Friday, September 01, 2006

Tardy Book Meme

I have not been keeping on top of my blog reading and as a consequence I missed a meme tag that was issued to me earlier this month by Lucy from Always Listen to Your Pig-Puppet. But now on this rainy day, when I should be doing my thesis, I thought I would catch up on some blog reading and take up the meme challenge. With profuse apologies to Lucy for my tardiness.

One Book That Changed Your Life
The dictionary, or rather becoming aware of how to use the dictionary effectively. It's more than a spelling aid, it opens up worlds of meaning when you encounter unfamiliar words in your reading. I remember my favourite English teacher talking about the word 'cicatrice' from My Brother Jack, and how she had looked it up in the dictionary to discover it was the most perfect word in the context it was used. I wanted to have experiences like that.

One Book You Have Read More Than Once
I tend not to read books more than once. Here I have to resort to books I've written a thesis chapter on: Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas, Praise by Andrew McGahan. I've recently re-read The Great Gatsby on a voluntary basis, but I don't think I really read it properly the first time.

One Book You Would Want On A Desert Island
When ThirdCat did this meme, I was very impressed by her answer, which was some kind of manual on desert island survival. I think if I could have only one book, that would be my preference too, but if the matter of surviving was taken care of then Don Quixote because in it there are stories within stories. And if I were that isolated, I would probably finish it.

One Book That Made You Laugh
The Blindman's Hat by Bernard Cohen. Oh, that fluffy little white dog, Muffy!

One Book That Made You Cry
Lucy said that Markus Zusak's The Book Thief made her cry, and it had the same effect on me too. Another book that elicited strong emotion from me was Siri Hustvedt's What I Loved. I have wanted to write about this book in more detail, but I truly don't think it's possible without ruining the experience for someone else. I've just had a look at my bookshelves and was reminded that it took me two days to recover from reading Candy by Luke Davies.

One Book You Wish You Had Written
I don't know that I really think this way. Perhaps I can offer that during the time I fancied myself as a potential writer of novels, there were a couple of authors who used to make me think I had something to say: Milan Kundera, especially The Joke and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting; and Paul Auster, particularly The Invention of Solitude. I could also probably add Roddy Doyle for Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha and The Barrytown Trilogy (The Snapper and The Van, more than The Commitments).

One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written
That Eye the Skyby Tim Winton. It put me off Tim Winton forever. I hated the way the women were punished thoughout the narrative after expressing the vaguest of feminist sentiments: the grandmother went mad in a rocking chair in the back room, while the daughter harmed herself with self-inflicted cigarette burns before going off to meet a dubious fate in the bush that hinted at sexual assault. Meanwhile, the father who had been injured arose Christ-like from near-death out of a baptismal-like bath, reborn to take his place at the head of his family; and the son kept seeing prophetic visions in the cookie jars, because his naive view of the world, unsullied by any l institutional mediation, was apparently clear and true. All that self-appointed prophet, I-don't-believe-in-organised-religion-but-I-am-the-leader-of- my-own-spirituality made me want to drink Kool-Aid. I have a particular objection to Tim Winton's linking of white, male spirituality to the land in a kind of psuedo-envirnomentalist way. It just looks like another vile mutation of colonialism to me.

One Book You Are Currently Reading
The White Earth by Andrew McGahan

One Book You Have Been Meaning To Read
Next on my list, after The Vivisector, is Tuvalu by Andrew O'Connor. If I could get hold of Wegener's Jigsaw by Clare Dudman, or Siri Hustvedt's other novels, The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl I would like to read them too. This is the problem when you don't have a credit card, you can't just order things online, you have to rely on bookshops. The bookshops in Brisbane haven't been very good on these books, they tell me that Wegener's Jigsaw is out of stock, but I learned from the author's blog that it's about to be remaindered!

Dear readers of Galaxy, if you find any of these books on your travels, please think of me. I will gratefully reimburse you.

Now Tag Five People
Everyone seems to have done this already, but if you haven't and want to, consider yourself tagged. Let me know if you take up the tag after reading this post.

I noticed that Lucy has since posted another book-related meme, so I thought I'd do that one too:

• Grab the nearest book.
• Open the book to page 123.
• Find the fifth sentence.
• Post the text of the next four sentences.
• Don't cheat by looking for a book with more literary/intellectual credibility.

