Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My First Meme!

Making my day after a lousy last week, sweet and smart Jason Gross tagged me for this book meme. Psych! Waiting to get tagged when you're a blogger is like waiting to get asked to dance when you're a freshman and a big geek (believe me, I know.) And it's about reading, something I actually occasionally do. And it's my first meme, so I'm going to do each entry twice! Here goes:

A book that changed my life: Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus. Maybe that's obvious. But it's also literally true. When I was about 20, I left Seattle in part because I was starting to write a lot about music, professionally even, and I feared becoming a "music writer." I wanted to be a poet. I stumbled upon Greil's great early work and it convinced me I could be both at once -- or at least, I could do serious work in the field that I was already loving. So thank you, sir! (Second prize: The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats. The one that led me down the path Greil pulled me back from.)

A book I've read more than once: Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson. You don't have to know a damn thing about classical literature to gain much from reading this incredibly graceful, deep deep deep look at desire's pathos from one of the great category-defining writers of our time. Whenever I need some insight into the idea and realities of love, I go there. (Second prize: From the Beast to the Blonde, by Marina Warner. Lady sure knows how to interpret fairy tales. Very useful and fun!)

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island: Though loyalty and love prompt me to say Christgau's Consumer Guide, in reality I'd probably bring Bullfinch's Mythology. It's got all the biggies, from the Western world, anyhow. (Second prize: How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Gotta eat.)

A book that made me laugh: The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh. When I read it in high school, I had no idea what satire was, and it taught me. Now that I live in L.A., which it lampoons so beautifully, I'm laughing even more. Good movie, too. (Second prize: Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson. But that's just because I'm sick.)

A book that made me cry: Honestly, books don't make me cry. Only visual imagery and country songs do that. But there are novels that give me this exquisitely sick, twisted feeling that would be crying if reading ever made me cry. Two that don't need a lot of explanation are Madame Bovary by that French guy and Sula by that Nobel-winning lady.

A book that I wish had been written: One that represents the open adoption triad -- child, birthparents, and adoptive parents -- from all perspectives, in a balanced but emotionally open way, all the way into the child's young adulthood. We need it, not just for ourselves, but to share with the big ignorant world. (Second choice: a really good history of the alternative press in America -- is it out there?)

A book I wish had never been written: I'm not naming specifics because I don't want to be inundated with the comments certain disses would attract, but any book that represents any member of the adoption triad -- birthparent, child, a-parent -- as an irreparably damaged victim whose only life option is vitriol and bitterness. (Second choice: Any book that even implies that women can't work and be great moms, too.)

A book I've been meaning to read: Way too many. Just look on Eric's shelves. But there are always the classics: Anna Karenina and, second choice, finally finish Moby Dick! (I have, however, read and loved Melville's Pierre, or the Ambiguities, because I'm so indie rock.)

I'm currently reading: Savoring The Great Black Way: Los Angeles in The 1940s and the Lost African American Renaissance by my man RJ Smith. What a writer, what a scholar, what a listener. Also Snow, by Orhan Pahmuk, and An End To Suffering: The Buddha In the World, by Pankaj Mishra.

Added category via Jason:

A Book I Wish I'd Written: On Flirtation, by Adam Phillips. Ah, Adam Phillips! My sentence-froming god. That used to be Michael Ondaatje until I discovered this Winnicott-loving child psychoanalyst who writes the ass off any "literary" type I've ever read. (Second prize: Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems. Man, he was brave before he got famous.)

I know I'm supposed to tag people now but I think this meme has made its way around all my friends who blog, they've all posted already. So instead, why don't you readers send me your lists and I'll lift 'em out of the comments section?

Thanks again, Jason, this was fun. Though I must say, the categories caused me to omit what I think is the best American book of the last century: a little thing called Invisible Man.


Anonymous Steven Rubio said...

When I did this, I included several books under "ones which changed my life." Of one of those, I wrote, "Mystery Train because it came early in my career as a steelworker and let me know there were people out there doing intelligent work in ways I could imagine myself doing." So I guess we've got something in common here.

12:13 AM

Blogger John said...

"Mystery Train" changed my life too. So brilliant. A band is an "image of community" anticipates Christopher Small's thesis that musicking is about relationships.

And right on about the adoption theme. It sounds like . . . YOU should write the book!

Christgau for the rock and roll hall of fame. I was trying to think of blog acquaintances who might have the appropriate connections, and you were who I thought of.

8:26 AM

Blogger Perfect Sound Forever said...

My pleasure. You didn't disappoint- I knew you'd come up with a good list of books. The only problem now is that I'll have to add your books to my large pile of tomes to scan.

One thing I noticed when I went through my list is that I need to remind myself to sometimes read non-music-related books as much as I used to. As Ed Ward wisely said: "Hey, there's more to life than music!" (right?)

10:56 AM

Blogger M said...

"Is there a good book on the history of the alternative press?" The closest I've come (and it's a very good book) is Abe Peck's Uncovering the Sixties:

2:50 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might wanna check this out:

Joe Gross

1:50 PM

Blogger Tim Lucas said...

Terrific idea, and inspirational. I posted mine on my own blog, so consider your infection mandate fulfilled.

And I plan a movie meme for tomorrow.

Tim Lucas

8:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most influential read? Well, there was a review of some Dave Stewart/Annie Lennox album in “The Rocket” a number of years ago that was pretty good. Can’t say it whether it changed my life or not- didn’t have a control sample handy.

6:58 PM


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