Friday 15 September 2006


Jackie has asked me to answer this here list of questions. In general, I find these meme things a bit too chain-letterish for my taste, but I make an exception for ones about books. Books are great (aren't they, mate? — Yeah, mate, they're like films in book form), and I'm more than happy to have an excuse to blather on about them.

(As an aside, has the time between the word "meme" being coined and its having its meaning changed through popular misuse set some sort of speed record?)

1. A book that changed your life.
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson, an epic comic novel about anthropology, quantum mechanics, politics, psychology, crime, drugs, and sex. Read it when I was about eighteen, I think, and have never thought about the world in the same way since — it is no exaggeration to say that it was a revelation to me. Did a huge amount to shape my understanding of and approach to humanity. But the great thing about it is that you can ignore all the philosophical nonsense and merely enjoy one of the funniest and most bizarre novels ever written — I once lent it to a friend who said that she didn't understand a word of it yet couldn't put it down. And it's not really a trilogy. Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty appear to have based their entire careers on this book, by the way.

2. A book you’ve read more than once.
I actually read most books more than once, unless they're shite. Only very bad writers create books that don't reward repeated reading. I'm talking about novels here, of course, because I tend not to read non-fiction. Picking just one: Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, a book about love, grief, and redemption. With lots of big guns. In a shopping mall full of psychos. Gets better every time I read it.

3. A book you’d want on a desert island.
Some sort of survival handbook? Or, if I were there by choice, with luxurious amenities, Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy or The Annotated Alice — a copy of which my grandfather died clutching.

4. A book that made you giddy.
Giddy? I suspect this may be a girl thing. The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills is pretty amazing. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who's not read it, but the very end is completely disorientating: it's so much more than a mere twist. More literally, Consider Phlebas by Iain M Banks probably does the best job mere writing can do of inducing vertigo.

5. A book you wish had been written.
My dad should pull his bloody finger out and write his memoirs, including what he knows of his bizarre ancestors (the film The Piano is suspiciously similar to the tale of one of his great-aunts, or possibly great-great-aunts, his grandfather was a professional card sharp in the Australian Outback, and he is also related to Wild Humphrey Kynaston, the Robber Troglodyte). Also, I am currently working on a novel, and I wish that were finished. It's taking me years.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Again, call me a man insufficiently in touch with his deepest emotions, but being wracked with sobs ain't quite my bag. In the worst moments of my life, I prefer to go for more of a nervous-breakdown kind of approach, with severe stammering and bowel problems. Books don't do that to me, thank God. But The World According to Garp, The Cider House Rules, Small Gods, and Spares induced me to cry, quietly, in places. Actually, come to think of it, Triggerfish Twist wracked me with sobs, but that was laughter.

7. A book you wish had never been written.
A Clockwork Orange. Many books are very, very bad, but few come close to this. No, it's not an exciting experiment with language: it's just unreadable bollocks. More to the point, if you can bring yourself to wade through the awful and irritating prose, you discover a shallow, trite, obvious, unoriginal, and uninteresting story about characters that somehow manage to be both one-dimensional and thoroughly unsympathetic. And then there's the moral at the end, laid on with trowels by a squad of blind builders working on commission. Even Stanley Kubrick, a man who loved the book so much he filmed it, still found the final chapter too awful to include. Even all that would be forgivable if the damn thing would just keep itself to itself — why should I care that a bad book has been written? It's not like I was forced to read it. But no: coke-addled halfwits corner you at parties and tell you how amazing it is, at great length. Feh.

8. A book you are currently reading.
Feersum Endjinn, for, I think, the third time; maybe the fourth. Utter, utter genius. Also, Anthony bloody Burgess take note: this is what an interesting experiment with language looks like.

9. A book you’ve been meaning to read.
All the Aubrey-Maturin books that I've not yet read. That's about half of them.

10. Tag 10.
Ten? Blimey. I don't have that many friends. And most of my blogging friends are the sort of people who get royally pissed off by these things. Apart from Jackie, who, obviously, has already done it. So, anyone who's reading and feels like being tagged, consider yourself so, and let us know in the comments, please. The two people to whom I will boldly throw down this gauntlet are Ms Wilberforce-Packard, because the results were so brilliant last time, and Natalie the Wise, because she hasn't blogged in weeks and needs a bit of a nudge. I'm going cold turkey here.

This is the perfect opportunity to mention that Tim has just done a slightly different version that's currently doing the rounds — with hilarious consequences!

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