Monday, August 14, 2006

Literary Meme

Thanks to Cousin Sara J, I have to do this chain literary confession. What the hell, it looks like it might be fun.

One book that changed your life: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I am not really sure how it changed my life, but discovering Kurt Vonnegut as a teenager seemed incredibly important. I have read and reread all of his books, especially the earlier ones. As a teenager (me not him), his style greatly influenced my own writing. And I had the opportunity to hear him speak once in Berkeley – he speaks just as he writes and it was an amazing evening.

One book you've read more than once: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. My favourite book of all time. I think it illustrates better than any other book I have read the absurdity of the world we live in. I can’t even count how many times I have read Catch-22 or how many copies I have given away. One interesting observation about the book – Brits don’t get it. All the Americans I have ever talked to about Catch-22 have only praise for the book. Almost all the limeys I have ever talked to about Catch-22 say that they didn’t like it. I have also heard Joseph Heller speak – it was at a book fair in Prague not too long before he died. I got to hear everything he said twice because he spoke in English and his words were interpreted into Czech.

One book you would want on a desert island: Everyone else seems to be picking complete works – fair enough. After all, you never know how long you will be stuck on that desert island. I would want the complete works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I discovered The Great Gatsby in my mother’s library long before I was old enough to understand it, but I loved the story anyway. I love Fitzgerald’s novels and his short stories, and I actually do own a complete collection - it is currently taking up an entire shelf in my mom’s library in LA.

One book that made you laugh: How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World by Francis Wheen. I refer you to my book report of last October.

One book that made you cry: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Like my lovely Aunt Cookie, I love Russian literature. The irony in this choice of book for me is that my ex-husband also committed suicide by throwing himself under a train.

One book you wish you had written: The Trial by Franz Kafka. In fact, I almost wish I were Franz Kafka. Not really, because he was an uptight and unhappy man, but to be able to write like him… And I do have an earlier post related to The Trial. I love Kafka and have read all of his fiction – even a few of his shortest stories in German. I know where he lived, where he worked, where he hung out and I have visited his grave. Repeatedly. There is a lot of Kafka’s world still in Prague – both physically and metaphysically. I like that.

One book you wish had never been written: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I have not read it, I have not seen the film, and I hope the hype is just about over and I never have to hear anyone talking about it again. I might have agreed with Aunt Cookie but, frankly, there is a better chance that I will someday read Mein Kampf than that I will ever read Dan Brown’s book.

One book you are currently reading: Untold Stories by Alan Bennett, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and Kafka: The Decisive Years by Reiner Stach. I realise that is three books, but they are what I am currently reading.

One book you have been meaning to read: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. It is sitting on my shelf, my bookmark is at page 60 in the 800-page abridged version, and someday I will get back to it.

Tag five people: Ludovic, Knottyboy, Evil Pig, Miss Mickey, Last Muse


Sara J said...

I'm still guilty of not reading Catch-22 even tho it has been on my must-read list for years.

I read the Fountainhead in grad school (not for school - just the age I was at) and it blew me away - it was everything I hated about people, the government, corporations, etc. I felt like I was living it - it was a good read. Much better than Atlas Shrugged - because the latter is half Fountainhead, half romance.

Monkey's Max said...

Read Catch-22 - best book ever.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Agree regarding Gatsby; it's my all-time favorite.

Disagree regarding DaVinci Code; you would enjoy it.

Sara J said...

Nah, skip DaVinci - read Foucault's Pendulum instead.

If you want good Dan Brown - read digital fortress.

Monkey's Max said...

If I want to read about evil Catholic plots, I'll read fact, not fiction. Thank you.

Mickey said...

That the Brits you encountered do (or can?) not appreciate Catch 22 is shocking.

How is that even remotely possible? It's everything a book needs to be and more.

Did you, by chance, grab them roughly by the lapels and demand reasons for their negative opinions?

Tits Malone said...


The Meaning of Liff still makes me smile...I remember us reading it to each other in the pub.

I agree with you on Dan Brown. I have read the novel in question, it is very much an overblown Hollywood script.

Martin Amis and Julian Barnes are still my favourites but being stuck on an island...I would have to say The complete works of Shakespear - he has it all, comedy, romance, a bunch of kings and queens stabbing each other in the back...a bit like my neighbourhood on a saturday night.

Monkey's Max said...

Mickey, there have been some exceptions. If I remember correctly, one of my housemates in Guildford had liked Catch-22 a lot.

But I can hear the members of a London book club (of which I am an honorary member) saying, "I thought it was boring" or "It wasn't funny at all, I couldn't even finish it." And I thought, "Bloody limeys! (and one Hungarian)."

TM, Ludo also chose the complete works of the bard for his desert island. I know you would enjoy his meme, which he has already posted over on his blog. You only missed each other in Ústí by a couple of months - such a shame really.

Anonymous said...

My favorite author is Jackie Collins. I can read her book in a day, it makes me go off into a bubble and lets me forget about whatever is going on presently. I saw her at Kampa Park resto in Praha.

If I were stuck on a desert island I would hope to have Shogun. I have been wanting to read it but it's length intimidates me. It must be a great story. I still have Pete Allen's Shogun hihi!!!
I think that Bush supporters should read George Orwell's 1984. Because that is what is coming.

Like Water for Chocolate was a great book.

Charlotte's Web is my all time favorite.

I admit I enjoyed Dan Brown's Davinci Code, the movie wasn't as bad as they said. It was your typical hollywood blockbuster therefore I had no expectations and as a film buff I had to see it for myself.