Thursday, August 17, 2006

Butterfly in the sky...

I've been tagged by my blogopal Ted at The Gideonse Bible to join in the meme-a-go-round that is the following survey. I like this survey so much that I'll let the Fosco persona recede a little (otherwise it would all be so... meta) and offer some answers...

1. One book you have read more than once:

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald. I read this book at least once a year. It is extremely short and entirely brilliant. I actually find my attraction to this novel to be somewhat peculiar as I've never read any poetry by Novalis and don't really care about German literature. And yet, this novel very gently produces in me a whole range of delicate and specific emotions. This is a very strange novel and a very beautiful one.

2. One book you would want on a desert island:

If I were going to be there a while, I would need an extremely well-constructed text--a work full of games, wordplay, codes, and jokes. At the same time, I would want this novel to be emotionally convincing. Of course, I am talking about Lolita--the annotated version would be preferable...

Although, wouldn't it be fun to be stranded with only Robinson Crusoe?

3. One book that made you laugh:

Since I don't want to turn this list into the Lolita show, I'll choose something else. The book that I most recently read aloud sections in order to elicit laughter from friends/lovers is Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's Humor Category. I still regularly quote from the list of Cancelled Regional Morning TV Shows.

4. One book that made you cry:

Several books have made me tear up, especially when it comes to the the final pages: Lolita (aurochs and angels... sigh), A Tale of Two Cities (so beloved that it is currently hanging over my desk), or Villette (by far the best Bronte novel).

But when it comes to full-on bawling, there is one literary work that does it to me like no other: the Truman Capote short story, "A Christmas Memory." Why? I'm not sure. I don't think it's a particularly great story (and I don't care that much for Capote generally); however, it just manages to push all of my sentimental buttons. Actually, it's pretty manipulative. But I still cry every time I read it.

5. One book you wish you had written:

Once again, bracketing Lolita, I would love to have written Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. In my opinion, it's Pynchon's best work, but it's generally underrated (and under-read)--probably because of it's length and difficulty. But don't be discouraged--once you habituate to the dialect and orthography, the novel is extremely funny and moving.

6. One book you wish had never been written:

The correct answer, by far, is The Bible; however, it's not a very interesting answer. So I'll change the rules a bit and go with two books that I wish had never been written. In which the case, the answer is 1. The Bible and 2. The Lord of the Rings. (I guess I'm bending the rules a bit more by including a trilogy...). Now while it is true that Lord of the Rings isn't responsible for as much evil as is the Bible, it is responsible (entirely or in large part) for other execrable things, such as:

I also see the LotR as a symptom of a larger problem in American culture--the fact that most college-educated adults (based on their preferences listed on MySpace, Friendster, personal ads, etc.) identify as their favorite books novels that were written for thirteen-year-olds. Think about it: Lord of the Rings, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harry Potter, The Princess Bride. Have any of these college-educated adults read a novel since junior high?

Which is not to say that some of these books aren't quite good. I enjoy reading each installment of Harry Potter. And should I ever have a precocious niece, I plan to gift her "To Kill A Mockingbird." I even think LotR can be an enjoyable read for a weekend when you want to feel like a kid again (just skip the damn poetry). But come on people, hasn't your worldview gotten a little more complex since you read those books?

7. One book you are currently reading:

I'll bracket school-related books (like The Politics and Poetics of Transgression or Apartment Stories) and admit that I am currently stalled in the middle of Christopher Sorrentino's National Book Award Finalist Trance.

8. One book you've been meaning to read:

Dare I admit that I haven't read... Ulysses?

9. One book that changed your life:

The novel Middlemarch is a very beautiful, very moving essay in the ethical obligations that we have toward other people and how moral imagination can be used to improve our world in very small ways.

10: Now tag 5 bloggers: Todd, T. C., Article III Groupie, Jenny, and, uh... someone else.

1 comment:

ted said...

I cannot believe that you cried from TOTC. But, okay, we must clearly agree to disagree. Dickens is your life, and stuff. I once had a loud fight with the writer Tor Seidler about Dickens at a restaurant. He basically told me I was a philistine. Oh, well!

And you almost have me convinced on LOTR.