Today I finally answer the Kevin's tap of two weeks back. (A quasi-re-tapping later followed, so I'm answering that one two, I guess.) I began writing this then, but am finishing it tonight. I only mention this because I am, to quote Jonathan Swift, "sick as a Cushion, [and] want nothing but stuffing." Feeding the fever, indeed. Before doing so, however, I want to update you on Festival of Self-Congratulation mentioned Saturday. It continues. New charges include "plagiarizing things outright" and "Seinfeld impressions." It seems our dear Troll's unable to differentiate between quotation and plagiarism. (Another reason for his failure to earn the degrees he sought, perhaps?) For her part, Colonel Moutarde has taken to chastizing The Valve for the way in which its contributors responded to Franco Moretti. Like all accusations of professional and intellectual envy, hers contains what it diagnoses in spades. Now, on to the show, in which I'm asked to name:
1. One book that changed your life?
Questions like this are burdend with an implicit "for the better." Some books really change you; however, they don't do so "for the better." So I'm going to go with Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus. It ignited an already waxing interest in Theory—but that's not quite true. A combination of it and the explosively brilliant guy who taught the seminar on it, John Protevi, sent me scrambling. Then again, said scrambling contributed to my admission here, so I don't want to disown its impetus ... but I do sometimes wonder where and what I'd be if I'd never come to Irvine. (The answer, as previously noted, involves real estate.)
The other candidate for this one is The Crying of Lot 49. The story accompanyinig that answer is far too long to relate here. Needless to say it involves a student teacher I crushed hard on; a book I bought from her husband's used bookstore; my employment at said bookstore; the creation of a crude database of Lot 49 and various other attempts to "solve" its mysteries; hitting on a new employee with talk of Lot 49 and the proper washing lettuce; and, finally, the wedding of the aforementioned new employee (charmed by talk of Pynchon and pesticide) and myself in which the man whose wife I'd crushed hard on stood beside me as my best man. See what I mean? Complicated.
2. One book you have read more than once?
I like Kevin's answer, but I demur and go with simple addition. I've read Gravity's Rainbow eleven times, Ulysses six, and Moby Dick too many times to count. Gravity's Rainbow and Ulysses I can count re-readings confidently because I can track my marginalia in the various editions littering the apartment. Moby Dick, however, was my Christmas break conceit for the better part of two decades. I began with the Illustrated Classics, but by sixth or seventh grade had worked myself up to book itself. Then it became a routine—and as anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a creature of routine. Nay! I am The Creature of The Routine. For years I read it every winter break, sometime around my birthday. So much so, in fact, that three or four years ago I woke up one December 23rd shocked to find that I had neither started nor planned on starting reading it.
3. One book you would want on a desert island?
How to Get Off a Desert Island and Influence Sailors.
4. One book that made you laugh?
I could go with the old standby Catch 22, still the funniest book in the English language. Instead, I'll go with the one whose laughter-generating powers were the most unexpected: John McPhee's Annals of the Former World. There are passages (scroll down) in that book that had me busting stitches no geological history of the United States has the right to bust.
5. One book that made you cry?
6. One book you wish you had written?
Will in the World. Not because I'm fond of Shakespeare, mind you, but because the rare combination of a storyteller's gift with real critical chops Greenblatt displays therein. Most working academics possess the latter, but very few of us possess the former. (Or even seem to want to, now that I think about it.)
7. One book you wish had never been written?
I'd say Ecrits, but that's not a book so much as a series of essays. Had it not been for Lacan, I wouldn't have detoured three years of my graduate life so disastrously. As a cultural Jew, however, I should probably stick with the safe answer and say Mein Kampf. (Which, it seems, is out of print. It may seem odd to mourn the fact that a book I wish had never been written is out of print, but surely it's read in history classes across the country? It's nothing if not important, after all.)
8. One book you are currently reading?
My turn to throw a curve-ball: The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume Two. Part of my scheme to forget even more canonical literature before I hit the market.
9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Accoring to my to-read pile, the top candidate is Cathy Davidson's The Revolution and the Word. I've read a chapter or two, thought them magnificant, and have been wanting to read the entire thing.
10. Five people you want to tag? (altered for symmetry)
I always hate this part of memes, so I'll take the easy way out and tag anyone who wants to respond retroactively. Respond, send me a trackback and I'll doctor the historical record accordingly. That said, I'd love to hear from Miriam and Timothy and piny on this one, if they have the time.