the reader of this commentary should understand that i have read and enjoyed all of the books on my “doomsday library” list. i also found the decision of the top ten books to be an extremely difficult choice to make. in addition, it should be understood that whether living on a desert island, in a mountaintop stone hut, or cabin in the deep forest, my books would be reread several times. so, the strength of my authors is their reminder of important past events and to continue to provide me with insights to new experiences.
pilgrim at tinker creek
i have many writing friends who live on the west coast and in the warmer southern states who frequently ask me, “t, how can you stand those bitter upper peninsula winters.” my response is probably not very convincing to them, however, i would not feel comfortable living where i did not experience the changing of the different seasons.
annie dillard’s book grew out of her personal journal recording her meanderings around tinker creek in the blue ridge mountains of virginia. the book, pilgram at tinker creek, is divided into four sections, each one describing what dillard saw during each passing season.
the book’s narrative identifies with the area’s flora and fauna and suggests to me what i should see and understand during my visits to the upper peninsula wilderness areas. i read pilgrim at tinker creek the first time one summer while camping in the pictured rocks outback. two days after reading about the “giant water bug,” i saw one devouring a frog in a backwater swamp
in short, annie’s book is my continuous outdoor guide.
henry david thoreau
walden is a book that should be read at least once a year by all students and adult citizens. the wise observations and recommendations made by thoreau provide an excellent guide to measure an individual’s vision and the progress of their life.
in the pages of walden, thoreau mentions “masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation” and strongly recommends “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” in the chapter “what i lived for” thoreau says:
“the millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only on in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life.”
having become a poet in my senior, graybeard years, i am, as the author of walden says, marching to a different drummer.
trout fishing in america
college professors lost in their academic posturing and alaskan politicians who have acted to destroy their state’s wilderness will never understand or appreciate trout fishing in america. author brautigan believes that trout is a creature of great natural beauty, but also does not believe in catching them. in his short story “the trout fishing diary of alonzo hagen” brautigan makes a chart detailing “trips made–trout lost.”
also in the story “the cleveland wrecking yard” brautigan described selling used trout streams:
“how much are you selling the streams for. . . . six dollars and fifty cents a foot. . . that’s for the first hundred feet. . . after that it is five dollars a foot. . . how much for the birds. . . thirty-five cents a piece. . . but of course they are used, . . .”
in all of brautigan’s writings, there is a short clever wit to his imagination, which explains why only those open to new ideas and writing styles will appreciate reading his books.
a fan’s notes
exley was a fine writer, alcoholic, failure at marriage and rehabilitation, and possessed an alter ego in the football player frank gifford who played for the new york giants. with his writing and personal credentials, how could i not relate to the life of exley. all you have to do is substitute the university of michigan wolverines for his new york giants.
for most of my life i have failed to measure up satisfactorily to what the “great american dream” required of mature individuals. however, the summer that i wrote my first poem and declared myself an artist freed me. it saved me from being one of society’s ordinary spectators quietly watching life from the sidelines.
whatever season i climb the cliffs–spring, summer, autumn, or the upper peninsula time of the long white–this graybeard poet carries along with him the poems of the crazy chinese hermit. han-shan described the nervous noisy big city life and how he quickly became a prisoner of the things that money could buy. he returned to the wilderness, prowling about the forests and streams. his poems say life is too short and that the only true way to determine truth is through meditation.
today, hiking up the cliffs and standing in the summit’s shadows, han-shan and i listen together to the mad poetic voices spoken by the winds.
(continued in “doomsday library – second five books”)