Thursday, February 15, 2007

Giant Literary List 3

I thought I'd finish this off in one swoop rather than drag it out forever. It's a giant last entry to the giant literary list!

Books My Teacher Made Me read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education

MarĂ­a Amparo Ruiz de Burton's Who Would Have Thought It?, a civil-war era sentimental novel, was a ponderous mess of a book, redeemed only by its cultural politics.

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character

Though some people I can think of would hate me for this, I am going to have to cop to finding Lovelace (Richardson's Clarissa), or at least his style, pretty damned seductive. Septimus Hodge in Stoppard's Arcadia is also hot.

Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book

It's possible that my friends who didn't read the book were unwilling to talk to me about that fact, but as far as I know, this never happened to me.

Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot

I may have picked up the first Miéville book at least in part because of his picture.

Books I've Read Aloud

I do this a lot with poetry and dense philosophy. It helps me slow down my reading. So, let's see... I read much of The Prelude out loud, all of Don Juan out loud, a bunch of Adorno and Heidegger out loud, some Kant (it didn't help comprehension there). These days, my honey and I are working through the complete Shelley out loud.

Books I Love Even Though the Last Twenty Pages Made No Damn Sense

The canonical example of this phenomenon is everything by Neal Stephenson, most particularly Snow Crash.

Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head

Sabatini's Captain Blood! (Yes, I know he wrote his own sequels, but I haven't found any of them to read yet.)

Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny

I'm going to regret admitting this, but Walden. I even have a beautiful authoritive edition (ed. J. Cramer) that I shelled out a heap of money for.

Books I Will Go to the Mattresses for, Even Though I Hate the Writer

Even after all he's done to demolish his literary reputation, I still really love Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and A Planet Called Treason, weird and problematic as they are. As misogynist and terroristic as his novels were, I love Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, which is just flat-out beautiful. What else? I'm sure there are a lot of books I'd defend against their authors.

Books You Must Read Because You Must Mock

Even with the most mockable books, I... wait, no: Dan Brown's Angels and Demons is a truly awful book. His Digital Fortress is even worse, but it's just sad; Angels and Demons has a bestselling exuberant awfulness that makes it ok to mock.

Worst How-To Books Ever

I've read a few bad guides to oil painting, but I'm not holding any grudges.

Books That Were on the 'To Be Read' List the Longest

Gravity's Rainbow. I decided at some point to take it off my to-read list and to hope that someday I'd simply run across it and want to read it without being prompted.

Books I Hated Having to Read in School, But Love Now

L'Etranger. As a fifteen year-old Mormon, I did not understand what this book was supposed to be about.

Books Whose References Have Worked Their Way into My Household Lexicon

In Great Expectations, Pip's aunt periodically goes on a "ram-page" to clean up the house and everything in it.

Books I've Never Read But Have Read the Cliffnotes Version

I've never read a Cliffnotes version of anything.

Books I've Read Because I Liked Their Cover Design/Font

I'm sure I choose books based on their cover design (not fonts, though), but nothing is coming to mind. If I did it too often, I'd own many more Vintage Books editions than I do. HOWEVER! If anyone reading this works in the publishing industry, could you convince people to stop using cover designs that look like that awful Jonathan Safran Foer book? It's getting out of hand.

Books Which, When It Comes Right Down to It, I Would Have No Problem Burning

The most recent Orson Scott Card book, Empire, comes awfully close to that fell standard. I actually brought it home from the library for chuckles. Within ten pages I was just bored.

Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes

There's an entire novel around the famous gardener scene in Lady Chatterley's Lover? Huh.

Books I Pretend to Like So People Won't Think I'm a Snob, or Books I Pretend to Like So I Won't Hurt Your Feelings

I finally thought of one! The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. That reminds me of another one! Le Petit Prince. Both of these books have a sentimental place in many people's hearts, and admitting that I find them trite would be like calling somebody's baby ugly.

Books with Covers So Embarrassing You Can't Read Them in Public

A fair amount of SF and Fantasy has just laughable cover art. One that's coming to mind is Dan Simmons's Hyperion---though, looking at the image now, I've certainly seen a lot worse. Recently I've been carrying around on subways The Penguin Book of Erotic Stories by Women, which features a Renaissance painting of a bare-torsoed woman whose nipple is being pinched by a mysterious hand. That's a little embarrassing.

