Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Book Meme Thing

It's meme time again. Scruffylooking has been tagged with a "favourite books" meme and I have tagged myself as I fancied having a go at coming up with some answers. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Mr Atrocity semi-proudly presents:

A book that changed my life -

"The Iliad" by Homer. I never read much fiction as a child and I don't read as much as I should even now. That I would be so captivated by a story written nearly three thousand years ago whose plot consists mostly of sulking interspersed with sporadic bouts of graphic ultraviolence would have seemed unlikely. And yet captivated I was, and to this day I still am. The power of the verse is undimmed and the epic and yet still very human struggles contained within are utterly timeless.

A book I've read more than once -

I tend to read "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K Jerome about once a year, usually at the start of summer. If there is a better "sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with a beer" book I have yet to find it. The humour is still fresh over a century after it was written and it stands up to multiple re-readings without ever feeling stale. It is rather whimsical but that's OK with me.

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island -

If I could have the complete "Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams that would make me very happy. Not only is it beautifully written with a Wodehousian loving care over the choice of every word for maximum comic effect but the permanently out-of-his-depth Arthur Dent would pretty much sum up me on a desert island I would imagine.

A book that made me laugh -

"Molesworth" by Geoffrey Willans with illustrations by Ronald Searle is one of the finest works in the not-quite English language. Written in the first person by Nigel Molesworth, the "Gorilla of 3B", it tells of life at a horrid private school in the 1950s and is written with a lazy 10 year old's eye for speling and grammar, poo err gosh I sa. Chiz chiz. A chiz is a swiz or swindle as any fule kno.

A book that made me cry -

"The Old Man and The Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. It's a very short book and yet the tragedy and humanity that's packed into it fully justifies its winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature. I've read it a couple of times and it's broken my heart every time.

A book I wish I had written -

"Farewell My Lovely" by Raymond Chandler. To be honest I'd like to have written any of the Philip Marlowe stories. Chandler's powers of description and sense of place exceed almost anyone else I can think of. He could write three lines picking out a couple of salient details to describe and you, as the reader, have a complete picture of the scene. It's a freakish ability. His sense of style and dialogue are also unsurpassed. The plots aren't up to much but that's not why you read them (I hope).

A book I wish had never been written -

This is a difficult one. There are many books I haven't enjoyed but that's not the same thing as wishing they had never existed. I can't abide Thomas Hardy and yet there are many who would disagree with me, probably rightly. So to pick something that I wish had never existed suggests a book that has done actual harm. I could be terribly serious and say something like "Mein Kampf" but instead I'd like to take a cheap shot at Dan Brown, who not only seems to think is a great author and scholar, but has also written the same book again and again from what I can gather but I can't because I haven't read any of them. So, because I have to choose something, I wish "Our Man in Havana" by Graham Greene had never been written. A tedious non-story, more catholic guilt than anyone can usefully cope with and an irritating prose style combined to make a book that I chucked against a wall once I'd slogged my way through it. Turgid rubbish.

A book I've been meaning to read -

The list of "classics" I haven't read is embarrassingly lengthy. It is unlikely that I will ever have enough spare time to get through them all and it is almost impossible to single out just one. I've read most of Joseph Conrad's novels but I have yet to read "Nostromo" which has been sitting on my shelf gathering sidelong glances and dust for about two years now. I will do something about it I promise...

I'm currently reading -

"A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K Dick. I've read this one before and though I don't love it as much as "Ubik" I still think it's right up there with the very best writing and is such a powerful examination of what drug-abuse does to the human mind and spirit. The incredibly dark humour helps you get through the bleakness.

My favorite reading -

There used to be a show on children's TV in the UK called "Jackanory". Each week an actor would read a story, usually Roald Dahl or something similar. On several occasions, Tony Robinson did the Greek Myths by actually running around ruins in Greece and half telling, half acting out the stories. It was completely mesmeric and will stay with me till the day I die. I sincerely hope that one day these will be made available on DVD or for download. Pretty please?


Blogger scruffylooking said...

I love your list. There was someone in the comments at Creekside Review who chose the Odyssey for his desert island book. I kind of wish I had chosen something more like that - I love lore.

12:28 am  

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