Saturday, April 16, 2005

Fahrenheit 451 Book Meme

Thursday, Rexroth's Daughter added this to my comments section so I decided to make my response a stand-alone essay rather than a short reply. I copied her original comment here;

Oh, I hate to do this to you, but you've been hit by the book meme--

You are stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?
[Note: In the novel - because books were burned - to save the content of books, people memorized one in order to pass the content on to others.]

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

What is the last book you bought?

What are you currently reading?

Five books for your desert island cruise package.

Who are you going to pass this book meme baton to and why? (only three people)

There's normally a curse if you break a chain - so - If you break the chain, you'll know.

I have not purchased any books (or anything else, except the basics, like beans and rice) for nine months because I was too busy trying to save every dime that I could get my hands on in anticipation of unemployment and poverty. For a bibliophile who reads 1-4 books every week, this is indeed, cruel and unusual punishment. However, two weeks ago, I couldn't stand it any longer and spent my entire tax refund on a box of books from a book club (I'm not saying who they are, but I'll bet you all know anyway). I took advantage of their "five books for five bucks" special, purchased one book at regular price to complete my membership requirements and then canceled it. I forgot how good it feels to have my own books to read and I also forgot how good it feels to get fun mail! So this meme showed up just in time to take advantage of that treasure trove of books.

The curse that accompanies the meme is really hilarious because I would have answered anyway, even without the threat of a curse. Besides, I am already cursed (with unemployment) for I-don't-even-know-what evil that I committed (probably committed in a previous life).

Which book would you be?

Only one, huh? That's very tough. I guess I'd choose to be Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories, edited by David Garlock. This book has the most amazing "creative non-fiction" stories, a genre that I wish to pursue as an alternative career if only I had the talent to do so. But don't forget that I could happily be one of several hundred (or more) other books, but many of them would probably already be taken by someone else. I am guessing that few people in my social circle would have read this book and so would not choose to "preserve" it, but they would love it (and wish to preserve it) if they ever did read it.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I did have a crush on John Thornton, Buck's last owner and love-object in Call of the Wild. He was a man of deep and powerful convictions who also had a kind heart. Also, I crush on Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster in the Harry Potter books, for the same reasons I cite for John Thornton. I am sure there are more fictional book characters whom I've crushed on, but I can't recall any of them at the moment.

What is the last book you bought?

Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder. This is a moderately well-written autobiography written in a sweet, funny, conversational tone. It reminded me of all the reasons that I fell in love with Gene Wilder when I was a wee one. In fact, I will never forget the first time I saw Gene Wilder. He was starring in one of his early box office flops that is actually one of my favorite movies, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (I didn't see it until it was on TV any number of years later). In the scene where I first saw him, he immediately made an impression on me.

My recollections of that scene: It was a sunny morning. Gene Wilder (as Willy Wonka) was dressed in a purple velvet suit and tophat. He came out of his amazing Chocolate Factory and walked across the small cobblestone plaza towards the crowd standing at the iron gate. Within seconds, all the joy and hilarity ceased among the crowd because their hero, Willy Wonka, was hobbling along with a cane. They stared. He walked slowly, laboriously, and then his cane became stuck in a crack between cobblestones. He stumbled a step or two onwards without his cane, stopped momentarily and flexed his empty hand before he fell. At the last nanosecond, he saved himself from a nasty belly-flop onto the rough stones with a perfect summersault. Suddenly, he was standing in front of the crowd, unharmed, with his arms open wide, a broad smile on his face. "Welcome everybody," he said in his sweet self-effacing way. "Welcome to my chocolate factory."

The crowd fell in love with him at that moment because their hero did not disappoint them by being a cripple. That scene intrigued and delighted me because Willy Wonka was so much more than he first appeared. (I later learned that this scene was one of Gene Wilder's original contributions to the film.) Anyway, throughout the entire film, Gene Wilder's inner sweetness shone through and that's why, as a kid, I fell in love with him. He has a genuinely kind heart. I never knew people could be like that.

What are you currently reading?

I nearly always read two books at a time. One book is my "subway book" that is generally fairly intellectual or science-y while the other book is my "bedtime" book that is lighter or funnier than my subway book or it is a collection of essays or poetry (I generally crawl under the covers and read until I pass out, and continue reading when my worries wake me in the middle of the night).

