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Book Meme - Mo's Journal
May 16th, 2005
02:35 pm


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Book Meme
I got tagged by ww1614 whose answers I enjoyed a lot.

1) How many books do you have?

Like everyone else, I find this hard to answer. I actually did count once, in 1992 when we moved into our coop. There were just over 5000 then. I got divorced in 2001 and moved out, leaving almost everything behind. I've gotten a few books from the old place since then, and worked at reacquiring a collection of sorts, mostly through stoop sales and giveaway books, but some bought from bookstores. I'd say I have somewhere between 500 and 1000 in my current apartment, but I still consider at least half of the ones in the old place mine.

2) What is the last book you bought?

Two at the same time - an AP Psych review book and a book about Iwo Jima, both for my son. Well, he actually did the physical buying of the books - went to the bookstore and purchased them - but I'll get the bill.

3)What is the last book you read?

Jon Stewart's America, which has been sitting on my nightstand for ages, and I finally read it. I'm also reading E is for Evidence. Although I read mysteries a lot, I'd somehow never read the Kinsey Millhone books and wanted to start with A. I was very happy to find A is for Alibi at a stoop sale a few months back. I decided I didn't have to go in order after that (I'm anal, but I'm not that anal), but as it turns out each successive one has been in at the library when I've gone.

4) Five books that mean a lot to me.

Like everyone else, I'm a little befuddled at the idea of keeping this to 5. So, I'll restrict it further - five books that mean a lot to me that I've discussed on line in the past week. And I'll number them with Roman numerals, to avoid confusion with the numbers of the questions (hey, I told you I'm anal).

I. The White Hotel by DM Thomas. A truly beautiful, disturbing and moving novel of the Holocaust. It's particularly meaningful to me because I broke my Holocaust reading ban with it. I spent several years refusing to read anything about the Holocaust, even when my spouse at the time begged me to read King of the Jews. I think I had just OD'ed on the subject, being of the generation of Jews that was deemed likely to forget if we weren't forced to listen to first-person accounts from camp survivors as soon as we could speak. I decided to get over the no-Holocaust-book thing when Thomas's book came out and it was a great choice for ending the ban. It's a complex and multi-layered novel and there are parts of it that haunt me to this day. I'll tell two stories about that book (because I'm a story telling type and can't help it). One is about meaning getting lost in translation and the other makes me sound a bit of an intellectual snob, but I'll risk it.

Okay, the one about me first. I read this book and totally loved it, but I was just shocked that it was a best seller. It's not an easy read, by any means. Part of it is in blank verse. Part of it is a case study "by" Freud and it sounds exactly like the translations of Freud's case studies I've read, and they aren't all that accessible. It's not told linearly at all. It's sometimes unclear what's really happening and what's fantasy. It's a totally wonderfully beautiful book that I would think would be over the head of the people who have made Dan Brown and Stephen King rich, yk? So, I couldn't figure it out. And then it hit me: it's got Sex and Nazis! Of course it's a best seller. The only thing that could sell better than that would be Sex, Nazis, and Cats. If Thomas had put some cats in it, it would *still* be on the Times list.

Second story - There was a profile on Thomas in the NY Times magazine some years back and he told a story about being interviewed about this book for a French magazine. He had said, among other things, that he was very happy the book did so well, but that he was particularly pleased to see it well received among certain very specific populations. As a man writing a woman's sexual fantasies, he felt gratified that it was getting a good reception from feminists; as a non-Jew writing about the Holocaust, he was very happy to see such praise from Jewish sources; and as a non-Freudian writing first-person Freud, he was pleased that the psychoanalytic community was so positive about the book. Well, the interviewer didn't quite understand what he was saying. The resulting article said that the book was not only generally popular but particularly liked by three groups of people: les femmes, les juifs, et les fous. Women, Jews and crazy people. :-)

II. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. If you haven't read this book, do so! I first read it for a History of Popular Culture course in grad school. It's just full of Fun Facts to Know and Tell and Fun Facts to Know and Tell are my life. But its greater meaning to me is it was my introduction to facsimile reprints!

III. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. One of my main fanfic characters is an English teacher and he was recently teaching this book (See http://www.livejournal.com/users/mofic/783.html) for details. What he says about it reflects how I feel about the book (funny how that happens sometimes).

IV. Everyman's Talmud: the Major Teachings of the Rabbinic Sages by Abraham Cohen. I find the kind of weirdly convoluted logic of talmudic thought really fascinating. I'm amused that in their non-religious meanings the words "talmudic" and "jesuitical" are synonyms. This is the book that first made talmudic thought accessible to me. It's a great intro and summary and left me feeling able to take a class where I looked at texts directly.

V. Our Right to Love: a Lesbian Resource Book by Ginny Vida. The first edition of this book came out in 1978. I came out in 1974 and was still struggling with both lesbian identity and community at that time. The book was a revelation - it was the first one I'd seen that really showed lesbian experience as a wide spectrum and depicted lesbians in a variety of occupations, at assorted ages, in various family structures. It was a book I read cover to cover and then flipped through often for years afterwards. In 1989 I was contacted and asked if I would be willing to have my picture in the new edition. They were looking for "an out lesbian in a mainstream job" - someone out enough to have her picture taken at work. I was out enough, but I worked for a quasi-governmental agency where we were not allowed to have cameras at work without permission. I said that I was willing to do it if my employer was willing to let me. I went through the ridiculously bureaucratic red tape and got approval. So the "new" edition has me in pumps, pearls and business suit, in my office. There's a picture of my infant son in the background. He's 16.5 now, so it's not such a new edition.

5) Tag five others to do this meme.

Apologies in advance if I tagged anyone who hates memes (I didn't know, really) or who already did that (I was absent that day).


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[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC)
Well, the interviewer didn't quite understand what he was saying. The resulting article said that the book was not only generally popular but particularly liked by three groups of people: les femmes, les juifs, et les fous. Women, Jews and crazy people. :-)


Thanks for sharing and the "tag". I had a go at it in my LJ. It was more interesting to do than I thought it would be. Thanks!
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