Friday, August 11, 2006

Shelf indulgence

A meme from Orange Anubis at My Citrus Sarcophagus.

1. One book that changed your life
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce. Made me realise what you can do with life and language.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once
Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island
A la recherche du temps perdu, by Marcel Proust, but I'm told that it's never been translated properly, so I'd want a French edition with a nice big dictionary.
4. One book that made you laugh
It's a huge cliché, but I still snort with glee when I recall some of the one-liners in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. When two or three HHGTTG junkies get together, the effect on outsiders must be deeply infuriating.
5. One book that made you cry
Ethel and Ernest, by Raymond Briggs. And, if short stories count, 'Old Man at the Bridge' by Ernest Hemingway.
6. One book that you wish had been written
I wish Dorothy Parker had knuckled down and written a novel.
7. One book that you wish had never been written
It's a bit of an obvious choice, but The Da Vinci Code does seem to serve very little purpose other than persuading stupid people to visit Paris.
8. One book you’re currently reading
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, by Haruki Murakami.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read
See number 3, above. Also Tristram Shandy and The Qu'ran.

Meanwhile, the education secretary has been jiggling with the national curriculum, to ensure that the likes of Dickens and the Brontës remain in place. Now, no complaints there; but despite the allegations of dumbing down that he's fending off, look at the writers being edged out. That's hardly a catalogue of unabated populist crap.

Kids should be introduced to the greats, and should have their horizons stretched, sure. But I can sympathise with any teacher who might want to keep the attention of recalcitrant 12-year-old boys with, say, Hemingway or Orwell or Greene or Steinbeck or Golding; only to be told that Trollope or Bunyan will be a better bet. And if anybody wants to tell me that Hemingway is a less significant, less good writer than, say, Wilkie Collins, I've got chapter and verse to shoot you down. First salvo is 'Old Man at the Bridge' (see above) the greatest short story ever written by man or beast, so there.

Somewhere on the border between old and new media, Ian Hocking interviews Scott Pack. I was a wee bit rude about the former Waterstones big cheese in April; now it turns out that he's a big fan of Murakami, Auster and David Mitchell. Curses! Does this mean he's actually a decent bloke? You can find out at his newish blog.

And finally, Steven Berlin Johnson offers five things about the blogging/legit journalism interface that we all accept, so can we shut up (and thanks to Shane Richmond for flagging this one up). The only question is, if we accept these statements to be self-evident, how will columnists on The Independent occupy their time?

22 comments:

patroclus said...

Ah, the lovely Steven Johnson.

*pauses for inappropriate thoughts regarding Mr Johnson's general appearance*

Ahem. Where was I?

Oh yes - I think we can all agree that bloggers and the established media will continue to co-exist in a sometimes antagonistic, sometimes symbiotic relationship. But to say that blogging is nothing new I think is wrong, and I am just AT THIS VERY MOMENT preparing a post about why that is. It isn't about blogging vs. established media, though (because that's, like, so missing the point), so Steven and everyone can relax.

Pashmina said...

I have nothing new to add on the bloggers v. journalists debate, but I would very much like to see Ernest Hemingway and Wilkie Collins in a showdown. I know who my money'd be on.

Annie said...

Gosh, you give good linkage Tim. I could spend hours... I love the book meme too, may have to try it. (Steven Johnson is lovely Patroclus. And I was in Park Slope in Brooklyn in May, if I'd have known I would have stalked him.)

I think this debate is old for some people, but that's because they are way ahead, technologically speaking... in Brooklyn for example, every single person in every single cafe had a laptop and was tip-tapping away. He moves in circles where it's the norm, whereas virtually nobody I know in real life has even heard of blogging. (It reminds me of when we were teenagers and my best friend saying to me 'But everyone smokes dope, don't they?' No, they really don't, just everyone you hang around with.)

I know eventually that it will change, and it will be just like having a mobile phone or an email account, but it's not there yet for the majority of people.

orange anubis said...

Thanks for the link Tim! I really need to read some more Murakami, loved Hard-Boiled Wonderland...

Robert A. Swipe said...

I just left this at Johnson's gaffe, Tim:

The kind of blogging I'm interested in - and that seems to be causing such concern amongst "bona fide" journos - has about as much to do with mainstream journalism as the Sex Pistols have in common with the canon of classical music.

Your opinion is as valid as the next person's, but kindly spare us the lectures, eh? We're exploring and expressing our humanity in a world filled with lies and moral pygmies.

Thank you and good night.

Billy said...

"I wish Dorothy Parker had knuckled down and written a novel."

You and me both.

Molly Bloom said...

