by Ted on April 13, 2005

I am not letting this performance be the sole CT contribution to the noble cause of book-related vanity-stroking blog memes.

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

I would be Fahrenheit 451. I’d run around telling everyone that they were fictional. It would turn the dystopian nightmare into a Borgesian mindwarp, which would be a trip.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

When I first read this question, I fully expected to answer “yes”, but I can’t actually think of one. Does Catherine Zeta-Jones count as fictional?

What are you currently reading?

King Leopold’s Ghost and Heart of Darkness.

The last book you bought is:

Dang if I can remember. I’ve got such a backlog that I try to avoid buying books for myself. I recently got Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock from the library and quite enjoyed it, for what it’s worth. I’d imagine that most bloggers with a passing interest in either Israel or metafiction would get a lot from it.

The last book you read:

So glad you asked. Dan Chaon’s You Remind Me of Me is the best novel that I’ve read in a while. From Publisher’s Weekly:

Here, a woman’s unsuccessful effort to rise above the pain of giving away an illegitimate baby, and to fight against mental illness and offer love to a second child, blights all their lives. Living with his harsh and bitter mother, Norma, and his kindly grandfather in Little Bow, S.Dak., young Jonah Doyle is permanently scarred after the family’s Doberman attacks and maims him. The resulting livid ridges on his face are the outward manifestations of a deeper wound that will always haunt him. After his mother’s suicide, Jonah sets out to find the older brother he has never met, and in the process, brings them both to the verge of tragedy.

Chaon writes with clarity and compassion about desperate people. They’re unlovely people struggling with poverty, loneliness and mental illness. The author lets us see their actions through their own eyes without condescension. It’s a truism that “everyone is the hero of their own story.” Everyone has a backstory and a reason for the things they do; even when we don’t approve, it’s valuable to try to understand what they were thinking. But it’s a lesson worth reviewing over and over, especially for those of us who spend much mental energy in the rage-based economy of political blogging.

The book is structured as a series of interlocking nonsequential scenes, like (say) Pulp Fiction. The structure works, as Chaon doesn’t cheat the reader by leaving obvious blind spots. As I write this, I realize that it doesn’t sound like a gripping page-turner, but it is. I found myself scheming this week about how to find time to finish it. Involving, moving, and so, so def.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck.

Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov

The Boy Scout Manual

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Games Magazine Presents The Giant Book of Games

I’m passing this on to tbogg, who’s a literary sort of fellow. Let the eagle soar.



Jeremy Osner 04.13.05 at 7:41 pm

Ooh good call on the Giant Book of Games.


John Emerson 04.13.05 at 8:06 pm

John Steinbeck seems to be making a comeback. He seems to have disappeared for quite awhile, but I’ve seen him popping up now and then recently.

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