A Fabulous Opera by Tropic of Ideas




What could the following ninety-six titles listed below -- novels mostly, some poetry, memoirs, a how-to manual on caring for goats, treatises on linguistics and literary criticism, as well as other unclassifiable, though delightful, oddities and arcana (including one movie review) -- possibly have in common? . . .  Go ahead, peruse the eclectic list.  Take your time.  Say to yourself, "I've never heard of that."  I insist.  Some of the titles you're sure to recognize.  How many have you already read? Me?  I've finished twenty-four of them. Began and abandoned another quarter of that. Five of the twenty-four I've read shook me up enough that I was prompted; no, compelled to scribble my inmost thoughts about them.  But, damn, I've digressed.  What do the books below have in common?--that was the question! . . .

2666 (2004) by Roberto Bolano,
A Book of Common Prayer (1977) by Joan Didion
A Drink Called Paradise (1999) by Terese Svoboda,
A Passage to India (1924) by E.M. Forster,
A Small Yes and a Big No (1923) by George Grosz,
A Voice from the Attic (1960) by Robertson Davies,
Adam Bede (1859) by George Eliot,
Arjun and the Good Snake (2011) by Rick Harsch,
Black Light: A Novel (1966) by Galway Kinnell,
Calling Mr. King (2011) by Ronald De Feo,
Chateau d'Argol (1938) by Julien Gracq,
Children of Violence Series (1952-69) by Doris Lessing,
Clarel (1876) by Herman Melville,
Complete Plays (2001, posthumous) by Sarah Kane,
Confessions (398AD) by Saint Augustine of Hippo,
Contraptions (2007, posthumous) by W. Heath Robinson,
Darconville's Cat (1981) by Alexander Theroux,
Decadence Mandchoue (2011, posthumous) by Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse,
Delinquent Days (1967) by John A. Lee
Digging Deeper--A Memoir of the Seventies (2011) by Peter Weissman,
Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker,
East of Eden (1952) by John Steinbeck,
Eugene Onegin (1825) by Alexander Pushkin,
Finnegans Wake (1939) by James Joyce,
Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley,
Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road (2002) by Neil Peart,
Have You Seen Me (2011) by Katherine Scott Nelson,
Hector (2009) by K.I. Hope,
High Albania (1909) by Edith Durham,
History: A Novel (1974) by Elsa Morante,
"I Am": The Selected Poetry of John Clare (2003, posthumous) by John Clare,
Independent People (1934) by Halldor Laxness,
Infinite Jest (1996) by David Foster Wallace,
Jennie (1950) by Paul Gallico,
Johnson's Dictionary: A Modern Selection (1755) by Samuel Johnson,
Kettle Bottom (2004) by Diane Gilliam Fisher,
Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) by D.H. Lawrence,
La-bas (1891) by Joris-Karl Huysmans,
Last Train from Gun Hill (1959) by John Sturges,
Les Miserables (1862) by Victor Hugo,
Let the Great World Spin (2009) by Colum McCann,
Magnus (2005) by Sylvie Germain,
Man in the Holocene (1979) by Max Frisch,
Memoirs of Hadrian (1951) by Marguerite Yourcenar,
Middlemarch (1874) by George Eliot,
Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) by Nathanael West,
Moby-Dick (1851) by Herman Melville,
My First Two Thousand Years (1928) by George Sylvester Viereck,
Nadja (1928) by Andre Breton,
Neighbors at War: The Creepy Case Against Your Homeowner's Association (2013) by Ward Lucas,
Nightwood (1936) by Djuna Barnes,
Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham,
Owen Wister Out West: His Journals and Letters (1958, posthumous) by Owen Wister,
Pincher Martin (1956) by William Golding,
Play It As It Lays (1970) by Joan Didion,
Published Poems: The Writing of Herman Melville, Volume 11 (2002, posthumous) by Herman Melville,
Sheep and Goat Medicine (2001) by D.G. Pugh, DVM, MS,
Star Maker (1937) by Olaf Stapledon,
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert Heinlein,
Suite Francaise (2004, posthumous) by Irene Nemirovsky,  
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) by Thomas Hardy,
The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) by Robert Burton,
The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History (1987) by Maria Rosa Menocal,
The Arcades Project (1927-40) by Walter Benjamin,
The Brothers Karamazov (1880) by Fyodor Dostoevsky,
The Double Tongue (1995) by William Golding,
The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast (2009) by Scott Coffel,
The Golden Notebook (1962) by Doris Lessing,
The Green Child (1935) by Herbert Read,
The High Life (1979) by Jean-Pierre Martinet,
The Hour of the Star (1977) by Clarice Lispector,
The Inarticulate Society: Eloquence and Culture in America (1995) by Tom Shachtman,
The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr (1819-21) by E.T.A. Hoffmann,
The Magic Mountain (1924) by Thomas Mann,
The Magus (1965, rev. 1977) by John Fowles,
The Master and Margarita (1966, posthumous) by Mikhail Bulgakov,
The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins,
The Odd Women (1893) by George Gissing,
The Poetics of Space (1958) by Gaston Bachelard,
The Poor Mouth (1941) by Flann O'Brien,
The Rebel Angels (1981) by Robertson Davies,
The Recognitions (1955) by William Gaddis,
The Sea (2005) by John Banville,
The Secret Agent (1907) by Joseph Conrad,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Things That Always Were (2013) by Solla Carrock,
The Things They Carried (1990) by Tim O'Brien,
The Virginian (1902) by Owen Wister,
Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe,
To the Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf,
Trainspotting (1993) by Irvine Welsh,
Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772) by Johann Gottfried Herder,
Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe (2005) by Doreen Baingana,
Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce,
Ursule Mirouet (1841) by Honore De Balzac,
We (1924) by Yevgeny Zamyatin.


