Sunday, February 26, 2006
Sarcastro tags me to play this little game and, since I'm grateful to learn that he's still speaking to me after Friday night*, I will oblige him.  Name 5 of your favorite books --The Poetic Edda. What can I say about this book that I haven't said before? It's the little-acknowledged reason for every nerdy Saturday night spent across this great world playing Dungeons & Dragons. It's the spiritual ancestor to The Lord of the Rings and it's full of magic, sex, adventure, and wisdom. Except for the part where most everyone dies, even the gods you love, it's a wonderful gift from our ancestors**. --Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Everyone should take the time to read "Song of Myself" out loud, once. I think you can love it seeing it on the page, but hearing it out loud? Good god damn. Whitman is bold and crazy and his sentences meander across the page like long rivers he's traveling down, coaxing you with him. Whitman knows America, sees us in our Sunday best and sees us in our dirty underwear and loves us at both moments equally. Plus, there's a barbaric yawp at the end. I've never told anyone this before, but it's a secret dream of mine to have the libertarians read that stanza to me (I don't know under what circumstances that might transpire, but I guess you never know) and to watch them barbarically yawp. That would delight me. Do libertarians read poetry outloud? I don't recall there being any rule against it in Libertarianism: A Primer. --Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. This may be my favorite book ever. I can't find my copy, which makes me heartsick. But here's the premise: Marco Polo is in the court of Ghengis Khan, telling him stories about all of the cities he's seen. If you aren't familiar with Calvino, he's incredible. He writes this experimental fiction that, unlike most experimental fiction, is light and playful and beautiful and dream-like. I don't know that Invisible Cities is his best work, but it's my favorite. --The Wake Forest Book of Irish Women's Poetry. I quote from this all the time, so I think my love for it is already apparent. It's just full of good stuff. --The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It's a good thing most writers are idiots, because if they weren't, they couldn't read this book and still set out to write "The Great American Novel." Here is it, America. Here it is. What more can you say about how wonderful this country is and how deeply, deeply fucked up the ways we treat each other are? I've said it before and I'll say it again, the fact that we're still, 150 years later, missing the central bitter joke of this book--that Nigger Jim, a piece of property, is the only real man Huck knows--just proves that Twain knows us better than we care to admit. Yes, the ending sucks. Is that a "problem?" I guess only if you think that the answers to our problems are easy and within reach--Twain knows better than that. That's the second central bitter joke of the book.  What was the last book you bought? Shoot, I haven't bought a book in so long... I think it was Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a book I just adored.  What was the last book you read? Libertarianism: A Primer as you well know.  Name five books that have particularly meaningful for you. The Redneck Manifesto by Jim Goad most recently. Sarcastro lent this to me and it blew my mind. Yes, I think his anger is scatter-shot in ways that dilute his point, but his point--that it serves a particular group's purpose to make sure that poor people are unaware of their own history--is really important. Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard. If any book could have kept me Christian, it's this one. God, baseball, the Midwest, and World War II. At the end, when the baseball players throw the game for the women, I cry and cry every time I read it. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Wolf is a nut and she's got some issues. But she makes this point in this book that haunts me--that we women talk about ourselves and our relationship to food in religious terms and we rarely think about what that implies. When we have dessert, we're being "bad." Foods are "sinfully" delicious. When we lose weight, we're being good. So, how we look is not just an aesthetic issue, but has become deeply tied into whether or not we feel we're worth-while at a soul level. Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism by Jenny Blain. I'm sure many cultures are tired of white folks showing up to study them and participating in their rituals and bothering their dead folks. Blain bothers her own dead folks and talks in a scholarly way about how she does it. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I read this book in middle school and felt like a whole world opened up to me. I had no idea that people like me could write books and that they could write them about ordinary folks. Then I read this book and decided I was going to be a famous author before I was 20. Oops.  Three books you are dying to read but just haven't yet. Love and Theft by Eric Lott. Yes, in part, because it shares a name with the Bob Dylan album. Race, Rock, & Elvis by Michael Bertrand. I have a huge intellectual crush on Bertrand's chapter on Elvis in A Boy Named Sue so I'm dying to see what he says about him in this much space. A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones.  Tag five people to go through this same ordeal. Whoever wants to do it, feel free to claim to be tagged by me. I'll never say any different. *Though I'm not sure the Boy Scout or Sarcastro's Sugar Momma are... **Christianity gets blamed, rightly, for a lot. But, in this case, as in the case of Beowulf, I'm glad some literate person at least put this shit on paper.