Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vacationing Blogger Presents:
Recycled Post #2

Note: While I'm away, I'll be re-running some of our more popular posts from the past few years. Today's is a comments-culling editorial about books that inspire you to buy other books. As we're still hoping for a more happening comments section, feel free to add your own titles below.

Gateway Books
Originally posted on 9/11/7

My high school's D.A.R.E. program (a well-meaning, misguided, state-funded attempt to keep kids off drugs) used to use the term 'gateway drug' to describe any drug that appeared harmless (cigarettes, pot, leaning in too close to one's magic markers), but inevitably led to other, more dangerous narcotics (crack, crystal meth, permanent markers). In recent years, I've begun to pervert the 'gateway' moniker to fit the needs of my own vice of choice -- books.
Gateway Books are books that are so damned good that they make you want to read any and all the other books name dropped within. One of the first gateway books I remember coming across was S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders. Not only did I pick up some random Robert Frost in hopes of finding 'Stay Silver' and 'Stay Bronze' (his lesser works), I also rented the videotape of Gone With The Wind (the book looked too long and too boring to my fourteen year old self -- and still does!). A few years later, Possession by A.S. Byatt inspired me to go on a Victorian and Elizabethan poetry kick. I can't say that I was chomping at the bit to read The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser before then. The ultimate gateway book for me, though, has been Mike Davis' City of Quartz. Davis, a Los Angeles historian with a photographic memory and a gift for finding the threads that bind seemingly disparate subjects together, had me watching film noir classics like Detour and The Big Sleep, gobbling up the South Central-centered pulp fiction of Chester Himes, the dark, satiric, science fiction of Aldous Huxley, and becoming a salivating fan boy at the alter of Joan Didion's 1960s suicidal California travel lit. I'm not exaggerating, I literally spent an entire year exploring the books, movies and music mentioned in City of Quartz. If that ain't the obsessive-compulsive behavior of an addict, I don't know what is.

In the comments section below, feel free to stand up and tell us your name, your age and what books served as gateway books in your lifelong literary addiction.