Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Book Meme

Banshee at the Aliens in This World blog (good if you are Catholic and like anime) tagged everyone with the book meme. So here's my responses.

1. Total number of books I've owned. Hard to say, as I've been culling regularly ever since I was 11 or 12 and realized I'd have no space for new books unless I got rid of my Nancy Drews and kiddie books. Then when we moved here last year, I had to go beyond my usual culls and cut 'til it hurt. So I probably own about 200 now, but have owned two, maybe three thousand.

2. Last book I bought. An Introduction to English Poetry, by James Fenton. (Two dollars for pristine secondhand!) It just came in the mail yesterday. I opened the package right before bed, opened the book just to glance at the first page, and had read three chapters before I forced myself to stop. Writing about poetry is usually dry, so I'm impressed with Mr. Fenton, that he can make me have to force myself to stop reading.

3. Last book I read. One of the Azu Manga Daioh mangas. (FWIW I recommend watching the anime instead; the anime has cheerful music and Chiyo-chan's unbelievably enormous cuteness and Osaka's spaciness only fully come through in animation.) Other than graphic stuff, I went through a few craft books in the past few days--I hesitate to say I read craft books, I just sort of go through them. I can't remember the last novel or nonfiction book I read cover-to-cover. Possibly The Black Tower by P.D. James.

3.A. Books I'm currently reading. An Introduction to English Poetry, obviously. The Proud Tower by Barbara Tuchman and Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. I have a few things by the bed that I dip into periodically--several poetry anthologies, a collection of Fulton Sheen's essays, and The Imitation of Christ. But I go at those in such fits and starts, I don't really think of myself as reading them.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me. I hate this kind of question. But here's five that mean a lot, not necessarily mean the most.

1. Little Women, because it was the first novel I fell in love with. I talked about this in a previous post.

2. Heretics, by G. K. Chesterton. It was the first book I read by Chesterton, and thus my introduction--other than a Father Brown story or two--to that delightful mind. I think people undervalue Heretics because Orthodoxy overshadows it.

3. Witches Abroad, by Terry Pratchett. That was the first novel I read by Pratchett. And when I'd read it I actually got angry at my husband because he'd had it sitting on his bookshelves for years and had never told me how funny it was. We now have nearly every Discworld novel, but I still recommend most Pratchett newbies start with Witches Abroad. (I may give a different recommendation if I know something more about the person's reading tastes.)

Pratchett, incidentally, said in an interview in Weird Tales that he's a fan of Chesterton. Because Pratchett lived in Chesterton's town as a boy, there were a lot of Chesterton's books about, and he read them because they were there. (I understand that; I read whatever was there as a child.) He said that there's no better training for a fantasy writer, because Chesterton teaches a person to turn things upside down or sideways and see them anew.

4. The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis. I read this during my conversion. After I read it, I believed in hell. Before, the idea would have seemed preposterous, but Lewis described hell in terms that I could understand. Fully.

5. On questions like this it's usually considered bad form to name either the Bible or Shakespeare's Complete Works. I don't see why I can't name a play though, and it's Much Ado About Nothing. That was the first Shakespeare play I fell in love with. I'd already read Romeo and Juliet, and I won't dispute that R&J is better, but R&J didn't start my lifelong love of Shakespeare. MAAN did.

When I was, I believe, thirteen, I happened to turn on PBS one night and they were showing MAAN. I think it was the complete works Shakespeare Plays series that BBC did in the late 70s through the early 80s; some of the productions were bad, but I greatly enjoyed what I saw that night. Before I went to bed I got out the old, limp red-covered, two-columns-to-the-page, garage sale Complete Works I had and read MAAN straight through. I knew I was on to something.

In addition to starting a long-term literary love affair, MAAN probably created--it certainly nurtured--my preference for the bickering couple of fiction, rather than the starry-eyed romantics. I tend to trust the bickering couples over the romantics in life as well.

Like Banshee, I tag everyone.

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