A little sparkier today. At the weekend I was tagged by Diddums for this Booky Meme.
Total number of books owned.
Some. No really, I guess about 300. I attempted to count them, but not only is this a very difficult task for me just now, but our books are all mixed together and I shan't lay claim to books about PHP, Fedore Cor 6 or Apache Redhat. So I guess about three hundred are mine, which doesn't strike me as too many, but I tend to recycle (give away or sell) any that I have read and don't want to keep for reference or rereading.
Last Book Bought
The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Bottton.
I've just started reading this now, it is very good so far. I do like Alain de Botton. He is a rare individual writing about philosophy today who does not either ascend up his own intellect nor descend to fluffy vagueries. It's practical philosophy, but philosophy proper; exercising reason in order to understand our world. Anyway, I haven't finished this book so it might let me down half way for all I know.
Last Book Read
The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre.
Christopher Brookmyre is another hero although for completely different reasons. The one living author of whom I have read every single book. I usually wait for the paperbacks but after Jack P went to a book signing, and out of sympathy for myself (which would be, uh, self-pity) I treated myself.
The book is about a formal experiment to see whether or not the claims of a famous and controversial medium are valid. If they are, this could change everything about the way that science is understood. If they're not, then how is the guy pulling it off? Naturally, there are dead bodies and political intrigues along the way; it's very good.
Five Books that Mean a Lot to You.
Tried to think of five I haven't sung the praises of before now, but as I'm tired and rambling today, I'll cheat and give you three. Having mentioned the guy already...
1. Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
Picture the scene; it's 1996, the scene is Rosehill Library in Ipswich, I'm fifteen years old and I've decided that I will never be able to read for fun ever again. I like mysteries and adventures but most of these books are rubbish. Not because I'm fifteen, but because genuinely, most of them are rubbish and I have developed a very low tolerance for pretension and cliche.
So I'm staring at the black and red spines of the Crime & Thrillers shelf (it's not a very big library). I tried to give you a pictorial reconstruction of what I saw, but the red and black books I own aren't really the sort of thing. You have to imagine they all have faintly sinister titles like Satan's Earlobe, thriller titles such as The Mortage Indemnity (you know, the one about Jason Mortgage, who has forgotten who he is but the CIA are trying to kill him all the time?) or cryptic titles such as Dying for a P.
Come on, you have also read these kind of books; you too know they're shite. In any case, Quite Ugly One Morning stood out a mile. The first line was 'Jesus Fuck.' which seemed to bode well. And this book became extremely significant, not because of any profound content (there isn't any, it's really not a great book and if you can read the first chapter and hold down your breakfast, you're a better man than I'm not). But it is very funny, but without losing the dramatic tension. It is extremely graphic and gruesome, but... well one day I may bore you with my theories of disgust, but suffice to say it was within my tolerance. It is also an adventure story involving fairly ordinary people and places, if rather extraordinary circumstances - which to me is the best sort of escapism.
Not only did Quite Ugly One Morning restore my faith in reading fiction for fun, but it also showed me that people can write new books. I mean, like I say, nothing profound, but the way Brookmyre writes is unique - something you can't say for a lot of writers, even the most popular. I think until that point I had imagined that story-writing required a great many more conventions than the beginning-middle-end rule.
2. The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
When I was a kid (very nostalgic this Meme; I'm still in bed), I was a tomboy and a bright one and thus was perfectly aware that the way that boys and girls, men and women were regarded and treated was completely unfair. Then I had my Teenage Angst and began to suspect that my entire sense of injustice about sexual inequality was just me; perhaps if I was a proper pink ladygirl who didn't fancy girls, it wouldn't be a problem. I didn't seek out feminism texts and when I came to de Beauvoir via her fellow existentialists, The Second Sex was a tremendous relief; it wasn't just me after all!
I can't recommend this doorstop as an introduction to feminism, although written in 1949, it can probably be considered the first ripple of the Second Wave; i.e once most Western women had or were just getting the vote but still very unequal rights in employment and marital law. But regardless of the content, she's just so smart; like any great polemicist, you kind of forget your are reading arguments which you might want to question and get completely carried along with the woman's passion. And much less self-absorbed than her lover, Sartre.
3. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
Crime and Punishment was the first book I remember reading which explicitly asserted that there are no good people or bad people, only good or bad behaviours. This is much easier said than believed and I hadn't really bought into it before then. There were things, for example, that I would never do, never ever do. I guess I took what is a fairly dominant idea that in order to do something really bad, to commit rape, another serious assault or murder, one has to have something missing. The language of - if not the explicit assertion of - mental illness is frequently used and abused when we talk about violent crime.
But I read Crime and Punishment during a spell in bed, and in my literally feverish state I was completely carried along with Raskolnikov, I felt his poverty and frustration and I realised that I would have taken an axe to the miserly old biddy given half a chance. I too had the mind of a killer!
Having a taste for detective stories, I am always baffled by the delight some authors seem to take in present the most unhinged, eccentric murderer one could possibly dream up. I have read so many books and sat through so many movies, stuff that seemed serious and intelligent throughout, right up until it emerges that it was the Generic Crazy Person what dunnit - worse, the Generic Crazy Person who cackles during their confession.
What I find far more interesting, dramatic and terrifying is someone who really isn't so different from you and I, but who makes choices we have not made. That's what I consider thrilling. Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! (That was a cackle, by the way).
Anyway, three is enough for me for now. I tag S., Elizabeth, Sara, Sage and anyone else who wants to do it.