What are your "50 Books That Are Books"?
Time is cruel because it reduces you to your essence.
Ben Hecht was, essentially, the man who wrote the screenplays for several fast-talking Hollywood masterpieces about urban life, one of which - His Girl Friday - is a cult movie for everyone who practises or aspires to practise the profession of journalism.
But there was depth to Hecht: he wrote novels; he was a news reporter in the bleak Germany of 1919-21; he - like Runyon - sought out and knew the low-life people of his age; he supported the Irgun against the Brits in Palestine; he wrote a musical with Kurt Weill.
One other thing he did was write an article called "Fifty Books That Are Books", in which without visiting his own bookshelves, he sat down at a typewriter and listed the 50 books you should have in a library if that was all you were allowed.
In the spirit of Christmas and all the other holidays I propose to Idle Scrawl's readers that they post their own, following the style of Hecht, here, in the Comments.
The key is to do it from memory - in the name of which I offer you this from the 1910 newspaper column by Hecht about Christmas/Channukah in Chicago:
"We once lived in a world of toys. In a world of adventure. In a world of strange
thoughts and weird imaginings. Adventure, thoughts and imaginings were toys like these. Yes, these toys have souls because we remember that they meant
something, were something.
What is it they meant and were?
But we've forgotten that. Almost. And the crowd of men and women shuffle up and down the aisles and down the streets outside. The holidays bring them all an identical gift. The holidays bring them the gift of memory."
So: post your 50 book comments. I will try and compile a list of the most commonly chosen on Christmas Eve so anybody bored enough to be reading then can download it. The only rule is that like Hecht you cannot consult your shelves or the internet.