The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. - Ecclesiastes 7:4
This week, The New York Times publishes their 100 notable books of the year, and I always select items from the annual list to pass on to others for the gift-giving season. This way I get something more than dog calendars.
While I try to read new fiction, I am often inclined to explore a classic or some oddity outside the canon. For this holiday, I'd like to pass along the titles of the novels I love dearly, the ones set in the two places that will always hold the power to inspire my imagination and equally to break my heart.
Walking Off the Big Apple, or WOTBA, often a fiction of my exaggeration, is like Lily Bart (The House of Mirth) searching for status on the Balcones Escarpment, or Letty Mason Hightower (The Wind) looking for love on Bleecker Street.
The two lists that follow fall into the category of classics, to be sure.
NEW YORK NOVELS
Winter's Tale (1983) by Mark Helprin
The House of Mirth (1905) by Edith Wharton
Underworld (1997) by Don DeLillo
The Sketch Book (1819) by Washington Irving
Jazz (1992) by Toni Morrison
The Bell Jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath
Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J.D. Salinger
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) by Stephen Crane
Manhattan Transfer (1925) by John Dos Passos
Sophie's Choice (1979) by William Styron
(Ed. note: I haven't yet read The Alienist by Caleb Carr, so if this is one of your favorites, them I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.)
TEXAS NOVELS (for the Curious New Yorker and others)
All the Pretty Horses (1992) by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West (1985) by Cormac McCarthy
The Gay Place (1959) by Bill Lee Brammer
Horseman, Pass By (1961) by Larry McMurtry
Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939) by Katherine Anne Porter
Lonesome Dove (1985) by Larry McMurtry
The Wind (1925) by Dorothy Scarborough
Strange Peaches (1972) by Edwin "Bud" Shrake
Armadillo in the Grass (1983) by Shelby Hearon
Gates of the Alamo (2000) by Stephen Harrigan
Image: Everett Shinn (1876-1953) Washington Square, 1910, pastel on paper.