Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: A Meme!

Ph.D. Me tagged me for this one ages ago--which isn't to say that my answers are any more interesting now than they would have been then--but until I finish the two novels I'm currently reading and have some new fun books to write about, this is all I've got for you.

The Book Meme

1. One book that changed your life?
I'm not sure that any single book actually has changed my life--or maybe it's that a lot of books have changed my life, but only in tiny and incremental ways. But if I had to pick one author who had a serious impact on my life as a reader, it would be T. S. Eliot. Now, I actually kind of hate Eliot (for his politics, his prejudices, and for what that little punk-ass had to say about Milton), but he was my first exposure to "difficult" literature. Although we read virtually no poetry in my high school, we did read "Prufrock," and I totally loved it; I remember being particularly proud of myself for getting the references to Hamlet and John the Baptist.

Right after reading "Prufrock" in class, I went out and bought a copy of Eliot's complete poems and tried to read The Waste Land. Oh, I tried. I even checked out a copy of the Twayne's guide to the poem. I didn't succeed in really understanding very much of it, but I worked at it, and I got some inkling of what it was that literary professionals DO, and of the rewards that close analysis can bring.

2. One book you have read more than once?
Aside from the ones that I re-read for professional reasons? My favorite may be Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which I've read at least six times.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
There are a lot of books that I'd be perfectly happy to read over and over again, but I'd want something relatively lengthy, something that I enjoyed reading and reciting aloud--hell, let's just say Paradise Lost.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Just about every book I like makes me laugh, even those that are decidely unfunny (you may take this as evidence of my callousness or my fine sense of the absurd, as you wish). But I'm almost incapacitated with laughter every time I read Evelyn Waugh, especially Decline and Fall, Vile Bodies, and Handful of Dust. I reread each of those regularly.

5. One book that made you cry?
As above. Many books make me cry, even those that aren't particularly sad. I remember absolutely bawling at the epilogue to Middlemarch.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Uh, maybe my own? (Anyone want to finish it for me?)

7. One book you wish had never been written?
I've already been beaten to the punch with the Da Vinci Code, Mein Kampf, and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion--can I get all metaphorical here and say that I wish no one had ever written the book of George W. Bush? Or at least that it had been hastily erased?

8. One book you are currently reading?
I'm re-reading Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood, after seeing the John Huston film adaptation. (Expect a RfP post in the near future.)

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
The book I'm most embarrassed not to have read--and that I really want to read!--is Moby Dick. I've started it three times, but I have this enormous copy, see, that's difficult to lug around. . .

10. Now tag 5 people.
I'm bad at keeping track of who's done memes and who hasn't (and this one is aging rapidly), so if you want to do this one, consider yourself tagged!


Anonymous said...

My Brit Lit class read Decline and Fall my senior year of college. Pedagogically speaking, it may have been a disaster from my professor's point of view, because all of us -- including her -- really couldn't talk about the book without breaking into laughter. So we pretty much just laughed for the entire class period and did very little analysis. But at least it convinced even the skeptical students that literature can be really, really fun!

Now, the problem with Moby Dick is that no one has come up with a nice, lightweight version that still has readable font.

phd me said...

How neat: Eliot made a pretty big impact on me, too. His was the first poetry I didn't understand. High school being what it was, I didn't read Eliot until college and I was blown away. I still have my copy of Selected Poems from that class; you can barely find the text for all my scribbles. I loved that he was hard, that you had to work to get it. Besides all that, he wrote some beautiful poems, Prufrock being one of my favs.

And I got a little misty-eyed when I found George Eliot's grave in Highgate Cemetary. Middlemarch has to be one of my favorite novels.

Anonymous said...

I vividly remember reading 'Prufrock' in school too - funny how affecting 'I grow old... I grow old...' can be when you're seventeen. (Reminds me of studying Milton's sonnet 'How soon hath Time' as an undergrad., with a middle-aged Professor who couldn't believe how seriously we all took it.)

Have you read Waugh's The Loved One? It made me howl, not least with its concluding punch-line. There's also an edition of his letters to and from Nancy Mitford (dedicatee of The Loved One), which is both laugh-out-loud funny and terribly sad.


P.S. As an EM drama geek I have to love Eliot for his 'Brome deserves to be more read than he is, and first of all to be more accessible than he is' comment, even if it's not altogether complimentary in context.