tagged me for a book meme. I don’t usually do these blog memes, but Morgan knows me well enough to know I’m unlikely to resist a chance to jaw about books.
1. One book you have read more than once
I love rereading my favorite novels. As I read more and learn more about writing, I spot more ways that the authors have set their characters and plots up to bring about the satisfying denouement or the situation requiring the perfect one-liner, and I like that I can spot that now.
Some people find an appreciation of the nuts and bolts limits their suspension of disbelief – I find that only if the book has been badly written, when a particularly clunky piece of exposition or plot-hustling can wrench one out of the bookworld. Knowing more about the authorial toolbox enhances the pleasure of a well-written piece, for me at least.
The novel I keep rereading several times a year is Jane Austen’s gem Pride and Prejudice, the play I keep rereading is Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and the non-fiction is Carl Sagan’s paean to skepticism, The Demon-Haunted World.
2. One book you would want on a desert island
I’m torn between the eminent practicality of
the SAS Survival Handbook
, and something magnificently escapist to while away the waiting hours. It’s an awfully long time since my childhood bushwalking years, and while I’m reasonably confident of my wilderness skills a reference book of the basics would still be handy. However, a desert island – what am I going to need? Water supply, a knife to harvest fruits etc, a shelter from the sun, and a fishing net of some kind. Maybe I would really need a book to keep me sane after getting the necessaries out of the way and settling down for the wait for rescue.
If we’re going to go for fantasy, I’m going to get greedy and want an omnibus edition of the collected works of Ursula LeGuin (I’ve just picked up a secondhand omnibus of the first four Earthsea books for the tigling to read – she’s busy on something else at the moment, so I might grab the chance to reread them myself while I’m battling this headcold)
3. One book that made you laugh
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Crivens! I love his entire ouevre, natch, and I particularly enjoy watching how an author who averages just over a book per year for 20 years develops his skills from facile parody to sublime satire over the years. I reread my Pratchetts often.
4. One book that made you cry
Only one? I finally this year got around to reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Her beautiful evocation of a young child learning just how awful the world can be behind the civilised facade, and who her father is besides just being Dad, and written for those of us who are aware of the US civil rights battles in a way that Scout and Atticus can’t know. Many tearing-up moments there. Amazing stuff, and why did she never write another novel?
5. One book you wish you had written
I, Claudius. The foundational conceit of the book is brilliant, and how he makes the characters even more poisonous and aggrandising than salacious Suetonius and priggish Tacitus do at their worst is fabulous.
6. One book you wish had never been written
7. One book you are currently reading
Just finished rereading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsdawn. A bit of comfort reading while I’ve got the cold. It’s one of the later ones, long past her best, when she was getting a bit mechanical about filling in gaps in the Pernese timescale with yet another book just because she knew that Pern would always sell. Still, I really do love her dragons.
8. One book you have been meaning to read
, by VladimirNabakov. I’ve read a lot of people recently pointing out how perfectly Nabakov skewers the oversexualisation of young girls by showing both Humbert Humbert and Lolita to end up as hollow shells. I’m intrigued by the idea that it’s not just the perverted wankfest I’ve always heard implied, so I’m going to give it a go.
And on the 1st September, I’ll start reading Patrick White’s The Vivisector with the other members and lurkers at the Patrick White Reader’s Group Blog.
9. One Book That Changed Your Life
I wish I knew the name now, but I don’t. In Year 9 French, I had to do an assignment on a person from French history. I was away the day the assignment was given, and all the rest of the class took the obvious candidates. My teacher gave me Cardinal Richelieu, whom I had always assumed was entirely fictional. I borrowed three books on his life from the library and read them all.
It was a revelation: they all agreed on the basics of dates, places and major events, but the interpretation and tone of the books was so different! Yet they were all supposed to be history, based on fact – how could one write of Richelieu as a great reformer and another write of him as a reactionary whose restructuring of French legislature and taxation to bolster the monarchy led directly to the bloodbath of the Revolution? And why did none of them think the royalty and aristocrats written of by Dumas in his Musketeer books were romantically noble and wonderful at all? I never looked at my nana’s Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy books the same way again.
10. Now tag five people
Brooklynite: enough with the cute kid, dammit. Renovation can’t possibly be all that time-consuming either. Thesis to edit? – pishposh. Feed me book titles!
Matilda T. Zombie Queen: because she’s more up-to-date with SF than I am, and ghoulish too.
Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony
: Helen seems to read lots of things I don’t (yet) and that’s cool.
Don Quixote of Silent Speaking: he’s spending too much time out and about with that cameraphone, and some inside bookthinking time will do him good.
BiblioBillaBong‘s Ron: I should tag at least one actual book blogger, yes?
Categories: arts & entertainment