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Dawn Raffel’s “Literary Pillars”

These disparate pillars (fiction, nonfiction, plays, poetry) might well support a funhouse, which is how I like it. I’ve deliberately left off books by anyone who was/is my teacher, mentor, colleague, or friend—even if only on Facebook.

1. Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales

2. Bullfinch’s Mythology

3. Ovid’s Metamorphoses

4. The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim

5. War & Peace (Here come the Russians. If I were allowed to possess only one book for the rest of my life, Tolstoy’s masterpiece would be it.)

6. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy

7. The Death of Ivan Ilych, Tolstoy

8. Fathers and Sons, Turgenov

9. Dead Souls, Gogol

10. The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky

11. Crime and Punishment, Dostoevksy

12. The Idiot, Dostoevsky

13. The Captain’s Daughter and Other Stories, Pushkin

14. Complete Stories of Anton Chekhov

15. The Cherry Orchard, Chekhov (and here follow plays that have affected me as much as any novel)

16. Three Sisters, Chekhov

17. The Glass Menagerie, Williams

18. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Albee

19. The Homecoming, Pinter

20. The Berlin Stories, Isherwood

21. My Guru and His Disciple, Isherwood

22. The Snow Leopard, Mathiessen (if you were my friend when I was in my twenties, you received a copy of this book from me)

23. Bliss and Other Stories, Mansfield

24. A Good Man is Hard to Find, O’Conner

25. The Violent Bear it Away, O’Conner (This short novel deserves wider recognition)

26. Tell Me a Riddle, Olsen

27. Nine Stories, Salinger

28. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Paley

29. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? Carver

30. 18 Stories by Heinrich Boll

31. Lost in the Funhouse, Barth

32. The Floating Opera, Barth

33. The Things They Carried, O’Brien (as perfect a collection as has been written)

34. The Norton Anthology of Short Stories

35. Four Minute Fictions, Wilson, editor (my first jolt of what are now called micro-fictions; this anthology issued from The North American Review)

36. The Public Burning, Coover

37. Invisible Cities, Calvino

38. 100 Years of Solitude, Marquez

39. Going Native, Wright

40. Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, Connell  

41. Suttree, McCarthy

42. Blood Meridian, McCarthy

43. Ulysses, Joyce

44. Dubliners, Joyce

45. A River Runs Through It, Maclean

46. Warrenpoint, Donoghue

47. Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis (for elegance of both thought and prose)

48. Soul Clap Hands and Sing, Marshall

49 The Half-Inch Himalayas, Ali (I met the late poet when he was selling chapbooks out of the back of his car. The work blew me away—and still does)

50. The Great Fires, Gilbert


Editor’s Note: This list is part of Big Other’s Tribute to William H. Gass’s 88th Birthday.


Dawn Raffel’s illustrated memoir, The Secret Life of Objects, is just out from Jaded Ibis Press. She is also the author for two story collections— Further Adventures in the Restless Universe and In the Year of Long Division—and a novel, Carrying the Body. Her stories have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, Conjunctions, Black Book, Fence, Open City, The Mississippi Review Prize Anthology, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, Arts & Letters, The Quarterly, NOON, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She is Editor at Large, Books at Readers Digest, and the editor of The Literarian, the magazine for the Center for Fiction in New York. She lives outside New York City with her husband and sons.

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