Hitting the Books Meme

theroux

I thought I’d take a break from bubble-wrapping my paintings and try my hand at a meme. I’ve seen these posts on other blogs and always wondered where this particular device got its name.

My first instinct was to dip back into my two years of high school French. I thought of même, which rhymes with “hem” and means “same.” But, that made no sense.

Me being me, I googled around and found my answer at chrisg.com:

“In science, a Meme (in this instance, it rhymes with “theme”) is a self-propagating unit of thought that is spread from one host to another. Richard Dawkins invented the term as a kind of idea-gene. Like genes, as Memes spread they mutate or die. Only the fittest Memes survive.”

King of cool, n’est pas?

Anyway, they’re fun — at least, I think they are. I’ve always been a sucker for memes whenever friends would send them to me by email.

Because I’ve been missing my books — all but a few stragglers are packed away in boxes, waiting to travel to New York — I’ve chosen them as the subject of the meme.

  1. Name the books you are reading now:   Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (Paul Theroux). He is one of my favorite authors. He’s smart, droll and curmudgeonly. Also, an unfailingly honest, witty, detail guy — the perfect travel companion — and one who frequently makes me chuckle or gasp. Next to it  on the nightstand is Man and His Symbols (Carl Jung, etal.) — still a fascinating book.
  2. Name the book(s) everyone else seemed to like, but you:   Okay, I’ll probably get some flak for this — but, in the interest of being honest, my selections are : The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen) — I adore his non-fiction and his writing style, but I read this book all the way through and then forgot about it, almost immediately. The same was true with White Teeth (Zadie Smith). Again, the author is a beautiful wordsmith with a seemingly preternatural insight into her characters — but, oddly, I didn’t grow to care about those characters. When I finished the book, they were gone for good. Nothing lingered…; The Great Gatsby (I was not nearly as enchanted as most people — Fitzgerald writes lovely prose, it’s true. But I read the novel at three different times during my life, just to be sure, and it still felt superficial).
  3. Name the book(s) that changed your life:   The Diary of Anne Frank. I read it when I was about the same age as the author. It shaped my journey into adulthood by altering the way I was perceiving the world. Frank helped me to see beauty in the parts of life I’d been taught to view as ugly.
  4. Name your favorite adaptation(s) of a book to a film:  1) Women in Love (a favorite book of mine and an exciting, expressionistic Ken Russell adaptation. His clever incorporation of Lawrence’s poem “Figs” into the film was one of the highlights: “The proper way to eat a fig, in society / Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump / And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower…”; 2) To Kill a Mockingbird — love both the book and the film to death;  3)  The French Lieutenant’s Woman — with a script by Harold Pinter adapted from John Fowles, how could you go wrong?
  5. Name a book that taught you something:  Independence Day (Richard Ford): Frank Bascombe, the protagonist, is a real estate agent. A female colleague of his is raped and murdered while presiding, all by herself, over an “open house.” Lesson: if you go into real estate and you are female, don’t do what she did.
  6. Name the one book you’d want on a desert island: The I Ching (Wilhelm translation). An endless source of contemplation and hidden treasure.
  7. Name a book that you were sorry to have read:  Loving Frank (Nancy Horan) — very disappointed with the author’s thin, uneven character development and, what appeared to be, cursory research. I enjoyed T.C. Boyle’s book about Frank Lloyd Wright, The Women, so much more for its vigorous writing, exhaustive research, and deft structure —  in spite of one noticeable flaw — his invention of an annoying Japanese narrator who insisted on referring to Frank Lloyd Wright, repeatedly throughout, as Write-o-san. Drove me crazy. Oh, and those unnecessary, self-indulgent footnotes…nevetheless, I admire the book a great deal and do recommend it.
  8. Name a book that was your guilty pleasure:  My guilty pleasure is a genre called “true crime.” I love reading about forensic investigation, detective work, unearthing the motive, the trial — all that fascinating stuff makes for an obsessive read.
  9. Name a book you’ve tried to read more than once, but abandoned: Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky) —  I’ve never gotten past the first few chapters, and not for lack of trying. I just could not get into it.
  10. Name a book you’ve read more than once: The Snow Leopard (Peter Matthiessen); Nausea (J.P. Sartre); As I Lay Dying (W. Faulkner). While I’m on the subject, I would like to give Madame Bovary another chance — I think, during the first reading, I’d allowed the way she’d dealt with her plight to make me judge her as weak (well, I was a teenager at the time, with overbearing, prudish parents) — which probably got in the way of Flaubert’s writing.

Anyway, I’m always in the market for book referrals from passionate readers…hint hint…

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