Monday, August 21, 2006

book meme

It's summer, and readership of the blog is down to 150 or so visitors a day. Thus a first: a response to a meme, at the request of Glauk├┤pidos. In the Middle readers are invited to note their own responses in the comments section.

1. A book that changed your life.
Look here, I've already answered that. Sigh.

2. A book you've read more than once.
Good Night Moon. It's the only book I have memorized from cover to cover. I also carry in my head a potty mouth version that I made up out of utter but well disguised boredom during the nightly recitation.

3. A book you would want on a desert island.
Raft Building for Dummies

4. A book that made you laugh.
The DaVinci Code. But not in a good way. I still have flashback chuckles whenever I think of wicked albinos.

5. A book that made you cry.
The Lorax, by Dr. Suess. There is so much unspoken tristesse when that little guy hoists himself by his own keister and floats into a cloudhole.

6. A book you wish had been written.
The Archipelago of England (then I wouldn't be working on it right now and for the foreseeable future)

7. A book you wish had never been written.
See number four, above.

8. A book you are currently reading.
See number two, above. Every damn night.

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Who Moved the Hole in My Swiss Cheese and How am I Supposed to Tell Where It Has Gone: A Deconstructive Reading of Management Practices for New Department Chairs


Eileen Joy said...

1. life-changing book: Raymond Carver, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" [it made me want to be a fiction writer]

2. book read more than once: Thoreau, "Walden" [every spring to remind myself to always be mindful of Rilke's dictum, "you must change your life"]

3. desert island book: I honestly don't think I would want to read if I were on a desert island, but I would want many pitchers of martinis

4. book that made me laugh: anything by Mark Leyner ["My Cousin, My Gastrointerologist," "Et Tu, Babe?", "The Tetherballs of Bouganvillea," "Tooth Imprints On a Corn Dog"

5. book that made me cry: I cry at the drop of a hat; this list would be too long, where do I begin?, etc.

6. a book I wish had been written: the "Doris Day Cookbook"? Hell, I don't know.

7. a book I wish had never been written: the Bible & the Koran

8. a book I am currently reading: I'm not, unless you count course syllabi

9. a book I have been meaning to read: again, this list would go on for miles; I guess I can't say "The DaVinci Code," can I? [that's right, I haven't read it and don't plan to]; but seriously, I've always felt remiss that I've never read Saul Bellow and Philip Roth

Anonymous said...

I just started reading your blog, so it probably isn't quite right for me to post this, but what the heck.

1. life-changing book

This Way Out by Tom Herbert and John Coyne, both of whom wrote back when I sent them emails recently to tell them how much I love this book.

2. book read more than once

The Bible. I;ve read it at least 7 times. That prepared me to argue more effectively with devout Christians when necessary.

3. desert island book

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I never get tired of Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, and I would no longer have an excuse to not finish Timon of Athens.

4. book that made me laugh

Kid books: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar; The Monster at the End of This Book; The Stupids by Harry Allard.

5. book that made me cry

The first soppy/sappy book that made me cry was Love Story by Erich Segal. Thus, I’ve avoided soppy/sappy books since.

6. a book I wish had been written

The Easy Way to Conquer Social Phobia.

7. a book I wish had never been written

Anything by Phyllis Schafly or Ann Coulter.

8. a book I am currently reading

The Merriweather Girls series from the 1930s; The Great Influenza by John M. Barry; and Walden (which I’m copying out of a free online version, enlarging for my old eyes, and then annotating in a word processor—a much more civilized way to read that book).

9. a book I have been meaning to read

The approximately 150 books on my nightstand.

Glauk├┤pis said...

Lovely answers! Thanks for sharing!

Karl Steel said...

1. Life-changing: this took some thought. In my later teens, The Chosen, which led into 7 more books by him. For a time, I thought I want to be Hasidic, but I realized that the lesson I should take was: reading a lot would be one way of getting the hell out of my shithole town. But what intervened simultaneously was a "life-changing album," which was the Repo Man Soundtrack (since, kids, in the mid 80s, i.e., before the Internets, if you were in a shithole town, the only way to find out about music was through such trickle downs). So, there were years and years of deviation into rocknroll before all that book-reading turned into a profession.

2. More than once: see funny books, below. Infinite Jest and Lucky Jim: sorry. My wife's read Jane Eyre and Rebecca at least 100 times, since she refuses to read anything at dinner that she hasn't read before. I read Agamben's The Open: Man and Animal at least 3 times, and I still don't quite get what he's aiming at.

3. Desert: Putting aside the practical suggestions (the Pop Up Book of Water Coolers, Inflatable Rafts, and Geodesic Domes), probably the Riverside Chaucer (so I could finally finish it) and the complete works of Joyce Carol Oates, so I could build a bridge back to, well, anywhere.

4. Laughing: This list goes on forever. The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose, Frank Muir ed., is probably my most cherished book. I like Leyner, but the following grab me: The Young Visitors, Diary of a Nobody, any Perelman or Benchley, Thurber's My Life and Hard Times, and, best of all time, English as She is Spoke.

5. Crying: first one was Crime and Punishment, back when I was 19. Also, coupla years later, the episode when Rudy Bloom's apparition at the end of Circe in Ulysses, which immediately turned to laughter, because I figured Joyce had just put one over on me. I nearly cried eating pickled herring the other day: memories of Norwegian childhood and all that.

6. Me as Author: Capital. Imagine all the free food they'd give me at the workers' cafeteria. A. S. Byatt's Tetralogy: so far as I know, they're my wife's favorite books. I think it would give me a lot of authority in the household if I could say, "yeah, but remember you're talking to the author of Still Life." And, following JJC, it'd be nice to done w/ the diss. A gf told me when I was 16 that I "wanted to have written novels."

