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Monday, July 04, 2005

An Exercise In Procrastination: The Book Meme

order on order, line on line - Is. 28:10
Having been directed to complete this activity, I (finally) present for your consumption the following tidbits.

The number of books I own
Maybe a couple hundred, probably less. Nothing to see here, move along citizens. I do however have a much-used library card, which reveals the expediency-driven mindset: read many, own few.

The last books I bought
...weren't for me. I bought several historical-fiction novels for my sweetie-pie, just because. Or maybe it was Mother's Day, surrogate gifting for income challenged offspring? Or both. Probably both.

(the meme mutates) The last books I acquired
Since I typically borrow, I add this sub-element.
Intrigued by titles on others' meme-lists and posts, I've checked out the following.
  • Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, one of Carol's mean-a-lot books.
  • Children Of God by Mary Doria Russell, noted on Scroobious Scrivener's most excellent site. This book's predecessor The Sparrow was first brought to my attention and recommended several years ago by my mother. I read The Sparrow, found it both moving and disturbing, and put off reading the follow-up story. Scroobious' book meme post and mini-review provided a reminder and motivating push, so - away we go. And mom - thanks. I'm finally working on part 2, sorry for the delay.
  • A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin (audio), described as "a loving, sad tale of Sherlock Holmes in the era of Hiroshima." Selected for two reasons: I needed an audio book for my daily commute, and seeing this post put me in a Sherlock Holmes state of mind.
Last book I read
Macroscope by Piers Anthony. First time I'd seen it; originally published c. 1969, re-released a couple years ago. Interesting, imaginative concept. Some 60's conventions seem totally weird (such as his use of the word Negro), but overall the story still works well. I might have passed on it if I'd noticed the original date; would have been my loss.

Five books that mean a lot
No particular order; most of these I own, in hardcover even
Y'know this would have been much simpler as say, five favorites. But noooooo! Okay fine. What. Ever. :->
  • Perelandra by C.S. Lewis. I could use this as a stand-in for nearly a dozen of Lewis' books -- The Chronicles Of Narnia and parts one and three of his space trilogy, to name nine. But I'm not. This story moves me in ways few books do. Dr. Elwin Ransom, a philologist / regular guy gets sent to Venus by beings without bodies, to battle evil in a pristine world populated only by its to-be king and queen, a pair of green-skinned humanoids separated by vast oceans. A powerful allegory, deeply spiritual; yet I find myself easily identifying with Ransom's fears, faults and shortcomings. No, the story's setting doesn't fit at all with what we know about Venus as a planet. Doesn't matter. The story isn't about a material Venus or scientific exploration. This is a story about humans, a creator-designer, an epic battle, and love beyond reason. Another excellent allegory that coulda woulda shoulda made my list is Arena by Karen Hancock. No outer space here, just great fiction.
  • The Otherland Series by Tad Williams. Not one book but four, each volume averaging over 800 pages. This is a massive, mind-bogglingly entertaining saga, loosely described as near-future science fiction. While there are elements of future tech, this is no space cadet story. If you like well-written fiction, you will like these books. Otherland has the distinction of being the first multi-part story I read that wasn't already finished when I started reading it. Think Harry Potter vs. LOTR. I read #1 shortly before #2 came out, but had to wait for 3 & 4. Definitely worth the wait. Otherland holds* powerful, compelling characters, much conflict and tension; a woman on a quest, a bushman, a psychopath, a Dorothy, flying yellow monkeys -- a great story. My favorite "part" is Williams' style: he trusts his readers possess working imaginations, and writes in a way that enables their use. In other words, when bad things happen (for example), he doesn't resort to using explicit, graphic sequences to convey the scene. He writes well, and writes enough to seed the reader's mind, then sets the imagination free. When bad things happen, he doesn't catalog each movement, each cut, each drop of blood in sense-numbing detail. Yet you know exactly what's happening because your mind takes the author's cues, and if you're like me you'll find the effect more powerful than if the writer did all your imagining for you.
  • Life Of Pi by Yann Martel. The story won the Man Booker award a couple years ago. This is an amazing, moving story about "a boy, a tiger, and the vast Pacific ocean." Reading the overleaf we learn it might, in the words of one character, make you believe in God. Quite a challenge, eh. Two people I know who've read this book were convinced it was true, or at least based on a true story. I had to double-check for myself as I read it; to say Martel brings his characters to life seems like a gross understatement. You should read this book. When you do, get a hardcover; two reasons. First, the back-cover text on the softcover edition gives away details better left to discovery, IMO. Second, there is some number of softcovers with a "printing error" near the story's end: several key lines of dialog were affected. I noticed this and wrote the author, fearing my preferred version was "wrong." It wasn't. Mr. Martel - you're a cool guy, thanks for taking the time to write back. I kept the letter, but you won't see it on eBay I promise.
  • Practicing The Presence Of God by Brother Lawrence. The shortest and oldest on my list, written in the 1600s by a monk. Yeah, I read his first release. Not. The author describes in a straightforward, down-to-earth way how flawed, imperfect people ought to perceive and interact with a perfect creator-God. If believers "got" this man's simple message and acted upon it, they would truly change the world. This book has influenced my relationship with God, and continues to do so (I keep a copy on my PDA).
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. First saw and read this several years ago, long before the movie release. I knew nothing about the book, but thought it looked interesting. At its simplest, this is a story of a wounded Civil War soldier's journey home, a kind of odyssey. Inman (the soldier) is like Odysseus, and Ada (the girl back home) is his Penelope. A great story with vivid characters and scenes, I found myself quickly and wholly immersed. I ached for the protagonists in their trials, and hated the dark players and their accomplices. I read it again as a refresher before I saw the film (we don't talk about that). The story brings a compelling perspective on the Civil War, Southern yet universal. It's on my list for Frazier's ability to wholly pull me into his desperate, tragedy- and hope-filled world.
One book that I would like to burn
BellSouth's Yellow Pages. Stupid. Disorganized. Worthless. Wake up! The nineties are over, for crying out loud. Give me something I can use, or stop littering my driveway.

