A library is a gentleman’s hideaway from the world, the sanctuary from in-house disputes and a place for free thought. Within it he can do what he wants; learn the Saxophone, commence a novel or even install a 12 x 6 ft Snooker table, it doesn’t matter. It is his. Often though, a gentleman’s library will be full of literature that has been underhandedly recommended by friends, taken from a Grandfather’s storage box or suggested by Google’s People also searched for...
We believe that 11 times out of 10 the best recommendations come from those who know. So we’ve gone out of our way to help you, our reader, build a library of the best literature ever written, by interviewing those who really do know.
This week we spoke to renowned author, television personality and columnist Will Self on his pick of the top 10 novels that he believes every gentleman should have in his library:
‘THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY’ – PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
One of the earliest and the best of the psychopath-as-hero novels. Tom Ripley is insecure and murders in order to climb socially. His taste in wine, tailoring and painting should be studied by every aspirant gentleman – as should his killing technique.
‘A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU’ – MARCEL PROUST
Marcel Proust’s sublime portrait of fin-de-siecle Parisian high society; a must for an understanding of the infinitely fine grain of snobbery – also something of a soap opera if you read it fast enough. For those unable to make it through the whole 1,500 pages, the film adaptation by Volker Schlondorff is an acceptable substitution, especially the scene where Ornella Mutti (as Odette de Crecy) is dressed by her maid. Yummy.
‘ULYSSES’ – JAMES JOYCE
The tale of two peripatetics: a shabby-genteel supply teacher and an ad’ space salesman wandering the streets of Dublin in the early 1900s. There isn’t a gentleman in this novel – the finest written in the English language ever – and that alone is a good reason for soi-disante ‘gentlemen’ to read it… and marvel.
‘A REBOURS’ – J-K HUYSMANN
J-K Huysmann’s account of a decadent aristocrat going mad in his Parisian mansion as he tries to live a wholly artificial life – essential reading for aspirant decadent aristocrats if they want to avoid the pitfalls.
‘THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY’ – OSCAR WILDE
Wilde’s book was influenced by Huysmann’s (sections of A Rebours were read out at Wilde’s trial), and despite being a blatant crib and full of purple passages it has become the most influential of modern fairytales, ever alerting us to the price we pay when we pursue style in lieu of substance…
‘DORIAN: AN IMITATION’ – WILL SELF
Self’s book was heavily influenced by Wilde’s – but in my opinion this updating of the tale is far darker, funnier and better. It contains the sublime line: ‘An English gentleman never shines his shoes – but then nor does a lazy c**t.’
‘THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF TRISTRAM SHANDY, GENTLEMAN’ – LAURENCE STERNE
‘THE STEPPENWOLF’ – HERMAN HESSE
A gentleman of independent means is bothered by existential questions. Gripping stuff.
‘DEATH IN VENICE’ – THOMAS MANN
A repressed homosexual gentleman endures a silent and unrequited passion for a young boy while staying at a Venetian hotel during plague season. Gentlemen will enjoy this famous novella for its lavish descriptions of hotel lobbies, hallways and reception rooms – just the sort of places where gentlemen hang out.
‘THE GREAT GATSBY’ – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
A sort of cautionary tale, really, reminding people not to get above themselves.*
This article featured in The Gentleman’s Journal [26.05.2015]