Currently; my subway book is Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. This book is funny and surprisingly well researched. Besides the fact that it is crammed full of fascinating and often gross rat-lore, it also takes place in NYC, so it is fun to read because I recognize some of the places he talks about, even though I have only lived here for 2.5 years. I plan to go on an expedition to find and peek into the author's rat alley after I have finished reading this book.

My bedtime book is The Truth About History by the editors of Reader's Digest. This book is so interesting because it shows how modern science is changing our view of history. It has lots of nice pictures and short essays that tell how reason is overcoming the darkness of irrationality, good for giving me sweet dreams as I nod off.

Five books for your desert island cruise package.

I assume food, water and a rudimentary shelter are available to me? If so, these would be my books;

Island Biology by David Lack. This is the classic book about avian biogeography. Not only that, but it is well-written, too.

Shaking the Tree edited by Henry Gee. Packed full of seminal peer-reviewed evolutionary biology papers that also happen to be well-written, so this is a really interesting and satisfying book.

Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in our Time by Jonathan Weiner. This is an amazing book, both for the quality of the writing and for the quality of the ideas and it reads like a mystery. It's just really top-notch writing.

Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis. This is the only title in this collection that I have not yet read at least once (I am still looking for a reasonably-priced or free copy, as a matter of fact) but I want to read it very, very much.

New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Mary is my most favorite living poet. Her poetry says what I think and feel but am too clumsy and out-of-touch to capture with words.

If food, water and a rudimentary shelter are NOT available to me, I'd bring these books;

Wilderness Survival by Gregory Davenport. This is supposed to be one of the best survival guides out there.

A Naturalist's Guide to the Tropics by Marco Lambertini. I hope my deserted island would be tropical, otherwise, I don't want to play this game any more.

The New Oxford Book of Food Plants by J. G. Vaughan, et al. This book might keep me from poisoning myself while foraging.

Coral Reef Fishes: Indo-Pacific and Caribbean by Ewald Lieske and Robert Myers. Guess what else I will probably eat while on this island?

Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific by Gerald Allen, et al. I need two fish ID books because they have pretty pictures and also because the Pacific region fish books are not very complete.

In either situation, I'd also be compelled to cheat by smuggling several bird field guides with me.

Who are you going to pass this book meme baton to and why? (only three people)

Honestly, I am quite eager to see what YoungFemaleScientist will have to say on this topic and the accompanying curse (harhar, as if she would believe that) is as good a reason as any to share the wealth with her.

I am also curious to know what Chris, the author of Creek Running North reads .. he is such a wonderful writer that I am certain he must read some really great books -- books that I want to read, too. The bad thing is he is away from his blog for two weeks so I have to wait for his response (if he even chooses to play the game).

I also want to pass this on to Orac at Respecful Insolence because he seems interesting and I imagine he reads lots of interesting history books. Like Chris, Orac is also away from his blog for a week or two. Alas, more delayed gratification.

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© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

5 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

Thank you for your answers. They are as stunning and beautiful as I knew they would be. Everything you contribute to your blog is heartfelt and deeply considered, a graciousness mostly unexpected in a medium built on sand, anonymity, and speed.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Dreaming again said...

I find these things quite interesting. I love learning what people would do in these situations.

When someone passed it to me a few weeks back, i was surprised how hard it was for me to come up with the answers!

Great blog!

12:41 AM  
Blogger Debra said...

I just stumbled across this via Blog Hot or Not, but will be attempting my own answers to these questions in a bit. It looks like it will prove to be a challenge, but I think a whorthwhile one.

2:23 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Thanks for reading. I enjoy talking about the books I read (I had a popular regular Wednesday "column" on Craigslist where I talked about books with everyone who wanted to participate. It was so much fun.) Maybe I should write more on my blog about the books I read. I don't want my blog to turn into a book review, but books are one of the things that I will sorely miss when I die. If there's an afterlife, mine would be sitting outdoors at a sidewalk bookstore/cafe, reading a book, writing and watching birds. Sort of like a day at Diagon Alley.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Chris Clarke said...

Alas, Hedwig, I have already participated in this meme. But I came up with a countermeme, so check your email.

5:43 PM  

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