16 February 2007

Just One Book

An old meme that made the rounds some time ago finally found its way here. Feel free to tag yourselves; I’m not in the mood to pick on people this morning.
1. One book that changed your life:
Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers. And in a lot of ways, most of them in fact, I wish it hadn’t.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

T.S. Eliot, Collected Poems. I’ve gone through more copies than I can even begin to count.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

A bit of a cop-out, I know, but The Riverside Shakespeare would have to be it. I could keep the masterpieces and use The Merry Wives of Windsor when I needed toilet paper.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Harold Bloom, The Western Canon. His assault on The School of Resentment had me chuckling (and all but shouting, "Go Harold, go Harold!") every time I read it.

5. One book that made you cry:

Cynics and stoics don’t cry, except in truly excruciating pain. So my answer would have to be Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. The cry, if I remember correctly, was "Aaaaargh!"

6. One book that you wish had been written:
My fucking dissertation. Alternate answers: The Second Book of Job, in which God finally explains himself properly; and Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the J (by various authoresses, of course). B)

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

How can I name just one? I’ll shove aside Mein Kampf and Das Kapital and Renaissance Self-Fashionings and name perhaps the most infernal one of all: Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. It features, in my estimation, the worst, the most slitheringly vile and pretentious, opening sentence ever written for a novel, and it just gets worse from there.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
On and off, Stephen Fry, The Ode Less Traveled.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Joseph Conrad, Nostromo. Keep starting it, keep putting it aside. Don’t know why.
But here’s an interesting thought: Name one book that most approximately resembles you and/or your life. There was a time the answer would have been Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, but now? Hmmm. Probably Graham Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case. Would it were Tom Jones.

12 comments:

nic said...

1. Wuthering Heights –yes there are more life changing books but this was the reason I never touched the R.L. Stine bookrack at school again.
2. You mean aside from Pride and Prejudice? All right, then I’ve read The French Lieutenant’s Woman a few times.
3. The toilet paper idea is genius –Riverside Shakespeare it is.
4. The bible (just kidding –I haven’t read all of it, I could be in for a real sobering). Finally got around to White Teeth recently, that was pretty funny.
5. Forget it –far too embarrassing.
6. Miss Havisham: The early years -one of my favorite characters ever.
7. 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare…don’t ask.
8. “Damn it Middlemarch stop staring at me!!! I swear I’ll get around to you one day.”

As for the bonus question, it’s a bit silly but I think Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there best answers that one.

Showey said...

I like the Merry Wives of Windsor. I also thought Pride and Prejudice was quite funny. Should I be embarrassed/shot/reprogrammed?

nic said...

oops, i skipped a question about which book i wish had never been written. My apologies to James Shapiro -I meant that I was reading his book.

I put in the P&P bit just to tease Dr. J -he may have mentioned once or twice his feelings on that particular novel. I'd be interested to hear how you might be reprogrammed showey, although it could be brutal. Something along the lines of a clockwork orange rehab session? Best to just embrace your inner Austenian. :)

sylvia said...

Dude, this is hard. I've never been good at picking just book in any category. If my answers appear somewhat random, that would be why...

1. One book that changed your life:
Not Wanted on the Voyage (Timothy Findley). The first book I can remember making me really, seriously uncomfortable -- an experience I've since learned to embrace.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once [besides, of course, Pride and Prejudice:
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Louis de Bernières). I've lost count of the number of times I've read that one.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
I'm going to have to follow the herd here and go with the Riverside Shakespeare.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Most recently, I think that would be Helen Lester, Hooway for Wodney Wat. Hey, I have to take my laughs where I can get 'em.

5. One book that made you cry:
Aww, crap, anything can make me cry. OK, here's one: Angelo by David Macaulay.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
How about The Early Life of King Lear?

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Anything featuring Dora the Explorer. Feh.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Pat Barker, Regeneration

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Pamela Jooste, Dance with a Poor Man's Daughter. Started it, thought it wasn't bad, put it down and never picked it up again. Bad me.

Bonus question? Hmm. V. tricky. Maybe The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole ... ;)

Dr J said...

Hey Showey-- Welcome back! Some of us Falstaffians can't forgive Billy for the shameless catering of Merry Wives. I'm told it's funnier in performance than on the page, though. As for P&P, I'd not try to shoot or even re-program you. Jane Austen is like Scotch: you either like her or you hate her, and a lot of your reaction to her tends to depend on whether or not you have a Y-chromosome. Most chaps loathe her; most lasses quite the opposite. *shrug*

Anyway, hope you'll keep dropping by, Showey. Cheers!

