Friday, July 28, 2006

Just One Book?

Sylvia has tagged me to participate in the one book meme. I’m a promiscuous reader and so find it rather difficult to restrict myself to just one book in any category. But, never one to pass up an opportunity for introspection on my reading habits, I'll give it a go.

1. One book that changed your life:

Man Descending by Guy Vanderhaeghe. I read this brilliant book of short stories when I was sixteen. I’d read short stories in anthologies before then but this was the first collection by an individual author that I read cover to cover. Man Descending awakened me to the power of the short story form. The fact that Vanderhaeghe is from my home province of Saskatchewan and set many of his stories there had a huge impact as well. This was world-class writing emanating not from New York or London or Paris, but from right there at home. I credit Vanderhaeghe’s book with setting me on the path to becoming not just an avid reader of short stories but also a writer of them.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. This is my favourite of Spark’s novels and I get something more from it on each rereading.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

I have few outdoor survival skills so I should opt for a non-fiction title full of the sort of information that I’d need to stay alive on a desert island. Sticking to the literary theme though, if pressed to restrict myself to a single book I think I’d get the most mileage out of a short story anthology. Something along the lines of The Art of the Short Story which contains stories by fifty-two great writers together with some of their musings on the craft of writing. Lots of different voices to sustain me through my lonely vigil!

4. One book that made you laugh:

Mean Boy by Lynn Coady.

5. One book that made you cry:

If I had remembered how bleak L.M. Montgomery's Mistress Pat gets toward the end, I wouldn’t have chosen it for my airplane book en route to the Montgomery conference that I attended recently. I wept right there on the airplane, no doubt much to the consternation of the passenger sitting next to me.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

Betsy’s Bettina by Maud Hart Lovelace, the never-written eleventh book in the Betsy-Tacy series. I concede that Lovelace made a sound artistic decision in ending the series at the moment of the U.S. entry into WWI, before the experience of that war irrevocably changed the lives of Betsy and her crowd. But I would still like to know if Joe survived the war, and how Betsy’s writing career proceeded during and afterwards, and whether she ever had the daughter that she planned to name Bettina. Not that I want someone other than Lovelace to write that book now mind you. I abhor sequels written by someone other than the original author.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

I could name a few books that I wish I hadn’t read but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I wish they had never been written. Just because I didn’t like them doesn’t mean that others who did or would should be deprived of their enjoyment. I’m not sure that I would wish out of existence even those books full of political ideas that appal me. I struggle with this issue, but I’m inclined toward the view that it’s better to have the ideas out in the open where they can be combated as opposed to leaving them to fester beneath the surface.

8. One book you’re currently reading:

This All Happened by Michael Winter.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino.

10. Now tag five people:

Oh sure, now I get to pick five. If they’re inclined to participate, I’d be curious to hear from Jennifer, Heather, Patricia, satyridae, and Melissa on this one, and also from any other readers who are interested.


LK said...

Oh, dear, more books on the pile! :) Don't know if I could make the heartbreaking (albeit nonexistent) decision required for this particular game, but I like your choices.

P.S. Adored Betsy-Tacy as a child. I couldn't agree more with your comment.

Kelvin said...

Hello from a blogger down under in New Zealand. I was searching the blog world when your blog popped up. I haven't really read many "fiction" books. I suppose I should but I am more into non-fiction. It would be interesting though to see what people are reading.

Michael said...

1. The Citizen Kane Book. Even though Pauline Kael's essay Raising Kane is almost completely wrongheaded, her jazzy yet intellectual rigorous style caught me at just the right age (14, maybe?) to make me want to dig harder, think deeper, and write with more pizazz. Took me years to start using periods again, and not just string everything together with dashes.
2. Lolita. The book that changes the most depending on what age you are and where your sympathies fall. Or whether you're under the spell of Kubrick, or those Iranian ladies, as you read it.
3. I bet everyone will cheat on this and name an anthology, you can't read some novel over and over. Mencken's Chrestomathy, maybe.
4. Lucky Jim.
5. Sorry, books don't make me cry. Movies, occasionally, but not books.
6. The shorter versions of the last few Harry Potter books that would have been much better, if anyone dared edit Madame Rowling these days. Or the novels an older and more mature Nathanael West would have written.
7. The Faerie Queen, source of much misery in both high school and college.
8. Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is much better than you've heard.
9. Oh God, what haven't I been meaning to read.

rob mclennan said...

i am intrigued by this & currently working on my own version.