published by Running Girl Press, 2015
What connects each book to the next are the readers who read and reviewed them. Readers like me, perhaps you, who've met other readers online and got down to discussing and dissecting (not out of some empty dissertational duty, but because they had to, for love) what they'd read and were inspired to write about in forum posts and threads. The best of what they'd read and reviewed were selected for publication in a fabulous book about fabulous books: A Fabulous Opera.  A Fabulous Opera was collectively authored, edited, and produced by a group of obsessed readers known as Tropic of Ideas, reader's whose mutually shared fervent mantra might be, "Give me literature, or give me death!"  Most of these readers, I might add, had never (and probably will never) meet together face to face, which only amplifies how deep their emotional bond over books goes.  You can buy their book (of which I contributed the preface and five of the more than 100 reviews) here at CreateSpace or wherever fine and/or fabulous books are sold.

So that's A Fabulous Opera, but Who or What is Tropic of Ideas?

Tropic of Ideas is any place, from any time, where memory or imagination or a combination of both have combusted and erupted out from under and become material mass. A Fabulous Opera is one such place happening right now.  The very writers whose brilliant books are reviewed in A Fabulous Opera, however, describe the idea of Tropic of Ideas with more eloquence:

"I dream about living on a beautiful tropical island that I have made out of nothing, as advertised." ~ Terese Svoboda, A Drink Called Paradise

"...do not weep, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it. If we would, we should have heaven on Earth tomorrow." ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." ~ Steinbeck, from this interview.

"Broad sun-stoned beaches.

White heat.
A green river.

A bridge,
scorched yellow palms

from the summer-sleeping house
drowsing through August.

Days I have held,
days I have lost,

days that outgrow, like daughters,
my harbouring arms." ~ Derek Walcott, Midsummer, Tobago

There are many many beaches, in fact, many bridges, virgin bays and busy harbours, as many islands and archipelagoes as there are days in the Tropics. Some are famous: Tahiti, Bora Bora, Peter Matthiessen's Grand Cayman, the mythological seascape for "Far Tortuga," Barbados, Fiji, Martinique. . . Days there last forever. Exquisite destinations, all. Other tropic enclaves remain unknown, elusive as pirate's sunken gold. . .  Sao Tome & Principe, for instance, rarely receive 100 visitors in a year. Not many more travelers frequent the forgotten and exotic isles of Ascencion, Tuvalu, and Chuuk.

The diverse myriad of tropical islands comprising Books and Literature are much the same. Great Expectations, War and Peace, Remembrance of Things Past, Wuthering Heights or, any novel by, say, Jane Austen or Henry James, might as well be ... Waikiki. Arguably the Tropics' most classic destination: Heavily trodden but lush and revered. And rightly not to be missed by anyone who wishes to experience those popular pages.

While always amenable to Waikiki and other Hawaiian Islands of World Literature, Tropic of Ideas prefers those keys and hideout-reefs not already shipwrecked by Hyatts and Hiltons, tempting though they be. Tropic of Ideas' citizens prefer survivor-type atolls unlisted in travel guides, Carnival Cruises, or Google; but instead, chooses sandbars happened upon by pure chance -- by the sea's serendipity -- rather than current itineraries; books for intrepid, eccentric Readers, for Certifiable Bibliophiles (even sultry BiblioBimbos) committed in their "gentle madness" not merely to asylums, but to salvaging and restoring rare tomes into a dialogue with popular culture.

Welcome to the solitude and simplicity of lapping wavelets and trade winds. Recline with that book or breeze in our scattered hammocks hung from palms. Sip a fresh coconut spiked with rum. Regardless what shackle, imagined or real, has perchance immobilized you in this or that cage the great Gaddis called a cubicle, may Books and Literature release your liberation even while you're chained.


Buy A Fabulous Opera by Tropic of Ideas