3 for your inner iconoclast

{ Tuesday, May 6, 2008 }

Three books to tug on whatever iconoclastic threads lie pulsing away in the dark of your heart -- no, not the top three books. (Sweet lord, what would I have to believe of myself for that?!)

Nope -- just three that I found on my shelf. Read one of these when you feel humdrum and of little purpose and need to find proof of passion resonating inside yourself.

The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli

Don't feel badly about skipping sections. Yes, the whole thing's worth reading -- but what we're after here is that wild feeling of being ready to ditch 5th period math and hike down by the river. This is a great book for that feeling. Machiavelli sits close beside you saying, You could rule the world and make it what it ought to be, if only -- and then he tells you the secrets, and you can't believe none of the other kids in their desks is looking up from their test papers, but no, it's just you and him, and he is laying out for you a map of how to rule. And just about the time he says, "Hatred may be engendered by good deeds as well as bad ones. Therefore a prince who wishes to remain in power is often forced to be other than good," you realize he is maybe going to push you in the river and take your lunch money. But you still heard all these fantastic secrets while the others were busy finding x. (Which, as you know, is fifty.)

The Diary of Anais Nin, Volume 4

If you are a creative sort, this is for you on the day when you think if you have to see your day job cubicle one more time, you will in a rage begin ripping the gray carpet off its ersatz walls with your teeth and spitting the back the t-pins at your colleagues. This is for when you need to belong with someone who understands vast hours spent in the landscapes of friendship. Someone who understands hard work at her own printing press. Someone who invests herself completely in people, falls in love completely, observes completely, and then makes it all visible in art. In other words, someone so beautifully bizarre that she is past understanding her own bizarreness. She is just as apt to say: "Frances gave me a small velvet hat with a trailing feather, the latest fashion. Pablo repainted the feather a more vivid pink. I wear this dashing hat when we go to the theater or the ballet," as she is this: "Anxiety is love's greatest killer. It creates the failures." And she looks in your eyes and completely trusts you as her confidante and you become a skyscraper of human understanding and a vast reservoir of untapped art and you swear not to let her down, even if no one else gets it ever.

Beyond the Wall, by Edward Abbey

This is for the day when you feel like marching out of wherever you are shouting, "Yeah? Who's with me!" Because Edward Abbey will be on your team. He has your back (if you are facing west). In this book of short pieces, he is passionate, obstinate, and in complete love with the American desert. He will do anything to save it from ruin. He will describe it so that you fall in love with it; he will call out for a fight anyone who threatens it. He will advocate sabotaging their machinery. "I take a dim view of dams," he says. "I find it hard to learn to love cement. . . a fully industrialized, thoroughly urbanized, elegantly computerized social system is not suitable for human habitation. Great for machines, yes. But unfit for people." And then he will say, "Who's with me?" and walk off into the snakes and teddy-bear cholla whether anyone is following him or not. And you want more badly than anything else to have the guts to go. You will have more of the guts to go wherever it is you need to charge off to after you read him.

That's it for tonight. Hope your bedtime stories are exactly what you need.

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