Favourite books of Claire Danes

Claire Danes

I haven't lost myself in a book in a while — I've been in a bit of a dry spell. I usually get books from friends whose taste I trust, and my dad did give me a subscription to the New York Review of Books this year. He likes it and thought I would, too. He's a voracious reader. I have friends who read entire novels in the bath, and I'm not like that — I don't zip through books. But I invest in them completely. And I'm very interested in intimacy — how people relate to each other, what the inherent limitations are of choosing to love someone, and how we are very limited, actually, in our efforts to escape our loneliness. I think there is a strong sense of loneliness in all the stories I've picked. They're full of people who feel a bit abandoned. I don't know why I am drawn to that, but I am.
Claire Danes, about reading

Claire Danes is an American actress, who first came to prominence with her role as Angela Chase in the 1994 series My So-Called Life. The role won her the first of four Golden Globe Awards.

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Favorite books of Claire Catherine Danes:

Deception by Philip Roth

Claire Danes recommends Deception

What struck me about this novel, which is the story of an affair between two people, is the unusual way Roth tells the story — devoid of any description, stripped down to the dialogue alone. At times you aren't clear on who is speaking. His male characters are all so unsympathetic, brutal even, but vivid and charismatic and engaging. I don't necessarily like them, but I feel intimate with them. That's quite an achievement.

A famous writer, named Philip, and his mistress meet in a room without a bed. They talk, they play games with each other, they have sex, they tell lies. DECEPTION, Philip Roth's most poignant and provocative work since Portnoy's Complaint, explores adultery and the unmasking of illicit lovers in a novel that exposes the tenderness and uncertainty underlying all affairs of the heart.

Light Years by James Salter

Claire Danes recommends Light Years

A friend gave this book to me, and I was just so struck by how beautifully the sentences were designed. The narrative is meditative and poetic. It seems a very accurate telling of what it is to be married — that is, for a fairly privileged white person to be married. At moments I would just stop, amazed by how elegant Salter's prose is and how carefully he portrayed the inner lives of these people. The characters are estranged from each other, and I think maybe Salter is saying that it's impossible to ever know somebody — that we can't fully connect: As much as we struggle to and want to, it's not entirely possible.

This exquisite, resonant novel by PEN/Faulkner winner James Salter is a brilliant portrait of a marriage by a contemporary American master. It is the story of Nedra and Viri, whose favored life is centered around dinners, ingenious games with their children, enviable friends, and near-perfect days passed skating on a frozen river or sunning on the beach. But even as he lingers over the surface of their marriage, Salter lets us see the fine cracks that are spreading through it, flaws that will eventually mar the lovely picture beyond repair. Seductive, witty, and elegantly nuanced, Light Years is a classic novel of an entire generation that discovered the limits of its own happinessand then felt compelled to destroy it.

[talking specifically about "Hills Like White Elephants"] Like the Roth novel, this short story contains some of the most exquisite dialogue I've ever read. It's only four pages, covering about 45 minutes, as a couple waits for a train in Spain. You come to realize that they're talking about her having an abortion. Actually, they never speak about it overtly, but their story is just heartbreaking. Again, it's about people who are recognizing the distance between them. It's a very appealing story for an actor because drama exists in what's not spoken.

This stunning collection of short stories by Nobel Prizewinning author, Ernest Hemingway, contains a lifetime of workranging from fan favorites to several stories only available in this compilation. In this definitive collection of short stories, you will delight in Ernest Hemingway's most beloved classics such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Hills Like White Elephants, and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, and discover seven new tales published for the first time in this collection. For Hemingway fans The Complete Short Stories is an invaluable treasury.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Claire Danes recommends A Single Man

I discovered Christopher Isherwood in college. His writing style is so direct, warm, and inclusive. There's one passage in this book, published in 1964, that has really stayed with me — the description of America. The narrator is a British man teaching at a California college. He and a few colleagues are having a conversation, and an American woman is saying how romantic Mexico is. She's critical of America. The protagonist argues with her, talking about the virtues of the United States. He says that its beauty is in its abstraction. I thought that was an amazing insight — possibly true and compelling at least.

Welcome to sunny suburban 1960s Southern California. George is a gay middle-aged English professor, adjusting to solitude after the tragic death of his young partner. He is determined to persist in the routines of his former life. A Single Man follows him over the course of an ordinary twenty-four hours. Behind his British reserve, tides of grief, rage, and loneliness surge--but what is revealed is a man who loves being alive despite all the everyday injustices. When Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity. Isherwood's favorite of his own novels, it now stands as a classic lyric meditation on life as an outsider.

Anagrams by Lorrie Moore

Claire Danes recommends Anagrams

Moore is completely unsentimental but able to stir enormous feelings in the reader, or, certainly, in me. Her style is so original: The way this book is structured, the narrative is like an anagram. It begins with Benna, a singer, and her neighbor Gerard. The characters in each succeeding chapter have the same names, but they're different people. In one, she's a schoolteacher and he's a graduate student. I've never read a book where the identity is the same but always changing.

Gerard sits, fully clothed, in his empty bathtub and pines for Benna. Neighbors in the same apartment building, they share a wall and Gerard listens for the sound of her toilet flushing. Gerard loves Benna. And then Benna loves Gerard. She listens to him play piano, she teaches poetry and sings at nightclubs. As their relationships ebbs and flows, through reality and imagination, Lorrie Moore paints a captivating, innovative portrait of men and women in love and not in love. The first novel from a master of contemporary American fiction, Anagrams is a revelatory tale of love gained and lost.

This is a kind of Alice In Wonderland premise: A man is looking for a cat. Murakami describes these banal domestic experiences, but, cumulatively, he spins an outrageous, trippy story. That's a kind of magic — to make the magical seem ordinary and vice versa. It's such a tender story, his search for the cat and, by extension, a life. That one task leads him on a labyrinthine journey.

Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II. In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria. Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.

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