Monday, May 30, 2005

Tag, I'm It!

I was very honored to be tagged by Vince to take part in this meme that's spreading across the web. I love being "a part of," and I love the topic of the meme (books), so I'm going to love this!


1. Estimate the total number of books you've owned in your life.
Since I cleaned my room, I can just count the books from where I sit: there are 486 books here in my bedroom. I counted picture-books as well as novels and the like, but not magazines (of which I have hundreds upon hundreds). When I cleaned, I took a lot of them downstairs; in fact every time I clean, I take a lot of them downstairs, so I'll be right back with a number... I just put a box of 61 large-ish hardbound books in the basement (as well as an identical box containing 122 videotapes), and there were another 172 from previous room-cleaning attempts. I know I have some books I brought home from the office as well as a few really old books in a trunk in the garage, I'll guesstimate about fifty, as well as a box of schoolbooks up in the attic, probably another fifty or so. And then I have lent or lost maybe fifty, and sold or sold-back (as one does with textbooks) probably two hundred more. I can't even guess how many books I owned as a child that I lost along the way, but I figure it was probably no more than a hundred. That makes (damned math, where is that calculator) approximately 1,169 books owned. And as far as I'm concerned, that's not nearly enough.

2. What's the last book you bought?
My last trip to Barnes & Noble, which was Wednesday evening, I purchased two books (and three magazines, but I'm not counting them), and I don't know which one went through the cash-register first: Serendipity: The Gay Times Book of New Short Stories, edited by Peter Burton, and Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice. The former I look forward to reading, I am always fascinated by short fiction (since I seem to be incapable of writing anything short myself), and anthologies are a great way of finding new authors to investigate. The latter I bought because, late last year, I decided to reread the entire "Vampire Chronicles" from front to end, in order and all at once so that I could hopefully gain an overview of how Anne Rice has developed as a writer and how her characters have developed as individuals; so I started with Interview with the Vampire, chugged through the next nine novels, and got caught short when I finished Blood and Gold... apparently I had lent the next book to my sister, and she never gave it back. So when I saw Blackwood Farm on the bargain shelves in hardcover priced at $6.98, I decided to get it and finish my aborted project from several months ago.

3. What was the last book you read?
You'd think I'd be able to answer that right off the top of my head... but no. Before I cleaned, of course I could have just looked on top of the pile on my bed... but even then, I don't think I could answer, because I haven't been finishing books lately. When I brought home Blackwood Farm and started re-reading it, I had to put aside David Hunt's The Magician's Tale, which I was re-reading in order to get a feeling for the San Francisco police and the Polk Street hustling scene, about which Hunt wrote with some authenticity and about which I am trying to write. And I picked that one up after throwing down Henry James's The Princess Casamassima, which I was enjoying but which was too slow and dense for me to take all at once... after ten days of reading, I was only a quarter of the way through the novel, and the plot hadn't advanced very far. Besides, I wasn't sure I liked any of the characters, and I find it indispensably necessary to like at least one of the characters in a book in order to have a motive for reading it.

So what did I read before that? Hell if I can remember. Fortunately, I received a Book Journal as a Christmas present from my friend JB, and I have been keeping up with it, so I have a list with dates and summaries of all the books I've read this year. Before The Princess Casamassima, I finished reading David M. Pierce's Elf Child. I'm afraid it wasn't very good, and obviously not very memorable, but I enjoyed it while I read it. It was about a young man who falls in love with a shapeshifter, and the shapeshifter falls in love with the young man, but there are all these complications to do with shapeshifting and adoption and mothers and self-loathing and identity and what-have-you. It was neither particularly believable nor particularly fantastic. Feh.

4. List 5 Books that mean a lot to you.
The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren. It wasn't a great book (IMHO, though it is generally considered powerful and ground-breaking), and I haven't re-read it in ages, but it was the first gay novel I ever read. I remember, when I was sixteen, I picked it out of the Used Gay Lit section at Walden's Pond (a local independent new-and-used store that I've been patronizing for eons). Though I didn't really relate to any of the characters, and found the ending too depressing for words, it was profoundly moving to read about two men falling in love and living life together. (While Googling for a link, I discover it's being made into a movie! Huh!)

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. When I started to college at age 18 (community college, College of Alameda to be precise, which I didn't really commit to but only attended because I had to do something and had no idea what I wanted), I found this book in the college library called Homosexuals in History. I thought of listing that as a book that meant a lot to me, since it started me off on a lot of other writers, but it really only served as a bibliography. When I read the entries about Oscar Wilde, something about his personality and history caught my fancy, so I went down to the Literature aisle and picked up the biggest Oscar Wilde anthology they had, and started my love affair with Wilde by diving headfirst into his masterwork novel. I also read all the plays and and essays and fairy-tales and poems, being particularly moved by his latter works "De Profundis" and "The Ballad of Reading Gaol"; but really, The Picture of Dorian Gray caught my imagination and inspired my aesthetic senses more than any other novel I read before or since. I still dip into it every now and again just to enjoy that richness of language, that surfeit of gorgeous detail, that decadent taste, and that deliciously veiled homoeroticism.

