Monday, November 8, 2010

The Reading Librarian: Fe Angela Verzosa

Librarians Read Series: Madame Fe Angela Verzosa and her books read as a teenager. 

It took me quite long to make this list (4 hours?), because I had hundreds of favorites during my teen years, when my early life was half-spent in reading good books by great minds. Because you defined the period from 13-18, I had to eliminate the first 3 formative years when I was still in High School and reading a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries plus the required literature readings from my English and Lit subjects, and concentrated on the latter 3 years of my teenhood to come up with this list. My favorite books, in the order of how they affected my adolescent thinking are:

• Platero y Yo by Juan Ramon Jimenez . I fell in love with the book and the author, a Spanish poet, who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956. This book was given on my 16th birthday by a bosom friend, with whom I had a passionate relationship later in life. From then on, I decided if ever I would write poetry, it would be in the style of Juan Ramon, a prose poem.

• The Little Prince (or Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French aviator, who wrote the novella in 1943. I was so moved by the lines - "One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes." – that for years, it was my favorite motto. My favorite chapter was 21: when the prince meets and tames a fox, who explains to the prince that his rose is unique and special, because she is the one whom he loves. ("It is the time you have lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.")

• The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, is a book written by psychologist and social philosopher, another gift from my first boy friend. I still have the book published in 1956 by Harper & Row and treasures it to this day. This bestseller is a favorite companion to another book he wrote Escape from Freedom, where he postulated 8 basic needs: Relatedness (relationships with others, care, respect, knowledge), Transcendence (creativity, developing a loving and interesting life), Rootedness (feeling of belonging), Sense of Identity (seeing ourselves as a unique person and part of a social group), Frame of orientation (understanding the world and our place in it.), Excitation and Stimulation (actively striving for a goal rather than simply responding), Unity (a sense of oneness between one person and the "natural and human world outside"), and Effectiveness (the need to feel accomplished).

• Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is an inspirational book that I continue to read over and over again, especially during times of soul-searching and agonizing need for peace and solitude. Anne Morrow Lindbergh (known as the first American woman to have a pilot’s license) was an admirable woman, and her stoic character was sharpened by many tragedies in her life.

• The Grass Harp by Truman Capote, a story of youth and loneliness, was among the great books I read in my teens. After reading this novel, I went on to read "Other Voices, Other Rooms,” and into more Capote works, and decided Truman Capote deserves to be among the literary giants in American literature.

• The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, her first of many novels, about eccentric characters, portraits of the rejected, forgotten, mistreated and oppressed. Needless to mention, after this, I devoured the rest - Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Member of the Wedding, and the novella The Ballad of the Sad Café.

• Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence. I first read the expurgated version, not knowing I was missing some chapters, and after reading it from our school library, discovered that an unexpurgated version was available (from a friend’s library possession), and read it over and over again, graduating to more of his novels, Sons and Lovers and Women in Love.

• Jude the Obscure by Tomas Hardy, another English novelist and poet, who had a profound influence on my literary taste. I was first introduced to Hardy’s novels after reading The Return of the Native (a required reading), and after reading Far from the Madding Crowd , The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d'Urbervilles, I decided the best was Jude the Obscure. I will never forget his precocious child, Little Father Time.

• Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Black Spring by Henry Miller, a revolutionary and controversial writer, whose first of this trilogy was banned in the US for almost 25 years, until the US Supreme Court declared it to be a work of literature and not pornography.

• The Alexandria Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea) by another English novelist, Lawrence Durrell, which fascinated me because of its exotic setting in the city of Alexandria. I read the tetralogy in hurried succession, after watching the epic movie, Lawrence of Arabia.

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