Friday, February 28, 2014

The Meme Museum

It's been quite some time--other than the year-end one--since I filled out a questionnaire. Here's one that's book-related that comes from Tumblr.

1. Your favorite book: A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes is still my favorite. Also Dune by Frank Herbert, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Damage by Josephine Hart, The Shining by Stephen King, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and many, many others. I've never really made a list of that, which seems weird, given all of the things I list. I could keep spilling them out now and never get on to the next question.

2. Your least favorite book: Certainly Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey were and are awful experiences.

3. A book that completely surprised you (bad or good): When I was in high school, I started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels. They really took me by surprise, because I was expecting something similar to the Johnny Weismuller movies, which (besides a cartoon in the early eighties) had been my only real experience before that with the character. I fell in love with the books.

Another example: Ira Levin's A Kiss Before Dying. I didn't know what the twist was, and it floored me.

 4. A book that reminds you of home: Books I read when I was a kid, mainly, like the Oz books of L. Frank Baum or Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. Judy Blume, too; when I was a kid I read a bunch of her books. I used to stay in bed reading sometimes when I was depressed, even in grade school.

Also, a used to read lots of books on cryptozoology and UFOs when I was young, and thinking about those just reminds me of trying to sleep late at night, because I was scared and my parents wouldn't let me leave the light on.

5. A non-fiction book that you actually enjoyed: I don't like the tone of this question, because it sounds like its author doesn't really imagine that non-fiction books can be enjoyable. I just recently read two of them that I quite liked. My home is overflowing with them. History books, art books, collections of Harlan Ellison columns, books about the making of films, books about Disney... I think my favorite of these is probably The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. And I. Asimov by Isaac Asimov. Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis. And... look, there are a lot.

6. A book that makes you cry: Lots of them have at various times. You know me, I'm emotional, I'm mentally ill, I cry easily. I cried reading that Jim Henson biography when Jim died. Certainly LOTR and the last Harry Potter novel did. I'll tell you the first time I can remember crying while I read a book. It was some Baby-sitters Club book that I read in grade school.

Just for the hell of it, I looked it up. It was called Kristy and the Snobs and it came out when I was 11. My sister Jayne used to like those books, and I ended up reading some. Anyway, that's the one where Kristy's dog is sick and dies, and they have a funeral for it. That was a time when I really started getting depressed a lot, because my friends had turned on me and my parents were separating. A sick dog on top of that was too much for me.

7. A book that's hard to read: Fifty Shades of Grey is like being bludgeoned in the brain by a sub-moron with a thesaurus.

8. An unpopular book you believe should be a bestseller: That's a stupid question. I don't have any stock in what others read. I'm not hung up on what's popular or isn't and what should be and all that jazz. I'll tell you what: I read a book in 2012 that should absolutely be a bestseller, it just hasn't been published yet. It should be a bestseller and a movie, js.

9. A book you've read more than once: I've read The Hobbit a few times over the years. Also The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

10. The first novel you remember reading: Charlotte's Web by EB White. I read that on my own the summer before first grade.

11. The book that made you fall in love with reading: I can't say for sure, though Charlotte's Web is a possibility. I've always been a big reader, since I was a very little kid. I don't even know that I'm in love with reading so much as I've just never considered the possibility of not reading.

There's this thing online now where everyone's in love with reading or at least in love with the idea of hanging out with a lot of books. I don't know anymore if it's supposed to be a status thing or a hip thing or whatever, and I don't really care. I don't want this to come across as one of those "Pssht, I don't even own a TV" riffs (which, by the way, is a lot less impressive online than you think it is), but it's just in my nature to read.

12. A book so emotionally draining you couldn't complete it or had to set it aside for a bit: I honestly can't think of an answer here, and I'll tell you why: because it's so hard for me to get into books that are funny. Well, not hard, but... I have to be alone and I can't bother anyone with it, because of things I've internalized over the years about how obnoxious I am or how loud my laugh is or how people don't want to be bothered by my idiotic sense of humor. I got enough people telling me to be quiet and not bug them when I was a kid that I find it hard to let loose with the laughter now, so I don't often have that release of pure laughter.

I do, however, for whatever reason, consider it okay to cry, which is odd, because that makes people more uncomfortable. So if a book gets really emotional, I stick with it, because that's a catharsis for me.

I'm sure those books exist, but it's hard for me to remember a lot of things.

Two years ago I read The Bell Jar in an afternoon, and it was emotionally devastating, but it was also cathartic because I thought it was one of the best depictions of social detachment and mental illness I'd ever read.

13. Favorite childhood book: Oh, I like lots of books that I read as a kid. I think probably either the Oz books (my favorite was Ozma of Oz) or The Chronicles of Prydain. The Prydain novels had such an effect on me as a kid. I also love William Kotwinkle's delightfully strange ET the Extra-Terrestrial novelization.

14. Book that should be on a high school or college required reading list: I think most of the books I would think of already are, and, honestly, it's not for me to say. I think it would be nice if, during the period when young people are forming their own opinions and having their beliefs challenged, they would read Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

15. Favorite book dealing with foreign culture: What an unexpected question. Maybe EM Forster's A Passage to India. Julian Barnes' Arthur & George deals with racism in an unexpected and surprising way.

