Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bowie's Top 100 Books And 50 Of Mine

The recently revealed list of David Bowie's Top 100 Books surprised me. Much of it was not what I expected from the thin white wizard of hazy cosmic jive. Sarah Waters? Martin Amis? Ian McEwan? David, you boring ol' fart! Well, he is 66-years-old, so perhaps the list reflects the fact that he's way past his intergalactic golden years and wishes to project a more Earthly image.

Shockingly, no William Burroughs. Then again, he hadn't read much of him in 1974 when a two-way interview between them took place for Rolling Stone magazine. Intermediary journalist Craig Copetas states in the intro: 'I had brought Bowie all of Burroughs' novels: Naked Lunch, Nova Express, The Ticket That Exploded and the rest. He'd only had time to read Nova Express.' That boggles my mind; to think that he hadn't even read The Naked Lunch. Add to that Bowie's admission that he hadn't read T. S. Eliot at the time and I'm getting another picture of our David. Perhaps he caught up quickly with Burroughs afterwards because in the BBC's film Cracked Actor from the same year he cites the cut-up technique as an influence and is seen demonstrating it.

Science-fiction doesn't feature much except for A Clockwork Orange and Nineteen Eighty-Four. No Philip K. Dick or J. G. Ballard. This is the cracked actor who starred in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth and more to the point wrote the space-age textbook for cosmic Rock lyrics! Ziggy Stardust was reading Muriel Spark? 'Why not?' you ask. Why not indeed, for who am I to say what Bowie should be reading, or has read? The picture I get from the list, however, is of a pretty ordinary guy. OK, not your regular white-collar ordinary, but all the same, far more ordinary than I expected. All that craziness in the 70s and 80s, drug-taking aside, was just...what? A result of all those drugs, perhaps.

Still, I can't rid myself of the impression given by the classic run of albums that began with The Man Who Sold The World and ended with Diamond Dogs (ignoring Pin Ups). But since we're dealing with a man of many recorded personas, I know that's my very subjective take. I once heard someone say that they preferred Bowie's Berlin phase to those earlier albums - shocking, I know. It may be a generational thing. If you first got into Bowie in the 80s it makes sense, but for many of us older folk he is still standing in that 'phone box in a parallel universe, where he is also part dog and always Aladdin Sane. As such, I can't help but think the list is a bit dull.

'What would your list look like?' you ask (I know you do). Many have wondered which books have shaped my life (if I can make such bold claims for literature and, to some extent in my case, it's true). As an internationally famous blogger, writer and artist, I get asked this kind of thing all the time. Well, since David's done it, I've made my own list, but only 50, 'cause time ('He flexes like a whore / Falls wanking to the floor', eh David?) is running out.

Some exist only as memories now, whilst others still reside on the shelf. Either way, they've all entertained, amazed or inspired me over the years...

With Revolvers Aimed... Finger Bowls - Claude Pelieu
The Ginger Man - J. P. Donleavy
Last Exit to Brooklyn - Hubert Selby Jr
The Outsider - Albert Camus
Iron in the Soul - Jean-Paul Sartre
The Complete Cosmicomics - Italo Calvino
The Tenant - Roland Topor
The Hustler - Walter Tevis
The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
The Medium is The Massage - Marshall McLuhan
I Seem to Be a Verb - R. Buckminster Fuller
Reality Hunger - David Shields
The Waste Land and Other Poems - T.S. Eliot
A Whore Just Like The Rest - Richard Meltzer
Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung - Lester Bangs
Ocean of Sound - David Toop
Lipstick Traces - Greil Marcus
More Brilliant Than the Sun - Kodwo Eshun
Space Is the Place - John F Swzed
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
The Thief's Journal - Jean Genet 
Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
The Atrocity Exhibition - J.G. Ballard
The Third Mind - William Burroughs & Brion Gysin
The Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Nova Express - William Burroughs
Shoot the Piano Player - David Goodis
Pop. 1280 - Jim Thompson
They Shoot Horses, Don't They? - Horace McCoy
The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M. Cain
Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler
The Prone Gunman - Jean-Patrick Manchette
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick 
We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy
A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
Brighton Rock - Graham Greene
Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
Don Quixote - Miguel De Cervantes
The Engagement - Georges Simenon
Bartleby & Co. - Enrique Vila-Matas
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline - George Saunders
The Book of Disquiet - Fernando Pessoa
Ask the Dust - John Fante
Dispatches - Michael Herr
The Street of Crocodiles - Bruno Schulz
Absolute Beginners - Colin MacInnes
Hunger - Knut Hamsun
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess

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