Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Fun and Games, Literature-Style
In which Eli gives V something to do while she's stuck at home with the chicken pox.

Yes, you read that correctly. I have the chicken pox. Now I get to experience all the joy I missed out on in kindergarten. Moving on...

Number of books I own: You expect me to know this off the top of my head? Furthermore, you expect me to count them??! Let's see. One... two... thr... oh, fuck it. A lot.

Last book I bought: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I don't actually buy books, as a general rule. I get them from the library, or borrow them from friends. Although when M. was here, we paid a visit to a secondhand paperback shop, and I got The Association by Bentley Little and one of the books in Val McDermid's Wire In The Blood series.

Last book I read:
The Association, by Bentley Little. It's about a supernaturally evil homeowner's association, and it kills, maims, or generally enslaves anyone who breaks the neighborhood rules. That's the last one I finished, at any rate. I'm about halfway through another Bentley Little novel called The Policy. It's about a supernaturally evil insurance company, and it kills, maims, or generally enslaves anyone who doesn't buy bizarre and overpriced insurance. I sense a pattern forming here.

Five books that mean a lot to me:
1. Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison. Perhaps the greatest achievement in comics literature... a perfect fusion of story and image. This made a huge impression on me back when it was first published. Because really, who among us can deny the ultimate awesomeness of a Lovecraftian mental instution full of outrageously dark and sinister criminals? Put there by a dark and sinister "hero" who's every bit as insane as they are... When I read it again as a young adult, it was evidence that yes, people DO work in the comics industry, and that pursuit of such a vocation was not entirely out of reach.

2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. My grandpa used to read this to me when I was younger. When I was older, too. It helped to encourage what would become a tremendous respect and love of nature, and it was special time with someone I loved very much. I think the message was very apt... the whole "you need a thneed" thing... we're a society of over-consumption. We're ruining the earth for the sake of a lot of cheap crap that we don't have any real use for. If the Lorax were real, I'm sure Bush would have hauled him in on terrorism charges by now...

3. The Stranger, by Albert Camus. I had to read this in AP English during my senior year of high school. Everyone else was totally stumped by the whole existentialism thing, but somehow I just got it. And I liked it. All the other students were constantly grumbling about how nothingness was stupid and how man HAD to have a deeper reason for being, etc etc, and I was all "LIFE IS A VOID!! THINGS ARE ONLY WHAT WE JUDGE THEM TO BE!!! HELL YEAH!!! WOOOOOO!!!!". On the final exam, we had to write our own last chapter for The Stranger, about what should happen to the main character if he were to be released from prison. Everyone else (and I do mean, literally everyone - this is the bible belt) wrote about how the guy found god and repented and his life took on a profound different meaning. I wrote about how he walked out of the prison and was promptly hit by a bus, and nobody cared. I got an A+.

4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think I must have been a flapper in a past life. I love love LOVE this era. And everything about this book just reaches out and grips the hell out of me. I love the way it romanticizes the jazz age. I love the tragedy. I love the way these characters are so deeply and completely flawed, and yet we connect with them anyway. Maybe we connect with them BECAUSE they're flawed. I had to read this for high school, and I devoured it all in one afternoon. And then read it again. Timeless.

5. This list would be incomplete without Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. Easily my favorite book of all time. This one's special because a friend I care about very much cared about ME enough to share it with me. It had made an impact on him in that way that amazing books do, and knowing me well he knew that it would hit me the same way. I don't often use the words "sick" and "beautiful" in the same sentence, but Perfume is sick and beautiful. It's about the sickness of beauty, and the beauty in sickness. The main character commits some of the most degraded atrocities ever imagined, and he does it all in the name of beauty. Of acceptance. And his motives, I think, are pure. He just wants to belong. Singlehandedly one of the most inspired and original books I've had the privilege of reading, and I'll be forever grateful to that friend for passing it along to me.