7. Book I wish had never been written: I want to say The Bell Curve or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but...I tend to see books that I don't like as symptoms of a particular social structural kink and so imagine if they weren't written, something else equally baleful would have filled in that place. Like Lacan's nasty quip on the 68 revolt: "As hysterics, you demand a new master. You will get it!"(too much Zizek anyone?).

8. Currently: Just finished Difficult Middles, and now, swear to the FTM, A Very Short Introduction to Kant. Bedtime reading is George Saunder's Pastouralia.

9. Meaning to read: Last night, I thought Thomas Head's Hagiography anthology, because it's taking up a lot of room on my shelves, and I'm trying to get over this whole book-as-talisman that seems to be behind a lot of book ownership. The longer George Eliots. Someday, I want to finish Tristram Shandy, but it does seem to be doing justice to the book to say it is one of my favorites even if I never finish it. Oh, and Don Quixote: I'd like to read it before I teach it this time.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Eileen: what a cop out. we need ONE book that brought tears and we need the story of why.

Jude: welcome! With you on the Coulter. I have a theory that "she" is really a malicious robot.

Karl: we KNOW your life changing book was How to Serve Mankind (the cookbook)

Anonymous said...

1. A book that changed your life.
Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Eagle of the Ninth or
Rhoda Power, Redcap Runs Away

2. A book you've read more than once.
Lots of children's books - and several 'set texts' - otherwise, apart from work ... The Rough Guide to London - every time I go I try to fit in another 'obscure' site in the city of my childhood (and my first love).

3. A book you would want on a desert island.
Brian Greene The Elegant Universe - assuming I am only there for a week - otherwise Shakespeare.

4. A book that made you laugh.
Giovanni Guareschi, The Don Camillo Omnibus - when I was about 15

5. A book that made you cry.
Rachel Seiffert, The Dark Room

6. A book you wish had been written.
...the violetsaunders masterpiece that nobody will read ... ever ...

7. A book you wish had never been written.
The Da Vinci Code

8. A book you are currently reading.
Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Giles Neret, Klimt

9. A book you've been meaning to read.
where to start ... where to finish ...

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Thanks for that, N50. Few books have had as profound an effect on me as Unbearable Lightness of Being (except maybe Great Expectations and Jane Eyre, both childhood reading that implanted themselves into me at a very impressionable age [c.13]). Unbearable Lightness was abook I read while in graduate school and it really bowled me over; its theory of potential group culpability still stays with me.

If you can get through Brian Greene in a week then I am in awe. Fabric of the Cosmos is still in progress after almost a year ...

Anonymous said...

I started reading 'Unbearable..' on a much-needed break from the NCS and continued on my travels around Europe. It is certainly one of the high points of my summer - but too soon to comment yet. 'Elegant Universe' - I mainly want to read to try to keep up with senior child (though it seems like only last year I was telling him bedtime stories about the adventures of Bruno Bear and his blue helicopter).

Eileen Joy said...

Seriously, way too many books have made me cry; every time I listen to NPR I cry, I cry at coffee commercials, etc. I may have an empathy disease, is such a thing exists [or an empathy disorder, let's say]. How about books that made me cry so much I almost hyperventilated? One of those would be Morrison's "Beloved"--the suffering of all the characters in that book was more than I could bear, the injustices, the irreparable losses, the psychic pain, and the idea that that dead can't rest, but that in the end, everyone forgets anyway. Michael Cunningham's "The Hours" made me bawl, as did Jonathan Lethem's "The Fortress of Solitude"--anything about lost chances in life, cases of arrested development, grief, ans regret, and middle-aged woes generally gets to me on a deep level--also, the impossibility of love lasting the way it should, the missed opportunities of desire, and the important things left unsaid. And so, yes, also "The Unbearable Lightness of Being"--one of my all-time most favorite sad books. And finally, a book that made me cry, but also put me in sheer awe because of its ending--where a man redeems himself by praying over the bodies of euthanized dogs that he volunteers to "dispose": J.M. Coetzee's "Disgrace." That book, come to think of it, also changed my life.

MKH said...

(let's see if I can manage to not have Lord of the Rings on this more than once...should be hard...)

1. Life-changing book: This would have to be the confluence of Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and Faulkner's Go Down, Moses.

2. book read more than once: Le Petit Prince. I have several paragraphs of this book memorized, in the French no less. (...vous etes belles mais vous etes vides, leur dit-il encore. On ne peut pas mourir pour vous...)

3. desert island book: Well let's change the question to "Book written in English you'd buy in paperback for nearly forty Euros while living in Dijon your junior year of college and craving English language reading materials. I think I'll have to use Lord of the Rings here. that made me laugh: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris -- actually, anything David Sedaris, his take on North Carolina is hysterical!

5. Book that made me cry: The very end of the Once and Future King. Also Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass.

6. Book I wish had been written: Some kind of explanation about Jareth from the movie Labyrinth. Granted it's from a book so the answers might be in there, but god knows I stil haven't read it.

7. Book I wish had never been written: I hate to wish that on a book -- but I could definitely have done without Holy Blood, Holy Grail.

8. Book currently reading: Upon my return to New York, I'll be diving into complete translations of King Alfred. In the meantime...I'm reading an Old Norse Grammar book.

9. Book I've been meaning to read: Stenton's The Anglo-Saxons, cover to cover. Yeah, that'll be interesting. I've read bits and pieces, but the whole thing -- yeah, interesting. And the other -- I've been meaning to read Omeros, by Walcott. One day, in spite of (or maybe because of!) my orals, I might even get around to doing so, I've heard it's absolutely amazing work.