Books & Literature

On my favourite books…

Okay. I don’t normally do these things and please God don’t take this as an opportunity to start sending me more of them, but I’m going to respond to Lubin Odana’s book-reading memetic challenge. I don’t normally do these kinds of things because I don’t really think they’re aimed at me. I think they’re really good ways to introduce people to the wider world, to help people get a grasp on your character and stuff, and that if people haven’t figured out what I’m like by now after five years of slapping this rubbish on the internet, then they basically never will. Still never mind, here we go…

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? This is a really tricky one for me. Probably my all-time favourite book is Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 which I’ll talk about in a bit. But another favourite of mine is a book called Ready to Catch him Should he Fall by Neil Bartlett which I think is one of the few books that I’ve read that managed to capture a powerful and natural-feeling, balanced idea of a non-hetero-orthodox gay relationship. I found it incredibly powerful and interesting. More importantly, I’m much less confident that anyone else would look after it in a dystopian future than I am about Slaughterhouse 5, and someone has to stand up for the poofs and it might as well be me.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? God, I have absolutely no idea. Probably when I was much younger I thought that Keill Randor from Planet of the Warlord was unbelievably hot and there was some weird S&M plot in that book too which probably did a lot to confuse my teenage mind. There are many characters in books that I’ve idolised in various ways – Des Esseintes in Huysmans’ Against Nature was probably a core one. And Dionysus in Euripides’ Bacchae. But I think probably I have more crushes on fictional characters from TV shows, comics and films than I do from books. This probably suggests that what people look like is important to me. So I’d talk about Booster Gold from his original comic book series, Dr John Carter from the first few seasons of E.R., Ricky Fitts from American Beauty, Han Solo / Indiana Jones and maybe the Colonel from Stargate. I’m so shallow that the slightest drop of water would find no rest in my embrace…

The last book you bought was: Terrifyingly it was Getting Things Done by Dave Allen. I bought it months ago and have bought no books since because I’ve been busy and found it difficult to focus. I read about half of it. Then got stuck. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

What are you currently reading? On my last count I had 160 open tabs in Safari, I had 30 open tabs in NetNewsWire, I had 3000 unread posts in my newsreader and I had 27,000 unread e-mails across my work and personal e-mail accounts. What the crap do you think I’m reading?

Five Books you would take to a desert island:

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – A sprawling, indolent and defiantly (arrogantly) colloquial / personal autobiography that pushes many of my fantasy buttons – being able to hang out with my brother a lot, being relatively free in the world, being able to be creative and misbehave, working and living in San Francisco.
  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – or ideally a huge anthology of all of Paul Auster’s books. The thing about these books for me is that their resemblence to reality seems entirely incidental to the clean arcing groves of plot and narrative that don’t necessarily convey you through character but which one feels (if one could move abstractly in a direction orthogonal to the book) would look so perfect and structural when observed from ‘above’.
  • Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein – honestly because it’s the longest book I’ve ever read and because it’s wide and deep enough to get lost in for long periods of time. It appeals to the completist and the geek within me, always looking for consistent continuities and wanting to be convinced that the world could be something other than it is.
  • Slaugherhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut – a time-travelling blackly comic war novel. I think that you can deduce much about my character from this book. Science fiction books and fantasy novels are read by people ill-adjusted to reality, the same people who write comic books and aspire towards making future technology that will make everyone happy. This book has that in it. These people are also kind of childish, and if confronted by the world directly seem to only be able to understand it in terms of black humour. This book has that in it. There’s also a desperation and a wit to it as well that I really respond to. I don’t know if this is a particularly happy description of my personality, but there you go.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow or V by Thomas Pynchon – because I haven’t completely read either of them, and they’re rich and deep and thrillingly written enough to last a while and continue to resonate and mean for a long period of time (and because I’ll never read them in the meantime).

I’d also take with me about four hundred dodgy comic books and a pile of DVDs. But hey. Anyway, I hope that’s satisfactory and interesting enough for you filthy voyeurs out there in realspace. I’m going to pass the challenge on to some people who almost certainly won’t want to go near it: Dan Hill because he’s my boss and needs to suffer, Stefan Magdalinski because he’s a stroppy bastard and as such I’d enjoy hearing his rants and Matt Jones because he reads weird shit…

13 replies on “On my favourite books…”

Crush on a fictional character? Hell, yes. Molly from Neuromancer. It’s those cranial embedded mirrorshades with the internal digital readout that did it for me.
Damn, I wish I could afford to spring for a pair of Zeiss eyes. I’m stuck with these South Korean knockoffs.

I have defended “Ready to Catch him Should He Fall” by Neil Bartlett any number of times. I think it’s an important gay book and I have a couple of theories about it. I also believe that it is enriched on multiple readings, but I’m not sure I’d take it on a desert island. But I’m glad to hear that someone else likes this book as much as I do.

I didn’t think anyone else had actually read the Last Legionary books! This is the first time I’ve heard them mentioned by another human being… I don’t get out much, though.

Though I really like your literary selection (though I think you might want to exchange LoR with “What I loved”), I cannot believe the numbers of “things” you’re currently reading. Quite the piler, eh?

Glad to finally read some else’s admiration for ‘Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall’.
It is truly my most loved novel. It is stylised, but yet achingly true to the way we (gay men, if I might be so bold) live our lives. The theme of ritual, sorry ,ceremony, that runs through the book is key to understanding how we still hold dear the same things as everyone else, yet manage to make our own lives, with their own unique meanings.
I have certainly read it tens of times. I would take it on my desert island, as it speaks to me in a very special voice that some books by certain writers can.

ionfish: ditto about the Last Legionary books. They seemed to be unknown even when I was at school, so much so that I managed to blatently plagiarize one for a school essay and get an A!

i just re-read the last legionary series over the last 3 days and i cant wait until in a few days time when i remember it in movie format (what you dont do that?)
best way to read a book… but seriously i wish someone would make a movie (preferably cgi) of the last legionary series… ill even do the voice of kiell randor myself…
hell ill make the damn movie on my own if i have to…

just in case any of you havent heard this…
there is a 5th book in the series… called “the young legionary” its a prequil to the four youve no doubt read…
cheapest one i can find in the uk is £90 (i cant believe it either, im not paying that much)
there is a copy in the us for $18 somewhere…
if anyone has a copy who wouldnt mind lending it me email me at ill pay delivery from you to me and ill pay return delivery the day after when ive read it, ill even slip £5 for good measure… i must read that book

Okay, I like this post of yours because I’m a slave of literature, no really, it may sound like a stupid thing, but my friends hate visiting bookstores with me (yes, somebody still visits bookstores). Once I read a five essays about literature by Umberto Eco and thought that I did not have the opportunity to visit his lectures no more, it was my personal crash.

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