Thursday, August 17, 2006

Book meme

I've been tagged! Which of course means I have to do it. Any excuse not to get on with the spring-clean.

(UPDATE: the person who tagged me was A. Duck, who got it from Kate, who got it from Susoz, and I didn't read Kate's answers till after I'd written this. There are some interesting overlaps.)

The real answer to the first five questions is A. S. Byatt's Possession, but I'm going to try to mix it up a little.

1. One book you have read more than once

I'm a compulsive re-reader, to the bemusement of at least one of my friends, so picking just one is way too hard. Jane Eyre, Judith Butler's Excitable Speech, and all the Harry Potter books are the first things that come to mind.

2. One book you would want on a desert island

A Complete Shakespeare with non-microscopic print (which would make it too heavy to hold), unless I was also allowed to take my reading glasses, which of course I would immediately use for starting a fire on the beach. Has it occurred to anyone that the current airport security situation is making air travel a rather nasty version of Desert Island Possessions? Sorry, Madam, you can take either your glasses or your travel sickness drugs, but not both. Perhaps it would make more sense just to learn all the Shakespeare by heart instead of just little chunks of it. You could sit on the beach and declaim 'Be not afeared, the isle is full of noises / Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not / Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about mine ears, / and sometimes voices.'


3. One book that made you laugh

The Compleet Molesworth -- esp when Molesworth 2 pla Fairy Bells on the skool piano, tinkle plunk zoom.

4. One book that made you cry

There's a book by historian Don Charlwood called The Long Farewell about 19th century emigrants sailing to Australia, a fearful and sometimes unspeakable experience, which includes the texts of three passenger diaries. One of them is by a young shipboard doctor, not yet out of his twenties, called Henry Lightoller. A ship's doctor was second in authority only to the captain, and had to deal with a lot of birth, death, illness and -- most terrifyingly -- outbreaks of things like measles and cholera. This one seems to have been competent, heroic and hilarious, writes a mean sentence, and obviously saved a number of lives aboard the ship he travelled on. Charlwood puts in a note at the end to say he went on to live a long, happy and productive life and for some reason I find this unbearably moving.

'July 18th 1878: Had concert last night. Went off very well. I gave a short address, and then we had a solo on the concertina, one on the flute, and some Lancashire readings by a man from Rockdale, which did my heart good, for when he finished I said "Good lad oud mon, tha's read it greadly well." We then had several songs, one in Welsh, sung by a Welsh collier; it was what corresponds to our "Home Sweet Home". All I can tell you is, that it was as much as many could do to keep from crying. We have a great many Welsh people on board, and there were certain parts where they all joined in. The song seemed to come from the fellow's soul, and it gave the impression that I have often imagined, of a number of people saying a last farewell to a dearly loved country.'

5. One book you wish you had written

Theodore Zeldin's An Intimate History of Humanity, first published in 1994 which was some years before the invention of blogging, but does this not sound prophetic? 'The girl ... who pours out her private thoughts to her pen-friends in other continents, more so than to her own family, is a sign of a worldwide search for soul-mates and confidantes out of which may grow another kind of family ... families of the heart and imagination, freely chosen, unable to impose punishing obligations ... Every individual is slowly building up an international confederacy of personally chosen individuals ... No family, however close-knit, can seal itself off from the thoughts which fly in like bees through the windows, fertilising imaginations and moving pollen from one mind to another ... This is a completely new kind of fraternity, more ephemeral, changeable, accidental, but less likely to be asphyxiating.'

6. One book you wish had never been written

Can't answer this question, but here's one book that made me incapable of wishing any book had never been written: Fahrenheit 451.

7. One book you are currently reading

The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton, a rather nasty but oddly compelling academic murder mystery. I doubt if I'd be persevering with this one if I hadn't spent nearly 20 years as an academic and come out of it with a strange fascination for academic novels.

8. One book you have been meaning to read

Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilisation.

9. One book that changed your life

Christina Stead's For Love Alone, which I read when I was thirteen. The revelation that anyone could feel, think and write so strangely and so intensely about a city with which I was familiar just blew my head off. The book made me want to be a writer, and travel, and fall in love stupidly, all of which I subsequently did.

I don't think I can do the tagging thing. Everyone I'd likely tag has probably already been tagged. But do feel free if you've not done this one already -- if you give it some real thought, it's quite a revealing exercise in self-knowledge.


ThirdCat said...

Spooky timing. Or maybe I'm just feeling spooked, because I spent the first few nights of this week in a 'house' which had bats in the roof and the roof was full of holes, so the bats could get in. For Love Alone was pretty full on. I'm going to get it off the bookshelf and add it to my pile by the bed.

Pavlov's Cat said...

And where, pray, was this quote house unquote?? Sounds like the road from Warooka to Marion Bay to me. Bwahahahaha.

Actually, there are probably houses in the mid-far-North that are more spooky even than that. (Oh, apropos your earlier question about Pt Wakefield Road: I have a vivid memory of hallucinating colourfully all the way from Pt Wakefield to Gepps Cross as a critically ill 4-y-old being speed-run from Curramulka by my freaked-out parents, so that road will never be boring to me no matter what they do to it.)

tigtog said...

Molesworth, chiz chiz!

PC, given your love for the mighty Molesworth and Harry Potter, are you familiar with ho for hoggwarts?

Tremble tremble chiz the battered and frankly unsavory hem-hem sorting hat is lowered upon my beetling brow and after a pregnant pause (coo-er posh prose molesworth) it SPEKE:

"Huflepuf. Also you hav a face like a squished tomato."

Curses curses i wanted to be in grifindore with hary ron and other heroic brave fearless boys. Oh well such is life i suppose it was not meant to be. But who is this misterious lone figure who draw near skipping nimbly with his skool scarf?

"Hullo clouds, Hullo sky, hullo pumpkins, hullo powdered root of asfodel." Yes you have it in 1 guess it is fotherington-tomas the utter girly wet and weed. "i am so glad to be in huflepuf our emblem is the noble badger who roam the woods and feilds."


Jennifer said...

I put Possession as my desert island pick on the strength of your last rave review (and my first and only reading of it).

I've really enjoyed this meme - I've got links to all the people I've found in my sidebar, if you're interested.

Georg said...

Your comments about Shakespeare and airport security prompter me to to point you to this

worldpeace and a speedboat said...


ARGH! I love Molesworth. and even wedy fotherington-tomas. eugh! chiz, etc.

but the link doesn't work. well, it doesn't for me, anyway. so I googled Ho for Hogwarts and got

fan bluddy tastic :)