I loved your book Meme. It's fantastic. Nice to see Joyce up there at the top. Also, lovely to see 'Ethel and Ernest' in there...I cried at that too. It's wonderful. Some great books. I would thoroughly recommend Tristram Shandy. Marvellous stuff.

As for the debate about the NC...I won't bore you with my thoughts...because I'll just go on and on...but just to let you know that I'm really, really angry about what I just read because I was on that English 21 group and there was no mention at all about those authors being pushed out. Grrr...I shall make sure that comes up at the next meeting...I did put in a good word for James Joyce et al....as you can imagine. But...on the plus side...we were rewriting the curriculum to promote more creativity alongside critical and cultural literacy.

Well...as for the blogging/journo debate...you know how I feel about that.

Cor...really loved that Meme.

Tim Footman said...

Patroclus: Tron is old media. In fact, it's just old.

Pashmina: Ernie was good with a shotgun...

Annie: "That Tim Footman may be a bastard but damn his linkage is impressive..." I know what you mean. Nobody I know (apart from those I've encountered through blogging) has a blog. As far as I'm aware of course; maybe my friends don't tell me because they want to diss my linkage...

Anubis: I've got two on the go in parallel. Too much of a good thing? If you like Haruki, also try David Mitchell.

Swipe: Yeah. Call his mum's pint a poof, why don't you?

Billy: I can see you at the Round Table, fluttering your eyelashes before Miss Parker whisks you off to her suite for martinis and rigorous deflowering.

Molly: How did you get on the NC group? And what's the NC definition of "cultural literacy"? Does it just mean "being able to quote Shakespeare and Dickens"?

patroclus said...

>>Tron is just old<<

Well, that was my point. The first cyberpunk texts, like Tron and Neuromancer, portrayed the man-in-the-machine as a lone pioneer. (And as a man). Now there are lots of us in here.

Tim Footman said...

Sorry, getting message and medium confused again. Must stop doing that.

WV: "cszkbrao"; beer from Prague.

Robert A. Swipe said...

Oi!! Steven Berlin Johnson (to name but three)

Your mum's pint's a poove.

And you're a smarmy get.

(Although I think you're in with Patroclus. She, as I believe the current parlance has it) well would.)

patroclus said...

Me and SBJ go way back, Bob. I can assure you that our relationship has always been platonic. Not to mention somewhat one-sided.

Tim Footman said...

I've just realised - ol' Marcel's pose is a mirror image of Nasty Nick.

realdoc said...

Interesting meme Tim, I alays find it hard to list favourite books etc as they change all the time apart from a few classics. That's why all these blogs are good, they remind you what you like.

Billy said...

"Billy: I can see you at the Round Table, fluttering your eyelashes before Miss Parker whisks you off to her suite for martinis and rigorous deflowering"

*sigh* if only...

treespotter said...

i've only read Cloud Atlas, are the rest of David Mitchell's any good?

jen said...

Curses! Does this mean he's actually a decent bloke?

...I could have dropped those names, and I'm an absolute cunt.

Seriously, still, judge a man on the company he joins. Unless he's looking to take over those windy chancers, his latest career move was not a cool one.

Tim Footman said...

Hello realdoc: what are your classics?

Billy: I knew you had an older woman thing.

Tree: I really liked the first two. The latest, Black Swan Green, was OK but a bit ordinary by comparison. Review here.

Jen: I had a similar experience listening to Simon Cowell on Desert Island Discs yesterday. "You can't like Bobby Darin! You're an arsehole!", etc.

The WV is "qwfckiyd": a Welsh car repair company.

Molly Bloom said...

Timster...I got on that group because I have this weird role, which is too long and far too boring for you to have to listen to. I shall bore you pantless about it if you ever have the misfortune of sitting next to me in a pub. There are three copies of 'Portrait' on Freecyle if anyone wants to have one for free. Well, I've only put two up...one is mine with notes by the Molly. Just think of the fun and hours of enjoyment you could have with that one. Shameless James Joyce promotion. Listen to Tim. Listen to Tim. You will listen to Tim. You will listen to Tim. Read 'Portrait'. Read 'Portrait'.

I could go on...shall I go on...I shall go on...

No I won't.

Robert A. Swipe said...

"Me and SBJ go way back, Bob. I can assure you that our relationship has always been platonic. Not to mention somewhat one-sided."

[Bob is *so* overwhelmed by the transformative effect of this information on his life that he is, quide liderally speechless]

orange anubis said...

Re David Mitchell: I'd already count myself a fan, Cloud Atlas was just about my favourite read last year. I'd thought the new one looked a little underwhelming in comparison but your recent review's persuaded me to give it a go - cheers!

Helga von porno said...

Why must people apologise for liking douglas adams? or Terry Pratchet?

sorry..... (tip toes off)