Tuesday, May 02, 2006
ME AND MY BOOKS
I'm always so excited when I visit one of my favorite blogs and find that I've been passed a meme baton--not because I'm very good at doing them, because I'm not. No, I just love the feeling of being included, being part of a community. It brings back the joy I felt when I was chosen for someone's softball or basketball team. (Unfortunately, given my lack of athletic ability, the person who chose me often lived to regret it.)
Anyway, despite my good intentions, I often never get around to finishing the memes. Something I feel like I absolutely must write right now forces its way to the head of the line, or I break it into pieces and only finish half my assignment. In other words, I tend to cheat--just like I did in those childhood softball games whenever I got a chance.
This particular meme, however, looked like a lot of fun. It involved going through an interesting list of books, crossing out the ones you've never read, bolding the ones you have, etc. I really wanted to do it. But just as I had trouble hitting a softball straight, I also occasionally run into technical difficulties. Computer cross outs are simply something I don't know how to do. So once again, I did it my own way.
Thank (and apologies) to P.A. Moed and Debra Broughton who brought me into the game. Hope you don't mind that (once again) I broke a few rules.
The 3 most influential books in my life:
(I know, I know; it's an absolutely impossible question, but here's a stab at it)
1. Crossing the River by Czeslaw Milosz
2. Little Women: I wanted to be kind like Beth, treacherously beautiful like Amy, wise and loving like Marmee, but of course, most of all, I wanted to be a writer like Jo. This book encapsulated all my girlish aspirations.
3. Les Miserables: I read it out loud to my two oldest sons when they were about eight and ten.
I can still remember the three of us weeping on my bed at the death of Jean Valjean.
3 books I've read more than once:
1.The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. A small, spiritual classic with a message I need to hear again and again.
2. Crime and Punishment: I can still remember reading it on the subway in Boston when I was eighteen. I was so engrossed in Raskolnikov's world, I missed my stop and traveled to the end of the line.
3. Pride and Prejudice: No one is murdered, no international conspiracy or deadly virus is involved, but this is the novel that comes to mind when I hear the word "thrilling".
3 great books that I personally hated:
1. Moby Dick: Endless details about whaling, and not a woman in sight. I must have taken at least 3 courses in college that required this particular epic.
2. Didn't much like The Scarlet Letter either, though Hester Prynne, cast away from respectable society and living with that horrible A across her chest, remains a vivid character in my mind.
3. Beowolf! I'm sure it's a wonderful story, and maybe if it wasn't force fed on me when I was eighteen, I might have been more appreciative. Maybe someday I'll try it again. On second thought, who am I kidding?
3 "Pure Pleasures":
1. Gone with the Wind: It may not be pc, but Margaret Mitchell's Civil War novel has some of the most memorable characters in commercial fiction, a terrific plot, and a philosophy I've employed a few times myself. (I'll think about that tomorrow...)
2. Green Eggs and Ham: I used to beg my kids to let me read it just one more time. I can still hear their little voices: "Please, Mom; can't we read something different tonight?"
3. The Valley of the Dolls: At fifteen, I learned everything I ever needed to know about plastic surgery, traitorous Hollywood men, and pharmaceutical pick-me-ups and let-me-downs from the glamourous Jacqueline Suzanne. Wasn't there also a man with a sculpted jaw and a name something like Lion involved in the story?
3 great books I should have read, but haven't--not yet:
1. Don Quixote: I'm a little afraid of this one. Something tells me I might relate to the character whose name has become synonymous with cockeyed optimism a little too much.
2. War and Peace: In the volume I have, there is so much dense writing packed onto a page, that I better read it soon before I'm too blind to see it. But truthfully, that may have been what's deterred me thus far.
3. To the Lighthouse: I loved A Room of Her Own, and the diaries, but have always been intimidated by Virginia Woolf's fiction. Sometime, in this lifetime, though I'm not quite sure when, I mean to overcome that particular fear.
3 books I recently ordered:
1. The Accidental by Ali Smith
2. Pere Goriot by Balzac (Inspired by Irina)
3. Woody Guthrie: A Life by Joe Klein (Regular readers know about my obsession...)
Now I get to choose my own team. So click on the links and play the game properly, try it my way, or invent your own version: