Sunday, June 12, 2005
This, apparently, has been going around the net for a while. I was book-tagged by Shweta (a long time ago, but I procrastinated) and so I am going to inflict upon you some details of my relationship with books. Shweta’s meme is here.
Total number of books I have:
500-odd, if you count only the printed ones. This number was achieved after donating all my Jeffrey Archers and Robin Cooks and other pulp books (around 70-80) to my friends and the neighbourhood raddiwalla. I used to read those once upon a time, and it’s the only part of my life I actively regret. These days, anyway, I depend more on the library than on the market. But still, I have the desire to own an obscenely large number of books, so please give a poor chap the financing to fulfil his dream.
Last book(s) I bought:
Monsieur – Lawrence Durrell, Shikasta – Doris Lessing, Cassandra: Princess of Troy – Hilary Bailey, A House for Mr. Biswas – V. S. Naipaul, The Female Eunuch – Germaine Greer (I was dying to read this one).
Five books I love:
These have to keep changing, because my taste is eclectic and ever-changing. Also, these are not necessarily the best books I know – they’re the ones that mean the most to me. The following are currently on top, and the first one will remain there for the foreseeable future. Except for the first, they are arranged in no particular order. You might note that four of them are Non-Fiction, even though I am more of a fan of Fiction.
Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck: I simply cannot express what this book means to me. I have literally read it to shreds, and I’m now looking for another copy. It’s about Steinbeck’s travels around America at the age of 60 with only his dog Charley for company. The language is simple, lucid, and utterly to the point. This book was my introduction to modern literature (as opposed to modern writing), and it has the pride of place in my collection.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King: This book has a special place in my heart because it got me writing again. I had a ‘block’, and I was wallowing in the self-delusion that I was an artist who had to wait for Madame Muse to strike before I got off my arse. This book showed me otherwise.
Gilliam on Gilliam – Terry Gilliam: Gilliam is one of my idols, and this book is him according to him. Gilliam’s animations distinguished Python from other tv series. His films (of which I have seen roughly half) are intelligent, emotional, wildly inventive, and, most important, different. One might argue that he’s been making the same film over and over, but he’s been doing it in so many interesting ways. I always prefer to see something different which failed than something normal that succeeded in what it was doing. This book, in many ways, represents Gilliam. Very articulate, very subversive, filled with anecdotes, opinions and ideas – basically like a transcription of an audio commentary for all his movies, and for his life before them. Very well-edited by Ian Christie. My favourite incident is the one with the bully and the sign saying ‘Do Not Press’.
Selected Works – Edgar Allan Poe: I have read no such book, but my selected works are: ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, ‘The Raven’, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, ‘The Black Cat’, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, and these are just off the top of my head. Poe was the writer who made me want to write, and my first stories and poems were ghastly imitations of his works. Yes, his work has a lot of weaknesses (notice the ‘selected’ in my title), but he has given us a lot, including the first literary detective. His contribution to modern literature shouldn’t be (and usually isn’t) understated, and the quirky rhythm of some of his poetry (‘Eldorado’, for example), and the dreariness of the stories mentioned above, and others such as ‘William Wilson’, ‘Ligeia’, ‘Berenice’ and so on, can easily be called masterful.
The Naked Ape Trilogy – Desmond Morris: This was one of the first books that made me look at the world with an open mind. I don’t know if everything Morris says is true, but it is (a) well-said, (b) interesting and (c) humbling. This trilogy might be one of the most important non-fiction books written for the layperson. That is, of course, assuming it’s true, but I’ve no reason to believe otherwise. My favourite is the third one – Intimate Behaviour.
Some of these replace some of the first five sometimes. The list, I repeat, is not constant.
Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake: my favourite long book of fantasy, easily the most imaginative novel of non-supernatural Fantasy and also the finest descriptive novel of Black Comedy I have read yet. A classic.
Calvin & Hobbes – Bill Watterson: My favourite comic strip. Entertaining, deranged, and very, very imaginative and well-observed. Both the main characters are quite wonderful.
The King’s English – Kingsley Amis: A wonderful informal guidebook to the English language – for the layman as well as the advanced learner.
The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde: Simply unforgettable. Reading it made me doubt the fact that Wilde was human. Something else entirely, and almost sickeningly relevant (in a good way).
Different Seasons – Stephen King: King’s ‘greatest’ book, as opposed to his ‘best’, which is mentioned below.
Gerald Durrell: A wonderful comic sense combined with a love for nature and conservation makes more-or-less all his books wonderful reads.
Douglas Adams: Need I say anything? His books are a bit dated now, but the ideas remain excellent.
Terry Pratchett: Much less weird than Adams, but just as intelligent, even wittier, and with an uncanny way of pinpointing the absurd in the life.
Michael Moorcock: Dated, yes, but one of the most original fantasists of this century (after maybe H. G. Wells, but Wells did his best work in the last century). His writing skill could’ve been worked on, but he was so prolific that he compensated for that. My favourites: Corum and The Dancers at the End of Time.
Michael Palin: Excellent travel books (I haven’t read his fiction). And the best thing is that they do not repeat stuff from the series which they accompany, which makes them great reads. My favourite book is Pole to Pole, and my favourite series are Full Circle and Sahara.
H. G. Wells: Possessed of a wonderful imagination. His short stories are lovely, but the best ideas are in the longer fiction. Before, of course, he started writing political tracts and something he thought was comedy. His political writings are mildly interesting, but I tried the ‘comedy’ and decided to steer clear.
Roald Dahl: Brilliant Black Comedy, and excellent children’s fiction. Especially recommended: Someone Like You and George’s Marvellous Medicine.
Also worth a look:
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift, Panther in Argyll – Lisa Tuttle, The Elementals – Morgan Llywelyn, Island – Aldous Huxley, Airframe – Michael Crichton, Legion – William Peter Blatty, The Magicians – James Gunn, Destination: Universe – A. E. van Vogt, But I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World – Peg Bracken, The Stand – Stephen King, Night Shift – Stephen King, The Peter Principle – Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull, Coraline – Neil Gaiman, The Simoqin Prophecies – Samit Basu, Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh, High Fidelity – Nick Hornby.
Arthur C. Clarke, Clive Barker, Dave Barry, Hunter S. Thompson, J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., P. G. Wodehouse.
And then, here are some of the questions I found on other sites, such as Samita’s blog.
Books I’m reading right now: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke (600 pages done and still going strong), Slow River – Nicola Griffith, Interesting Times – Terry Pratchett, The King’s English – Kingsley Amis.
Books that changed my life: Can I count scripts in here? Then this’d be Monty Python scripts. And Spike Milligan’s scrapbooks. Wuthering Heights, which got me into classics. And Linda Lovelace’s Ordeal, which made me read into female exploitation, which in turn influenced my current feminist philosophy.
Funniest book I’ve ever read: Again, Python scripts. Apart from that, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen – P. G. Wodehouse, the H2G2 series, bits and pieces of Pratchett and Peg Bracken, who I was almost addicted to for a time.
Which books did you never want to end: The first H2G2 book, Travels with Charley and Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books.
Favourite literary characters: Lord Havelock Vetinari, Dorian Gray, The Eternal Champion, the Cheshire Cat, Deadeye Dick, Begbie and Carrie.
Ideal character for a dining companion: Angua – she’s smart, forward, and, being a werewolf, she probably won’t mind my table manners. But almost any Pratchett character might do – they’re all rather nice.
Booktag five (5) people:
I won’t be doing this, because I don’t know many bibliophiles, and most of those I know do not blog. Therefore, I will be keeping the comments section open for all opinions. Feel freer than usual to comment. See you on Thursday.