Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Recommended Reading For On The Other Side Of The Eye

Back during Dennis O'Neil's run on the DC Comics title The Question, he always used to include a book each month under the heading "Recommended Reading" which ranged from philosophy to crime fiction and other books.

These weren't essential to understanding a particular month's story, but at the same time were interesting and over the larger course of the series' run, could add to your appreciation of the ideas in play there.

Hundreds of books, films, albums, discussions and experiences inform On The Other Side Of The Eye and perhaps one day I'll do a complete annotation, but for now I thought I'd provide a bakers dozen of 13 or so authors for an example. In no particular order:

The Book of Stratagems: Tactics for Triumph and Survival by Harro von Senger was an interesting approach to discussing the classic 36 Stratagems of Asian philosophy with a dizzying array of historical and legendary examples that are just as interesting as Sun Tzu's classic, Art of War. I'll let audiences decide how and where some, if any, of these ideas were applied in the structure and approach of the On The Other Side Of The Eye.

Joseph Campbell's Power Of Myth has its detractors but the intent to see the amazing ability of stories, of legends and ideas to speak to a culture deeply are relevant and worth engaging with.

Paul Reps Zen Flesh, Zen Bones is a classic of Zen and Asian stories and aphorisms that are designed to shake us out of our perceptions of the everyday andd the ordinary to see the world differently.

Adrienne Su's Middle Kingdom. Middle Kingdom gives me a lot to think about as an Asian American writer considering the way to compose a book of Laotian American poetry. There are many fine and readable poems within Middle Kingdom, with great humor and soul worth examining.

Khalil Gibran's The Madman. Gibran's classic The Prophet is nice, but I personally preferred the short, deep stories and anecdotes within this underappreciated classic of his.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre. One of the classic masters of horror, his cosmic approach was ground-breaking and his influence continues to speak to later generations long after his contemporaries have become unread.

Jorge Luis Borges Labyrinths and The Dictionary of Imaginary Beings. There are amazing ideas, thoughts and stories at play in both of these books and they are heavily influential on many of the works within On The Other Side Of The Eye in terms of structure, content and theme.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko The Face Behind The Face. Originally picked up for Yevtushenko's poem "People," one of three personal favorite poems of mine, there are many fine gems within this collection.

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. Among the arcs that were particularly important to me from this master of the fantastic was Seasons of Mist, Brief Lives, Dream Country and The Doll's House.

Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum or Name Of The Rose. Intelligent and fascinating texts with surprising humor and brilliance, it can take years to unravel all of the topics and allusions Eco is covering, but it's rewarding.

Heather McHugh's Hinge and Sign, particularly her poem "What He Thought."

Yusef Komunyakaa's Talking Dirty To The Gods and Dien Cai Dau. I'm particularly fond of his "Ode To The Maggot" and "Facing It," but there is much to be responded throughout these two books of his.

I'll also name a few bands and musicians whose work I can reasonably cite as influences on the poems in On The Other Side Of The Eye:

Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Shriekback, Eurythmics, Oingo Boingo, The Talking Heads, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Siouxsie and the Banshees.

And of course, many, many others, but try these for a start.

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