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Saturday, July 07, 2007

More Book Notes

Another quiz thing, this one about books, filched from Paul:

Recommend 3 books you believe everyone needs to read and say why people should read them.

The Lions of Al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Simply put, his finest novel yet, and a stunning and heartbreaking romance. (But as I've noted before, you have to read it twice. The second time out, when you know what's coming, what was interesting before becomes shattering.)

A Gentle Madness, by Nicholas Basbanes, if only to give yourself an excuse to keep acquiring books (because there's no way you're as bad as the truly odd book collectors he writes about).

The Lord of the Rings, by JRRT. Just because. And don't give me that "All they do is walk places" hooey. If you can read Robert Jordan or George RR Martin, you can certainly get through LOTR.

Bonus pick: The Grapes of Wrath, by Steinbeck.

Name three books you’ve never been able to finish and explain why.

OK, time for my annual admission of failure to get through The Brothers Karamazov. But I swear, by all the Gods above and some of the ones below, that I will not depart this earth until I've read this thing. Dostoyevsky will not be my undoing.

Neuromancer by William Gibson. I tried to read this at least four times in the 1990s, so badly did I want to get into cyberpunk. Life got better when I finally realized that I just didn't like cyberpunk all that much. (I also bounced off a number of other cyberpunk novels, some by Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling. Neal Stephenson, I can deal with, just because he's more funny than dystopic. To this day I've only finished one Gibson novel, Virtual Light. And I hated the Gibson/Sterling collaboration The Difference Engine.)

Let's see, what else? There really aren't too many books that I've "never" been able to finish. I've "bounced off" tons of books, which I always see more as a sign that I'm just not in the mood for that particular book at that particular time than a sign that I'm simply not meant to really read it. Some I come back to later on and get through, while some I simply never pick up again. Maybe The Silmarillion, but then, I don't think I've made an attempt to really read that one since I was in high school, and that just doesn't count.

My glacial reading of the Bible proceeds apace, I should report. I read a tiny portion of it when the mood strikes me. I'm still in the midst of Genesis. I find myself alternating between awe at the beautiful majesty of the Bible's poetic constructions, and stunned disbelief that some of it gets taken seriously at all. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah just struck me as absurd: that these guys all come to Lot's house and demand that he hand over the angel he's just taken in so they can have carnal relations with him, and Lot's response is that apparently the idea of homosexual action is so repugnant that handing over his daughters for carnal action is preferable. I read that whole passage, and I kept thinking, "Ummm...sure. Right."

Name three books you want to read, but haven’t yet.

Just three? Ha! How about three entire authors? Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austen.

But OK, the question asks for titles. I'd like to read Gravity's Rainbow (Pynchon), Infinite Jest (Wallace), and The Tale of Genji (Murasaki Shikibu).

Are there any books that you’ve loved, but been disappointed by the film/TV adaptation?

Actually, not really. Movies, after all, aren't books, and movies have storytelling strengths that books don't, and vice versa. I don't normally read a book and then say, "Wow, can't wait to see that on the big screen!" Lots of bad movies result from good books, lots of good movies come from good books, and so on. Heck, sometimes you'll even find good movies from bad books (The Bridges of Madison County).

Which books (apart from the Potter books) do you re-read the most?

Not sure why the quiz specifies the Potter books, but I don't tend to do a whole lot of cover-to-cover re-reading. I do, however, engage in lots of "dipping" into favorites, revisiting old passages and episodes I liked a lot. For actual re-reading, the usual suspects apply: Lord of the Rings, the books of Guy Gavriel Kay (I'm actually due to re-read a number of these; it's over five years since I've been through Tigana, A Song for Arbonne, The Sarantine Mosaic, and four years since The Last Light of the Sun), and the books of Lloyd Alexander.

Which books do you remember most from your childhood?

Pretty sure I've answered this question many a time, but Lloyd Alexander's Prydain and Westmark series; the gothic horror stories of John Bellairs; the real-world tales of Betsy Byars. Robert Cormier was also a good one -- his were the first books I read that contained large doses of moral ambiguity, and his Fade is a genuinely unnerving supernatural story.

Are there any books that you are proud to say you have read?

"Proud"? I'm not sure that's quite the word. I'm tickled to have read The Three Musketeers, and I feel like I'm aging into some of the great books of our collective past, but I don't feel proud of that. I'm proud of what I've written, but I'm fortunate to have read what I've read. For the most part, anyway.

Are there any books that you are ashamed to admit reading?

Similarly, I'm never ashamed of my reading. There are books that I wish I'd not read in favor of something else -- I believe I've mentioned my tenth grade English teacher before, the one who made us read Ordinary People while the other classes were reading Mark Twain. (I've never forgiven that teacher for this.) Hell, I don't even wish I hadn't read Ayn Rand -- in fact, I'm glad that I made it through her ghastly prose and appalling pseudo-philosophy with my personality intact.

Of course, if this question's merely asking about "guilty pleasures", I suppose I can impugn my own literary credibility forever by simply making this admission: I still like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Are there any books that have had a big emotional impact on you? List 2.

Well, in 1994 I figured I was a sophisticated enough reader that I would likely never be moved to tears by a book again. And then I picked up GGK's Fionavar Tapestry. Every time I read that thing, I sob like a little girl. In fact, when I re-read it now, since I know the story so well, I tend to set it aside when I'm coming up on a passage that I know has that effect on me until I'm alone, so I can wallow in my teary blubbering.

On the flip side of the coin, laughter's also an emotion, and there's nothing like a good Christopher Moore book for that. Fluke and Island of the Sequined Love Nun are my favorites here. (Note to self: your copy of You Suck: A Love Story is still unread.)

I know it said to list two, but I've gone this whole post without mentioning Carl Sagan's Cosmos, so here it is. No book has ever given me the sense of wonder that this book does.

This is a non-tagging quiz, by the way, so grab it if you want it.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

RE: Lot
I've always taken that part of the story to mean that he was more willing to see his daughters raped than see Angles-- agents of God-- done wrong. But that's just me...