Book meme

Caught it from Zach Campbell's Elusive Lucidity

1. One book that changed your life?

Frankly they all changed my life. Catch 22 introduced me to absurdist humor and (in the final passages) terminal despair; in One Hundred Years of Solitude I remembered how matter-of-factly the fantastic was presented, Moby Dick introduced me to a kind of pagan spirituality (or at least one that had as much connection with nature and the sea as it had to Christian faith); Dostoevsky's novels showed me the depths of human perversity and the wonders of human redemption were often two sides of the same degraded coin. 

If I have to choose one book, I suppose I'd choose Cervantes' Don Quixote, if only because of any novel, it most completely represents all novels: massive yet intimate, slyly witty, crudely hilarious, intensely moving, fabulously imagined, profoundly metaphysical. It's the whole set of Shakespeare's plays in one volume, the world entire on the palm of your hand (if your hand rested on a tabletop, that is--most editions of this are chunky).

2. One book that you have read more than once?

Olaf Stapledon's Starmaker. World-building and imagination of a scale and density of detail no writer of fantasy or science fiction has achieved before, or approached since. A chilly philosophical view that annoyed C.S. Lewis to no end (though people as disparate as Virginia Woolfe and Winston Churchill professed admiration, and Jorge Luis Borges called it "a prodigious novel"). A monumental work too obscure and difficult for most science-fiction readers to embrace enthusiastically, too centrally embedded in the genre for mainstream literature readers to easily swallow. What's not to like?

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Easy: Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu. At around 5,000 pages it's long enough and complex enough a world to get lost in, and I imagine there's nothing in those pages that mentions deserted islands, something I'll probably appreciate on the tenth year of my stay.

4. One book that made you cry?

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. The final passages, when Humbert Humbert realizes just what Lolita had gone through--what it had cost her to be with him--are a terrible experience, not so much because of the suffering Humbert undergoes as the shame he feels (which Nabokov so memorably evokes). Better to have been shot in the head than to have to feel such shame.

5. One book that made you laugh?

Another easy one--The Bridges of Madison County. A laugh fest from beginning to end. I was in tears when I put it down.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Oh, yet another easy one: The First Encyclopedia of Tlon. Of course, there are those who say the book has already been written...

7. One book you wish had never been written?

I could think of several hundreds, but Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ was the book that most readily comes to mind...

8. One book you are reading currently?

Still re-reading De Sade's Les 120 journées de Sodome ou l'école du libertinage and Thomas Rick's Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq. Sometimes I can't tell which book I'm reading...

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Well, the Proust. I have the volumes sitting here. Need to start.

10. Pass it on

Oh, anyone who wants to, go ahead.

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