A Literary A-Z: I

Please play along with your own choices. Any book, or the surname of an author, as long as it begins with an ‘I’.

I am starting ‘I’ with ‘The Iliad’, that great work of legend and history from the Greek writer Homer. Published (by most accounts) around 750 BC, this may well be the oldest book featured in this challenge. But it is far from being a dusty old volume, believe me. And even if you have never read it, I am sure you will recognise the characters immediately. This is the book that tells the tale of the Trojan War, with Achilles the warrior, Helen of Troy, and the mighty King Agamemnon. Even today, this history still fascinates the modern reader, and has been the foundation of many epic film adaptations.

A collection of short stories from the masterful Ray Bradbury, ‘The Illustrated Man’ was published as long ago as 1951, but they are still great to read, decades later. The seemingly unrelated stories in this collection are in fact all inter-connected to the title story of a heavily-tattooed man who earned his living by appearing in a circus sideshow. He tells his story to the narrator, with his animated tattoos coming to life to explain those tales. Fascinating indeed, and later made into a film, starring Rod Steiger.

For personal reasons, I have to mention the book by Marcel Proust, ‘In Search of Lost Time’. This is one translation of the original French title, ‘A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu’. This mammoth work is a seven-volume novel, published over a fourteen year period up to 1927. This work of reflection, memory, and interpretations of the past is a far from easy read, I assure you. In my late teens, I was tasked with attempting to read it in French too, and I can still recall the headaches that gave me. I didn’t finish it at the time, and have not done so since. But if you are up for a real challenge…

When I was younger, I always though that invisibility would be the best ‘super-power’ to have. Imagine being able to move around unseen, and to watch everyone and everything as an unknown observer? But then I read the H. G. Wells novel, ‘The Invisible Man’, published in 1897. In that book, a scientist named Griffin becomes invisible, but his experiment goes wrong and he is unable to reverse the process. His life is far from enjoyable, and he faces problems at every turn. Yet the idea fascinated many film-makers and TV show creators, and has been adapted in numerous ways.

My top choice today is also my top film choice for the same letter. ‘In Cold Blood’, by Truman Capote is the 1966 non-fiction account of the murders of the Clutter family in Kansas, in 1959. Yet it is also a novel, as Capote interweaves fictional interviews and conversations, and writes about those real events in the style of crime fiction. Don’t be put off by that description, as this is a wonderful book, however you approach it. From the details of the murders, to Capote’s interviews with the kilers, and witnessing an execution, this story grips right from the start, and is hard to put down.

48 thoughts on “A Literary A-Z: I

  1. I applaud your mention of Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu.” Were you aware that the seven titles are considered parts of a single great work? Studies have been done to arrive at this conclusion. I have to admit that I’ve slighted Proust. I have his work in English translation, but won’t touch it. I’ve merely read excerpts in French. One of these days, perhaps I’ll buy this great work of fiction and give it a read. In any event, neither the grand title nor its seven volumes start with the letter I in French, so I’ll go with…

    …Jules Verne’s “L’île mystérieuse” (known to English speakers as “Mysterious Island”). Yes, it is an I title (as you know, Le…, La… and L’… are the equivalent of The… in English). Did you know that this book is the sequel (of sorts) to “Vingt mille lieues sous les mers” (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”), as well as the prequel (of sorts) to “Les Enfants du capitaine Grant” (“In Search of the Castaways”)? To explain why this is true would be a major plot spoiler!

    Here are the dates I finished reading these hefty adventure books Of course, I read them in French, of course, but I’ll use the English language titles.
    (1) Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea …. June 15, 1980 & October 27, 1985
    (2) Mysterious Island …. January 10, 1986 & January 29, 2017
    (3) In Search of the Castaways …. February 24, 2017

    I decided not to give “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” a third reading this year, but for anyone who hasn’t read these books, I highly recommend reading all three back to back in the order given above.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you have read above, I struggled with Proust’s seven-volumes. I doubt I will ever complete that work now. I had heard that Mysterious Island was a sequel, but I didn’t know about In Search of The Castaways. Thanks as always for your detailed French selections.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Pete. I already mentioned John Irving (difficult to choose as I like all his books). The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, Hotel New Hampshire… You’ve reminded me of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. It is a fabulous book and a must for any lover of American Literature. (I also enjoyed H.G. Well’s although I’m not sure is my favourite of his). I remember reading ‘In Cold Blood’ many years back and being utterly impressed by it. I have caught up on a few of the movies about Truman Capote recently and they are worth a watch too. Thanks, Pete!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched and enjoyed both the modern films about Capote, (Toby Jones and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and agree that they are worth watching. I am not a fan of Irving. I find I do not engage with his writing, though I did enjoy the film of ‘The World According To Garp’, as I really like John Lithgow.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. I didn’t know about The Inky boys, so thanks for the clip. I also didn’t know that the India Jones stories were books, I have to confess. I can imagine why your boys might find them exciting.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Without a doubt, In Cold Blood, Inferno and Iliad, would definitely be on my list along with It and Insomnia by King, and The Incredible Journey.
    I Know Where the Caged Bird Sings – Angelou
    I, Robot- Asimov
    The Illustrated Man – Bradbury
    Intensity -Koontz
    Inkworld series – Funke
    The Inheritance trilogy – Paolini
    Interview With the Vampire – Rice
    The Invisible Man/The Island of Dr. Moreau – Wells
    Iron Heel – London
    Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell

    Authors: Henrik Ibsen, Eva Ibbotson, John Irving, Washington Irving, Greg Iles

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am just beginning the third of a fiction trilogy set in Mississippi in the 1960’s and present day by Greg Iles. Truly challenging reads, but very informed by this journalist from Natchez, Mississippi who has turned what he knows and suspects about history into these volumes.

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  5. “I” turns out to be difficult. I’m not a big John Irving fan, and I’ve never read or watched Ibsen. I like your choices, haven’t tackled the Proust but a big fan of Bradbury, H.G.Wells, and “In Cold Blood”. There’s a similar title “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, which is required reading in school here, but I liked it anyway, powerful book about life in America, and my first exposure to hallucinogenic writing. My grandfather was a fan of “I, Robot” science fiction stories by Isaac Asimov.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, what a great collection, from “Illiad” to “In Cold Blood” – here is my addition: the nonfiction “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, the story of a naive young man who decides to drop out of society and live in the wilds of Alaska – a riveting story.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pete, my mistake – I mistyped – yes, my book is “Into The Wild”! I also have “Into Thin Air” and that’s a great one as well….talk about a brain freeze! I have them next to each other on my bookshelf! Sorry everyone!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No problem, John. I think ‘Into The Wild’ was also made into a well-received film.
          (I checked, and it was, in 2007)
          Your bookshelf is in alphabetical order? far too organised! 🙂
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember seeing the film ‘I Am A Camera’ with Lawrence Harvey, long before ‘Cabaret’, and being inspired to read ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ because of it. A great choice, Sue.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You got all the fiction I have in my library….so moving on to non-fiction….”International Relations Theories” by Milja Kurki…..”international Conflict Management: by Jolle Demmers….Introduction to Geoplolitics” by Colin Flint and finally “Insurgency and Terrorism” by Bard E. O’Neil…now I feel complete…LOL chuq

    Liked by 1 person

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