Ah, memes, the last refuge of the blogger who's too lazy to tell you about her travails at the pub quiz last night. Reading back over this, I realise I have bent the rules by refusing to stick to one book in every category. Still, who you gonna call? The meme police?
From Candy Minx
1) One book that changed your life.
Hmm, there have been a few. Top of the list would probably be Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth
, which I read when I was young and angry and feminist. At times, it froths at the mouth a little, but a lot of what it had to say made sense to me - particularly the section devoted to sado-masochistic imagery in advertising. It's not as funny as The Female Eunuch, though. (Runner-up prize goes to Richard Dawkin's A Devil's Chaplain
, the book which cemented my atheism.)
2)One book you have read more than once.
In terms of books that I have read the greatest number of times, I reckon it's a tie between Iain Banks' The Crow Road
and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every aspect of Pride and Prejudice has been exhaustively debated in the last year or two, and it is obligatory to start articles on the subject with some turgid reworking of the novel's first line. As I've done the second, I'll spare you the first.
Talking of first lines, the Crow Road, as I will tell you at length should you ever get trapped in a pub with me, has the best opening of any book I have ever read. "It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."
What I love most about Iain Banks are his ideas and his versatility - in this book the narrator Prentice's father is a children's story writer, and his brother Lewis is a stand-up comedian. Other writers would just tell you this, for fear of cocking up trying to bring these two difficult disclipines to life. Not Banks - he shows you the world Prentice's father creates for them as children, and in doing so reminds you of when you were young, and the boundaries between reality and fiction were thrillingly blurred.
It's also an amazingly funny book - quite a feat when it's about death ("away the crow road" is Prentice's grandmother's expression for dying). I try to read it at least once a year.
3)One book you would want on a desert island. This
. I'm sorry, I can't help being flippant. This question is impossible - I would go mad with boredom if I could only read one book ever again.
4)One book that made you laugh.
I'm so sorry, but the one that springs to mind is The World According to Clarkson
. I know, and I'm sorry... Maybe I should put it on my shelf next to the Naomi Wolf - it would be like matter and anti-matter colliding; the subsequent explosion could destroy the universe.
5)One book that made you cry.
I might as well continue to plumb the depths of embarrassment by admitting that the last book that made me cry was Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife
. It was when Lee Scoresby, the aeronaut, dies trying to save Will's father from the Church's forces, helped by his daemon (somewhere in cyberspace, paul
is screaming silently), a hare called Hester. It was just so... so... beautiful. I'd trade you a dozen Christmas Carols for it.
6)One book you wish had been written.
The rest of See The Old Lady Decently, by B.S. Johnson. BSJ committed suicide after writing the first part of the trilogy; the second and third parts would have been called Buried, Although and Amongst Those Left Are You. Johnson is one of the few modernist authors I'll allow in the house, because he's just such a great writer - he's one of those authors you can really tell has sweated over his writing to get it just so. You have to appreciate that.
7)One book you wish hadn't been written.
Children of The New Forest, by whatever git wrote it - Captain Marryat? It was our class book in Junior 4 (now rebranded as "Year 5") and I hated it. It just dragged on forever, while all the kids were wonderful and blameless and always obeyed their elders. Priggish little shits.
8)One book you are currently reading.
A Short History of Islam, by Karen Armstrong. Really interesting, nicely written, and scares the shit out of people on aeroplanes.
9)One book you have been meaning to read.
Damn, this is just the list of self-flagellation, isn't it? For someone with an English degree, I feel there are a lot of holes in my 'book-learning'. I have never finished anything by James Joyce, for example. I would dearly love to read any Beckett or Proust novel to the end as well, but I sense that also is never going to happen. I'd also like to read: War and Peace, Diary of A Madman by Gogol, Things Fall Apart by Achebe and Morvern Callar by Alan Warner.
The books I have queued up to read at home next are: Wyndham Lewis's Tarr, Joyce's Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man and Hardy's Jude The Obscure. I will not let them defeat me, dammit!