Okay, I'm really back now. Seriously. For realsies this time. And nothing makes up for two weeks of blogging inertia like the black hole of distilled me-ness that is a meme. Melissa tagged me with this one, so you have her to thank.
1. A book that changed your life.
Have mercy. What a question. Every book I've ever read has changed my life, I hope, or else why do I keep reading?
2. A book you've read more than once.
If I like a book, I read it over and over, so really the answer to this question is massive. But if I had to name the book I've re-read the most, it'd be F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night. Fitzgerald gets a bad rap these days -- primarily, in my opinion, because too many of us were forced to read The Great Gatsby in high school, when we were too young to get it -- but his ability to create an almost painful level of pathos around characters who are almost completely unlikeable is uncanny. Tender Is the Night is a messy, imperfect story, but I find it extremely compelling.
3. A book you'd want on a desert island.
At one point, I would've probably said the Bible. If you had only one book to read, possibly forever, it seems like a logical choice, right? Lots of stories, thousands of characters, heavy on the subtext, which means it should bear re-reading well. And yet I know for a fact that the Bible is not the desert-island book for me.
A few years ago, Rusty and I went to Cuba for two weeks, and I brought what I thought were more than enough books for the trip, with the thought in the back of my head that I could always buy more if I ran out. Au contraire, mon frere. No American tourists = very few English-language books in the bookstores. Fortunately, though, I always pack a Bible in my bag for just such emergencies. Admittedly, I'd never had to resort to this contingency in the past, but now my theory about the Good Book being a good desert-island read would finally be put to the test. It failed. I don't know about the rest of you, but for me, religious texts and all-you-can-drink mojitos from the cabana bar don't mix.
I'm thinking now that The Complete Calvin and Hobbes may be a better choice for me.
4. A book that made you giddy.
I don't know if any book has ever made me giddy, exactly. I suspect that Tom Robbins would like to make me giddy, but he annoys me too much to be successful. I don't know. Do books make you giddy? Am I missing out on something here?
5. A book you wish had been written.
I wish Jane Austen had taken her daily multivitamin so that she could've lived thirty years longer and written twenty or so more novels. She was just hitting her stride with Emma and Mansfield Park. Imagine how amazing her later novels would have been. It almost makes me want to cry. Speaking of which...
6. A book that wracked you with sobs.
Oh, lordy. I've written a whole post on this very subject. James Agee's Pulitzer-winning novel A Death in the Family is definitely the front runner in this category, but there are many, many titles in the running. It's funny, I rarely ever cry in the course of my day-to-day life. I guess I have books to thank for providing a vent for my repressed Canadian soul.
7. A book you wish had never been written.
Now this is an interesting question. I mean there are lots of crap books out there that I wish I'd never read (The Nanny Diaries, are your ears burning?), but other people seemed to like them so I don't want to take that away from them. And wishing away a book completely, so that nobody ever gets to read it... that's kind of a Big Brother-ish scenario that requires careful thought. I don't know that I want to take on the role of public censor, but I'll tell one book that tests my open-mindedness: Juliette by the Marquis de Sade. I picked up this book a few years ago, thinking it would just be a naughty read, and it utterly horrified me. It's an unspeakably vile book. I made it about a third of the way through, increasingly repulsed by each section. Wondering just how much worse it was going to get, I flipped ahead and skimmed through the remainder of the book, and it actually made me nauseous. So I put it away and didn't think about it.
We recently had a yard sale, however, during which I sold a lot of the books I'd boxed up last year, and I was forced to think hard about what I wanted to do with Juliette. When I thought about putting this book out for sale, my first reaction was a knee-jerk desire to keep this book away from people. When I wondered what else to do with it, I found myself considering throwing it in the garbage. As a staunch opponent of banning and destroying books, I was horrified at myself. So I ended up reluctantly putting the book out for sale -- high up on a shelf where children wouldn't accidentally see it -- with the rationale that free speech means trusting that people will hear or read ideas and make their own good judgments about them. Allowing Juliette to leave my hands and go out into the world was a trust exercise: it meant I had to believe in the goodness of my fellow humans to read this repugnant text -- as I did -- and be appropriately repulsed by it. Don't you disappoint me, humanity.
8. A book you are currently reading.
Oho, wouldn't you like to know? I don't kiss and tell 'til the kissin' is done.
9. A book you've been meaning to read.
Dude, where do I start? With the stacks of about thirty or so books sitting on my shelf? Before my visit to my sister, I would've mentioned Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled, Russell Banks's The Darling, and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. But DoppelSis loaded me up with a chunk of books to add to the TBR pile, starting with Jane Urquhart's Away, which I've promised to read and send back to her if it ends up being good. Oy.
10. Tag 10.
I don't have so many friends that I can afford to lose them with this tagging business. Consider yourself tagged if you're so inclined, and be sure to let me know if you take the challenge.