Wednesday, June 29, 2005

My Obsession

The lovely Orange tagged me with a book meme last week, and I've been sweating bullets about it. (Not Bullitts, that's Steve McQueen.) Because it means revealing my most out-of-control obsession.

I love books.


I learned to read at age 4, and my mom tells stories about how I'd never sleep, I'd keep the little light on near my bed and read all night unless they caught me. I read nearly every book in the elementary school library, and had a pretty good jump on the high school one before I graduated.

Can this scream "geek" any louder? I ask you?

I can't go into a bookstore without buying something. There are stacks of books in our house half-read, not read, totally read and re-read. The boy-child and girl-child love to read, as does Sergei. So this little obsession gets no respite.

You'll have to excuse the size of the meme, I had such trouble paring down my list. Well, I'll stop gabbing and just get on with it. (Get on with it!)

Number of Books I Own: Not including Sergei's law books, but including the kids' books, we have approximately 1,600 books in the house. No, I'm not kidding. The kids rooms have bookshelves, there are 4 small bookshelves in our bedroom and small stacks on either side of the bed, a large bookshelf in the living room, 2 in the dining room, and several tubs of books in the garage because we have no place to display them. Oh yeah, and we have oodles of cookbooks in the kitchen, but I didn't include those either.

Last Book I Bought: I bought two at the same time:
1) "Candy and Me" by Hilary Liftin. She explores her life-long obsession with candy as it marks various events and times of her life. I can SO relate to her, as the sight of a candy counter in a dime store sends me reeling for my checkbook.
2) "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver. I was told I had to read her. This book was recommended, and I'm not disappointed.

Last Book I Read:
The very last book I read was "Dancing Barefoot" by Wil Wheaton. It contains stories that originally were posted on his site. His writer's voice is so like a buddy, ya know, the way people really talk, like you're there. Plus he's my total geek crush, ya know.

Before that, I finished "Magical Thinking" by Augusten Burroughs in a manic inhaling, whilst traveling to see my sister-in-a-far-off-state last fall. I read it on airplanes and in airports, which was pretty hard to do since there's lots of sex in it, lots of gay sex, and those airplane seats are ridiculously close together, and 'blowjob' and 'fuck' and 'cum' just jump off the page so loudly. I had to read it with my nose stuck in it so as not to offend, but I LOVE the way Burroughs writes and couldn't put that thing down.

Okay, here's where things get out of control. The two books above are books I've finished. However (and I'm biting my lip with shame and amusement at this) I have tons of books I'm currently reading, that are half-read or one-quarter, or almost done, or just a few pages in. When I get a few minutes, sometimes after Sergei is in bed or on the weekends, or in hospital ER waiting rooms, I'll pick one up and read a few pages. I feel really bad that I haven't finished them, because they're all SO good, but there's just so many books out there and I can't stop buying them, and reading a few chapters in, and finding another book, and reading part of that one, and it's really outta hand. So now, for shock value, I will list the books I'm currently working my way through. In no particular order.

1) "Candy and Me" by Hilary Lifton (half-done)
2) "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver (1/4 done)
3) "Take the Cannoli" by Sarah Vowell
4) "The Nick Adams Stories" by Hemingway
5) "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick
6) "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole
7) "Why Things Break" by Mark Eberhart
8) "The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering" by Frederick Brooks
9) "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers
10) "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman
11) "The Sound and the Fury" by Wm. Faulkner
12) "Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings by Mark Twain"
13) "Barrel Fever" by David Sedaris
14) "Everyman's Poetry" by Pushkin
15) "The Persian Boy" by Mary Renault
16) "DeCapo Best Music Writing 2001"
17) "Man's Fate" by Malraux
18) "Hoot" by Carl Hiaasen
19) "Breathing Lessons" by Anne Tyler
20) "Verses That Hurt - the Poemfone Poets"
21) "I'm Just Here for More Food" by Alton Brown

And waiting for me to crack their sweet little covers are:
"America" by Jon Stewart
"Paper Lion" by George Plimpton
"Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" by Al Franken still awake?

