Saturday, September 29, 2007

A not so silly and bookish meme

Welcome to meme central. Kimbooktu’s Bookish Meme is making the rounds and studying has pickled my brain so an offer saying “here, write about this...” is very helpful right now. Sniff, sniff. Found it over at A Work in Progress.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?

I own more paperbacks because they’re cheaper and easier to carry around, but if I had my druthers it would be hardcover. I figure if I really like reading an author, they should get paid for it. Hardcovers make a nicer library. They are more attractive and durable objects. They’re easier to prop on knees, the paper is of nicer quality, usually the layout of print on page is more spacious, they’re a more special object, and lastly, when you put them on top of a nice pile of books on the side table, nightstand, floor, on top of the shelf (like I never do) the front cover doesn’t curl up – I hate that!

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…unfortunately there already is a bookeywookey, but not in my country and its spelled differently in Dutch, so I might ask their permission to honor them by adopting the name. It suits me. It would have comfy armchairs , it's staff would actually read, and it would be vacuumed.

3. My favorite quote from a book (mention the title) is… I’m not very good with “favorites,” “most overestimated,” or other superlatives I take them too seriously thinking, ‘is this really my all time favorite?’ But this one makes me smile:

As I was saying we were all living comfortably together and there had been in my mind no active desire or thought of change. The disturbance of the routine of our lives by the fire followed by the coming of Gertrude Stein’s older brother and his wife made the difference.

Mrs. Stein brought with her three little Matisse paintings, the first modern things to cross the Atlantic. I made her acquaintance at this time of general upset and she showed them to me, she also told me many stories of her life in Paris. Gradually I told my father that perhaps I would leave San Francisco. He was not disturbed by this, after all there was at that time a great deal of going and coming and there were many friends of mine going. Within a year I also had gone and I had come to Paris. There I went to see Mrs. Stein who had in the meantime returned to Paris, and there at her house I met Gertrude Stein. I was impressed by the coral brooch she wore and by her voice. I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken, and I may say in each case it was before there way any general recognition of the quality of genius in them. The three geniuses of whom I wish to speak are Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and Alfred Whitehead. I have me many important people, I have met several great people but I have only known three first class geniuses and in each case on sight within me something rang. In no one of the three cases have I been mistaken. In this way my new full life began.

What I love most about this, the end of the opening chapter of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is that it is written by Gertrude Stein herself. This book is the combination of ludicrous arrogance and great humor.

4. The author (alive or diseased) I would love to have lunch with would be …. Anton Chekhov, if he covers his mouth when he coughs. I’d love to meet Herman Hesse too, and I think I’d get the better lunch at his house.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except from the SAS survival guide, it would be… I think I’ll have to be clichéd and say the complete works of Shakespeare – so much variety, between the plays and the sonnets they cover the whole of life, it seems. And I could memorize the plays one by one, playing all the parts if rescue seemed to be taking a long time.

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that… when implanted in my little brain helped me read faster and retain more. I never feel like I can read enough.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…. adventure. It makes me think of being cozy in bed with my mother’s old copy of Little Women or Little Men, my uncle’s old copy of Sherlock Holmes before he gave me my own, or a library copy of Treasure Island or Kidnapped, Hans Brinker, Silas Marner, The Yearling, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and having all the time in the world.

A big warehouse near Boston where I had a job during undergraduate school. My alma mater runs a huge used book sale, both on campus and in cities throughout the U.S. to raise money and students were hired at hourly wages to organize, price, and pack up the books for the sale. It kept me in pocket money and occasionally a title caught my eye and I ended up buying it myself.

Lovely outdoor stalls and tables, whether on Washington Square in New York, on the banks of the Seine, or at the Friday morning book market in Amsterdam on the Spui, where I can always find a nice old Penguin edition of Iris Murdoch I haven't read for a couple of Euro.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…. Didn’t I just answer this in another meme? Joseph Knecht in The Glass Bead Game. That’s because, in addition to his admirable qualities, I desperately want to play that game!

9. The most overestimated book of all times is…. Confederacy of Dunces or possibly Everything is Illuminated.

10. I hate it when a book…. fails to take me in. A book can be new or old, trash or classic, tried and true in its form or its story or wildly original. All I ask is that it offers me a universe with integrity, one that seems to exist, language I never question, and that it extends a hand somehow and takes me into it. That’s what I want from a book – transportation.

Join in the fun if you haven't done this one yet - how about you, Anne-Marie?


kookie said...

I agree with "Everything Is Illuminated" being overrated. I still don't see why so many people loved that one. Good answers.

Anonymous said...

I've never read Gertrude Stein, but she's someone I've always meant to (isn't that the case for so many books, though...). I love your answer for #7. That sounds like a wonderful job! Thanks for answering the questions. I love memes sometimes--they're just the thing you need when you want a little break!

Dewey said...

Now that you mention it, the giant Complete Sherlock Holmes I used to have would be a good desert island book.

So far, every book everyone's mentioned for the overrated question, I've agreed with.

Ted said...

kookie- I felt kind of bad for not liking that book, the story of it's writer was so compelling.

Danielle - There's some Gertrude Stein I absolutely can't bear. I'm not sure I would even have patience for the Autobiog of ABT now, but in my 20s when I first read it, it was everything about the world of artists and writers and Paris in the 1920s and it held a lot of romance for me. Now I see more of the humor.

Dewey - I guess with the number of books out there, there are bound to be more than a few overrated ones.

nn said...

SAS survival manual: what is it?
It must not be what I have in mind, since one wouldn't know what do with it on a computer-free island.

Anonymous said...

Great answers. I would so love a gadget that would allow me to read faster and retain the info. My memory is terrible.

Anonymous said...

Found your beautiful and interesting blog when I was image searching for an old illustration for The Blind Men and the Elephant. Your Alice B. Toklas story is a kick-- didn't know Stein wrote that, (or forgot it a couple lifetimes ago-- I'm ooold)! But my favorite Stein piece is her aphorism about Oakland: "There's no there there". I may use the meme, as it's a pretty interesting one, at least your results were. Stein wouldn't be able to make her Oakland comment about your blog, I'm afraid. Oh, an afterthought: how can the catalogue of human experience wellwrit (Shakespeare's canon) be cliché? Hmm?

Ted said...

Catalina - Thank you for your visit and your compliment. You are, of course, welcome to the meme.