My list of favorite books is constantly shifting. Here's my latest list:
1. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway -- Read this as a youngster and fell in love with the disillusioned, spare tone of the narrator's voice. It was inspirational to me because it teaches that you can build a life despite being flawed. Everything to Hemingway was about rising from the ruins and wreckage that was the world of relationships. To me that was inspirational. I also loved and still appreciate that the emotional content was between the lines. You don't have to be obvious to be a writer, as long as you choose the right words.
2. The Stranger -- Albert Camus -- Also read this as a teenager and immediately fell under the sway of the author's descriptive powers. It was the first time I had read anything that sounded like the world I grew up in, an alienated, emotionally flat, tropical hell where formalized social conventions mask and dull the reality of a perhaps pointless existence.
3. A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams -- My favorite portrayal of a tragic, abusive relationship. The passion and lyrical language in this play put it in a class by itself.
4. Nine Stories, J.D. Salinger -- A near perfect short story collection, many of them dealing with the tragic Glass family who bear more than a passing resemblance to the Kogans of Latitudes.
5. Songs of Innocence and Experience, William Blake -- A visionary and unparalleled artist, it would take a lifetime of study to get to the bottom of this man's artistic and literary output.
A bit about Anthony Caplan:
Anthony Caplan is an independent writer, teacher and homesteader in northern New England. He has worked at various times as a shrimp fisherman, environmental activist, journalist, taxi-driver, builder, window-washer, and telemarketer. Currently, Caplan is working on restoring a 150 year old farmstead where he and his family tend sheep and chickens, grow most of their own vegetables, and have started a small apple orchard from scratch.
You can find him at http://www.anthonycaplanwrites.com/
About the book:
When Father and Mother, a highflying young American lawyer and his party-hard bride, fall prey to the self-destructive lure of alcohol and sexual liberation, Will and his sisters pay the price in divorce and kidnappings that take them back and forth between the rain forest hideaways of coastal Latin America and the placid suburbs of Long Island. Will identifies with the oppressed workers laboring in his father’s fast food restaurant and longs for American freedom. Father remarries the daughter of a local aristocrat, and Will is sent off to the hothouse world of a New England boarding school.
Swimming in a sea of Fair Isle sweaters and LL Bean boots, Will discovers a core of resilience in himself that allows him to survive, thrive, and ultimately embrace the flawed and varied worlds he inhabits. Will reconnects with his Mother, sinking into a New York City world of Irish bars and one night stands he cannot save her from. With a little help from friends, and a high school Shakespeare class taught by the school’s closeted gay athletic trainer, Will begins to see the possibility of finding his true path. Latitudes charts the birth pangs of a quest for self and soul — from a tropical childhood to a coming of age on the road.
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Read the Excerpt
This time of uncertainty came to an end before it could gel into something, a pattern, a new beginning or different stamp to the days. It was one day in late August, an ordinary moment that would not have remained in his memory, much as the days that preceded it. In Will’s mind he and his sisters, their new neighborhood friends, seemed born full-blown in the backyard in the midst of some forgotten game. He was immersed again, as in the swimming pool on Margarita Island, in his inner thoughts even with the swirl of kids and dogs and the sun passing through the bright blue sky, as two cars pulled up on the street, low-slung, long and dark, their red brake lights warning to stop and look. Out stepped four or five men in pale trench coats. As they walked up the driveway, Alexa gasped.
“Father,” she said. Will had recognized him at almost the same moment.
“Father,” he repeated and broke into a run as Father smiled and held out his arms. The other men stopped in their tracks. Father hugged the four children. It was unusual, but exciting that he’d come all this way to rejoin them. The other men from the two cars must have been his friends.
“How about an ice cream?” he asked. This seemed unusual and exciting also. They had never known him to offer treats, but maybe this was his way of breaking the ice, start in on a new footing.
“Sure,” Will said, and Alexa agreed, eager as he was, speaking for all three girls. They all four sat in the backseat of the back car. Father sat in the front while another man drove. As the cars sped away, the babysitter emerged from the house and saw a knot of neighborhood children walking down the sidewalk, but not Will or his sisters. Breathing hard, panic struck. She ran back inside and grabbed the telephone.