Money these days is tizz-ite and paying for a lasses drink at some over-priced trendy bar seems out of reach. So if $15 martinis and a night of debauchery won’t entice the lady of your temperamental dreams, you may have to use charm and good old fashioned wit to win her over. I’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of novels any self-respecting scallywag ought to familiarize themselves with in order to break the ice with those whose frosty exteriors are worth breaching. (Although I wouldn’t take dating advice from Patrick Bateman myself, maybe just use #10 on the list as a cautionary tale, of when Keepin’ it Insane, goes thoroughly wrong).
1. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann, 1966
A personal favorite filled with more sex, scandal betrayal, pills!pills!pills! and bitch-slapping than any soap dish can deliver (did I mention the deliciously schemey sex?) It follows the lives of three women post WWII trying to make it in Hollywood. With the creation and destruction of these lives, Jacqueline Susann doesn’t pull any punches with an almost exploitive look at female stereotypes and the failures most wide-eyed girls go through when introduced to the seedy underbelly of the entertainment industry. Add vicodine, pink champagne and you’ve got yourself the ultimate girls’ night in. Jammies optional.
2. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, 1940
Personally, I’ll take any excuse to be influenced by Ernie. The obsession with bull fighting, the shot guns, the exotic skins of animals hunted down on safari, the thick knitted fisherman’s sweaters and that sobering psychotic glint in the old man’s eye, I’m sold. The novel deals with the Spanish Civil War, and is largely based on Hemingway’s own experiences in Spain. Hemingway is pretty bad-ass and this is his most critically acclaimed book as he looms over the reader in his prose, translating Spanish into English to create an atmosphere you can taste on this tip of your tongue. No Scallywag is complete without having read Hemingway.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
A fitting read for recessionary times, the excess, the glamour, the beauty and chaos of deconstructing a well-crafted American Dream, it will remind you of all the things you no longer have access to, you know, like that mansion in the East Hamptons. Plus there’s nothing sexier than a bearded twenty-something in a crisp white tennis sweater, wasting the day away in Central Park, reading Fitzgerald. (Speaking of which, as a side note to scallywags, we really should be bringing uptight 1920s leisure tennis style back with a Charleston shakin’ vengeance.)
4. The Delta of Venus & Little Birds by Anais Nin, published 1978 and 1979, respectively (written in 1940).
Anais Nin was strapped for cash and created these erotic exploits, caricatures of human beings she called them, for a dollar a page to someone she referred to as “the collector”. She is the first and finest female writer of erotica, and while you’re friends are happily gallivanting in the spring sun, you can smirk under your breath because you’ve just read a fascinating story about bestiality.
5. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, 1915
An honest, true depiction of a young man’s life, minus the flowery language and thesaurus-talk you get with most authors. Touching without being reduced to a Hallmark card, I love books that display human failings and shortcomings in a frank and blunt manner, without trying to make a martyr out of characters, and Maugham succeeds in every respect. A book you’ll read in one sitting. And then you’ll read it over and over again.
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884
A book by one of America’s most important commentators, it is written as a satirical expose, following two boys down the Mississippi river, dissecting a time in the U.S. marked by racism that is still relevant to this day. The wittiest thinker I have ever read, and with that I leave you with a quote. If you still have doubts whether or not to pick up his writing, there is not writing out there for you. “ I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a man should challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him.” Mark Twain
7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, 1984
For the jaded Scallywag: Einmal ist keinmal. In this book, Kundera explores Nietzsche’s theory of eternal return but with his own spin. The point is there is no point. We only live once, so everything is insignificant. While you’re love-struck friends are intoxicated on their newfound relationships, drinking from the cup of Venus herself, you may as well go out and score some one-night stands, because in the end, we’ll all die. Old. Alone. So you might as well get laid while you can still get it up. (At least according to Milan.)
8. As I Lay Dying By William Faulkner, 1930
15 different viewpoints in 59 chapters are presented in one of the most influential books of the 20th century, a masterpiece Faulkner managed to pen in just six weeks. The matriarch of a family passes away and the remaining clan return her body back home to Jefferson MS, each with a varying take on the events and journey, written in a stream of consciousness style. In 1962, The New York Times wrote of the author upon his death “Mr. Faulkner’s writings showed an obsession with murder, rape, incest, suicide, greed and general depravity that did not exist anywhere but in the author’s mind.” Word.
9. Women, Charles Bukowski, 1978
So I bet you like Californication, and I bet there isn’t one man in the world that has seen the show and doesn’t one way or another admire Hank Moody. There are very few like him, despite the fact that most want to relate to him, and the character is based on Henry Chinaski in Bukowski’s Women. Life as a revolving door of women & booze, from the perspective of a celebrated writer, may only be temporary fulfilment, but the read is more satisfying than any evening in front of the boob tube, no matter who David Duchovny is playing.
10. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis,
The super rich? Check. Drug-laced nights of murder? Check. Chiselled cheek-bones and Oliver Peoples glasses? Check, check and check. This book seems fitting more than ever: as the Wall Street bigwigs get their panties into twists over the recession, Bret Easton Ellis paints a wonderfully sadistic picture of just such a Type A persona in the 80s. And let me tell you, it doesn’t end well. I read this book, and held myself, whimpering in a fetal position for hours on end afterward. It gets better than this, right? They live happily ever after, right? Not if we’ve got lads like Patrick Bateman at the helm.