Sunday, April 10, 2005
The infernal book meme
Chris Clarke sent me this damn thing ten days ago, allegedly because, as he put, “he’s too busy to do it, thus limiting the damage I cause by passing this infernal memoid on.” Well, Chris is right as usual, I am too damn busy – why, I’ve already spent most of the morning dealing with David Horowitz’s latest piece of nonsense involving me, which I’ll tell you all about tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean I don’t answer the bell when it rings. So here goes.
You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Uh, actually the conclusion of Fahrenheit 451 isn’t entirely clear about the parameters of this question. Montag offers the Book of Ecclesiastes, and his interlocutor says that he’s Plato’s Republic, but there are also suggestions that the survivors are supposed to memorize entire oeuvres rather than just one book. But you asked just one book, so I say– Fahrenheit 451. Only kidding! The Sound and the Fury. Honorable mention, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. If I could combine the two into Dilsey’s defense of the priority of paradigms, that would be ideal.
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Aside from wishing that I could have met Daria when I was 17? But that doesn’t even count– she’s a fictional cartoon character. No, this question is just too weird. Unhealthy, even. Maybe it’s just my preference for Borges and Pynchon talking, but I really wish that readers would remember that fictional characters are fictional characters.
I did, however, meet a person in graduate school who had ranked all of Jane Austen’s heroines in the order of their attractiveness. I am not making this up.
The last book you bought is?
This is actually a much more difficult question than it seems. In the past week alone, I have received about a dozen books in the mail, ranging from Jennifer Washburn’s University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education to Ian Fleming and James Bond: The Cultural Politics of 007, edited by Edward Comentale, Stephen Watt, and Skip Willman, to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Why do people mail me so many books? Do they think that I am an omnipotent reviewer like Scott McLemee? Perish the thought! I am not an omnipotent reviewer. And then there are all the handfuls of books I get for doing reader’s reports and manuscript refereeing—why, it’s almost as if publishers simply will not accept my money anymore.
I did, however, hear a wonderful talk by Will Nash at Penn State’s recent conference on the African-American novel, and ran out and Amazon-ordered Clarence Major’s Dirty Bird Blues. So there’s my answer.
What are you currently reading?
Just finished Sam Harris’s The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, a delightful and infuriating book; about to reread Stuart Hall’s The Hard Road to Renewal, the better to discuss it with a very impressive book-discussion group in Washington, D.C. later this month; peeking intermittently at Chris Rojek’s overview of Stuart Hall, titled simply Stuart Hall; and having a very fine (though slow-going) time with Richard E. Lee’s Life and Times of Cultural Studies: The Politics and Transformation of the Structures of Knowledge.
Five books you would take to a deserted island:
Steven Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It’s been on my get-to shelf for a year, and will probably have to stay there for another year. Unless I wind up on a deserted island before then.
The Riverside Shakespeare. Yeah, I know this is cheating. But it is one book. Besides, that Shakespeare guy is pretty good.
George Eliot, Middlemarch. As the best representative of that sturdy animal, the realist novel.
Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman. As one of the best (and funniest) representatives of that chameleon-like creature, the antirealist novel.
Homer, The Odyssey. Because I haven’t read it in 25 years and it’s sitting right next to Gould.
Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Alex Pareene of Buck Hill, because, as a college student and an intern for the media elite, he’s got nothing better to do; Rivka at Respectful of Otters, because her recent posts on Terri Schiavo have been remarkable; and Echidne of the Snakes, because I would like an actual goddess to handle this one.
UPDATE: It appears that the goddess is spoken for. Damn! And after I offered all those holy hecatombs, too. OK, then, Randy Paul, how about you?