adult. Have you read The Subtle Knife, by Philip PUllman. A must read.

JGH said...

I'm thinking about your encounter with Vonnegut. Hard to know what he was thinking. Maybe grateful that people recognize him and respect him enough not to bother him with small talk. Maybe he was leaping for joy inside....(just trying to put a good spin on it!)

It would be a fun exercise to diagram my favorite authors. Must try it sometime!

Deborah Godin said...

Love your chart. I have made lists of my lists, so I get the whole chart detailed, add-ons thing. And the KV story was a great read. Makes me wonder why anyone famous ever goes out!

Megan said...

I just wanted you to know that I've had "Weird Science" in my head ever since I saw this post title...

More on the actual subject later...

Auntie, aka cagny said...

I agree with Tut's advice on the Phillip Pullman book. And his other book The Golden Compass is also an excellent sci-fi book...and I don't even like sci-fi...
Sorry to hear how people reacted to K.V. at the post office.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i just want to say i do love charts and venn diagrams...

great vonnegut story ... I fear if I had been there I probably would have run over, embarrassed myself completely and given him a hug and blubbered out a sad no more chance for any of us to say 'hi kurt'

reichs rocks!! love her books....

reading a book right now that I expect you would enjoy called the thirteenth tale by diane setterfield.

while in nyc we went to the partners in crime bookshop - both f and I allowed ourselves to buy one book was hard, we could have easily walked out with a dozen each!! what a treasure. but we are trying to be good and use the library and not buy books....

Coffee Messiah said...

I learned about Chesterton from a book seller in Oakland, Ca while working for the paper. His store had books piled on the floor, and everywhere. We talked for awhile and he mentioned an author and a book I might enjoy.....he walked over to a pile, pulled a few books off and went right to the book. Father Brown was one, but right beneath it was a book by William Cowper Brann. I loved it too and have his collection.

I'm sure a smile was as good as a wink to KV.

Enjoyed your post ; )

Megan said...

Sayers should definitely be on there...

Anonymous said...

Avid, seems like a lot of folks in that line were intimidated to meet KV. Maybe they didn't really know what to say to him.

That reminds me,I've something for you over at me blog. Drop by :)

My Classic Fiction Book List -Partial List

  • Austen, Jane: (Complete Works)
  • Balzac: Cousin Bette/ Eugenie Grandet / Cousin Pons
  • Best Russian Short Stories
  • Boyle, TC: Short Works
  • Brennan, Maeve : Short Works, 1 Novella
  • Bronte, Emily, Ann, Jane (Complete Works)
  • Brookner, Anita ( Complete Works)
  • Cather, Willa (Complete Works)
  • Chekov: Short Works
  • David Copperfield (Dickens)
  • Dickens:A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens:Great Expectations
  • Dickens:Nicholas Nickelby
  • Dickens:Our Mutual Friend
  • Dickens:The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Doyle, Roddy (some novels, memoir)
  • Drabble, Margaret (4 Novels)
  • Drieser, Theodore (Complete Works)
  • Fitzgerald, F.Scott (Most Novels & short works)
  • Hardy, Thomas (Complete Works)
  • Hemingway, Short stories
  • Hemingway: The Old Man in the Sea
  • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • Hugo: Les Miserables/Hunchback Of ND
  • James, Henry: Daisy Miller
  • James, Henry: In The Cage
  • James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady
  • James, Henry: The Golden Bowl
  • James, Henry: What Maisy Knew
  • James, Henry: Wings of a Dove
  • James, Henry:The Ambassadors
  • James, Henry; The Bostonians
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Kerouac: On The Road
  • Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Kerouac: Tristessa
  • Lardner,Ring:Short Works
  • Larsen: Quicksand
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Arrowsmith
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Free Air
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street
  • Lewis, Sinclair: The Job
  • MacGill, Patrick (Complete works)
  • Mackin, Walter (novels)
  • Maupassant: Short Works, novels
  • McGahern, John (novels of)
  • McNulty, John (Short Works)
  • Norris, Frank: McTeague
  • O'Brien, Edna (3 Novels)
  • O'Donnell, Paeder : Novels of
  • O. Henry
  • Potok, Chaim (4 novels/1 non fiction)
  • Salinger, JD : Nine Stories
  • Salinger: Franny & Zooey
  • Salinger: Raise High the Roofbeams
  • Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Dodsworth
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Elmer Gantry
  • Sinclair, Upton: King Coal
  • Sinclair, Upton: The Jungle
  • Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  • Steinbeck: Winter of our Discontent
  • Steinbeck: Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck: East of Eden
  • Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Theroux, Paul (3 Novels )
  • Toibin, Colm: (Novels of)
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy: Short Works
  • Turgenev (2 novels)
  • Twain: T Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi
  • Vonnegut: Early Works (1950s-60s)
  • Wharton, Edith: Novels of/Short Stories
  • Women & Fiction (Edit. Cahill)
  • Zola, Emile ( 10 novels)