That book meme


Resolution #1: I’m going to try a lot harder to respond to your comments on neon epiphany, so please hold me to that.

Miranda tagged me with the book meme. I guess turnabout is fair play, but I am super-lame about books so this will probably not be my most interesting entry ever.

Total number of books I’ve owned: v. hard to tell, because I’ve had many collections and they very rarely accompany me when I move. And likewise the set of books I’ve owned and those I’ve read only partially overlap. I’ve always been good at reading books I borrow while neglecting those already on my shelf.

That’s not really an answer, is it? So: I suppose I’ve got four bookshelves right now, in varying stages of fullness.

Last book I bought: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, used and tattered. I’m not sure where it goes on my to-read list. But soon.

Last book I read: Mostly snippets, lately, concentrating on Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase, while flitting between Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style (been reading this in inches for years now) and a couple books on gender studies: The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls and Sexual Metamorphosis.

Last book I finished: A. S. Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories. I’ve already talked about it here, so I won’t bore you again.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book (abridged & translated by Ivan Morris, though the Amazon listing seems to be for a different edition — complete, perhaps?): when I was thirteen I was in a summer program at the University of Chicago, my first major experience spending time away from home, and I absolutely fell in love with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore there. I’d never seen so many wonderful books in one place — not gaudy bestsellers but serious literature and non-fiction, both classic and obscure. I gravitated especially towards the east asian historical section, and swallowed them up — Sarashina Nikki, The Tale of Genji*, Romance of the Three Kingdoms — and Shōnagon was my favorite of all, a collection of moments of perfect beauty, many unburdened by narrative.

I always wanted neon epiphany to be my own pillow book. I’m still trying.

A. S. Byatt, Possession: A Romance: this was the first adult fiction novel I ever read, and the first trade paperback I ever bought, also at the Seminary Co-op. Though I’ll admit I bought it for the beautiful Rosetti used on its cover (having not yet encountered pre-Raphaelite art), Byatt managed to bring that same feeling to life in words and verse, and brought to life a kind of nineteenth-century mythology. I don’t know if it would still affect me so much today, and I haven’t dared re-read it for fear that it wouldn’t.

John Varley, The Persistence of Vision: John Varley’s been on a novel-writing kick lately, but none of them shine as brightly as the jewels of short fiction he wrote during the ’70s & ’80s, most set in his “Eight Worlds” future history. I was still in my early teens when I found his “The Phantom of Kansas” in a paperback SF anthology, wonderfully readable and touching on themes of identity and gender, human cloning, environmental disaster, and the idea of art in the future. So I picked up Persistence, as well as The Barbie Murders and Blue Champagne, and read and re-read them. They’re all out of print now, but a good selection can be found in the just-published The John Varley Reader.

Frank Miller, et al., The Dark Knight Returns: showed me that comics could be serious, dark and adult in every sense of the word. Can I tell you how much I loved Sin City? I won’t, though — movies are a different topic completely, and I’d talk your ear off. Had a hard time deciding between this and Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, which I came to almost simultaneously and had no less effect on me.

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale: I had the best high school junior english class, ever — we read LeGuin, Mary Shelley, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Harris, and even watched Koyaanisqatsi. It’s been so long that I don’t remember the details of the story, only the lingering feeling of terror and helplessness at a society so totally out of balance. My only comfort was that I could think of it as caricature, but should re-read it, now, when our own world seems to be spinning uncomfortably off-kilter.

Honorable mention: Tanith Lee’s The Book of the Damned. That’s what I really want to write.

Five people I want to see do this: Wow, almost everyone’s already done this one. Hmm. How about janjan, Alice, fer, pixel and George?

*oh dear — it looks very much like I’m going to have to get ahold of The Diary of Lady Murasaki.
tags: books , memes

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  • I'll look, David, thanks! I'd been meaning to take a look at Hellboy.

  • Thanks for sharing that! Since you mention Frank Miller, I'll recommend anything drawn by Mike Mignola, too. They both have a way with lines.

    Strange, I also mentioned Miller's work in an impromptu post here. (Please forgive the self-promotion.)

    Having read your list, I resolve to finally read the Iris Chang book my wife's been recommending for over a year.

  • Yes! You should!

    (and see? I responded! ^^)

  • Hong

    Yes, I promise I will post more often. :)

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