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Friday, August 25, 2006

ABF Friday plus a book meme

Last week we did opening and closing statements on albums.  Last summer we did great opening sentences in classic novels.  That post picked up 241 comments, still a record on Le Blog Bérubé.  Obviously, people are fond of this whole opening-and-closing thing.  I wonder why that is?

So today, we’ll do great closing sentences (and passages) in novels.  I’ve been fond of the final paragraph of On the Road ever since my father read it to me decades and decades ago; an otherwise uneven book, to be sure, but quite a lyrical flourish there at the end.  And, of course, just as we had to exclude the Beatles from consideration last week because they were just too damn good at the opening/closing thing, we have to eliminate James Joyce this week, otherwise the comments section will be stuffed chock full of Joyce, because the only thing better than the ending of “The Dead” is the ending of A Portrait, and the only thing better than the ending of A Portrait is the ending of Ulysses, and the only thing better than the ending of Ulysses is a way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, lather, rinse, repeat.

Oh, and of course you can also consider long narrative poems with famously problematic or “false” endings, like The Faerie Queene and the mind-bending final two stanzas of the Mutabilitie Cantos.  Just saying.

(Also:  don’t miss Chris Clarke’s Top 25 Most Dangerous Fictional Unhinged Characters Who Are Dangerously Hurting America!  Arbitrary . . . and even more fun!)

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And now for the deadly book meme!  I was double-tagged by this person and that person, so I am obligated by the Laws of the Internets to respond in good faith.  Very well, then.  Here goes.

One book that changed your life?

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury.  I first read it when I was 14 as part of my sophomore English project on Faulkner.  I tell you, back at Regis High School they made you do some real work.  Then I read it again at 19.  It messed me up bad both times, first because of Jason, then because of Quentin (though I managed to avoid throwing myself into the Hudson River after wandering around the Upper West Side all day).  These days, I’m all about Dilsey and Benjy.  And narrative theory.

One book you have read more than once?

No fair.  I’m a literature professor; I read everything more than once, even bus schedules.  But when I was a prepubescent thing I read Alice Through the Looking-Glass about twenty times, mostly for “Jabberwocky,” the Looking-Glass cake, and of course this inspired chapter.  Speaking of hallucinatory things, I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow four times, twice while dissertatin’ (see “literature professor,” above).

One book you would want on a desert island?

I think the last time I did one of these things I said The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.  I’ll stick with that.

One book that made you laugh?

In small doses, because almost every page sent me into helpless gasping for oxygen.

One book that made you cry?

The Sound and the Fury. Almost every time, and I’ve now read it eight or nine times.

One book you wish had never been written?

Good one!  Well, Mein Kampf is up there.  Way up there, right along with The Fountainhead and The Turner Diaries.

One book you are currently reading?

Philip Roth, American Pastoral. Most enjoyable.  You know how everyone says that Roth has had a really remarkable run over the last fifteen years or so?  Everyone is right.

One book you have been meaning to read?

See “desert island,” above.

One book you wish you had written?

Hmmmm . . . maybe this one!

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But the good news is that I did write it, and I just got a whole box of them shipped to my house, which must mean that it is now available to the general public!  That’s you!  If you click on the Amazon link you’ll find that Publisher’s Weekly wasn’t all that thrilled about it, largely because two of the book’s seven chapters actually describe what we actually do in my actual courses.  But more important, Amanda Marcotte liked it, largely because it actually describes what we actually do in my actual courses.  So there.  (Thanks, Amanda!)

So if you do have a chance to read it in the next couple of months or so, let me know what you think.  I’ll be here.

And I’ll take a short blogging break next week while I get ready for the fall semester, organize my dang office, and tie up some loose textual ends.  I’ll be back September 5 with a brand-new (and, if some people are to be believed, long-awaited) Theory Tuesday!

Posted by Michael on 08/25 at 10:34 AM
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