Thursday, April 21, 2005

That Book Thingy 

Ereshkigal asked me to do this some time ago, and I live to serve. So here are my answers to that "pick a book and pass the buck" business that's going around:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
I had a good answer lined up for this one, but Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber beat me to it and did a better job than I would have:
I would be Fahrenheit 451. I’d run around telling everyone that they were fictional. It would turn the dystopian nightmare into a Borgesian mindwarp, which would be a trip.
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

The last book you bought was:
Honest answer: The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair. I'll let you know if it succeeds in transforming me into a toilet-fixin', radiator-drainin' man-about-townhouse once I've taken it for a test spin. The book I bought before that, sadly, is of even less literary merit (but a must-read if you're a comparative political economist): Democracy & Redistribution by Carles Boix.

The last book you read was:
Aside from the Boix book, the last book I read was Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Levitt's ideas are entertaining, fascinating, and thought-provoking. Plus, the sheer volume of hagiographizing by Dubner (the journalist tagging along with the economist) makes you loathe him from the core of your heart, which is a nice bonus.

What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson, and not enjoying it very much. I am also reading A Perfect Stranger by Roxana Robinson, which I recommend wholeheartedly. Not only is it a good read, but the book is dedicated to my daughter (the author is my mother-in-law). And lest you think my review is biased, no less a figure than Joyce Carol Oates says its "beautifully rendered prose captures moments of domestic drama -- sometimes painful, sometimes ecstatic, always heartrending and illuminating." Go buy it.

Five books you would take to a desert island:
Book number one would be the Bible. I figure if I'm stuck on a desert island, I might want to do some serious Pascal's Wager-style thinking about my long-term future. Plus I can always read the Book of Job if I need some good schadenfreude to keep my spirits up.

I guess I'd bring at least one very long book which I feel I ought to have read but have never been able to bring myself to start. Remembrance of Things Past is one element of that enormous set. Shockingly, so is War & Peace, so let's add that one as well.

I don't think I'd last too long in the desert island environment, Boy Scout training notwithstanding, so I think I'd want my last two selections to be good distraction-from-starvation material, particularly as I'm unlikely to crack open the Proust even if there's practically nothing else to do. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem was the best book I read in 2004, so I guess I'd take his newest opus along. I'd also bring one of Richard Russo's books on the same principle (I loved Empire Falls).

Who are you going to pass the baton to (three persons), and why?
I am selfish and refuse to pass batons unless asked repeatedly. If readers want to volunteer, they can knock themselves out in the comments.

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