When Roseanne Cash was eighteen, her famous father gave her a list. It contained the 100 songs that he thought she should know if she was going to make it in the music business. More importantly, the songs meant something to him personally, so he wanted her to know about them. They included an array of gospel, country, folk, blues, and traditional tunes. At least that’s what Roseanne says. She’s only divulged 12 of them so far.
She calls them her “personal legacy.” I love what she has to say about “the list” being part of her geneology, as if these songs are embedded in her actual DNA. I’ve uploaded an interview that she did wtih Terry Gross on NPR. It’s one of my favorite interviews ever.
And here’s the link:
At any rate, Roseanne’s list has made me think about what books would comprise my own list. Which ones, I wondered, make up my own DNA, those stories that have not only influenced my writing, but that live within the heart of every tale I’ve ever told?
So, one of the things that I’m doing for my sons this Christmas is to give them my list. One hundred books. You might think that’s a large number, but once you start writing down titles, you’ll be surprised by how many pop up as you go. One title begats another begats another. Soon, if you’re like me, you’ll discover that you’re making choices, asking which books get to stay on the list and which ones have to go.
Unlike Johnny, I have no idea whether my sons will follow me into the writing business like his daughter followed him. But it doesn’t matter. What I hope is that my sons will know something about themselves via these books, just as Roseanne learned something about herself via her dad’s list, because it makes sense to me that what we pass along is more than chemistry and physics.
Something else…I considered trying to find double copies of all 100 books to give to them, along with the list, but then I realized that finding the books was part of the experience. Nowadays, they’re relatively easy to locate thanks to on-line resellers, but not always. My hope is that they’ll find themselves at a library or a used book store or maybe even a neighborhood yard sale, and there will be one of the titles, but next to it will be something rare and wonderful that is not on the list. And that will be for them to pass along to my grandchildren . . . someday. A girl can wish, right?
Calloo, callay, my homies!