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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Literally Memeing

The Hoyden About Town has challenged me to a book meme. Like my sister in cheesy SciFi appreciation, I only rarely do memes, but book memes? Darn their sinister attraction. Here goes:

1. One book you have read more than once
Just one? I am big on rereading my favorites. In fact, one of the most likely things about a book that makes it likely to make it into my "To Be Reread" rotation is its ability to engage me so thoroughly that I genuinely believe that it might turn out differently this time. Mason might not show up and halt the wedding; Jo might not break Laurie's heart, leaving him vulnerable to the odious, social-climbing Amy; Polly might not do the spell and open herself to Laurel's attack, etc., etc.

Given that rereading is standard operating procedure at Telecommuniculturey, I'll pick the most recent and most obsessive rereading: After seeing Miyazaki's film version of Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle in the theater last year, I picked up the book and reread it all the way through twice, back-to-back. As Tig noted, it's partly about appreciating the art and craft of writing, but with my favorite authors, it's also about returning to the emotional place that the story takes me.

2. One book you would want on a desert island
Oh heavens, I'd want something large with which to bludgeon myself to death. All that sun and sand would be torture of the worst kind for me. But taking the question for its metaphorical intent, I think I would want Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy (Sabriel; Lirael; and Abhorsen) with me. It's something I've discovered recently enough that I'm only making a beginning at exploring the universe in which its set and the characters on the canvas. I could while away lots of hours unearthing new things in it.

3. One book that made you laugh
I wanted to go in two different directions here, the memoir route and the fiction route. On the memoir side, we have David Friedman's Youth in Babylon (about his days traveling around the country on the exploitation film circuit) and Bruce Campbell's If Chins Could Kill. As a recovering film/theater production addict, I'm a sucker for incredulous insider looks at "The Biz," although they do tend to generate more "hysterical" laughter than "ha ha" laughter.

On the fiction side, I have to say Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume. I am not in the least religious, but when I think of the bits of Song of Songs and Psalms that talk about making joyful noise and shouts of joyous laughter, etc., I connect that feeling with first picking up Robbins. Of course Robbins is frequently funny, but just his use of language can cause laughter to bubble up in me.

4. One book that made you cry
Almost everything by Ann Patchett makes me cry at some point, but I'll pick Bel Canto for moving me to tears in a variety of ways. Like all her work, it's so suffused with love of different kinds, but in Bel Canto the ways in which passion for art blends with erotic love and both loop back on themselves, creating a common human ground . . . it's just powerful and incredibly moving to me. If I hadn't read Bel Canto, I can't imagine how much poorer my experience of opera in general and Fidelio (see also Fidelio II: Electric Boogaloo) in particular would have been. For as much as I overexamine and intellectualize opera and theater after the fact, I am an emotional mess in the moment. Patchett gets that.

5. One book you wish you had written
I'll cheat again and go with Jean Webster's paired epistolary novels, Daddy Long-Legs and Dear Enemy. Social and political progressivism (bordering on radicalism) geared toward children/young adults? Sign me up. The more I learn about Webster, the more I mourn her death at such a young age.

6. One book you wish had never been written
Just one? Oh, I'm overthinking this. I want something high impact that's all hoity toity and changed our world for the worse, but my innately shallow nature keeps vomiting up things like The Horse Whisperer and Bridges of Madison County. I'll go for the semi-shallow middle ground: I wish that something dire had happened to Daniel Boorstein in childhood that prevented him from
writing his punkass, patriarchal, Eurocentric-to-the-point-of-anachronism stuff on the New World.

7. One book you are currently reading
For pleasure, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I think is a tremendous accomplishment for a first novel. However, for her second, I hope that Susanna Clarke has an editor who will ride herd on her a bit.

For work, I'm reading The Spatial Organisation of Culture, collection of articles from 1978 when postprocessual archaeology was Teh N3W H0tn355.

8. One book you have been meaning to read
Both Finnegans Wake and Ulysses (I'm about 1/3 of the way throug it) have been giving me the hairy eyeball for a long while now. Realistically, I don't have the time for the single-minded attention I want to give them and won't until I have a real, grown-up job.

I'd give a more realistic answer, but I note with some alarm that Amazon seems to have lost the bulk of my wish list and is showing only a cookbook and the 21 Jump Street DVD sets (let no one ever say I am too pompous to disclose my guilty pleasures).

9. One Book That Changed Your Life
My science brain and my art brain demand equal representation, so prepare for cheating.

On the science/professional side, Mike Moseley's The Incas and their Ancestors. This is less because it's a great book (although I'm not knocking it) and more because it was the text for my Andean Prehistory course in college. That course was a blaze of defining moments for me: I had to do bioarchaeology, and it had to be in the Andes.

On the art brain, writer wannabe side, Joyce's Dubliners. I have a terrible affliction for a professional academic and one that is fatal to my aspirations to writing: I cannot bear to read aything I have written. I die one thousand deaths at how tortured and artificial it is. To me, Joyce writes in the presocialized moment---the moment before mental filters and affectations can touch the words. Reading Joyce permanently and radically changed the way I view not just writing, but the whole world.

10. Now tag five people
This is likely futile, as this blog is extremely low profile, but my dream responders would be:
Rhys, Rob, or both over at Literally Blogging
My good pal Chicagowench, because we actually don't talk about writing or literature much, oddly enough. Probably because we are too busy trying to permanently scar one another's brains and corrupt her child.
Misha at Hippo Dignity because her flexing her Lit Maven muscles is just H0t.
Ms. Trissel, who has been so crucial to my literary development over the last 5 (five?!) years.
Ms. E. E. Miny Moe, library goddess of the Northeast.

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