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Picture of C J Strolin
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B.H.'s interesting topic about the competition presently in progress has prompted me to suggest another "Top Ten" type of list. What book would you nominate to be added to a list designated:

"Top Ten Books (of any sort) That Will Never Appear on Any Other Top Ten List"

The reasons for being overlooked are endless but I, for one, would be interested in hearing about what literary works are minor treasures to Wordcrafters while remaining sadly and unjustly unsung and underappreciated by the rest of the world. Name, author, and brief description, please.


I'll start this off with "Flatland" written by Edwin Abbott in 1884. I'm 51 and in my entire life I have only met one other person who had read (and also loved) this book. I would describe it as roughly one part science fiction to two parts geometry.

Yep, you read that right. "Flatland" describes a two-dimentional universe which contains only length and width but absolutely no height. Picture a piece of paper stretching out into infinity and you're roughly there. Inhabitants are triangles, squares, pentagons etc (the more angles you possess, the higher your rank) but no cubes, pyramids, spheres etc since these, in a two-dimensional universe, could not exist.

The plot is kicked off by a member of our three-dimensional universe entering Flatland (picture sticking your head into the paper from below) and conversing a square he encounters there. The puzzle, of course, is how can a three-dimensional being describe the concept of "height" to someone who knows only length and width?!

Extremely thought provoking and one of my favorite books since I was a teenager. I've got a bet with myself that at least two of you are familiar with this gem.
 
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Interesting question, CJ. While it is well-enough known, I've never seen Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" on any "must-read" list. Yet, reading that book changed me in a very real way. It made me realize, for the first time, how very differently life can be seen or experienced by each person. Seeing the same things happen through various people's eyes was just amazing to me. I read that years ago--I was probably a college freshman, but I will never forget it.

Now, as I've said, I love "Winnie the Pooh" and "Alice in Wonderland" for children's books. "Peter Pan" is also high on my list, though they are all highly acclaimed. However, have any of you ever read "The Elephant and the Butterfly" by e.e. cummings? If not, go out and buy it! It is a wonderful children's story (and, Shufitz and I have been known to read it to each other!), and yet I can only find one brief reference to it on the Web. We read it again and again to our kids, and I used to buy it for all our friends' kids.
 
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quote:
I've got a bet with myself that at least two of you are familiar with this gem.

You can't lose with a bet like that. I, too, read and enjoyed "Flatland" during my high school years, many years ago.

I have three books I would like to comment on:

"Letters From the Earth", by Mark Twain (about 49 pages)

"Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (231 pages, available on audio tape)

"Deadly Feasts" by Richard Rhodes (242 pages, available on audio tape)

"Letters From the Earth" is about God's Creation. One day God is sitting in his brightly-lit Heaven, which is surrounded by the darkness of space. With a wave of his hand, He instantly creates all the stars and planets to light up space. The stars and planets are regulated by the Law Of Nature, also known as the Law of God.

Later He decides to create animals and, as an experiment in morals and conduct, He imbues them with different characteristics. The tiger is ferocious and kills weaker animals for food. It is the tiger's nature to be ferocious. It is the way God created him. The tiger is blameless in his actions; He is simply obeying the Law of Nature (the Law of God). He must obey it. The rabbit is timid and cowardly. It is his nature. He cannot be any different.

God is pleased with His experiment, but He soon grows bored with it. After all, there is no spontaneity. All the animals act exactly the same day after day. Each tiger is pretty much like any other tiger and each rabbit is pretty much like any other rabbit. So God decides to create another animal He calls "Man". God imbues man with all the characteristics He has given to the other animals, in varying degrees, so that no two of them are exactly alike.

Satan is heard making admiring remarks about "God's Great Experiment", which are really sarcasms, so God decides to ban Satan for a day, and since a day is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8), that's a long time. Previously when Satan was banned from Heaven for his remarks, he would just float around the dark void of space. But this time he decides to go to Earth to see "God's Great Experiment" in action. He writes letters to St Peter and St. Gabriel about it.

Some of you will love "Letters From the Earth"; others will hate it. Read it online.

In 1963 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. wrote "Cat's Cradle" about the discovery of ice-nine and the end of the world. Vonnegut invented a religion,
Bokononism
, for this book.

I was led to "Cat's Cradle" by mention of it in "Deadly Feasts", the story of the discovery of spongiform encephalopathies, ranging from kuru to mad cow disease. These diseases are generally considered to be caused by prions (proteinaceous infective particles), but D. Carleton Gajdusek , the doctor who discovered the nature of kuru, thinks they are caused by "mis-folded or malformed proteins that, through contact, teach the a particular brain protein (PnP), mainly found in the cerebellum, to become similarly malformed". (about 2/3 of the way down the article, under "Gajdusek's Even Scarier Theory"

Tinman
 
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Well, you've won your bet, CJ. I, too, have read and enjoyed Flatland. I also slightly surprised my brother-in-law, who is a university lecturer in pure mathematics, by having read it. Apparently he recommends it to all his students. BTW, the whole book is available online at http://abbott.thefreelibrary.com/Flatland

The book I'd like to nominate is not a novel, not even fiction. It's a history book with a rather long title: The Washing of the Spears: A History of the Rise of the Zulu Nation Under Shaka and Its Fall in the Zulu War of 1879. I first read it because I'd seen the film Zulu and wanted to know more about the subject. The book is very well-written and it opened my eyes to a fascinating area of history.
 
