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Six Books Every Surfer Should Read!

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

…that have nothing to do with surf.

…but are great pieces of literature. Foundational pieces.

1. Black Mischief by Evelyn Waugh

… is the most awesome piece of racism that you’ll ever read. I love it so much. Racism is, anyhow, a social construct that is almost always funny. Even when people really mean it, it’s funny. I know, I know, it’s easy for me to say since I’m white. But Waugh elevates the idea of national building in Africa to such ridiculous heights. It’s the sort of old-timey aristocratic remove that today’s social liberal would cry about. Waugh doesn’t take himself seriously either. The well-bred Englishman star of the show is absurd. Awesome. I can’t talk about it anymore. You should go and buy a copy right now.

2. The Gallery by John Horne Burns 

…make-a-me cry. It’s not a linear tale, rather a series of vignettes told in World War II Naples, Italy. I remember going to Naples and thinking the pizza tasted delis and the men dressed like greasy wops. Burns’ impressions are much more devastating. It didn’t make me cry because it was said (you’re a jerk for thinking me a pussy!) rather the bugs of brilliance are overwhelming. I can’t do it justice. Here’s a piece. “Every five minutes she looked out the window into the swirling foggy streets to see if there were any New Zealanders coming. She remembered what Il Duce had said the Kiwis would do to the women of Italy. She had Giulia fetch the carving knife from the cupboard. She promised that this knife would finish in Giulia’s heart if ever a New Zealand tread were heard on the stairs. Then Mamma would turn the knife, smoking from her daughter’s blood, on herself: for who knew that even a matron of her age would be safe from ravishing New Zealand soldiery?” OH MAN! So good, and as a bonus, highlights the perversity of New Zealanders.

3. The Plague by Albert Camus

…is considered an existential classic. A few years ago I loved existentialism because I liked how the word looks.

E X I S T E N T I A L I S M

It sounds good when you say it and it can be attributed to almost anything. “Hmmm, that experience I heard you talking about is soooo existential.” Then I read Sartre and barfed all over his ugly face and thought maybe existentialism wasn’t so pretty. Camus was handsome to the point of ironically beautiful. The very picture of French Algerian masculinity. He had tuberculosis but smoked like a chimney and the cigarette was always at a jaunty angle. I love the absurd. And I love Camus and I love The Plague. We have no control, baby. None at all. I think that makes many people sad. It makes me happy.

4. Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis 

…is breathless. I’ll only vouch for the first half, which kicks dick. Bret Easton E’s popular culture references, shot at machine-gun speed, will blow up your mind. The way he lists celebrity names in long sentences is genius. I don’t know how he does it. He just lists celebrity names and creates a huge meaning from the list. It’s just too good. Also, the main character, Victor, is the most vacuous creation ever. Love it. You’re on your own at the point Victor is involved in a lengthy homosexual ménage. It sorta goes downhill at that point. But the first half? Fag-u-lous!

5. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer 

…is long, rambling and shot through with radiance. Set in the South Pacific during WWII. Bummer. It seems as if I have a WWII fetish. It’s going to lead to sexual role-play if I’m not careful.

6. The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton

GK is one of the most fabulous men to ever live. He was big and fat and wore a cape. He loved paradox. This is a good story and two interesting historical figures counted it among their favourites: Michael Collins, famous Irish Republican white terrorist took from the book, if you don’t seem to be hiding, no one will hunt you out. And Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent who sold tons of secrets to the USSR used to give the book to his friends. Good enough for me.