Maureen seems to have some questions for me regarding books, so I figured I’d answer her (since I ignored her last request to fill out one of these things). Although, I’m so dismayed by her pick of Great Gatsby as the book she wishes had never been written, I did have some second thoughts. Nevertheless, here goes.
One book that changed your life: The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. I picked up a copy when I was 14 on what I believed was a recommendation from my father (who has denied ever recommending it). I give this book the entire credit for converting me from a highly geeky, D&D-playing, novelty-song listening adolescent into a pop-culture/conspiracy nerd. Which may not be much of an improvement, but this book led me straight into love of conspiracy theory, metaphysics, the Fugs, speculative history, the occult, Philip K. Dick, and underground culture in general. Looking back, I’m not sure how it didn’t lead me into heavy use of psychedelic drugs, but it certainly was a huge factor in who I am today.
One book that you’ve read more than once: I could probably answer Illuminatus! (which I’ve read about six times now) for most of these questions, but don’t want to get stale, so I’ll say Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Actually, I read the first 80 pages or so about four times before I finally got enough momentum to make it all the way through the book. Once I finally finished it, I let it percolate for a couple years then reread it. It’s been about seven years since I read it last, so I’m probably due for another reading.
One book that you’d want on a desert island: Let’s be flip and go with SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea by John Wiseman.
One book that made you laugh: I’m looking through my bookshelves here and completely failing to find anything that made me laugh out loud. I’m not sure the written word has the necessary timing to pull off anything more than a slight chuckle.
One book that made you cry: Again, something hard to elicit with words alone, so I’m going to cheat a bit and go with Grant Morrison’s last issue of Doom Patrol (#63). The sadness of Jane’s wonderful, weird, internal world getting taken away from her through electro-convulsive therapy and leaving her a boring, normal person is bad enough, but when Cliff and Rebis show up out of the mist just as she’s about to kill herself and take her away to live on Danny the Street forever, I tear up every time. I could point out that Cliff is mostly robot, Rebis is a bandage-covered hermaphrodite, and Danny is a living street who is also a transvestite and uses 60′s gay British slang, but that might just confuse things.
One book that you wish had been written: I’m going to rip off Maureen here and go with any of my many failed NaNoWriMo attempts. Someday…
One book you wish had never been written: Not to get all preachy, but I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place without The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
One book you are currently reading: Just finished Sex, Drugs, Einstein, & Elves by Clifford Pickover. I was really disappointed. I was really hoping it would take some of the assertions of McKenna and Pinchbeck (like “the places you go and entities you meet while on DMT and Ayahuasca are entirely real”) and try to justify it using science. Instead, he just recaps McKenna and Pinchbeck, discusses some science, but never really ties it together. And devotes a whole chapter to “how to write a book and get it published.” Bleh. Up next, I’ll probably finish off Colin Wilson’s Mysteries, which I’ve been reading off-and-on for the past year or so. If you’re really curious about what I’m reading, I’ve been keeping an updated list for the past several months on my Myspace profile (for lack of a better place).
One book you’ve been meaning to read: V by Thomas Pynchon. Tried it many times, but can’t get into it. Maybe the new Pynchon book will be so good it’ll convince me to go back and reread all of his.
I guess I’m now supposed to tag others, but since I know of only three people who read this, one of whom does not keep a general-purpose blog that I know about and the other of whom tagged me, I think that means the only person I can tag is Meghan.
ETA: Wait. Mr. Spiegelman reads this occasionally. And it’s been months since his last blog entry, so perhaps this will motivate him.