Nic & Sylvia --- interesting answers. Two things: Nic, agree entirely on Miss Havisham; don't know how many times I've used her in metaphors over the years. Syl, have never read Correlli, but after ten minutes of the awful movie, determined never to bother. Is the book significantly better?

Cheers & best, ladies!

sylvia said...

Syl, have never read Correlli, but after ten minutes of the awful movie, determined never to bother. Is the book significantly better?

Let's put it this way: movie is to book as ::pauses to search for suitable travesty:: Psycho remake with Anne Heche is to real Psycho.

I announced that I was boycotting the movie version about 3 seconds into the first trailer I saw. It's hard to say which is worse: Penelope Cruz as Pelagia, Nicolas Cage as Antonio, the very clear hints of their relationship going to a place where, in fact, it's crucial that it doesn't go ... and I don't even want to know what they made of Carlo Guercio.

So, yeah, the book's a bit better.

sylvia said...

Curious now, she decided to look the film up on IMDB, which confirmed some of her worst suspicions: Carlo (who doesn't even get a surname!!) appears waaaaay down the list of dramatis personae, as though his part were a walk-on.

In fact, Carlo's story is -- well -- I don't know that you can say central, because that would imply a unity of plot that the book simply doesn't have; but it's essential, and Carlo is essential (not for nothing do we meet him in chapter 4, just after we meet Pelagia in ch 3, whereas Corelli himself doesn't appear, even obliquely, until chapter 24). The film, as far as I can make out, is a pretty straightforward heterosexual love story; the book is anything but, a tangle of narratives in which that particular love story is the dominant thread, but only barely.

But what can you expect from Hollywood?

/end rant.

Paul said...

1. One book that changed your life:
The Urantia book ... Goog it for yourself

2. One book that you've read more than once:
Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:

Reportage - John Carey, ed.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Vernon God Little - DBC Pierre

5. One book that made you cry:

Cold Mountain


6. One book that you wish had been written:


Reggae Gulag : Jamaican Musicians in Canada

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
The World According to Garp


8. One book you're currently reading:

To the End of The World - Blaise Cendrars


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

Fairy & Folk Tales of Ireland - Yeats


10. Name one book that most approximately resembles you and/or your life. .

We Called it Music - Eddie Condon

Dr J said...

Interesting choices there, Paul, though I can't say I know most of them except Gravity's Rainbow and Cold Mountain. Why the Updike choice, though? I didn't think it was great or especially good, but didn't think it especially horrible, either.

sylvia said...

pssst, J. It's an Irving, not an Updike.

::giggles and runs away::

RK said...

Here are mine (or some of them -- I could put ten titles under each number):

1. One book that changed your life:
Charles Morgan’s The Judge’s Story. Read at the impressionable age of 17, it made me a Morgan fan for life, made me understand Milton before I’d read him, and gave me a lifelong set of insights/prejudices (whatever, as long as they’re not principles).

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Everything by John LeCarré until he became a Puritan preacher, i.e. everything up to and (just) including The Tailor of Panama. Favourites: the Smileys, A Perfect Spy, The Little Drummer Girl, The Night Manager (which JleC doesn’t like because he couldn’t stop himself giving it a happy ending – also goes for The Russia House, I think).

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
The Bible – its range of skulduggery and emotion is bigger even than Will’s.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Winnie-the-Pooh, first encountered in a Dutch translation (one of the best translations in any language I’ve ever seen), read to me by my father when I was five, and a constant companion since. As I child, I thought it was just funny. As an adult, I realise it’s the kindest but most devastating set of satirical sketches.

5. One book that made you cry:
King Lear. Never fails.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
A great, repeat: great, modern tragedy. Not a democratised tragedy (sorry, Arthur Miller), not a senseless tale of violence (sorry, Reservoir Dogs), not a depressing political fable (sorry, Bertolt), but a great tragedy in the Aristotelian sense. That could make cynics cry.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
The Collected Works of Thomas Hardy.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Yann Martel, The Life of Pi. Birthday present from my daughter. Brilliant.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
The Silmarillion. Undoubtedly I never shall.

RK said...

Whoops: forgot no. 10. Name one book that most resembles you and/or your life.
Easy. Winnie-the-Pooh. I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and Long Words Bother me.

"Oh, I see," said Pooh, sadly.

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