Until recently, I was bewildered at the reason why people would buy DVD box sets when they can get TiVo and have their shows for free. I think now that people want collections in order to have them on hand to show unfamiliar guests or even lend the discs to others in hopes of gaining compatriots. DVD sets are an evangelical tool.
At my reading last night, my wife and I got to talking with Brendan, who was introducing me. We got on the subject of television shows and he raved about The Wire, saying that it was better than The Sopranos in many ways. I promised to have a look and I made him vow to start watching House.
It was odd sitting in a bookstore discussing television, but for both of us I'm sure it was a welcome respite from talking about books. This kind of chat is the only way that I trust to find restaurants, movies, TV shows, and — most important — books.
Books have always been this way. When I fall in love with a book, I'll often buy multiple copies — usually used — because I know I'll be lending them out to friends. I've lost at least a thousand books this way.
I'm going to use my soap box here to mention some things I think are worthy of people's time and money. I'm also going to list some things I hate, which I'm equally passionate about.
Down By Law. The only movie I ever saw that I rewound and watched a second time. Like The Pope of Greenwich Village and Rounders, I can see this movie a dozen times and enjoy it for new reasons every time. Also watch Lone Star.
The aforementioned House, AMC's Hustle, The Soup, and especially HBO's Entourage are all great television. Top Chef is the best reality show. Overhaulin' is fun, but you have to watch with the volume muted. The best poker show is still High Stakes Poker.
Books: This one is hard.
The best is easy. Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel. Every story, paragraph, and sentence is perfection.
A list of books I recommend would be too long for any blog, but I'm just going to throw out some titles: The Anomalies, Valencia, Ella Minnow Pea, The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure, Home Land, Assassination Vacation, The God File, The Seas, Post Office, A River Runs Through It, The Contortionist's Handbook, The Phineas Poe Trilogy, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, and The Locklear Letters. Disclosure: I worked for the publishing house for many of these but that doesn't change anything; they're great books.
The book I hated the most was Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It may have been the circumstances in which I read it as a freshman in college, but I really despised the book. It won the Pulitzer Prize, but so did The Shipping News and that wasn't a good book, either. Not that I hated it, but I never really got why The Great Gatsby was considered such seminal work. It was very good, but not, as many claim, the best thing written in the 20th Century.
Thanks very much — to both of you — for reading my rantings. A special thanks to Powell's, especially Dave (to whom I promised the above mentioned nude pictures of Hal Linden — I'm working on it), Georgie, and Bolton. It's been my pleasure.
Books mentioned in this post
Pat Walsh is the author of How to Win the World Series of Poker (or Not): An All-American Tale