Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Like an open book

I got tagged by eM.
What, you want a preamble?

How many books I own.

After eM's (2000) and Jay's (800), I'm embarrassed to say I own a semi-literate total of less than 300.

The last book I bought.
Powers, #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. (Look, technically, it's a book. If people insist on calling it a 'comic' or a 'graphic novel,' I can't help it). It's about a detective named Christian Walker who solves crimes involving super-powered types. In fact, Walker may or may not have powers himself. There are now nine books in the series, and the first one is about Walker investigating the murder of a superhero named Retro Girl.

Bendis writes some very nice dialogue:

Coroner: You know how these things go. There's no guarantees.
Detective: Why's that?
Coroner: Why? Why do you think, Detective? Could it be that we might not be able to figure out how to break her skin to perform the autopsy? Could it be that we don't even know if she's biologically human?
Detective: Come on, we know she's human-
Coroner: We do? How's that exactly? Can you fly around the room and throw cars across a parking lot? Take many bullets, do you? The thing is, I can't when it comes to this stuff. There's no textbook. There's no manual. I have to retrain myself every day. I might as well throw my M.D. in the garbage. Throw it out! It's worthless! Bye-bye!!
Detective: Yeah, well-
Coroner: Do you have any idea what it's like every goddamn day? Fucking space lizards and orangutans with laser guns! WHAT THE FUCK?

Okay, you pedants, don't get all knotted in the knickers.
I bought a 'real' book too. Jeez.

Out by Natsuo Kirino. Factory worker's quite had it with her abusive husband and kills him. Turns to colleague whom she doesn't know very well to help her clean up the bloody mess. Colleague calls some not very well acquainted people of her own. Everything goes straight to H-E-double hockeysticks. I had to buy it.

The last book I read.
We Don't Live Here Anymore by Andres Dubus. If any of you liked the movie Closer, you'll like this. It's a collection of short stories, all about adultery and the reasons we give each other (and ourselves) about why we do it. It constantly surprises, no horrifies me, the extent to which people can fuck each other up. I got this at a second hand bookstore and creepy notations by the previous owner aside, I seem to have gotten lucky. The story's been turned into a movie starring Naomi Watts and Peter Krause. I saw the updated version (with the usual cheesy movie tie-in cover) and it has only three stories. Mine has four. I know why they cut it out – it's the only one that doesn't have the same characters so I guess it's not part of a 'series.' Which is a shame cos I think the new version's poorer for it.

Currently (re)reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It's so beautiful this one. I've read it a hundred times (it only takes 10 minutes) but it's so moving. If your eyes don't get a bit moist at the end, it's cos you're:
a) a hater
b) you have no tear ducts
c) a hater with no tear ducts.
My friend has practically given up asking for it back. I'm gonna get my own. Just one more read.

Five books that mean a lot to me.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. It showed me you can make complex, technical stuff sound exciting. I used to think flowery, bombastic words were a sign of good writing but Crichton's prose is unsentimental. You won't find a lot of metaphor. If he says it looks 'like oil on water' that's because it looks like oil on water. Not all of his books are good, but they all draw you in, at least on the first reading. You may realize the loopholes and implausibility of it all, but only later. And not before you've raced through it, riveted all the way. I have read Jurassic Park 8 times and I never get bored.

It also got me interested in writing. Like many authors, Crichton puts quotes in front of his books. I was about to hand in my law assignment (on time for once) but I held back because it didn't look, I dunno, complete. Then I put a grey A4 sheet as the cover, and inserted a page before the table of contents. On it was a single line: "Law without force is impotent," Pascal.

My lecturer told me to stop "fucking with the format" and I had to re-print and re-submit. But I still have that copy in a box. I didn't know I wanted to be a writer then, but I knew I wanted to write.

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden. There are a tonne of books out there that try to inspire you by merely stating the obvious and I've hated every one I've read. If you don't feel patronised, you feel depressed because the author's way of coming across as a hardened expert is to tell you some hard truths you don't want to be reminded of. Arden basically confirmed all the bad things I suspected about my job. But he also somehow managed to say 'You can do this, or not. Your call.' I no longer monologue about how bad everything is. And though most of the shit I see won't change, I'm less prone to play the victim. Down to 2 woking days a week now. Hurrah.

The Wolves In The Walls by Neil Gaiman. I wanna do something like this. Go out and look for the book and you'll see. God, I wanna do something like this.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. So many books and movies escape with a lot of technical bullshit ("We designed a pixel extrapolation algorithm that could filter out the digital noise and separate the image into RGB layers. And THAT is how we knew Forrester was the real killer!"). The movie was fun but was nothing compared to the book for this very reason. Nobody writes undeniable logic anymore. Not like this. There are many ways around the 3 Laws of Robotics, but they are unbreakable. And by trying right before our eyes (and his attempts are brilliant) he proves it.

The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. We know a plane crashed. We know children are marooned on an island. I have read it over and over again, but nowhere, nowhere does it say a plane crashed. And yet you give it to someone to read and they'll tell you: A plane crashed. How they fuck did he do that?

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I'm not religious and though I often want to believe there is a God (capital G) watching over us, I find it hard to believe He (big H) waits up all night to listen to our prayers, much less answer them. After all, if He answers our prayers for justice paid in blood, isn't He as human as we are? At the same time, if His only answer is 'You can't understand it. All this pain and suffering is for your good, and through it you will store up treasures in Heaven" He's just not human enough is He? I like the idea of a Heaven though. My version of it has always been a place where everything and everyone that you love is there. You can read comics and shop and your dog lives forever and of course you can have incredibly rude sex on the grass with your sweetheart. And to have it mirrored so exactly in a book, well, I start wondering again if there's a capital G after all.

Five more people to tag.
I can't wait.

Grafx Gurl
Madame Mahima
Couch Potato

And NM. Cos I think the answers will be interesting, coming from a wookie.

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