Abounding recommendations

A pile of classics sit untouched by readers.

A pile of classics sits untouched by readers.

With wave after wave of popular teen fiction falling upon the youth of today, some wonder where the classics went. Of course, some are read (or left unread) with high school curriculum, but it seems a rare sight indeed for a student to independently explore literature. Regardless of your personal preference, and whether or not you are familiar with the literary world yourself, some recommendations from the Dome may aid this cause.

Kneller’s Happy Campers
This novella by Israeli author Etgar Keret deals with a special kind of purgatory: a place after death for those who committed suicide.
Following protagonist Mordy after his suicide, the plot traces his search for his lover in the last life, who he learned killed herself after his own act. Accompanied by friends Leehee and Uzi, his journey intensifies as he comes upon a camp of casual miracles and hears wind of the administrators of the purgatory-esque locale.
The work was also the basis for the film Wristcutters: A Love Story. However, the film changes many things; the most notable differences are the names of the characters and the ending. Fans of this cult classic ought to look into the novella regardless of these differences.

Journey to the End of the Night
A misanthropic journey with Celine brings with it a variety of post-WWI locations for pessimistic thought and superb examples of .
The novel follows Ferdinand Bardamu (a somewhat fictionalized version of author Louis-Ferdinand Celine), who fights in WWI, travels extensively, practices medicine, and reflects on the decaying world apparent to him. The work is nihilistic and misanthropic to the end, so be prepared for a thick read.
The influence of Celine’s prose is unmatched by any of his contemporaries, dare said even his immediate successors. One of the first reflections on society as it stood and, strangely enough, as it stands today in the eyes of some, the adventures (and more importantly, the reflections) of antihero Bardamu are not to be missed.

Shampoo Planet
In some respects, a zeitgeist of early to mid-postmodernism. With strange foreshadowing towards trends and dialogue bordering between the fantastic and the realistic, Shampoo Planet masters the mystic qualities of the world unknown and the disenchantment of discovery.
The protagonist of the novel is Tyler, a young man in near his early twenties who observes the infancy of the technological consumer society. His story brings him to an abandoned hippie commune, shopping malls, France, and eventually, from the Pacific Northwest to Hollywood. Along the way he encounters consumerism, a changing world, the avant-garde, the sexual fascination of youth, the corporate world, stepparents, and abandonment, among other things. A worthy read for anyone interested in becoming familiar with the works of Douglas Coupland or looking for an intermediate level book.

Americana
In some ways a good companion to Shampoo Planet, Don DeLillo’s novel is a look at the postmodern crisis of identity that faced the aware of the nation and, in some ways, still faces it further.
Examining the life of David Bell, a successful executive (and ex-executive) of a television network, the work is simultaneously incredibly fluid and rather dense. DeLillo’s prose is masterfully liquid, progressing with expertly crafted ebb and flow with moments of potency and subtlety sprinkled throughout; however, with the praise-worthy style comes intriguing material. One must step back and admire the page’s contents regularly when reading.

The Stranger
While covered in the English IV AP course, this short novel by existentialist extraordinaire Albert Camus warrants reading regardless of senior status or AP moniker. It is a perfect introduction to existential literature and Camus’ own breed of it, absurdism.
The short novel follows Meursault, a French-Algerian man of great indifference. Through the evaluation of his dialogue, actions, and apparent apathy, one is treated to an interesting philosophical narrative ripe with moments of wonderfully-worded sentences. The climax is a puzzling as it is seemingly simple, and the conclusion offers no recompense to the confused.
A true treasure of a literary great. Strongly recommended for any Francophiles, literature enthusiasts, or those looking for a short & sweet novel.

By Paul O’Neill

oneill.paul@oakwoodschools.org

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