Books You Are Sorry You Didn't Read Decades Ago

That's difficult to answer. I often have that feeling of "Oh! At last!" when I read something really great. On the other hand, some books, like most of Kerouac and Salinger, I've read and thought: "Hm, perhaps I'm too old to appreciate this in the same way other people did."


Anonymous eb:

Agreed about both Desert Solitaire and the The Alchemist. Although I've never had occasion to pretend to like The Alchemist.

2/15/2007 10:01:00 PM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

Your case of avoiding the canon is not so bad as mine, but it's a factor. I've always managed a personal relationship with long-avoided books, so I have no reason to fear conventional feeling, but somehow I still have trouble.

I've learned to read Lawrence prophetically, and have concentrated on his nonfiction and poetry with great rewards the last few months, but I've avoided the major novels, except for WIL, perhaps because of their canonical status, and the excerpts I've seen are comically phallocentric, I must admit.

2/15/2007 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

There are other canonical books I'm avoiding for now: Thomas Mann (loved Death in Venice, not ready for The Magic Mountain), Faulkner, Turgenev (my mother recommended him once or twice too often)...

I liked Lawrence's short stories! in a mesmerized-by-the-grotesqueness kind of way. They rather reminded me of Roald Dahl's creepy adult fiction.

Did you like Le Petit Prince, Teo?

2/15/2007 11:14:00 PM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

Go to Unfogged now, JM.

2/15/2007 11:18:00 PM  
Anonymous teofilo:

Never read Le Petit Prince, but one of my high school friends really loved it. He was schizophrenic and later committed suicide, and afterwards his parents set up a charitable foundation in his memory inspired by the book. When they sent out the letter announcing the foundation I became somewhat interested in reading the book, but I never got around to it.

2/16/2007 01:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Oh, my. Well, perhaps you'll really like it. It's been an important book in some people's lives, and I've found it difficult to predict for whom it will have been so.

2/16/2007 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous matt w:

About the Unfogged think; I think it's not so much that Christianity has an exalted place in our society as that it's rude to dictate to people about what their religion really is. cf. that discussion about Judaism when I was still commenting. Now sometimes I will dictate to people -- I'll tell Jews for Jesus that they're not really Jews -- but that's because I want to be rude, or at least because I think there's a normative issue at stake.

2/16/2007 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

it's rude to dictate to people about what their religion really is.

It's rude at least in part because it presumes that you have some superior ground from which to dictate.

2/16/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous emir:

I've China Mieville, and he is astoundingly attractive in person. Also scary intelligent and seems like a genuinely nice guy too.

2/18/2007 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

Somehow I overlooked that you had responded to my comment four minutes later, but I agreed with what you said at Yglesias's (or anyway with the PMC posts you were agreeing with). And the whole thing was unnecessary, because Yggi could just have said from the beginning "candidates who are perceived as not Christian or marginally Christian" and made the same point.

2/18/2007 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous teofilo:

So do we want to know what, exactly, emir did to China Mieville, or not? Personally I'm leaning toward leaving it to the imagination.

2/18/2007 11:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Matt W: yes, that was an unfortunate debate for Sausagely to write himself into. I suspect that from the outside, all of these Christian denominations look like so many alien societies with funny squabbles about minute differences. It's a mistake to play anthropologist and political commenter in the same post, though: way too easy to give accidental offense.

2/19/2007 12:41:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Emir: Mieville was very gracious during the Crooked Timber seminar on his Iron Council. He does seem like a mensch.

2/19/2007 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous teofilo:

I suspect that from the outside, all of these Christian denominations look like so many alien societies with funny squabbles about minute differences.


2/19/2007 01:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Since you're a gentile, I forgive you your ignorance.

2/19/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Anonymous teofilo:


2/19/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Lemieux:

A Planet Called Treason

I give him this: it's a great title...

2/20/2007 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous emir:

Teo, I wish reality had been closer to your imagination.

2/21/2007 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

It was great to meet you, Emir, and to see you again, Scott--though I had a horrible, horrible hangover the next day. Oof.

2/21/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous emir:

I blame the Bushmills.

2/23/2007 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

That might indeed have been a step too far.

2/23/2007 09:54:00 AM  

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