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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Dept. of Mimetic Engineering

We interrupt our regular unscheduled posting events to submit ourselves fully to the Book Meme, which virus is spreading like plague across the blogobubble and which we, here, have caught from DarkoV of Verging on Pertinence - who clearly does not hold his hand across his mouth when he sneezes - and he in turn from Cowtown Pattie who writes beautifully at Texas Trifles.

Before we begin let me disappoint you all up front by declaring, unapologetically, that I am a Fiction man, and really can't be doing with all that factual stuff, which often isn't? Which is to say it often seems more to reflect the author than the subject, and to admit of such takes me rather too far into the fascist hegemony of deconstruction than I ever wish to tread. I do read non-fiction now and then, but not by habit.

Also to be borne in mind - and I feel sure I've written this before - is Robertson Davies' admonition against those who would pester him at dinner parties with claims to being "Great Readers." No, he would say, You're not. I happily confess that I read much, but often comprehend little. I know this while I'm reading and it does not discourage me. Rather it encourages me to read a good book again in the hope I might know more of it.

  1. Total Number of Books You Have Owned: Have owned? I like to think "thousands" but it is more likely an exagerrated hundreds? I left an awful lot of books behind, and brought with me across the oceans and continents, maybe one hundred or so that I could not do without? Since built upon by two Avid Readers where before was but one. Our kids each have their own collections, but there's simply no way you could ever reach them to find out what's in 'em. And you ask me - or you will - to pick just five books?

  2. Last Book I Bought A brace, bought last week - Redemption Ark and Absolution Gap, both continuing the tale of Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, which I much enjoyed. I'm on a Sci-Fi binge this week, and I do love a good Trilogy.

  3. Last Book I Read: All the way through? Blue Blood, by Edward Conlon. I lied - these are his memoirs from a life in the NYPD - that counts as non-fiction, doesn't it? Last book dropped with a soupçon of Meh, Holy Fools by Joanne Harris. Couldn't get into it, might try again.

  4. Five Books That Mean a Lot To Me: I'll play by Plumley's classic Desert Island Disc rules, which guarantees me Shakespeare. These are some of the books I could not do without, that I always come back to, and likely always will:

    • The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies, purchased in the mistaken belief it was a "Thriller". The most wonderful triplet in my possession. One unintended consequence of reading this book has been to completely color my view of autobiographies: I don't want to read your earnest memoirs, I want you to lie through your teeth and write me the person you wanted to be.

    • I, Claudius, by Robert Graves, Poet. Intrigue and mischief in Imperial Rome, and perhaps the scariest granny in history. I just dropped Midnight's Children in favor of this, and am sorely tempted to replace it again with Goodbye To All That, the finest war memoir I've read? But I'll stick with Claudius in the end;

    • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carré; and with it all of his "Smiley" novels. But this one best.

    • The Complete Enderby, by Anthony Burgess. How could I live without Enderby the Poet? <swoon type="ArmOverBrow"> He carried me hopalong through very bleak times. I won't. Burgess as an author is sublime, though all of his novels circle the same fascinations - St. Augustine, Joyce, Free Will, Predestination, Poetry, Shakespeare and others numerous. His two-volume autobiography, which begins with Little Wilson, Big God is... is... great. I'm sorry, but I only know so many superlatives and you're making me use them all. Enderby, hapless toothless Enderby the Poet, is his finest creation;

    • White Jazz, by James Ellroy. The darkest of noir, the seediest, dirtiest, bleakest writer in America. I used to think he exagerrated, that the LAPD and Hollywood were never so corrupt; and then came Rampart to make me think again.

    • Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Sprawling and chaotic and wonderfully encrypted in a way that I just can't escape.

    • London Fields, by Martin Amis. That's Six -- Sex?!? -- so sue.

  5. Four (or Five) Folks I’m Laying this on: I think, pretty much, that everyone I read who might answer already has? Hmmm. I want to send it to Stephenesque but I know he hates these memes and has prudently innoculated himself against them. So I won't. Then again, why not, if only to provoke him? I might send it further to -jkg at Gray Matters because he's laid-up with a bad back and he's bored, and I might send it also to Madamel. at La vache qui lit - but I'm sure both of them would p'tah like Stephen? Still: it's nice to be asked, my Nan always says, and, well, face it folks - you talk to me in comments, you're fair game! I have no other friends! Then there's Shuggy over there in Glasgow who's a history teacher, so he's probably read some books; and there's Vit n' Madge, the Webb sisters, who will hopefully draw the answers for us at Vitriolica.

    But when it comes down to it, I don't feel comfortable asking anyone to answer. Rather, if you happen to read this and fancy joining-in or otherwise screeding against the meme, then consider yourselves invited, folks? Is that okay?

    They made me do it.


  • Shuggy's e-mail bounced... but he wrote back anyway and points us Here!, where I believe he was infected earlier;
  • -jkg doesn't list one... but he wrote, too, and is preparing his response - he shoots, he scoooooores;
  • Vit 'n Madge answered this ages ago!;
  • Stephenesque, who really does not like these things, has nevertheless written an answer for us.

That turned-out so much better than I anticipated. Thank you all for your response.


Blogger -jkg said...

ok, my addy is jonsaid@gmail.com

last book i read was slaughterhouse five. and this was just two days ago. cryptonomicon ive read [but none of the subsequent prequel and/or sequels to it] and i do admire burgess [i forget what it was called but about 7 or 8 years ago. i think it was "the wanting seed." but im not sure. i only remember it was wickedly funny and i was pretty sure he was making his own words up as i could only find half of them in the dictionary. maybe it was the dictionary that failed.

now i want to read White Jazz because ive never read ellroy and i like the title.

sign me up, i am, what you would call, a reader.

4:35 PM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Thanks Jon. I loved Slaughterhouse Five.

Used to be a TV show in britain called "Call My Bluff" where two teams of celebrity panelists would offer dictionary definitions of totally obscure words from the Oxford English Dictionary. Trick was that all three would provide a definition but only one was correct, other team had to guess which.

Had to be there, I suppose.

Anyway: Burgess "cheated". He knew one of the words the opposing team were given. Wasn't supposed to. Nobody was. Never invited back.

So it goes.

4:56 PM  
Blogger DarkoV said...

Thanks for your undertone of a meme reply. Gallantly, you took up the invite that was forwarded if only to honor Cowtown Pattie's rewquest. I too had thought of sending the meme to Stephenesque, but thought the scorn wasn't worth the favor. As far as darkest writer, I 'd have to say Jim Thompson ("Pop. 1280", "The Grifters", "The Killer Insdie Me") could mop the floor with your Mr. Ellroy. Thompson would then light up, smoke his cigarette for five minutes, and then put it out in Mr. Ellroy's puss. Nasty man, that Jim Thompson.
Thanks again. I shall remain memeless.

6:58 PM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Grifters, eh? That was a pretty good movie. I'd never heard of Jim Thompson. Between you and WhiskyPraj I've a tidy wee list to take to Borders now.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Shuggy said...

My e-mail bounced? Urgh - and yet my inbox is getting clogged up with spam from China on a daily basis, for some reason. However, got the meme from Mumbling and Stumbling and have now duly responded (http://modies.blogspot.com/2005/06/one-of-these-book-meme-thingys.html)

3:19 AM  

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