16. Favorite book turned movie: Question rejected for being far too vast to answer. Lots of my favorite movies are based on books. Off the top of my head, I think Brokeback Mountain is as excellent as the story it's based on. So is Rosemary's Baby.

17. Book turned movie and completely desecrated: I don't care. I don't like these kinds of questions, because I'm tired of watching people so butt hurt by an adaptation they didn't like, mainly because it didn't agree with their interpretation of whatever. It's so subjective, and a terrible adaptation doesn't hurt the source material. I think people who are concerned that it does hurt the source material are really just worried, in a snobbish way, that some other imagined person might see it and like it "the wrong way" or see it and not like it and not read the novel because of it. I'm less interested in what other people think about a movie, which is just the easiest thing in the world to ignore. Yeah, some movies miss the point of their source material, but for me it's about whether the film works on its own. I hate when an otherwise-decent movie puts in things that are totally extraneous simply because "that's how it was in the book."

18. A book you can't find on shelves anymore that you love: I don't know. The important thing is that it's on my shelves.

19. A book that changed your mind about a particular subject (non-fiction): For some reason, this is the only example I can think of: When I was in junior high and going through my Beatles phase, I absorbed the "Yoko broke up the Beatles" drumbeat that's always so popular. But after reading The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono by David Sheff, I could see how much they loved one another and how much she meant to him. She meant more to him than the Beatles did, and that's where his heart was. I'm glad I read it then, because it made me think about what's more important in life: what you do, or who you do it with.

20. A book you would recommend to an ignorant/racist/close-minded person: That question assumes an arrogance I don't have. I don't think I'm better or worse than other people, and I don't know that telling someone to read Huckleberry Finn or Their Eyes Were Watching God is a solution to anything. Generally ignorant/racist/close-minded people see their beliefs reinforced in anything.

21. A guilty pleasure book: Ugh, you know how I feel about the concept of guilty pleasures. Right after high school, I dated a horrible person (horrible for other reasons besides this) who used to hide her Stephen King novels in the cabinet part of her bookshelf because "I don't want someone to see my bookshelf and think I don't know how to read." Even at 17 that struck me as irredeemably snobbish.

If you want to make fun of me for any book in my collection, I'm not the one who should be embarrassed.

22. Favorite series: Probably the Tarzan books.

23. Favorite romance novel: Depends what you consider a romance novel, I suppose. I never read any of those bodice-ripping Harlequin books that my aunts were always into. I like Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, which I read in high school, and which is kind of a romance novel. There are romances in the Harry Potter novels, and I like those. I have no idea. Julian Barnes' Talking It Over is fantastic, but it's not really a romance novel. Nope, no idea.

24. A book you later found out the author lied about: I'm not really sure how to answer this.

25. Favorite autobiographical/biographical book: I. Asimov by Isaac Asimov and pretty much most non-fiction written by Harlan Ellison.

26. A book you wish would be written: My own fantasy novel that I've written down parts of over many, many years.

27. A book you would write if you had all the resources: Same. I have a lot of barriers psychologically that have to do with my anxiety. It can make it very hard to concentrate.

28. A book you wish you never read: Oh, even the awful ones give you something to think about. Example: Fifty Shades is actually making me reassess some of the things that have happened in my life in regards to abusive behaviors and social problems and at least one failed relationship I've had. That said, I could have gone my whole life without reading John Knowles' A Separate Peace. Do they still make high schoolers read that?

29. An author that you completely avoid/hate/won't read: Well, seeing Bill O'Reilly's name on anything is not going to make me read it.

30. An author that you will read whatever they put out: Not a lot of contemporary authors that I'm so into, although I'm up for whatever JK Rowling wants to do next, even though I didn't care for The Casual Vacancy. I'm starting to dig John Green, too. There are still contemporary authors I want to read and just haven't yet. And anything by Julian Barnes. Everything by Julian Barnes.


Yasmin said...

I think it's become kind of cool to bash movie adaptations. I get parts of it. Like really wanting to see that one scene from your favorite book or when the image of what person x looked like in your head doesn't match the person on screen. What I do not get is how that could hurt the book or how some people think their version is the only right one, like you said. In the end, if the movie is good, you can spend a bit more time with people and a story you love. The Harry Potter movies really taught me a lot about how to separate the books from the movies and how to be able to like both. (Though there are still a few things that kinda piss me off till this day, no matter how self-involved that reaction may be.)

Which John Green books have you read?

SamuraiFrog said...

I understand; I do still wish they had explained about Harry's father being able to change into a stag and all of that...

I liked Paper Towns and especially Looking for Alaska. I haven't read The Fault in Our Stars yet; I'd like to, but I know it's going to be hard going for me, because my sister died of cancer when she was (almost) a teenager.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'd have trouble with more than a few of those questions, starting with least favorite book, since, if it doesn't interest me, i just quit it.