Sunday, April 10, 2005

Too Many Goddamn Books

Echidne has set me a task, and as her humble suppliant I'm obliged to carry it out cheerfully, if not well. It seems I have to answer these questions, and then pass 'em on to three other people. I hate this kind of thing, so you may consider this post the "Book of Job" of Echidneism:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

That's a tough one. If I choose on the basis of practicality, I lean towards Barbara Comyns' "Sisters By A River." If I choose on the basis of sentimentality, I'd have to pick one of Tove Jansson's Moomin books. If perversity gets the better of me, I'd probably go for George Lippard's The Monks of Monk Hall or some other ridiculous Gothic potboiler.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Does Echidne count?

The last book you bought is:

I bought seven, thanks to a chance meeting between a hefty credit slip and a fifty-dollar bill! Things That Talk: Object Lessons From Art and Science; two out-of-print books of Pogo strips; A General Theory of Magic by Marcel Mauss; Typologies of Industrial Buildings (possibly the greatest book ever!); Cruel Delight: Enlightenment Culture and the Inhuman; and Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project.

The last book you read:

No idea...I'm plowing through a dozen things simultaneously! I guess it was either Wittgenstein's Culture and Value, or Bourdieu's Science of Science and Reflexivity.

What are you currently reading?

Oy. (See photo, above). Jeffers has forced me to re-read Wittgenstein, so I'm about midway through four different books of his'n, which I pick up according to my mood (I'm not complaining; I'm grateful!). I'm also reading Arkin's Code Words (I'm not putting those goddamn Amazon links in again); a book called Urban Sprawl and Public Health; a book about vaudeville called The Voice of the City; a collection of essays on Athanasius Kircher; Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture; Ernst Cassirer's The Individual and Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy; an anthology of Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories called Tales from a Gas-Lit Graveyard; Fanny Howe's Gone and The Wedding Dress; The Fierce and Beautiful World by Andrei Platonov; and Theodore Steinberg's Slide Mountain.

I have to stress that "reading," for me, means wrestling with four pages before bedtime, usually in a hypnogogic state where the sentences morph into gibberish so strange that it wakes me up (at which point, I re-read the last paragraph to make sure that it didn't really say that bit about dancing in a gown made of burnt toast). If I make any actual headway on a given book, it's because I have insomnnia, or am sitting around in a cafe.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

I'm assuming this island has food, water, fuel and so forth, and that the worry here is not day-to-day survival, but distracting myself from crippling depression and anxiety by retreating into the life of the mind. I must say, I've spent most of my life doing exactly that, and I can't say that it works very well.

Simone Weil - Notebooks
Christopher Smart - Jubilate Agno
Charles H. Hinton - The Fourth Dimension (I'd finally get to figure out the sheet of multi-colored cubes that comes with it!)
Thorndyke's History of Magic and Experimental Science (if you have to burn books to stay warm or signal for help, this is a veritable yule log)
Tove Jansson - Moominpappa at Sea

D'Arcy Thompson - Of Growth and Form
Melville - The Confidence Man

Lest all this sound too egg-headed, I hasten to add that if I could get omnibus editions comprising complete runs of all George Herriman's comic strips, and all Walt Kelly's Pogo strips, ad Cliff Sterrett's Polly and Her Pals, and Fontaine Fox's Toonerville Trolley, and Winsor McCay's Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, I'd ditch most of the titles above in a heartbeat.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

Thersites, because he is a sempiternal man.
RMJ, because his word is as a lamp unto my feet.
Speechless, because I'm curious.


Thersites said...

Curses! You'll never take me alive, coppers!

Rmj said...

Top o' the world, Ma! Top o' the world!

Speechless said...

Oh to have such a mind...yours is a remarkably nuanced meeting place where science and philosophy are put to work observing the world. And pointing us in unexpected directions.

I go, You go, We go POGO!

Phila said...

I know very, very little, Speechless. But I'm far too curious for my own good.

echidne said...

Very well done, my supplicant! :)

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