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:
1) "Frederick" by Leo Lionni. I read this as a child, and bought a new copy several years ago to share with my children. "Frederick" is all about art, and beauty, and daydreaming, and what the humanities bring to our daily lives. Frederick is a mouse, and while the rest of his family prepare for winter by gathering food, Frederick sits and gathers colors, and words, and memories, even though the other mice make fun of him. During the cold winter, once the food is nearly eaten, Frederick sustains his family by reminding them how warm the sun is, how happy they'll be soon, he's a poet and lifts their spirits. I always wanted to be Frederick, and still do.

2) "ee cummings complete poems 1904-1962". My third-grade teacher had us memorize some of his poems ("and the goat-footed balloon man whistles far and wee"), and I was stunned to discover that all those rules of grammer we were being taught were sometimes totally unnecessary. Cummings broke every rule, and sometimes you have to hack through the jungle of superfluous punctuation and choppy words to get to the heart of it. And that's part of the appeal. He's my absolute favorite poet. When Sergei and I got married, our best man (who was a woman) gave us this book. Even though I have other cummings compilations, this is by far the best. I usually reference it when I'm in a naughty mood..."i like my body when it is with your body, it is so quite new a thing".

3) "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. I have a lot of Vonnegut books. I love "Breakfast of Champions" because of Vonnegut's illustrations. And "Welcome to the Monkey House" and "Player Piano" and "Slaughterhouse-Five", all that stuff, good, good, good. But "Cat's Cradle" has this sort of spirituality, this other-worldliness, that draws me in. It says a lot for civilization, scary things, self-absorbed things. I find myself sometimes repeating this line, "Nice, nice, very nice/so many different people/in the same device".

4) "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" by Carlos Castaneda. It's not because of the drugs. It's because of the mind. Castaneda met Don Juan and began studying Native American spirituality, with the added mind-enhancement of peyote, and then he wrote about it. I read this in high school, and for a small-town girl whose sole exposure to spirituality was the boring Lutheran church, this was like finally opening a door and smelling sweet spring air. Spirituality, for me, became something a person could experience outside the confines of a church, outside the Protestant religion, as a communion with nature, reaching inside yourself and pulling yer guts out and taking a long, hard look.

5) "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess. I read the book in college, right before I saw the movie (I can never hear 'Singing in the Rain' quite the same way). A dear college friend gave me the book, looked me in the face, and said, "You MUST read this". I spent several restless days reading that thing. The first day was torture. I didn't understand half the words, which Burgess had made up from a bastardized Russian/Slavic/Gypsy slang dialect, which he called Nadsat. The book has a dictionary in the back, so I was, from page one, flipping back and forth, and back and forth, and trying not only to understand the words but where the hell the characters were in space and time, and finally after a while, the light went on and !voila! I understood it, and the flipping subsided. It's a very violent book. VERY. The good guys aren't always good, and the bad guys are exceedingly bad, unless they're forced to be good, which is a BAD thing. The challenge of this book intrigued me, and the story pulled me in.

HEY! You still awake! 'Cause I'm almost done!

In short, I sit among my stacks of printed pages, my papers that burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, and long for more, more more. I can't stop. I won't stop. Sure shot.

I'm passing the book meme torch to Lisa, who will someday be a great published writer, and to My Fiend Mr. Jones, who is probably the only other person to watch the latest Project Greenlight besides me, and to the lovely Pisser, who always has something to say, and lastly to Rob Helpy-Chalk, who reads...a lot.

I'm going to bed now.


At 5:54 AM, Blogger your fiend, mr. jones said...

Jeez, Tina Louise, we've got a lot in common. But then, you had me at the "Bullitt" reference;>

On half-read...

I hate to not finish books (it's a total ocd "Monk" thing with me), but lately I have lightened up enough to have a few...

1) "Stories Into Film" edit. by William Kittredge and Steven M. Krauzer- A seventies collection of short stories that were adapted into movies. Things like "Blow Up", "Rear Window", and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". Not As compelling as I would've have thought.

