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Just One Book Meme - satyridae
July 29th, 2006
09:53 pm


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Just One Book Meme
I've been tagged by Kate with an irresistible meme, and I'm powerless.

1. One book that changed your life:

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters by Annie Dillard
In a lot of ways, Dillard taught me to see. She gave me tools I use every day, and hope to use for every day I have left. Her prose is full of awe and wonder and reverence. This is my favorite of all her books.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupery
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I reread it last year, and kept reading bits of it aloud to anyone who happened by. It is the story of the early mail pilots, and the prose is simply luminous, utterly transcendent.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

The Oxford Book Of American Poetry

4. One book that made you laugh:

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
I've talked about this at length, both in this blog and in real life. I may have spoken about this book to my cashier at the grocery today. It's that funny. I have a copy of my own, and at least two spares ready to press into the hands of potential converts. I'll not say any more, but here's one excerpt that makes me guffaw each and every time I read it.

"Then one day I found a fat female scorpion in the wall wearing what at first glance appeared to be a pale fawn fur coat. Closer inspection proved that this strange garment was made up of a mass of tiny babies clinging to the mother's back. I was enraptured by this family, and I made up my mind to smuggle them into the house and up to my bedroom so that I might keep them and watch them grow up. With infinite care I manoeuvred the mother and family into a matchbox, and then hurried to the villa. It was rather unfortunate that just as I entered the door lunch should be served; however I placed the match box carefully on the mantelpiece in the drawing-room, so that the scorpions should get plenty of air, and made my way to the dining-room and joined the family for the meal. Dawdling over my food, feeding Roger surreptitiously under the table and listening to the family arguing, I completely forgot about my exciting new captures. At last Larry, having finished, fetched the cigarettes from the drawing-room, and lying back in his chair he put one in his mouth and picked up the matchbox he had brought. Oblivious of my impending doom I watched him interestedly as, still talking glibly, he opened the matchbox.

Now I maintain to this day that the female scorpion meant no harm. She was agitated and a trifle annoyed at being shut up in a matchbox for so long, and so she seized the first opportunity to escape. She hoisted herself out of the box with great rapidity, her babies clinging on desperately, and scuttled on to the back of Larry's hand. There, not quite certain what to do next, she paused, her sting curved up at the ready. Larry, feeling the movement of her claws, glanced down to see what it was, and from that moment things got increasingly confused.

He uttered a roar of fright that made Lugaretzia drop a plate and brought Roger out from beneath the table, barking wildly. With a flick of his hand he sent the unfortunate scorpion flying down the table, and she landed midway between Margo and Leslie, scattering babies like confetti as she thumped on the cloth. Thoroughly enraged at this treatment, the creature sped towards Leslie, her sting quivering with emotion. Leslie leapt to his feet, overturning his chair and flicked out desperately with his napkin, sending the scorpion rolling across the cloth towards Margo, who promptly let out a scream that any railway engine would have been proud to produce. Mother, completely bewildered by this sudden and rapid change from peace to chaos, put on her glasses and peered down the table to see what was causing the pandemonium, and at that moment Margo, in a vain attempt to stop the scorpion's advance, hurled a glass of water at it. The shower missed the animal completely, but successfully drenched Mother, who, not being able to stand cold water, promptly lost her breath and sat gasping at the end of the table, unable even to protest. The scorpion had now gone to ground under Leslie's plate, while her babies swarmed wildly all over the table. Roger, mystified by the panic, but determined to do his share, ran around and round the room, barking hysterically.

"It's that bloody boy again ..." bellowed Larry.

"Look out! Look out! They're coming!" screamed Margo.

"All we need is a book," roared Leslie; "don't panic, hit 'em with a book."

"What on earth's the matter with you all?" Mother kept imploring, mopping her glasses.

"It's that bloody boy ... he'll kill the lot of us ... Look at the table ... knee deep in scorpions ..."

"Quick ... quick ... do something ...Look out, look out!"

"Stop screeching and get me a book, for God's sake ... You're worse than the dog ... Shut up, Roger ..."

"By the Grace of God I wasn't bitten ..."

"Look out ... there's another one ... Quick ... quick..."

"Oh, shut up and get me a book or something ... "

"But how did the scorpions get on the table, dear?"

"That bloody boy ... Every matchbox in the house is a deathtrap ..."

"Look out, it's coming towards me ... Quick, quick, do something ..."

"Hit it with your knife ... your knife ... Go on, hit it ..."

Since no one bothered to explain things to him, Roger was under the mistaken impression that the family was being attacked, and that it was his duty to defend them. As Lugaretzia was the only stranger in the room, he came to the logical conclusion that she must be the responsible party, so he bit her on the ankle. This did not help matters very much.

By the time a certain amount of order had been restored, all the baby scorpions had hidden themselves under various plates and bits of cutlery. Eventually, after impassioned pleas on my part, backed up by Mother, Leslie's suggestion that the whole lot be slaughtered was quashed. While the family, still simmering with rage and fright, retired to the drawing-room, I spent half an hour rounding up the babies ..."


