Friday, April 15, 2005


The always ideologically suspect polymath Mad Kane, grilled before a U.S. Web Committee asking if she had ever been a library card carrying reader, has cowered before their power and named names, pointing the finger of suspicion at me and several others by citing us for The Book Meme. I'm no martyr, so I'll confess as well.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

Perhaps you have not been paying attention to what I write. In that novel, I would have probably been one of the firepersons, gleefully burning the work of other unworthy authors to spare the world from their liberal lies. However, if I were instead a security agent, borrowing some of Emma's old leather jumpsuits and sent to infiltrate those insidious memorizers, I would still need to learn some work by heart to fool them. My first thought was to tweak their tales by choosing a notorious satire, but that might not go over everybody's head, so more overt fiction could be safer. It would be easiest to do one I've already read, and shorter is better for this, so how about a small meditation on art and terrorism, with its lovely I-know-a-secret-that-you-don't conclusion?

If I were trying to be an agent provocateur, I'd probably try to cover myself by doing some more radical feminist tomes (which I've only read to research America's enemies), like a surreal parody (in that doubly suspicious "freedom" language), or a bit of wild and wooly gender bending. [Someone wrote of another of her novels the heart-warmingly appropriate note "I hated this book so much that, with a friend, we burnt our copies inside a grill at a local park." No one would accuse me of being an agent of the authorities if I committed one of her nightmares to heart.] Or I might just decide to rub their noses in it and demoralize them by reciting the inspiration for another noir film of Trauffaut's, authored by perhaps our greatest semi-repressed gay thriller writer, which in print ends with a suitably despairing doomed wait for death.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

No, not a full-blown romantic fixation of the kind that made prep-schoolmates write things like "Mrs. Rhett Butler" on notebooks (though that convention-defying smuggler was very tempting). Heroic heart-throbs were more likely to show up in melodramatic popular fiction read in my youth. I always found brainy characters appealing, like Salvor Hardin, scheming to spread preemptive democracy through the galaxy, or Kronsteen, leaving the chess board to plot destruction of those decadent monarchists. If he hadn't been on the wrong political side, I could have easily gotten all aflutter over the devastating methods of Freddy Van Ackerman, from an author Mad Kane unaccountably would seek to reread. I've always thought that the world seriously underestimated the attractiveness of the endlessly determined Inspector Javert, pursuing that vicious philanthropist across the country. (Did you weep like me when he suicided? It was as traumatic and incongruous as Scrooge's sellout "conversion".)

Much as I thrilled to the larger-than-life take-no-prisoners attitudes of Cyrano (except when he let silly "honor" get in the way of pushing aside that tongue-tied pretty-boy wimp), and the champion commie-killer Mike Hammer, when it came to real makes-you-shiver ruthless and smart heroism, there was never anyone better than Matt Helm (only in the books, never the movies). Finally, maybe it's because this is income tax day, but right now I think it would be a real turn-on to welcome Ragnar Danneskjold, bearing his usual shining gifts.

The last book you bought is?

That was a pseudo-intellectual historical novel. Naturally, I got this only for research, to see if it merited a satire, as an "anti-memorial" to the recently departed author. The bad news is that mocking the style would be harder than it was worth just to parody content so pretentious. Before that came several volumes of that 19th Century capitalism-basher Dickens, for the same pondered use as updatable soup stock for drowning lefties in their own silliness.

What are you currently reading?

I usually grab a stack of library books at once, and shift between several as my moods swing. Right now I've got bookmarks in our penultimate Prez's list of everyone he ever met (taking notes on several silly things possibly worth quoting at the proper times, such as during Mrs. The Clenis's future campaigns), a "sociobiologist's" abuse of Chaucer (which might merit a full review about its evil secular humanist asides bashing Our Noble Lame Duck), Volume 2 of Shelby Foote's sympathetic-to-Southerners and beautifully written paean to generals, and in the guilty pleasure department, my noir of the month (largely from curiosity to see his take on the JFK killing program related activities in an imaginary simpler time for Neanderthals of open racism, sexism, corruption, and violence; frankly the bloom is fading from this unrelentingly grim tome).

I also just finished a horrible task: reading for the sake of a contemplated forthcoming parody not only a Papist tract attacking it, but the actual original The Da Vinci Code. *Shudder* Spare yourself such an agonizing experience. I had to force myself to wade through writing so bad I would have rejected it for the junior high school paper I edited. And they're making a movie of this verbose propaganda? It may turn out like the legendary proposed 15-minute silent version of Rand's longest novel, featuring a cherry bomb exploding under a model railroad tunnel for the train disaster, and someone quickly holding up an extremely fine-print poster of Galt's entire speech.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Rationally, the answers have to be things like "Survival On A Deserted Island" and "Building A Radio Transmitter Out Of Coconuts". Years ago Pournelle wrote an article on much the same topic in Analog, mentioning sensible works like The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. But, it seems the real goal of this question is to identify something to be read for fun, not use. This could go several ways, depending on how long I can expect to stay there. Short term might be quick easy thrillers, mysteries, or parodies to read (perhaps grabbed on the way at the airport). Medium term might be some long overly-praised classics I've never gotten around to finishing (you know which ones; the same titles that you never got through either, but keep feeling you really ought to). If I'm going to stay there forever, then you get into answers several have already mentioned, like anthologies of Shakespeare or other authors, the Bible, and so on. There's another logical divide here. Are these the only works of liberature to be left on earth for future inhabitants to find? Obviously then those kind of anthology answers are most appropriate, whatever specific works are saved.

Or are these just the only ones I'll ever get to read for the rest of my life? In that case it should be books that I've loved reading over and over again, finding something enjoyable each time. Yes, Richard the Third is just such a wonderful depiction of great leadership, so I'll keep my one-volume Shakespeare (as a bonus, he has a few other interesting characters, and the poems in the back are passable). Another book with a great political role model was magnificently styled by a prize-winning poet. For a touch of philosophy, how about a brilliant satire of canonical texts? For humor, there's one of the finest parodies ever penned. I'm also tempted by Mad Kane's imaginary one-volume complete works of Dostoevsky, which would include that wonderful fable where the Spanish cardinal explains mundane reality to his prisoner, but I finally come down to the best single book of advice on business and politics ever written, which unfortunately is only the author's second-best novel.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?

Well, I would wish this exercise on my worst enemies, but I haven't left any alive and kicking, so I'll toss it to the winds like a dandelion's seeds.

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