The best big, lyrical books packed with poetic prose

Michael Stutz Author Of Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age
By Michael Stutz

Who am I?

Poetry is language at its most condensed and pure, potent and direct—the closest thing to thought. At its best, this mode and method is cinematic and penetrates like a powerful dream, and bringing it to narrative prose in a legend and key that can be woven together, like a tapestry, has been my lifework. Nothing in this list is ancient or even old, nor is any of it newI've picked all books from the 20th century, because that was the world and writing that immediately influenced me, it's long enough past to be settled and safely buried, but still new enough to have some currency with the life and language of now.

I wrote...

Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age

By Michael Stutz,

Book cover of Circuits of the Wind: A Legend of the Net Age

What is my book about?

Circuits of the Wind is the story of Ray Valentine, a Gen X slacker who grows up on the early Internet as it existed in the '80s and '90s: modems and home computers, bulletin board systems, Usenet, shell accounts, the exploding Web, the dot com bust. This is the legend of his every click and keyboard clack as he witnesses an emergent cyberspace and eventually discovers the life he knew he had to lead.

The books I picked & why

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Visions of Cody

By Jack Kerouac,

Book cover of Visions of Cody

Why this book?

This book is sort of an alternate take of On the Road. Cody Pomeroy here is Dean Moriarty, this book is his legend, and instead of unravelling it all in a chronological spiel it's the koans and page-long dreams of remembrance, some of the richest extended prose he ever made.

The writing is true to the soul and heart of the continent and it captures the electric twentieth century.

He wanted to roll up all his books together, standardize the names, and call it The Duluoz Legend. When I read him now I think of all those words as a part of it. There are so many pieces and places to dive into, but if you're ready for the deep stuff then get digging into this golden loam and be glad.

Of Time and the River: A Legend of Man's Hunger in His Youth

By Thomas Wolfe,

Book cover of Of Time and the River: A Legend of Man's Hunger in His Youth

Why this book?

I was so overwhelmed by the perfection of this American masterwork that I sought out the founder of The Thomas Wolfe Society, the greatest Thomas Wolfe collector who ever lived and who will ever live, and became his very close friend.

This is a huge book, with the music of pitch-perfect prosody from beginning to end, and yet it's only part of a much greater whole—every one of Wolfe's books connect together in some way, forming a massive cadency of music in words. If you examine them, there's only two main branches (Eugene Gant as the protagonist in one, and Monk Webber as the protagonist in the other). But it's really all one big expanding fable. This volume has, in my opinion, the richest writing, from the opening proem to the tiny diamond-sharp moving-picture painting of the final line.

The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection

Why this book?

Everything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever touched with his pen glimmered and was gold. Just think of Tender Is the Night—the title comes from Keats, and Keats is the living lyre, and it's a fine, long book that haunts you. But the place where I first entered his world is the fat blue collected stories that came out in 1989, edited by my late friend Dr. Matthew J. Bruccoli.

This was the book that first made me see that gorgeous writing was everything, that it was the mode and method and the way. Every one of the stories in this gigantic book has something in it that is sensitive and evocative and lives beyond its page and time.

A Child's Christmas in Wales

By Dylan Thomas, Trina Schart Hyman (illustrator),

Book cover of A Child's Christmas in Wales

Why this book?

Dylan Thomas was one of the rarish writers who succeeded wildly in poem and prose. His stories have the throb and call of great poetry, and are rimed with gemfire. A Child's Christmas in Wales is short in length, but is so bighearted that it deserves an honorable place on my list. I read it aloud. And once you hear its simple magic, you too will find it visiting you every Christmas inside this inscrutable life, like the happy tapping susurrations of jingling silver bells.

Sinister Street

By Compton MacKenzie,

Book cover of Sinister Street

Why this book?

This fine coming-of-age novel was originally published in two big red volumes. It's large and reads like an enormous European tapestry laid out in some cold castle museum, with vivid dyes and a thousand patterned intricacies to ponder. It was a literary sensation when it was published, a favorite of the young romantics of the WWI generation, and Mackenzie followed it up with several branching-off sequels. He writes with such vividry that the dusky London streets and country cottages in this book are fresh and living even now. This book affected a young F. Scott Fitzgerald so much that in the early drafts of Fitz's first novel, he actually copped the name of the protagonist of this book.

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