Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Book Tag

Her majesty fecundmellow just tagged me to answer yet another blogosphere questionnaire, but this is an especially exciting one for me 'cuz it's about books. I'm with fecundmellow on about half of her answers, but to delve into my own library...

1. Total Number of Books You Own I have no idea, but I expect it would take hours to count them. My advisor once paid me to count her books and write down all the titles for her. She had, 2227. I'm not in Hortense's league yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if I had around 750, or maybe 1000.

2. The Last Book I Bought I recently picked up Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, one of the founding critics of queer theory, though her scholarly emphasis isn't really there anymore. Still, she's an incredibly lucid and thought-provoking literary critic, and she takes such obvious pleasure in what she's saying that she's a joy to read. Plus, she visited Cornell recently and was very kind.

3. The Last Book I Read The last full-length book I read was Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine by D.N. Rodowick, which was for my dissertation. Since then, I've read the scripts for 14 plays; if those count, the most recent of them was Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen and Joshua Logan.

4. The Book I Am Current Reading As you can see on the sidebar, I am smack in the middle of Dana Polan's book Jane Campion, as well as the fabulous Latin American historical-fiction novel The Divine Husband, which is so good I might just have to start it over when I have more time.

5. Fiction or Non-Fiction? You can't have one without the other, really, but I admit, if I were stranded on a desert island with only one or the other, I'd take the fiction.

6. The First Book I Read As far as I can remember, it was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. After that was a whole mess of kid's stuff, then a tidal wave of Nancy Drew (of which The Clue of the Velvet Mask and The Sign of the Twisted Candles were my faves), then a big Stephen King phase, begun with Carrie and It. Outside the horror genre, the first f'real book I read was The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. I met her once and got to tell her how important this book was to me; she and her husband Ray were really wonderful.

7. Largest Impact 3-Way Tie: The Scarlet Letter I took it upon myself to read this in 7th grade, and even though I missed a lot, I was totally absorbed in the language, the characters, and the story, and it made me want to keep trying books that were too hard for me. I've read it three times since, and I still admire the hell out of it. And fuck, I enjoy it, too. (I know that isn't normal.) The Color Purple I read this book in 11th grade for English class, and the minute I finished the last page, I started over on the first. I have a few misgivings about the book now, but I still adore it, and it raised so many important issues in 1982. Plus, it got me started reading black American women's fiction, which is still my favorite genre of American fiction (Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, Octavia Butler, Paule Marshall, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, can ya hear me?) Plus, it has the greatest dedication page in modern American lit: "I'd like to thank everyone in this book for coming." Inside Oscar A movie obsession begins. Every two weeks when I was in middle school, I used to walk 2 miles back and forth to the U.S. Army Base Library in Hanau, Germany, to renew this book. I did this for 72 weeks.

8. Favorite Scholarly Book For reach and ambition, maybe Anti-Oedipus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. For deftness of interpretation, either Lee Edelman's Homographesis or Elin Diamond's Unmaking Mimesis. For inimitable prose and extraordinary personalities, either Elaine Scarry's Resisting Representation or Hortense Spillers' Black, White, and In Color.

9. Most Read Book Inside Oscar wins for repeated dips in and out, but as far as straight-through reads, I have read The Scarlet Letter, The Color Purple, Beloved, and As I Lay Dying four times apiece.

10. Sexiest Book The answer that leapt to mind was James Baldwin's Another Country. Everybody be sleeping with everybody, no matter who what how. And the prose is so beautiful that it's sexy by itself.

11. Biggest Disappointments I love Tennessee Williams' plays dearly, and his first novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was just fine. Still, his next novel, Moise and the World of Reason was heart-stoppingly bad. Similarly disheartening was Loida Maritza Perez's Geographies of Home, which falls somewhere between a bad copy of several good novels and a first draft of something that might feasibly have become something. With much, much revision.

12. Five Books that Mean Something to You Besides all of the above... 1) The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne: Y'all can think what y'all want. 2) Arc d'X by Steve Erickson: Possibly my favorite American novel written during my lifetime. 3) The Healing by Gayl Jones: Her friskiest and most hopeful novel, even though Corregidora is even more stunning. 4) The Queen's Throat by Wayne Koestenbaum: A delicious, hilarious, informative book about opera, even for those of us who know nothing... plus, the first conversation I ever had with my future/current partner was about this book. 5) The Time Out Film Guide Because Derek can take me to opera, but he'll never woo me away from the art I really love.