The book on the desk in front of me was A Plea For Eros by Siri Hustvedt; clearly I'd half imagined a blog post on it, celebrating the fact that she's done a PhD on Dickens and is crazily smart in the way that I like. I think she might qualify for nerdy nerd status. I was also going to reflect on the topic of self-revelation, wondering about what seem to me to be the similarities between published books and blogs.

Anyhoo, the fifth sentence on page 123, and the following four:
An acerbic, often cynical film reviewer for The New Yorker ended his column with a heartfelt statement about love. He seemed to mean it. My brother-in-law, a sculptor, reported a conversation that he had with fellow artists who said they were rethinking their work. For a brief time, photographs of firefighters and policemen replaced pictures of celebrities in the tabloids and on magazine covers. The news channels dropped commercials from their coverage, as if they knew that alternating film footage from the site, where rescue workers were digging for pieces of the dead, with ads for dish washing liquid or an allergy drug would be unacceptable.
I want to reveal the next sentence as well:
But by now, this talk of a cultural sea change is mostly gone.


Lucy said...

Thanks for doing the meme! I was assuming most people I tagged mightn't see the tag, but I wasn't sure if explicitly informing people would seem like pressuring them.
The question about what book you wish you'd written seems to alternate between that and just a book you wish had been written by someone, which was a lot easier to answer, I thought.
I just requested a bunch of your answers from the library. Was Candy worth having to recover from?

Galaxy said...

Yes, Candy was worth the recovery time. I think there is such, what a friend of mine would call 'tenderness' at the core of this book, that other portrayals of drug addiction don't necessarily strive for, never mind achieve. Not sure if you've had the opportunity to see the film adaptation of Candy over there. It stars Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish,Geoffrey Rush too. Anyway, I think the film captures the feeling of the book--especially at the moment when we get an insight into what is driving Candy's addiction. Abbie Cornish is just astonishing in her portray of Candy.

OTT said...

I've just done this meme too! (oh, well it's my most recent post anyway and I'm still slacking off).

Have you tried Folio Books in the city? I've always found them very willing to order in my most obscure requests; and they'll order things in for me even if it takes forever to arrive from the US of A.

And it's interesting what you say re Tim Winton. I've only read Dirt Music, which I really enjoyed but throughout felt that his characterisation of women (really only one) lacked depth and conviction. I'm curious now - very curious. so, though you think it should not have been written, I may end up reading it :-)

Lucy said...

I don't think the movie's been released here, yet, but I'll look out for it.

Galaxy said...

ott, thanks for commenting. I don't know that I really think That Eye shouldn't have been published, the meme tends to back you into that corner, but I did write an essay at uni on how much I hated this book--all reasonably argued I assure you--so I contemplated what I perceived as its faults quite deeply. Maybe you'll read it and love it. If that's the case, I'd like to hear about it. What was it about Dirt Music that you enjoyed? Maybe I should be a bit kinder to Mr Winton and give him another go.

OTT said...


no need to be kind to Mr Winton. There are plenty of people out there who are kind enough to him...

I thought his writing was excellent - very clear and so evocative, of people and place. I was briefly in a part of the WA in which part of the story takes place, and his characterisation of the land was so right. The story was flawed (the ending was Hollywood laughable), but there were great moments of heartache and poetry, and insight.

I take your point, however, about his white man / earth spirituality. He had that in Dirt Music too. There were aspects that I thought were quite good and I think true - the earthy connection to land men who work it feel - but there were some poor moments as well - the young shaman-type indigenous man who appears, imparts spiritual knowledge mystically and disappears again.

I read Dirt Music without necessarily engagin g in it very critically. It was just a good book.

I'll remember to let you know my thoughts when I get around to reading That Eye. (don't hold your breath though, my reading list is lengthy, and easily derailed!)

Shado said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog! I have left a comment there in return. BTW, you can solve the credit card problem by getting a visa debit card - which looks like a credit card but just deducts the money from your savings account. Avid Reader in West End is a great place to order stuff as well - well I'm sure you already know this!

I think the books I have read the most frequently are those by Foucault! When I was a kid I read The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books multiple times. As an adult I have read Ross McDonald's books a few times. I find that I forget stuff so if I read the books a few years later again it is almost like reading them for the first time.