Friday, April 15, 2005

So, both Harvestbird and Limegreen have thrown down this challenge; I'd be churlish not to comply. Mind you, in some quarters, there are one or two inhabitants who would contend I am a churl, but that's a different story. Here goes:

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

This is hard - one of:
Vikram Seth's masterful A Suitable Boy - a huge sprawling novel which covers so much ground in the search for a husband, and taught me so much about Indian Constitutional Law on the way through - if you can only take one book with you, may as well make it be one about everything. Seth quotes Voltaire: "The superfluous, that very necessary thing..."; or

Fyodr Dostoevsky's The Idiot featuring Prince Myshkin. Dostoevsky's idea in creating Myshkin
was that he would be the "perfect man" in evolution, rather than as a finished product. Thus he might get things wrong, bumble along, but his overall trajectory is to do and be good. Some characteristics, as written by his author are "self-mastery from pride, a frenzied desire to
solve his own problems, someone who is filled with profoundest compassion and forgives mistakes." His author believes "A man who has always been humiliated and insulted usually possesses infinite generosity and love"

Possibly the latter.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Yes, at least two I can remember. My very first was on Pippi Longstocking - the strongest girl in the world. Who could resist? Much more recently, there was Kakoli (or, as her friends know her, Kuku) Chatterjee in A Suitable Boy. It is a story in which Lata is in search of a husband, and one possibility is Amit Chatterjee - a darkly moody poet. Kuku is his sister, and she's great, very sharp.

3. The last book you bought is

Herzog, by Saul Bellow, since he died and all last week, and his Augie March was so great.

4. The last book you finished is

Eva Trout, by Elizabeth Bowen. Oh dear, I really don't like that thought. Here's what I said to my book group about her:

"Poor Eva"?? She's a freak, I dont like her one little bit - other people grow up with disordered backgrounds and they don't go out of their way to screw up other people. She was about to get her freedom from Iseult and Eric [her foster parents], only had a month or two to wait, but can she? Oh no - quite gratuitously, she constructs some sort of disagreement and leaves, with all the consequences that had on their tottering relationship. Not just that - she creates the idea that Eric has fathered her child, just to add insult to injury, made worse by the fact that Eric and Iseult can't have one.

Then she buys a baby! What? This baby has been stolen from whoever its parents are and is what exactly to Eva? A way of explaining her disappearance? A fashion accessory? Does she, can she love him? Why did she do it? As soon as there is some sort of indication that Jeremy [the baby] might actually be able to communicate with anyone other than herself, she stages some huge disappearing act, conscripting poor Henry [a young fellow she grew up with] in the process. She is manipulating him, not the reverse - he really loves her, the poor fool, but can't actually believe it will work - no wonder really, given her track record.

And then there is Constantine [her guardian] - what has he done, exactly, that is so bad? When Eva tells him he's really unhappy with Iseult, he does the right thing, and has a meeting with Iseult to alert her to the situation. She has the vague idea that he might have been dipping his hand into the Trout fortune, but this thought doesn't actually seem to go anywhere. We never get the full story of his history with Willy [Eva's late father - her mother was burnt to a crsip by flying rather too close to the Andes], but after reading about Eva, I'm actually willing to take his word for it that "A Trout, of any kind, is a liability" and that "in any dealings with Eva intelligence if anything is a handicap".
Can I put the one before up in its place - that was great: Shirley by Charlotte Bronte.

5. What are you currently reading?

More weird books. One because of my 19th century book group: Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest, who was Germany's answer to Madame Bovary. Mark Dunn's Ibid: A LIFE / a novel in footnotes, which has two odd premises. Its main character has three legs. Plus, through some sort of publisher's error, the novel has actually been lost and all that is left are the footnotes.

Then there's poor old Moby Dick, stalled on page 441. Do I count Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari and William Gaddis's JR? They're both sitting upside down, opened to a particular page, the actual page I did read to. But they've been that way a while now. Is it a year? Could be.

6. Five books you would take to a desert island:

So what I want to do, and I think I'll cheat a little by counting multiple volumes as one book. I'd take:
Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle - it is huge and it is great, but finding time to read it is so hard.
George Perec's Life: A User's Manual
Mark Z. Danielewski's A House of Leaves - another book I have lacked time to read, and which is reputed to be endlessly rewarding
Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote - there has to be at least one classic, right?
And the final book would be by one of those impenetrable philosophers, since I'll have the time to get to the bottom of what they're on about - Derrida, Schopenhauer, Heidegger or the like.


Blogger Smacked Face said...

Nice choices Barry! And thank you for sorting out the F451 confusion chez moi...

2:40 AM  

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