Saturday, October 17, 2009

So apparently life's all about childrens' books and the second world war, with a quick visit to the West Wing.

...and it's all because of a woman who writes about Vancouver the way I feel about Seattle. I've been reading Kate's blog for a while now, and her thoughts about her parcelled-up past life in Vancouver always make me nod and think "yeah, that's it".

Anyway, Kate's written a kids' book which has its own website, and she posted this meme which looked like fun and, in fact, is. It's resulted in a glorious night of red wine and YouTube rabbit holes of The Great Escape. Yeah, yeah, I know I have 3 versions of the damn film on the shelf next door, but why would I move from the muppet chair (our favourite chair of all time, made from, as our neighbour pal put it, several skinned muppets).

The meme was about books, and films, and booksandfilms, but as you'll see, for me it was mostly about the war and small children, with a dose of Clinton politics, oddly. Not nearly as miserable as it sounds, honest, and probably a fair representation of what you'd see if you split me open like an oak and counted the rings of interest.

(the bold bits are Kate's original questions, the other stuff, obviously enough, are my answers).

(and yeah, some of the numbers are missing; if an answer didn't spring to mind, I chose not to trust it. It's my version. Bugger off).

1) You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three. It's up to you. What do you choose? Josh from The West Wing, because he’s made history before and he’d be bloody good company.

2) You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why?
I’m a chronic insomniac, so it’d be something from my “insomnia shelf” – books familiar enough to soothe me but engaging enough to make me forget whichever pointless woe is keeping me awake. Usually it’s Dan Savage’s The Kid: I read it whilst pregnant with Jonah and it takes me back to that time so quickly. Plus, he reminds me of Seattle and that always calms me down.

3) You can bring one literary character into your current life. Who do you choose, and why?
Mr. Tom from Michelle Magrorian’s classic Goodnight Mr Tom. I can remember the first time I read this book – it startled me beyond belief. Everyone needs a Mr Tom and he’s always reminded me of my “Uncle Bob”, my Dad’s best friend. Despite the fact that John Thaw portrayed him in the film, when I go back to the book, it’s Uncle Bob’s face I see. He died just at the beginning of my pregnancy with Jonah (hmm, unexpected theme here much?) and I’m always sorry that he didn’t know I was pregnant.

4) Primary Colors, by “Anonymous” (really, Joe Klein) is my go-to book. I could read that book fifty-seven times in a row without a break for food or a pee and not be remotely bored. In fact I’ve already done that but it wasn’t fifty-seven times. It was sixty-four.

5) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable? I’m answering this one at a bit of a slant. More, the ones who’ve stuck with me and made me wish I could read them forever (or write like that): Probably Mr Tom (see above) – or the dad in Danny, Champion of the World.

6) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening? I was (am) such a scaredy-cat I’m not sure I’d ever watch something that terrified me. The saddest thing I ever watched as a kid – and which I rewatch, and rewatch, and rewatch – is the forger, played by Donald Pleasance, in The Great Escape, during the moments he realizes he’s going blind and will neither be able to help others to escape nor escape himself (yes, yes, I KNOW he does, but that comes later). I can’t bear the fucking irony of the thing and it deadens my day every time – that and the scene where poor, poor Danny, the claustrophobic “Tunnel King”, loses the plot at the eleventh hour. Shit, that film just makes me weep.

7) Every time I read _________________, I see something in it that I haven’t seen before. I’m only just through the first reading, but I believe my answer here will always, and forever, be David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The fucking thing is a genius of a book.

10) After all these years, the first section of The Collector, by John Fowles still manages to give me the queebs when I think about it in retrospect. SO not the book to read on a Greek beach, folks (I’m telling you this so you never make the same mistake I did) .

11) After all these years, the scene in Flambards (KM Peyton) where Christina and Will get together still manages to give me a thrill.

12) If I could corner the poet Roger McGough here’s what I’d say to them one minute or less about his book (anthology), Poetry Please: Thank you for making poetry for me as a kid, for bringing me into colour and rhyme when I was perfectly ready to think I needed stories to be only prose. Even if it did result in a fuckload of bad verse from me for a while. That's my fault though, not yours.

13) The coolest non-fiction book I’ve ever read is How We Lived Then, by Norman Longmate, as raved about in my previous post. Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to – well, it makes me want to do everything, really. Live during the Second World War. Write like that. Live my life in the book without coming out for air.


Loth said...

Ooh, some books I need to go off and read now! (Glad you felt the same way about "One fine day....." too!

Sarah said...

I was looking through your list thinking "this isn't a North American reader!". Lots of familiar stuff - and some interesting-looking new things, too...

sweetsalty kate said...

Ohh, you're the second person to mention Infinite Jest with stratospheric regard. And so many other cool answers - now I've got several google missions. Thanks so much!

Sarah said...

Kate: this was a *terrific* meme for your book-loving fans (which is probably most of us). And IJ is definitely worth the committment - but it's a hell of a slog. Thanks for the meme - it was great to do all that book thinking!

Magpie said...

This is a fascinating meme - I've browsing around today and am just awestruck by the passion for books I've never heard of, or never read!