March 25, 2005

Fahrenheit 32: the temperature at which a book meme melts

I wasn't going to do this meme, but Nels asked me to and he is way cool, so I guess I will. Besides, it gave me a chance to experiment with html codes.

If the last scene in Fahrenheit 451 happens, and all books have been burned, and people have to recite stuff they know, which book are you?

Listen, I am not going to go out and memorize a new book for this meme. So when western civilization falls (and I think we are heading in that direction, ask Prof Goose), I will be the Book of Random Mostly Rhyming Poems by Dead People. Frost, Tennyson, Hopkins, Dickinson, Wordsworth, Kipling, etc. When I was a kid, we spent most of the summer camping. Whenever we hit a rainy week, the family game was to memorize poems from the two books my mother had with her and recite them. Today, I read mostly contemporary literature, but I still have all those poems in my head. Oh, I could be Mother Goose and Lots of Cool Kids' Books as well. And about forty lines or so from Chaucer.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Of course. Almanzo Wilder from the Little House books. The cool earthy farmer type. (Yeah, I know technically he's not a fictional character, but he's dead so I think that counts.) Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables. I mean, Anne lost her temper, cracked her slate over his head, and he still liked her. Gotta love a man who can deal with the hot-tempered woman. Rush Melendy from the Elizabeth Enright books. He played the piano, was passionate about classical music, and once sneaked out of the house by climbing out the window and down a tree. Joe Willard from the Betsy-Tacy books. Orphaned kid with no money who was smarter than everyone else. He even walked with an attitude. Laurie from Little Women, of course. Why didn't Jo marry him instead of that old German professor guy? I'll never understand that. Max in Where the Wild Things Are; now, he would be a cool boyfriend. He had a great imagination and a lot of sass. This list could go on forever because I have even been known to get crushes on Dr. Seuss characters. (Horton the Elephant? Now there's a real man.) In fact most of my fictional crushes are from kids' books because once I hit puberty, I looked around and discovered non-fictional guys to get crushes on. But there was one fictional crush from my teenage years: Heathcliff. The original untamed, bad boy type. Oh, yeah.

Famous author you've had a crush on?

Fiction writer Rick Bass. Terrific writer and an environmental activist. With a charming accent. And my lesbian crush is poet Joy Harjo.

The last book you bought?

The Hopes of Snakes and Other Tales from the Urban Landscape by Lisa Couturier. It just came out in February and I could have been one of the first people in the country to read it if I didn't spend so damn much time blogging. Anyhow, it's a book about urban nature. Lisa has a piece in the anthology City Wilds that I really love so I am looking forward to reading this.

The last book you read?

This week I just reread two books I am teaching. Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer. You would think a book about mosses written by a scientist might be boring, but this one is not. It's fascinating. She connects the study of mosses to all kinds of bigger cultural issues. The book is lyrical, spiritual, moving, profound. And the other book is Blanche Cleans Up by Barbara Neely. A funny, fast-moving mystery by an author who raises every taboo topic I can think of: politics, religion, sex, racism, sexism, homophobia, classism. The main character is an African American woman named Blanche White who is outspoken and funny.

What book are you currently reading?

This is a weird question. I am rarely in the middle of reading anything. I like to read books in one gulp. I start reading, ignore everything around me, and keep going until I hit the last page. I am not so good at the bookmark thing. When I read a book, I might stop to go in the kitchen and get a snack but I would not stop in the middle to do something like a meme. But I do reread books in bits and pieces. I'll pick up any book that happens to be lying around and read a random chunk. Let's see, today I read a bit of the second Harry Potter book, a bit of Ursula LeGuinn's Always Coming Home, and a several poems in the book Blue Window by Ann Fisher-Wirth.

Five books you would take to a deserted island?

Actually, I spend lots of time on deserted islands in the summer. It's where we go to swim. I am always hesitant to bring a book on a sailboat or canoe because a book gets ruined so quickly if it gets wet. And reading in the sun gives me a headache. So the books stay back in the tent for rainy days. But I do bring my journal in a dry bag so that I can do some writing.