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I've not read Flatland, although I have heard good things of it. I have read Cat's Cradle, though...

One of my all-time "best books" is The Evolution Man, by Roy Lewis. The only other person I know who has read this book is my father, and that's because it was his copy I read! It's a wonderful tongue-in-cheek first-hand account of early man struggling to evolve as fast as possible, compared to modern (as it was in the 1960s) knowledge of the timescale.

Oh, and the Molesworth books are sadly under-appreciated these days. Nigel Molesworth, gorila (spelling intentional) of 3b, curse of St Custards. The books are all about his experiences in a 1950s boarding school, and he can't spel for toffe.

Ros

[This message was edited by Ros on Fri Oct 24th, 2003 at 4:17.]
 
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Is this a typo or a genuine difference in usage?

I would say "and conversing WITH a square he encounters there"

Richard English
 
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For instant access to Wordcraft, I have bookmarked "Search: Today's Active Topics," see? And sometimes I get a response that's like a Forensic Investigator's Report on the inspection of the scene remaining after Jack London's short story To Build A Fire ends.

quote:
"The search is complete. No matches were found."
 
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Such a great topic!


There are so many books! Books. Books. BOOKS!

One I love that is Cruddy by Lynda Barry. She's a cartoonist (and a friend of Matt Groenig of Simpsons' fame). The novel begins like this:

I went to find it to type it. I was wrong about the beginning. I thought it started like this:

"Once upon a cruddy time on a cruddy street on the side of a cruddy hill in the cruddiest part of a crudded-out town in a cruddy state, country, world, solar system, universe."

It actually begins:

"Dear Anyone Who Finds This,

Do not blame the drugs. It was not the fault of the drugs. I planned this way before the drugs were ever in my life. And do not blame Vicki Talluso. It was my idea to kill myself. All she did was give me a little push. If you are holding this book right now it means that everything came out just the way I wanted it to. I got my happily ever after.

Signed, Sincerely Yours,
The Author,
[in a girlish scrawl][my description]
Roberta Rohbeson
1955-1971 "



It is dark and raw and it is like reading the diary of a young, very odd girl.

I highly recommend it. Unless you're clinically depressed. It might push you over the edge.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Man and Boy by Tony Parsons
A fiction about a man who raises his son by himself. There is an interesting "word" sideline in this book. The main character's father uses old-fashioned words, such "skylarking", "get a good night's kip" and "get spruced up". That amuses his son who calls his father "the curator of the English language".

Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This is a wonderful book about a reporter who spent a year working for minimum wages in order to write this book. It was quite enlightening and makes you realize how much you really have.
 
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Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This is a wonderful book about a reporter who spent a year working for minimum wages in order to write this book. It was quite enlightening and makes you realize how much you really have.


<elbows shufitz out of the way>

Proposes to Kalleh on bended knee! Thats a great book!


Can we move to Vermont together?
 
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Picture of C J Strolin
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
I would say "and conversing WITH a square he encounters there"

So would I. Disregard the typo.

Had Shufitz made it, I might have said "Disregard Shufitz' typo" or, assuming I was in particularly cheery spirits, I might sidestep the "z's" issue by rewording it as "Disregard the typo; Shufitz did it!" or "Disregard Kalleh's husband's typo" or some such.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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quote:
<elbows shufitz out of the way>
Big Grin Wink

I think some of the talk questioning typos, spellings, and the like, is merely asking if other cultures do it differently. We are very lucky to have such a mix of posters on this site, with only 119 registrants and many fewer posters than that.
 
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CJ's right; Flatland (1884) is wonderful. And brief.

The great news is that it's available on-line. To whet your appetites, here's the dedication.

To The Inhabitance of SPACE IN GENERAL
And H.C. IN PARTICULAR
This Work is Dedicated
By a Humble Native of Flatland
In the Hope that
Even as he was Initiated into the Mysteries
Of THREE DIMENSIONS
Having been previously conversant
With ONLY TWO
So the Citizens of that Celestial Region
May aspire yet higher and higher
To the Secrets of FOUR FIVE or EVEN SIX Dimensions
Thereby contributing
To the Enlargment of THE IMAGINATION
And the possible Development
Of that most and excellent Gift of MODESTY
Among the Superior Races
Of SOLID HUMANITY
 
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Picture of C J Strolin
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That's three Wordcrafter votes for Flatland and, somewhat oddly, the two individuals I had thought to be the most likely readers haven't chimed in. (A hint on one of them: This book has a definite "Alice" quality to it.)
 
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My own particular favourite book, and one which changed my life was La Cuisine est un Jeu des Enfants by Michel Oliver.

It was given to me for my eighth birthday.

Another book I found very beautiful was Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
 
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