Thursday, October 4, 2007


My friend Ray DiPalma suggested I do one of my alphabet lists based on favorite books with four or less letters in their titles! A great challenge, which he got going by suggesting several titles in an email before I went to bed.

Naturally I fell asleep compiling my own, including some of his suggestions.

He sent more since then, many of which I had come up with myself, and some of which aren’t favorites of mine necessarily. So here’s the alphabet list of some favorite books (many of which were originally suggested by Ray) with four or less letters in their titles:

“A” by Louis Zukofsky (we both came up with this long, epic, experimental lifetime poem, as well as ALL, his collected shorter works, and one of my favorite books, ACT by Tom Raworth, one of my favorite poets)
BIRD by Robert George Reisner (this was all mine—the first hardcover book I ever bought, and still have, because it was about my then idol, Charlie Parker, and though later dismissed as a lightweight, thrown together, pastiche of anecdotes and myths, I found it mesmerizing and inspiring and still do)
CANE by Jean Toomer (on so many lists of mine, because it remains an all time favorite)
DAWN by Theodore Dreiser (The first volume of his autobiography, and one of my favorite books, if you dig history, you should dig this and his follow up NEWSPAPER DAYS)
EDGE by Bruce Andrews (first chapbook by one of the original “Language poets” and one of my favorites, obviously, since I was part of the “collective” that published it)
F? (Ray suggested a novel called FUR, but I haven’t read it)
GO by John Clellon Holmes (Ray reminded me of this novel about the “Beat generation” that beat ON THE ROAD to press but was nowhere near as good, nonetheless it had an impact on me as a kid)
HOWL by Allen Ginsberg
INRI by Joe Ceravolo (a book suggested by Ray which I was unaware of, but since I love Ceravolo’s poetry including his collected poems I’m sure I dug the work in here elsewhere)
JOE by Ron Padgett (though not my take on Joe Brainard’s life and art, Ron knew him longer than anyone besides Joe’s family, and has a lot of anecdotal incidents that make this book a treasure in some ways)
K? (Ray suggested KIM by Rudyard Kipling, but it’s not one of my favorites)
LIES by C. K. Williams (another of Ray’s suggestions I hadn’t thought of, by a poet who graduated from the high school that was almost in my backyard as a kid)
MAX by Ray DiPalma (an early book by Ray that I loved and still do)
NUNS by Terence Winch (an early chapbook of great Winch poems about nuns! Which both Ray and I thought of)
OF by me (Ray’s suggestion, but one of my favorite books of mine as well)
PIC by Jack Kerouac (considered one of his weakest “novels” and certainly his most unusual, since the lead characters in it are black, but still, for me, a touching attempt to portray some of his own longings and confusion through these invented characters—and POGO by Walt Kelly, the first collection of his comic strip from the Eisenhower years, I loved it as a kid and still do)
RAIK by Ray DiPalma (a “mid-career” book of Ray’s I always dug and mention in OF)
SKY by Blaise Cendrars (a memoir and a meditation and historical riff on human flight—I also couldn’t help thinking of SOAP, which Ray did too, one of my favorite—book-length—poems, by one of my favorite poets, Francis Ponge)
TED by Ron Padgett (a different take than mine on poet Ted Berrigan’s life, or the part that Padgett was privy to, but simply and directly written and a source of information and insight not found elsewhere)
USA by John Dos Passos (Ray and I both remembered this trilogy, which was considered in its time “The Great American Novel” and certainly had an impact on me)
V. by Thomas Pynchon (his first and to my mind best novel)
WATT by Samuel Beckett (Ray’s initial suggestion, Beckett’s second novel and most difficult in some ways, but I fell in love with it in my youth, and the challenge of the originality of it)
ZAP by R. Crumb (my initial thought for “Z” even though it was the first “alternative” or “underground” comic “book”—which jolted the 1960s hippie scene and caused shock waves still resonating today)

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