amongst books

amongst books

Monday, July 31, 2006

the one book meme

an intriguing idea via rob mclennan.

1. One book that changed your life:

Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and The White, at least changed my approach to fiction writing, in his narrative style. He wrote the book in the late twentieth century, yet uses an 18th century omniscient narrative technique where the authorial voice butts in constantly. People are always saying you can’t do that anymore. You can and it works wonderfully well. Try it! (I’d also wish to mention Jack Keroauc’s On The Road for its freedom from conventional literature and Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir, for its progressive characterizations and fascinating look at revolutionary and pre-revolutionary France, an era I'm stil in love with, really. (all this if I were allowed to talk about more than one book. Cleverly I’ve used parentheses because they don’t count. No one reads the stuff in parentheses, do they? Or the footnotes[1].)

[I think there should be a separate category for Kid fiction that changed my life, so I’m arbitrarily making one:

the Hardy Boys (but not Nancy Drew), The Bobbsey Twins, Judy Blume’s Are You There God It’s Me Margaret and Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona, to name only a few, gave me such a wonderful opportunity to escape. Without these, I would have been a messed up little puppy. They didn’t have IPODs back in the stone age, so we had to learn to tune out family arguments the old fashioned way…with our imaginations. ]

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

With a few exceptions, I am not one for multiples, but…The Story of O by Pauline Réage, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Oh how I love tales of alienation...)

[Kid book I’ve read more than once: Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett]

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

Can I say an e-book reader? It would have lots of books on it…ok..no cheating…Gwendolyn MacEwen’s Volume One: The Early Years. It contains my favourite poem, The Red Bird You Wait For. I’d just read it over and over again as my nails lengthened and my hair grew down to my toes. My would-be rescuers would think I was a mad witch, spouting incantations, and thus leave me on the island. Hmmm..maybe I should come up with another choice, some kind of survival skill book.

4. One book that made you laugh:

Robertson Davies, Fifth Business. The man was so witty. I am a Davies fanatic. The only novel of his I’ve never been able to get into is the Papers of Samuel Marchbanks.

5. One book that made you cry:

Must I admit to crying over Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? Beth dies for heavens’ sake.


6. One book that you wish had been written:

Another book of poems by Gwendolyn Macewen, more novels by Robertson Davies, another book by Harper Lee.

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

Scandolously I wish most of Shakespeare’s plays had never been written. I know that’s pretty much blasphemous of me, but the old bard monopolized my high school literature courses and I had to sit thru pimply faced boys stuttering through the plays. I’ve never understood what the attraction is to Shakespeare. Frankly, I prefer Victor Hugo, who wrote more complex characters with plots that weren’t stolen from the Greeks and Romans. There…I’ve said it.

(Also, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which I found pedantic , patronizing and too much like a big pity fest. Anything by Ernest Hemingway, Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy: but The Mayor of Casterbridge was fantastic, a great lesson in character portraits.)

8. One book you're currently reading:

Bronwen Wallace-People You’d Trust Your Life To, a series of short stories by this poet.
Mary Meigs-The Medusa Head, about Marie Claire Blais, her lover and their relationship with another woman. Writing Life: Celebrated Canadians and International Authors on Writing and Life, Reynold’s Price-The Collected Short Stories (he has the best openings I’ve read in ages), House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewsky (very weird and experimental, not linear at all)

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

There are soooo many. Hmmmm….Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, Orlando, a biography by Virginia Woolf, The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman, stuff by Thomas Pynchon

[9b) Supplement: Most memorable book you’ve read in the last year or so:
The Earthquake Bird by Susannah Jones (a rare murder mystery that I actually enjoyed. It transcends the genre and is a literary masterpiece. The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox about an angel and a winemaker, this book is erotic without being graphic and so well-written. I wish I hadn’t read it yet, so I could read it now.[2]]

10. Now tag five people:

Pearl Pirie, David Emery, Kathryn Hunt, Jennifer Mulligan, Marcus McCann


[1] I am not good at sticking to the rules. Note how I’ve rarely mentioned just one book. That’s too much like eating one potato chip to me, or having only one lover. Ever the polyamourist.
[2] See footnote 1

3 comments:

Pearl said...

lol. love that you footnoted!

ahem. I've been asked this question before. Throwing off the restriction of one book should help. I'll ponder.

Clifford Duffy said...

hi_ from montreal _ This view of shakespeare is one you share with G. Bernard Shaw. he wrote some great antishakespeare tracts and things. As for me, well as one of the many narrators of the Waste Land sings " But/
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag/
It's so elegant/
So intelligent" I could not live without the bard's grand slam continuel series of home runs. Lots of books have changed my life, and not only one, and so I'll nominate Antioedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari which changed my life back in 1979 and has never stopped since. The ideas,the concepts, the sheer energy and desire to open things up, to criticize capitalism and discover a profounder meaning to our lives, by way of desire and philosophy and last but not least,
their tribute to writers, and poets. Their view is that it is the writers and poets, the artists who are the ones sensitive enough to penetrate to hone in on the imagination and to alter sensiblities either directly or indirectly. In addition, their tribute to Antonin Artaud is unqualfied and remains unchallenged.




"....I wish most of Shakespeare’s plays had never been written. I know that’s pretty much blasphemous of me, but the old bard monopolized my high school literature courses .... I’ve never understood what the attraction is to Shakespeare. Frankly, I prefer Victor Hugo, who wrote more complex characters with plots that weren’t stolen from the Greeks and Romans."

Stephen Rowntree said...

oKay, I got two, out of a possible hundred: The Portrait of an Artist, by James (jOYless) Joyce, and Under the Volcano, by the besotted, but brilliant, Malcolm Lowry. So there, hA!

One about Jesuit skirts, barnacles and Aquinas, the other a Dantean spiral into the abyss of alcoholism.