15 things

totally sniefed from gina and babelbabe, over here

1. i had already read so many of the books my english class was reading in eighth grade that my teacher started to get annoyed. her final choice for the year was tom sawyer, but i had read that several times over, so i suggested an independent study of huck finn instead. she reluctantly agreed, and i spent the final month and a half of school sitting in the back, reading on my own and answering long pages of short answer essay questions, blissfully nonparticipatory.

2. for as long as i can remember, i have always been tremendously character-oriented. i fall for characters so completely that i will actually put down a book if i disagree with the author’s choice of path for a particular individual. two recent cases (with spoilers)- wicked by gregory macguire – i stopped after elphaba’s lover was killed – and quicksilver by neal stephenson – i stopped after eliza and jack separated. the upside of this is that i will put up with shoddy plots or lazy writing if a character is particularly intriguing.

3. speaking of neal stephenson, cryptonomicon remains one of my absolute favorite books ever in the history of all mankind. d sent it to me my senior year of college. i received it on a friday afternoon, the weekend before a 1/2″ color model was do for scenic design II. incidentally, i hadn’t started on the model. i read all friday night and all day saturday – i literally couldn’t stop. i was so engrossed in the characters and the plots and the timelines, i was physically and mentally unable to focus on anything else. i finished it saturday night, and worked all day sunday and monday on the model – which was done in time for class, of course. as a side note, this episode is one that we later found out truly illustrates the extent to which i’ve developed compensation techniques for my ADHD. my ability to hyperfocus on cryptonomicon and then hyperfocus on the model has similarly served me well throughout the years.

4. i assume i’m no different from alot of you in that i get a kick out of hearing my favorite authors read from their own work. i saw neil gaimon read from stardust, and i still can’t read the first part of that story without hearing his delightful brogue. and i’ve seen chuck palahniuik several times, mostly because we lived in portland for awhile. we have an inscribed copy of survivor – which i strongly believe is his best – where he congratulates d on being one of the few to actually “get it”. and i am very thankful that i saw douglas adams speak at cmu before his untimely death.

5. i have been a faithful reader of the new yorker since i was in high school, and for all the flak it gets for being high brow, i can’t fault a publication that introduced me to jhumpa lahiri or susan orlean.

6. i cried solidly through the final 60 pages of john irving’s a prayer for owen meany.

7. for some inexplicable reason, i collect books on the black death. i love history books in general, and i find that part of european history to be fascinatingly dark. i also include in that subject any fiction books on plague experiences, and i my two favorites are daniel defoe’s a journal of the plague year and albert camus’ the plague.

8. the last thing i ever bought at powells books – in person – in portland was a western civilization text book. it’s took me three years of non-constant reading, but i finally finished it over the summer.

9. when my brother bought pat the bunny for avi, i cried, because i have such vivid memories of my mom reading that to us, and then me “reading” it to michael far before i actually could read it for real.

10. two books i remember strongly from my later childhood and adolescence are a national geographic picture atlas of our universe, and gnomes. the universe book was on my parents’ shelf in the family room, and the section on hypothetical life forms was much loved by both my brother and myself. i bet everyone in my immediate family would be able to tell you what an “oucher poucher” is. the gnomes book was the first book i’d ever seen that wasn’t written in a traditional text-picture-text kind of way. it is almost completely hand written and illustrated, and the whole style of labeling drawings like that influenced my pre-teen artwork in a major way.

11. i still have every journal i’ve ever written – intermittently from second grade to well, this one. they stopped being in book form about two years ago and have their own shelf on the bottom of my largest bookcase. my sixth and seventh grade journal is probably the most entertaining because of course i was a total dork, and most of the entries are about books i’d read or characters i’d liked. for awhile, i wrote to “diane”, after reading the twin peaks spin-off book about agent cooper’s diary. later i wrote to sam, a character in a comic book i read right around that time.

12. i don’t weed out my book collection intentionally, but inexcusable carelessness has caused us to be missing a disastrous number of books. when d moved from portland, he had two large (like tv sized) boxes of books he was going to ship here, and he never got around to doing so. and i’m notorious for willingly lending out books i’m excited to share, but with no record of who they’re going to, or even that they were lent out at all. i tried to find two books by harlan ellison the other day (angry candy and slippage, two amazing short story collections) and failed, and then i remembered i’d lent them to d’s younger sister. when i asked for them back, she graciously brought me an entire shopping bag full of books – some of which i’d lent her three or four years ago – that i’d forgotten about.

13. i guess i also have alot of books about wwII and the holocaust, although it’s not a “collection” per se. many of the war books are fictional, or fiction but based on an author’s personal experiences. many of the holocaust books are survivors’ stories. i really am a huge history buff, and i prefer stories of conflict over pastoral existence because i can’t relate to the situations of conflict at all, but i feel driven to suck up as much information about them as possible. that’s true for other wars too – i have a number of both fiction and non-fiction books about the civil war, and one of the best field trips i ever went on was to gettysburg after studying michael shaara’s the killer angels – incidentally, another book that’s been lost over the years.

14. my parents bought three pieces of furniture for avi – a crib, a dresser, and a bookcase. and many many many people have given us books or gift cards for books for him. i am so lucky to have not one but two families that place such a strong positive emphasis on reading. one of the saddest things about the school i used to teach at was hearing how few kids were read to, or read on their own for fun.

15. and i, too, am an avid reader of shampoo bottles. i was pretty taken aback when you mentioned that, gina! it was one of those moments i think nicholson baker captures so well in room temperature, the first book d ever sent me, which made me cry then and made me cry again when i reread it after our own bug was born. on almost every page of that book, he makes an observation with such clarity that you’re like, oh wow, i have also always thought that! it’s amazing because many of them (at least for me) were things that i truly believed were aspects of life that only i experienced. the idea that both gina and bb (and, i’m sure, countless others) read bottles of conditioner when they’re bored in the bathroom like i have been doing since i was little makes me howl with hysterical laughter at how alike we humans really are.


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