Monday, August 21, 2006

A Meme That's All About MEMEMEMEMEMEME

I've been meme'd by Dr. Guy with questions about books. While you wait for me to get into a mood to create a link to his blog out there in internet-land, you can find him lurking in my Other Journals area -- look for his link under JudithHeartsong's blog -- New Journal Discoveries or something like that.  Check out some of the other links I put there, too.

1. A book that changed your life

There are two, actually -- Last Exit to Brooklyn and Neuroses.  

I read Last Exit during a sub zero February weekend in 1966, while trying to keep warm in a charming, but unheated cabin. Divided into six novellas, the book grabs you by the throat and forces its hot, whiskey-soaked, unfiltered cigarette breath up your nostrils. Reading Hubert Selby’s prose was like watching the point of a very sharp knife begin to slice through skin and muscle, leaving a bloody wake as it probed for the bone.   

Tralala was the most dramatic story of the deadend lives illuminated by Selby in the half shadows of streetlights just off The Last Exit. Her gruesome death was so graphically portrayed that Susan Brownmiller quoted it in her book Against Our Will:  Men, Women, and Rape. Tralala was also made into a movie, but I knew it would feel like an abridged or glamorized Hollywood version, so I never saw it.

Sitting by the fire forty years ago, wrapped up in layers of blankets, turning the pages with gloved hands, I was left bereft and shocked by her life and death the same way I was affected by JFK’s assassination. Nothing anyone could see on the outside.  But I changed immeasurably on the inside.

Neuroses, on the other hand, was one of the many psych tomes my father had on hand, him being a psychoanalyst and all. There were at least 800 pages of cases, an edited compilation of crazy behaviors, shortened into synopses of just a few hundred words apiece. They were as tasty to me as eating a box of chocolates. I absorbed the lessons learned from these troubled people like a sorcerer’s apprentice.  Haaaa.  I love that analogy.       

2. One book you have read more than once

There are so many. Not because of my desire to read wonderful stories again, but because I forget that I’ve read them before.
However, I feel the need to re-read Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen, the way some women have an urge to start spring cleaning.  I am entranced by the lilt of Karen Blixen’s Danish inflected English.  You can hear it on the page.  Mostly I sense a strong, independent woman’s lifelong melancholy over the choices she’s made.  Particularly the philandering, syphilitic husband she married and the tragic end to her long love affair with Robert Redford.  Sorry, I meant Denys Finch Hatton.  

3. One book you would want on a desert island

Dave Barry. Or Molly Ivins.  Give me a collection of their columns.  If I’m stuck on a desert island I’m going to need some laughs.

4. One book that made you laugh

Keep in mind that my favorite genre is nonfiction, especially about serial killers. So with all due respect to a billion dollar industry, the one romance novel I started made me laugh for the wrong reasons, I'm afraid. After about five pages I had to stop because I was shaking my head and smiling, then reading the words out loud because they were sooooo treacly.  I couldn’t believe they weren’t kidding. No I don't remember the name of the book.  Does it matter?

5. One book that made you cry

Tuesdays with Morrie. It made me miss my mom. 

6. One book you wish you had written.

I want to be realistic here. For instance there's no way I could pass for the next Margaret Atwood. Or Joyce Carol Oates. But Janet Evanovich? Let's talk. What number is she up to now, twelve?  Twelve adventures of Stephanie Plum -- the New Jersey Nancy Drew. I wish I had just some of Ms. Evanovich's sheckels.

7. One book you wish had never been written

The Bible. More evil has been invoked while quoting the Bible than any other book except, possibly, the Koran.

8. One book you are currently reading

Well, I read the New York Times Book Review yesterday -- does that count? Other than that the most recent book I read was while on vacation this past week. It was, uh, Marley and Me. Did I mention that most of the time I was WORKING? Okay, telecommuting? Yeah, really. When I wasn't working I was eating.

9. One book you have been meaning to read

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. I’ve arrived late to an interest in American History, despite some excellent courses in college. However,
I got on the American history bandwagon a few years ago, when I learned that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day – the fourth of July. [How the heck did I ever miss that?]  Yo, Dude, dying on the same day and it was the fourth of Julyl?!!! THAT is totally cosmic.

Jefferson’s vision for a country from coast to coast was ridiculed and scorned when he wanted to spend money for the Louisiana purchase, but he sure persevered.  Sending Lewis and Clark to check out the neighborhood was inspired. Even the sad end of Merriwether Lewis, committing suicide following some personal setbacks, after completing one of the most remarkable feats of exploration ever, is stuff I want to read about.  And it's all beautifully written.

10. Now I'm supposed to tag five people. Gimme a minute. You're all dreading this aren't you? 

Why don't we make tagging voluntary?  If you want to particpate you can answer as many questions as you want in COMMENTS or take the questions back to your own blog.


psychfun said...

I'd do an entry tomorrow! :-) I love Dave Barry also...he is a hoot! Interesting point on the Bible!

bosoxblue6993w said...

currently reading TEAM OF RIVALS by Doris Kearns Goodwin,    History and politics ... add unbridled sex and i'm in heaven

thisismary said...

Number 7.  -- We are on the same wavelength  -- why oh why didn't I do my entry first?  LOL!  

gaboatman said...

I agree with Psychfun, very interesting take on The Bible.  I enjoyed this insight into the lady behind the pen, so to speak.  Was a little surprised at your fascination with serial killers, but only a little, LOL!

mombzbe said...

Get to the Stephen Ambrose, you won't be disappointed.

I feel the same way about the Stephanie Plum series.  Why didn't I think of that?  LOL

Marley and Me, it's on my "gotta read next" list.....

swibirun said...

I'm with you on the non-fiction.  The only fiction I can remember reading in the past 10 years is when I re-read the Hitchhikers Guide 4 book trilogy.