September 21, 2005

Damned memes. At least this one's book-related.

Briana tagged me. I hate memes as a rule, but like both books and Briana.

# of Books I Own:
Eternally more than I can read but fewer than I'd like to have on hand. Enough to overflow two bookshelves, fill up three corners of the bedroom, and fill my work supply area and classroom supply cabinet to the gills.

Last Book I Bought:
Like the goddess Briana, I rarely leave a bookshop with a single tome in my hands. The last visit garnered The Odyssey by Homer (translated by the unfortunate-last-named Robert Fagles, which I'm ebarrassed to admit I've not read before (in verse or prose). I also walked out with two essays, one by a philosopher, the other by a historical linguist: the former, a brilliant treatise on the formation of politically correct, craptastic politeness, On Bullshit by Henry Frankfurt.

The latter,The Solid Form of Language by Robert Bringhurst, starts out strong, equating a single spoken word to a pebble dropped in still water. Concentric ripples of definition move outward, challenging a listener to instantaneously interpret these spreading waves and determine individual meaning before witnessing and calculating the exponentially-increasing interactions between this single word and the whirlpools of wake caused by its simultaneously-uttered brethren. Considering how we take our daily conversations for granted, the vision of everyday speech as whitecapped pond of confusion in which we somehow divine meaning is an eye opener.

Unfortunately, this promising, almost poetic start proceeds to deliquesce into a fair-to-middlin' history of the written word. Lingual topics fascinate me, but continual lists of fact with minimal observation or metaphor mire the central text deep down the Academic So What river. I'm only impressed with your research skills if you can give me continued reason to listen to you show off. Still, the first part, anyway, is well worth the read.

5 Books That Mean(t) A Lot To Me:
On any given day, I might remember this list a little differently, but each of these had a profound effect on me at the time I read 'em.

Watership Down - Richard Adams
Strangely, I didn't read this until after my 30th birthday; still, I felt like a wee lad from the time I cracked the spine 'til the time I insisted my friend Denise give it a try. Amazing how Adams so successfully created not just a story involving rabbits, but a fully believable set of cultures, including varying beliefs regarding family, community, theology and fate. The levels at which the tale works are singularly impressive.

The Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller
Miller (probably known best at this time for his Sin Citygraphic novel-cum-storyboards) single-handedly revitatlised a tired comic book industry with his 1980s Batman revamp. This mini-series was anything but mini, as he led a veritable attack on what old-school comics writers and artists had done to the stock characters young boys had come to know and love. Batman started nearly 75 years ago as a dark, mysterious, psychopathic vigilante. In the 60s and 70s he was softened and lampooned by writers trying to escape the serious issues of the day (Human Rights, Vietnam, Cold War, etc.), not to mention mediocre pencils and overly bright inks. Batman had become a joke, a self-referential caricature -- "Holy Scriptures, Batman!" -- and the Dark Knight came along and tore it all down. In a nutshell, Frank Miller came along and re-invented the English comic medium.

A Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
In my youth I read everything I could get my hands on. High school proceeded to beat that instinct out of me -- irrelevant texts, even more irrelevant teachers, and, to be honest, the discovery of girls all conspired to tear me away from the printed page for nigh on five or six years. It was Atwood's outstanding tale of a woman trapped in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic patriarchy that brought me back into the fold. Bookworms unite!

Et Tu, Babe? - Mark Leyner
I've long considered my sense of humour to be equal parts silliness, stupidity, absurdity and triviality. This was a source of self-doubt for a long time (and continues to vex in one way: why can't I remember what Eli Whitney did -- well, okay, he invented the cotton gin, but who the hell knows what that is? -- but I have at my disposal all the names of the Facts of Life girls, and the actresses who played them?) That said, Leyner's absolute disregard for linear storytelling is something I admire more than a large, stately respectable thing. Pop cultured academia married clever turn of phrase, and begat trivial, nonsensical roadmaps of double entendre. At one point, the main character instigates a highly militarised breakin at the Smithsonian Institute for the sole purpose of stealing a vial of Abraham Lincoln's morning breath -- due, of course, to its renown as the single most intense hallucinogenic substance in the known universe. Brilliant.

Five People I Now Name As 'Tagged'
As I've always hated memes, I've never felt comfortable tagging people. Still, I suppose it's part of the gig, yeah? Should these folks read this, they are now downtown Tagville. To hit city limts sooner than later, I recommend the E Street bus.

Rob ert
Sharon (Hola Miss Twiss!)
Amanda (I love the smell of napalm in the mourning.)
Paul (I don't care if he is in Costa Rica -- the bastard)


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