5. One book that made you cry:

...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer makes me weep buckets at the end, in a most satisfying sort of way. It's a wonderful book, following a literary club from the years following the Civil War to the 1930's. I like to tell people that I love it because nothing happens, and by that I mean it's a huge and believable slice of life. Nothing feels labored, nothing seems overdone, no coincidences stretch my credulity, and yet by the end, the life most closely followed by this book is as familiar and true as my own skin. I learned a lot about being grown-up from this book, and read it every summer for many years. I haven't read it in maybe 12 years, I think I'm due for a reread.

6. One book that you wish had been written:

One more book of Ray Carver's poems.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Any of the books which give people reason to believe that killing other people is the direct command of a supreme being.

8. One book you’re currently reading:

Terrors of the Table: The Curious History of Nutrition by Walter Gratzer.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

10. Now tag five people: If delphica, kid_lit_fan, browse, debilyn, and arrietty_clock were so inclined, I'd love to hear their answers, but would be thrilled to read anyone else's who'd like to share.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 30th, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
I'm teaching reading and reading comprehension to people (children and adults) who struggle with it this summer, and a couple of weeks ago, I worked through a passage from that Durrell book with a high-schooler (it was in an anthology)-- the bit about the festival of Saint Spiridion, and Margo trying to bless away her acne--we both really enjoyed it, and I think I'll have to read the rest of it.

Very curious to hear what you'll think about And Ladies of the Club after your reread. If you're interested in what I have to say about it, let me know and I'll email you.

Changed my life: there're a lot I could put, but perhaps Sue Barton, Student Nurse is one of the more important.

Read more than once: Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier--a book that never gets old, no matter how often I read it.

Desert Island: can I have a non-existent anthology of all the Little House books? They're not necessarily my very favorites, but I find that I enjoy them and learn from them and find new things every time I read them. Barring that, Complete Shakespeare.

Laugh: Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright comes to mind.

Cry: Diary of Anne Frank.

Wish Had Been Written: I come up with these all the time (usually sequels to books I love) but am drawing a blank. I guess another really good Madeleine L'Engle fiction.

Never been written: agree with misajane that this is crazy mean, but I do wish Caroline Cooney hadn't written a fourth Time Trilogy book, or that it was better, or that I hadn't read it. I really love the first three.

Currently reading: just a re-read of Gone-Away Lake. Have not had the energy for anything challenging.

Meaning to read: Well, the Gerald Durrell.
[User Picture]
Date:July 30th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
I would really like to hear what you have to say about ...And Ladies of the Club. I admit to some trepidation regarding the reread, because lately some of my rereads have caused me a great deal of disillusion. Presumably it's the books which have changed in the interim, rather than me.

Why isn't there an anthology of the Little House books, I wonder? Even having them grouped into two or three omnibus editions would be lovely.

Thanks for playing, it was fun to read your answers!
[User Picture]
Date:August 3rd, 2006 10:44 am (UTC)
1. One book that changed your life:
The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain. This was the book that finally allowed me to let go of organized religion.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Four Lords of the Diamond, by Jack Chaulker. A Sci-fi adventure novel, filled with mystery and spies and worlds full of wonder, and one hero’s mind in 5 bodies. It also explores the concept of how much our personal chemistry, genetics, circumstances and memories determine who we are and what decisions we make. I read this every 5 years or so, and love it every time.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
River Walking: Reflections on Moving Water/Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World, two collections of essays by Kathleen Dean Moore. I’d like to see these, along with Pine Island Paradox (which I haven’t been able to get my hands on yet), in one volume. I think she’d keep me sane and centered.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Myth Adventures, by Robert Asprin. It also kept me awake nights saying, "Just one more chapter."

5. One book that made you cry:
The Girls: A Novel, by Lori Lansens. A fascinating glimpse into the lives of conjoined twins. I’m not sure which had me more mesmerized – the uniqueness of their lives, or how normal and ordinary it was for them. It’s easy to overlook the common bonds we share with those who live such extraordinary lives.

6. One book that you wish had been written:
A collection of my photos of musicians and stories and interviews collected by John; maybe it will be yet.

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Hmmm… I don’t think the writing of books is a bad thing, but the interpretation and power readers give books can be a bad thing. Perhaps some should have not been published.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
A Primate’s Memoir, by Robert M. Sapolsky. A collection of some of the adventures and misadventures of a naturalist living in Africa, partly with the baboon tribe that adopted him, but also his side trips and human interactions, It begins “I joined the baboon troop during my twenty-first year. I had never planned to become a savanna baboon when I grew up; instead I had always assumed I would become a mountain gorilla.” How could I not read it after that introduction?!

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Oblivion, by Peter Abrahams. It was mentioned in the same NPR story that brought me “The Girls”, and purports to be a thriller with the lead character, private investigator Nick Petrov, loosing his memory.
[User Picture]
Date:August 6th, 2006 05:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm very happy you answered this. Holdfast is on my bedside table in the queue. But first I need to finish the Outlander series, for which I blame you. *grin*
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