Desert Island Books: Tad Williams

I am assuming (perhaps erroneously) that the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare are provided, as in the radio program. If not, I'm afraid I would have to select them as two of my five (I've always wanted to sit down and just read the Bible, since I come from an agnostic family and was never really catechised with it as a child).

So, I’m afraid it’s seven books for me. If that’s cheating, I expect you to inform the proper maritime authorities.

First off, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, which always benefits from re-reading, and which had enough little puzzles and deep-construction games in it to keep it fresh through several visits. Plus, I just think it’s an amazing book.

Ten years ago, I would have selected The Lord of the Rings, but since I have re-read it once or twice since then, I think I’m rather surfeited with it. Still, I might want it again after a suitable amount of desert-island-dry-dock time had passed. Hmmm. I’ll come back to that.

My definite second would be the Complete Works of W. B. Yeats. Not only do I find his poetry consistently both challenging and comforting (an unusual combination), but I think the dank woodsy, Celtic twilight air of his work might prove a welcome change from the sand and sun I will be getting thoroughly sick of fairly soon.

Still haven’t decided on Tolkien yet. Competing with him for a roster spot are White’s The Once and Future King and Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. I would hate to leave one and leave the others behind.

Also scrambling for position here are Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius books, which I’ve never felt I had the time to read with proper attention, in some kind of sequence. Perhaps a desert island would be a good place to start a serious re-reading.

What else? I love the recently late Anthony Burgess, but none of his single works, except just perhaps his Enderby books, seem like the kind of meaty, read-over-and-over stuff I’d want with me. Same thing with Evelyn Waugh, another favourite of mine. Robert Graves’ Claudius books and Gore Vidal’s Creation are too recently re-read, but. Like LOTR, they may tug at me after I’ve left them behind.

Hmmm. (Again.) I think one of the big Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythologies (or something even more comprehensive, if I’m allowed a chance to shop before being cast away) will have to go with me. That’ll enable me to double-check some of the Yeats references, and also to really study up on Slavic myth. And a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as well. So what is that… four definite?

Last book. Well, I think I’ll leave out Moby Dick (I was tempted, but let’s face it, there’s just too damned much seawater in that book for someone who’s going to be surrounded by the stuff) and take Homer. Can I count Iliad and Odyssey as one book? There’s a lot of ocean in those too, but the Aegean and Mediterranean seem less depressing than the Atlantic off New England.

Picking a single record is hard indeed. I can imagine getting heartily sick of any of my favourites, which include ‘Sergeant Pepper’, Hendrix’s ‘Electric Ladyland’, and The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’. Just find me a good album of Mozart lieder (there’s a lovely double album with Bernard Klee singing on one disc and Edith Mathis on the other, but I’m damned if I remember the name) and I guess that’ll do.

A single useless item? Probably my cat Henry, or a dog. (My current dog, living with my parents in America, is getting on in age and might not do too well, but if she could be guaranteed a few good years I’d take her.) There is nothing as useless as my pets, I promise you.

Tad Williams is the best-selling author of the Memory, Thorn and Sorrow sequence of books: The Dragonbone Chair, The Stone of Farewell and To Green Angel Tower (available in paperback as two volumes: Siege and Storm), as well as the illustrated novella Caliban’s Hour and the Otherland series.

© Tad Williams. Taken from The Best of Prism UK (The BFS Newsletter), published for the World Fantasy Convention 1997, ed. David J Howe; reprinting material from Prism UK – Editor: Debbie Bennett, Commissioning Editor: David J. Howe.