2) "Showman: The Life Of David O. Selznick" by David Thomson- As much as I love Thomson's work (he's a British film critic who writes very passionately about movies), his freindship with Selnick's ex-wife Irene, and his intense research makes this very slow going. Sure the guy had a big life, but I'm not sure if the book should have matched it minute for minute.

Favorite Books- This changes, but currently it's...

1) "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay" by Michael Chabon- A book ostensibly about comic book creators, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel is about how the Jewish people (especially 20th century American Jews) create heroes for themselves. It goes from The Golem and Houdini to Spiderman, with special guest appearances from Orson Welles and Stan Lee.

2) "A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius" by Dave Eggers- Read this book MB, especially the paperback with the update on how everyone is doing and then we'll talk. My big recommendation, as is with all things, is "It made me cry!"

3) "Suspects" by David Thomson- Hard to find these days, it came out in the eighties and is basically a novel, a film noir critique, and a lot more. Fictional biographies of fictional characters from film noir from the thirties through the eighties are compiled by a mysterious narrator who may just be movie character himself. A book the imagines that Richard Gere's "Julian" from "American Gigolo" was the love child of Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis from "Sunset Boulevard".

4) "A Prayer For Owen Meany" by John Irving- The movie made from this I hear wasn't very good and that's a shame because this book is amazing. And it made me cry. Sigh.

5)"Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business Of Dreams" by Nick Tosches- A biography written like a novel, this book attempts to penetrate the adamantium-ish shell of Dean Martin. Tosches writes about places and inner monologues that he couldn't possible have access to and it doesn't matter because it all fits in the picture of man "so cool he pisses ice water" as an admiring gangster once said. Where Sinatra wanted to be like mobsters, mobsters wanted to be like Dean.

Unread... too many to count and/or name.

Sorry about the mini-blog again.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Julie said...

Wow, Mona, I can't believe how much my taste and yours agree (plus I think we have nearly the same job...ironic). I just finished "Do Androids Dream" and I'm dying for that new Augustin Burroughs. Congrats on your great taste!

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Julie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

Thanks for the meme. I'm going to spend a while working on the post off and on for a couple days, I think, but it will go up.

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Maine said...

Note to Self: Never help Mona and Sergei move. Boxes with books in them take years off of a life.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Orange said...

Ah, I loved the Nadsat glossary in "A Clockwork Orange"! You might also like (says the book-pusher to the junkie) this other book I read, damn, what's it called? Who wrote it? Ah, there it is on the shelf: Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker." Kind of a postapocalyptic deal, a boy in the future UK, where all sorts of words have been changed through elision (e.g., Canterbury becomes something like Cambry)—lots of fun trying to decipher the weird words and figure out what they used to be.

My favorite Kingsolver novels are "Animal Dreams" and "The Poisonwood Bible." I got 100 pages into "Prodigal Summer," but then my dad died unexpectedly and I never got back to the novel. Someday...

Is "Breakfast of Champions" the one with the anus sketches? Memorable when you read it around age 13 and it seems like such a transgression.

One of my started-but-not-finished books is Steve Almond's "Candyfreak," a chocolate-related memoir of sorts. Read it yet?

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

That was so much fun to read! I'm floored--impressed, turned on, and just plain excitd, and THEN you go and flatter me??? Sensory overload! :)

At 11:54 AM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Mr. Jones: Have I told you lately that I love you?

Julie: Great minds, baby, great minds!

Rob: I can't wait. I already have guesses on yours....

Maine: We hire movers and laugh hysterically as they grunt and groan and fall down...what a hoot!

Orange: Thanks for the recommends...feeding my addition, are you? "Candyfreak"...Yum. And yes, 'Champions' is the one where Vonnegut says, "This is an asshole: * ". How can you not love THAT?!?

Lisa: You're ALWAYS exciting me, babe! When you get that first book published, can you autograph my copy?

At 7:12 PM, Blogger your fiend, mr. jones said...


As long as that wasn't the Rod Stewart version... ;>

At 10:25 PM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Jonesy: Rod Stewart is best singing "Maggie May". And I HAVE heard the Muzak version of 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy', which sent me running for Tums.


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