Saturday, September 19, 2009

Five best books about obsession

Susan Cheever's books include five novels and the memoirs Note Found in a Bottle and Home Before Dark. Her work has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Boston Globe Winship Medal. She applied the "page 69 test" to her 2006 book, American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work.

In 2008's Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction, she "explores the shifting boundaries between the feelings of passion and addiction, desire and need, and she raises provocative and important questions about who we love and why."

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books about obsession. One book on her list:
by Herman Melville

Obsession can masquerade as a quest for revenge, and Captain Ahab's search for the white sperm whale that had bitten off his leg in an earlier encounter has become an archetype of retributive obsession. "I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn and around the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up," Ahab says in a speech that Catherine Earnshaw might well have made about Heathcliff [in Wuthering Heights]. Despite protests from the crew aboard the Pequod that the ship should be pursuing whales for profit, not chasing vengeance, Ahab descends into the dark reaches of insanity, his men held in thrall to his obsession. In writing the story, Melville was inspired by stories of two real sperm whales, one that sank the whaling ship Essex in 1820 and another, known as Mocha Dick, that was reputed to have sunk dozens of the Nantucket whalers that pursued him in the Pacific early in the 19th century. Are animals, like humans, capable of being driven by obsession?
Read about another title on Cheever's list.

also appears among Christopher Buckley's best books, Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.

Visit Susan Cheever's official website and read the Page 69 Test results for American Bloomsbury.

--Marshal Zeringue