I almost skipped the "Celebrity book club" article in Sunday's Daily News that asked and odd assortment of talent to talk about the book they are currently reading.
You know, anyone could predict that Cassandra Wilson was reading "technical books filled with dense language only Bill Gates could love" or that Shia Labeouf was into "The Definitive Book of Body Language," but I was nicely surprised to learn that Jason Lee was reading Knut Hamsun's "Hunger," one of chuckling's favorite books by one of chuckling's favorite authors.
Lee, who stars in "My Name is Earl" a show I've never seen, had this to say about one of the greatest books of all time:
"It's about how to cross your legs when you're lying. How to scratch your face when you're scared. I want to be a better actor."
Ooops that was Labeouf. What he really said was:
I talk about this book a lot. It makes it seem like the only book I ever read. It's 'Hunger'; I'm on my second pass. I've never been so riveted by something that has nothing going on. It's just absolutely so well-written. Unbelievable. You find yourself going, 'What's going to happen? What's going to happen? What's going to happen?' Oh, my God. And you really feel the pain of the guy. It absolutely makes me look at [homeless] people I see in downtown L.A. in a different light."
Sometimes, karma needs you to show a little humility in order to do its work.
The chuckling character, you may be surprised to learn is loosely based on the narrator of "Hunger" and the main characters in Hamsun's next two books. One of the site's running jokes, the 13 part philosophical treatise on the films of Studio Ghibli, is my little homage to "Hunger."
Wikipedia describes the novel:
It recounts the adventures of a starving young man, whose sense of reality is giving way to a delusionary existence on the darker side of a modern metropolis. While he vainly tries to maintain an outer shell of respectability, his mental and physical decay are recounted in detail. His ordeal, enhanced by his inability or unwillingness to pursue a professional career, which he deems unfit for someone of his abilities, is pictured in a series of encounters, which Hamsun himself has described as 'a series of analyses'.
Yep, that's poor chuckling in a nutshell, though the starving part was a long time ago on the darker side of a modern metropolis far, far away.
But plenty of books by famous authors describe poor chuckling. Hamsun's writing is extraordinary and that's why you should read him. Reading "Hunger," "Mysteries" and "Pan" is an incredible literary experience. "Pan" comes about as close as possible to being a perfect novel.