People I think deserve this kind of trouble
"Deserve" is such a strong word... Let's just say if you haven't already gone through this exercise and are the least bit interested, consider yourself directed. If you're not interested, do it anyway. Deal with it. Seriously, give it a try. When you're finished please let me know; I'd like to read yours.

Finally - sorry, I know I went a little light on hotlinks here. I'll try to edit/update/add soon. If you see something you want but can't find, let me know and I'll be glad to help.
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*Otherland holds...characters = pun. I will say no more.

8 Emissions:

Blogger Glo emitted...

Wow. I had never thought how much I hate the Yellow Pages. I want to burn them, too. Finally, a book meme that has brought something practical into my life!

7/04/2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam emitted...

So, as originator / parent / creator / perpetrator of this meme, what are your thoughts on its spread and current state (not just here)? Feel free to share, or to make up something on the spot.

7/04/2005 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cate emitted...

I'm reading The Sparrow right now and so far it's incredible - can't wait to get home and read some more! It brings to mind Orson Scott Card's Ender series - Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide in particular. I love science fiction that tackles religious questions and Card is the master.

7/04/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger omar emitted...

I'm still waiting to see Scott's guide to a beautiful lawn on someone else's list...

7/04/2005 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam emitted...

Cate - I'm a total latecomer to Card's work; first time reading was in the last six months. Not sure how I overlooked them for what, ten, fifteen years? Now I want to revisit The Sparrow to see what you mean.

Omar - all I can say is "D'oh!" I knew I'd forget something crucial.

If only I had a lawn...

7/04/2005 09:35:00 PM  
Blogger omar emitted...

Never too early to start preparing for good lawn care.

7/05/2005 08:49:00 AM  
Blogger ScroobiousScrivener emitted...

Ah yes, another book that *nearly* made it onto my mean-a-lot list was CS Lewis's Till We Have Faces. I keep re-reading it every few years and still don't feel like I've quite figured it out, or why it means so much to me. But it really does.

Now I must also look up Orson Wossname. Yet more on the list... I refuse to join a library until I've read all the books I already own. But I keep buying more books. I think I've got something wrong there.

(oh - and thanks for the lovely compliments!)

7/05/2005 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam emitted...

Omar - saw a Scott's truck this morning, noticed the pretty butterfly painted on its side, and thought of you.

Scroobious - you're welcome. I can't remember if Till We Have Faces is one of the "other" C.S. Lewis books at home. Now I'm curious, and can't check until tonight. Fortunately I'm easily distracted, so

7/06/2005 11:07:00 AM  

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