My favorite deserted island isn't a place for reading: it's a place for jumping into icy water, for splashing family members, for snuggling against grey rock to warm yourself up, for listening to waves, for swimming out to shoals, for playing strange games like toss the watermelon, for sharing a picnic lunch with a bunch of hungry kids. If I could bring a fictional character with me, my choice would be Pippi Longstocking, of course. She would fit in perfectly with my family.

If I could bring five writers to my favorite island, I would choose: David Quammen, of course, because he knows everything about island biogeography. Rick Bass, for the erotic thrill. Sandra Cisneros, because she is smart and funny, and I think she'd get along great with my family. Joni Mitchell, because a good voice and a guitar are the most important things to bring on a family camping trip. And Joy Harjo, because I think she would understand what it is I love about grey rock islands.

Who are you going to pass this stick to?

When we do relay races up at camp in the summer, we use a pine cone as a stick and I drop it every single time. Really. Not so good at passing the stick.


Lauren D. McKinney said...


I live under a large rock, and under this rock we know nothing about memes. Are they like quizzes?Ice breakers? Tell me about this strange custom of yours.

We also have not yet discerned all there is to be discerned about blogrolling and an alien "code" involved in adding a blogroll sidebar, but when we do we will certainly include you and Scrivener and a few others on our blog. I have Scrivener to thank for telling me what a blogroll is. Oh, the kindness of strangers.

I return to the shadows . . .

jo(e) said...

Lauren: From what I've gathered from my first couple months of blogging, a meme is an idea, often posed as a list of items or questions, that starts on one blog and then spreads to others. For example, you could take the list of questions in this meme and answer them on your blog. The etiquette seems to be to link to the blog where you got the meme from.

I don't think you are actually supposed to change some of the questions, but I did. I am not so good at following rules.

Anonymous said...

SO agree about the crush on Laurie. And I still have no idea why Jo went with the German professor. I ended up wanting to be Amy, not Jo, so I could end up with Laurie (and travel round Europe and have pretty clothes, and NOT run a boys' school!). Oh well.

What Now? said...

Well, I would argue that Jo marries Prof. Bhaer instead of Laurie so that Alcott can maintain her as an essentialy asexual and thus free woman instead of turning her into a sexual wife. Yes, you'll point out that she goes on to have two sons, and you're quite right, but Prof. Bhaer is so clearly described as a portly fatherly figure (something that film versions invariably get wrong) that Jo never succumbs to the True Womanhood domestic prison of the sort that kills Beth.

Now, here's what I don't get: why the crushes on Heathcliff? I hate Heathcliff! He's cruel, he kidnaps people, he's merciless--where's the attraction?

jo(e) said...

Yeah, but marrying the father figure still puts her in the subordinate role. Whereas Laurie is the kind of guy any strong woman could clearly boss around.

As for Heathcliff, I have a long history of being attracted to the wrong kind of man. I didn't say I would be stupid enough to marry a Heathcliff .... but he's the kind of challenge I would have taken on when I was younger....

Michael LeVan said...

I found some of the Faulkner characters cool: Joe Christmas, Cash, Quentin Compson. And LKila Mae in the Intuitionist. I had a crush on the young woman in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.

If I went to a desert island (I used to live on Mt. Desert Island), I'd bring long books like the entire In Search of Lost Time by Proust or the Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin, or stuff I could study like Deleuze or Heidegger or Hegel.

I never read F-451, but I'd memorize David Sedaris' Naked so people would think I was funny.

jo(e) said...

Dr. M, I just want to say that Heidegger or Hegel is not going to make you popular on my deserted island.

Lauren D. McKinney said...

Did you that David Quammen wrote espionage before he was a nature writer? The Zolta Configuration was one novel and Soul of Viktor Tronko was the other. They're supposedly very good, lots of well-researched science like in his nature writing.