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. This was another book discovered at Walden's Pond; actually, I discovered Mary Renault by way of The Charioteer, which I found in the Gay Lit section but didn't really care for; then I found her historical novels of ancient Greece in the regular Lit section. The Persian Boy caught my imagination in a way that none of the other books about ancient Greece, or about Alexander the Great (childhood fascinations based largely on the rather erotic Olive Baupré Miller illustrations in a set of pictorial history books here at Grandmother's house) ever had before. In reading of Bagoas' life and his devotion to Alexander, I found myself learning a different way of loving someone, a self-sacrificing and ultimately all-consuming but no less worthwhile way of love. It was also the first time I ever fell in love with fictional or historical characters, both Bagoas and Alexander break my heart. I've read that book so many times that my original used paperback copy fell all to pieces, and I had to buy a hardback copy at A Libris, and like The Picture of Dorian Gray, I recommend it to all of my friends and occasionally dip into it at random just for the flavor.

Living Sober. Since I just had my tenth sobriety birthday, I feel it necessary to list a piece of Recovery literature here. Though I only read it once, and have been helped in recovery more by the more serious and specific Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, the first time I read Living Sober I experienced a profound change in the way I thought. It was the first time that I was able to consider the possibility that a life without alcohol was not only possible, it was actually desirable. Though it was three years before I really quit drinking, Living Sober was the trowel that turned over the ground of my soul and prepared me for the seeds that would be planted in the coming years.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers. Another oft-read favorite, from my favorite author of my favorite genre, which I heartily recommend to one and all. But the reason I chose this particular novel as being important to me is because it is the inspiration for my own novel-in-progress, Worst Luck. In Gaudy Night, the mystery around which the story is created is a rather dim and not very interesting mystery... nobody is killed, there is simply no murder at all, and murder is the heart of the whole genre. So instead of murder, the "crime" is only there to act as a scaffold and catalytic agent for what is really a character-driven story about love, purpose, and social perception. The mystery is just an excuse for the numerous beautiful and lovable characters, flights of exquisite description and passages of beautiful prose, and discursive essays into the human condition itself. And so, loving this novel so much, I am inspired to write my own novel in which the mystery is there only as a framework around which to build characters and consider the many mysteries of life: love, family, society, etc.

5. Tag 5 people
Well, this is going to be difficult... there aren't that many people I know read my blog who have blogs of their own. So let's see... I know I want to tag Dana Marie, she's always on the prowl for good memes and she loves books; and I want to tag Susan though I don't know if her blog's quick-and-dirty format allows for this sort of meme; I would like to tag Tom, though he told me recently that he never gets much chance to read anymore; and I'll tag Bill, even though his blog is about music, because he came to the show at Harvey's on Saturday and I was so happy to see him again. And for my fifth tag, I invite my friends who don't have blogs to use the Commentary box for the meme.


Hey, that was fun! But it was hard! I not only had to think, but I had to look up links, too!

I'm just unbearably tired today, after all the strenuous cleaning and socializing I've been doing these last few days. I spent all day right here in my fresh clean bed under my brand-new Wamsutta comforter in my disturbingly tidy bedroom, clattering away on the office laptop (which I'm keeping until I get another job and can't act as note-taker anymore) on this meme and on the next part of Worst Luck, taking frequent breaks to read Blackwood Farm and nap and eat and otherwise pamper and baby myself. I've also been coughing a lot, I either caught a cold from all this gallivanting, or else I'm having a delayed reaction to all the mildew and anti-mildew chemicals I've been breathing in lately, and my feet and back are still sore from the unaccustomed labor, so I really need the rest.

It was extremely satisfying to have the house so clean, and to have people over to admire how clean it was. I made everyone come look at my room, and those who had seen it in its previous state were quite simply flabbergasted. Now let's see if I can keep it this way for a while... and see also if I can entertain again sometime soon. Everytime I get the house and/or my bedroom really clean, I vow to do everything I can to maintain that cleanliness, and every time I have people over I enjoy it so much that I vow to do it more frequently. But then I don't. Historically.

But History is there to be changed! As are sheets!

So anyway, my peeps and pretties, I shall be signing off now. It's well after midnight, and I'm all sleepy again, so to sleep I shall go. G'night!

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