13. Who You Gon' Tag? I'd love to hear the answers of a bunch of regular visitors to this site, like Dr. S. and Dorian and Amanda. You know any of y'all can talk up your faves among the comments. But among the Bloggers I know, I'm going to hit up Nathaniel, ModFab, Wyatt, Goatdog, and SceneStealer. (Of course, I'd've tagged Safire, but fecundmellow beat me to it.)


Blogger Dr. S said...

I am totally into being tagged; this one almost makes me want to get my own blog going (I've got the form all set up, and even the concept, and yet I'm just not doing it).

1) Total number of books I own : I think I estimated it at about 2000 a few summers ago, but I'm no doubt pushing 3000 by now. 60 boxes / approximately 3000 lbs. worth, in any case (being moved by professionals [and no, I don't mean your dancing, Nick!] teaches you things).

2) Last book I bought : yesterday, at Barnes and Noble on my way home from the airport, I picked up Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go , a remainder of Atwood's Oryx and Crake , and a B&N cheapie of War of the Worlds . Before that, it was Peter Kramer's Against Depression . This is really what I do with my time.

3) Last book I read : I finished Nicole Krauss's The History of Love last week and liked it a lot. Also, Ian McEwan's Saturday , which I finally allowed myself to take home from my office once my final grades were in.

4) Book I am currently reading : Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now , which I've been reading since mid-April. The Ishiguro and Atwood are coming up. And of course there will be The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Poetry and Poetic Theory , all summer long.

5) Fiction or non-fiction? : I don't think there's really a difference, a lot of the time, but I'm with you, Nick, on taking novels to desert islands (or beautiful southern cities).

6) First book I read : Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb . First non-kids book I remember reading: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland .

7) Largest impact : Madeline L'Engle's time trilogy was really important for me. Frankenstein , ditto, for getting me to decide I would do nineteenth-century stuff. Middlemarch , really.

8) Favorite scholarly book : I'm often not awesome about reading scholarship, actually. I like Paul John Eakin's criticism a lot. I will count Middlemarch here, too. And reading Herbert Tucker's criticism always makes me want to sit down and write beautifully witty things. I'm sure there's something I'm forgetting--basically, figure that I like literary criticism and theory when I read them, but I don't focus on them as often as perhaps I might.

9) Most read book : Madeline L'Engle's A Wind in the Door , which I bought at the Dodge Elementary book sale in November 1983, just before moving to Indiana. Also Middlemarch and To the Lighthouse , both of which I think I've read at least 5 times now. And probably Beloved , because I've taught it almost every semester for the past couple of years.

10) Sexiest book : I remember thinking that Byatt's Possession was nerdily hot when I read it; if I don't think about the movie, I still remember it as subtly steamy. I used to read Krantz novels when I was in junior high; they were explicit, but I don't remember whether they were hot. So I'm going to have to draw a blank on this one. Oh! how about Far from the Madding Crowd ? Swordplay and horseback riding and peeping?

11) Biggest disappointments : I wanted to love other things by Byatt, after Possession , but I've never made it through another of her books. I'll have to think about this one some more, too. I tend to forget the things that have disappointed me; my brain is already too full of all the things I love a lot. Oh, yeah: Wuthering Heights . I don't want to be a hater, but that book...

12) Five books that mean something to me : 1) Middlemarch , which really is right up there as a Bible for me; 2) Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke (I was horrified by the scenes about this book in that crazy movie Igby Goes Down ); 3) A Wind in the Door ; 4) The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant ; 5) Virginia Woolf's corpus, but especially To the Lighthouse . The difficulty of creation has never been captured so rightly.

13) Alas, I don't think I get to tag, not until I get my own damn blog. But if Dorian and Amanda (congrats on the baby-growing, Amanda!!!) reply I will be excited to see their books.


10:54 AM, June 07, 2005  
Blogger summer of sam said...

her majesty? i love it!!! you know i'm a blog star.

anyway, i love that you included 'alexander and the...'.

as for alice walker, i could take or leave her. i'd rather leave her.

3:48 PM, June 07, 2005  

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