05 June 2005

The Dreaded Book Meme

I thought I might escape this one, but Amrit at Writing Cave tagged me, so here we go...

The Number of Books I Own
If I could do that kind of math, I wouldn't be an English teacher. 3,000 maybe? 4,000? A lot. Too many. I haven't done a major culling for a while. It wasn't until very recently that I could afford to buy many new books, but for many years I suffered a kind of disease where I thought if a book were at a library sale or used bookstore or had been remaindered, then it would DIE if I didn't save it. Much as I feel a bit weighted down by them all, I love looking at them, paging through them, and even reading them now and then. They're a kind of fragmented autobiography. Just within sight at the moment are a copy of The Jungle from my high school American history class, The Clown by Heinrich Boll from a college class in German culture, a Spanish dictionary that was my constant companion in Nicaragua and Mexico, and various Best American Short Stories from the 1990s that I found at The Strand for $1 each years ago when I desperately wanted to write the kinds of stories that would have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories in the 1990s.

The Book I'm Currently Reading
I'm never reading just one. I finished Beasts by John Crowley tonight and am reading around in Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz, Gunning for the Buddha by Michael Jasper, Our Napoleon in Rags by Kirby Gann, An Archeologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks, Lint by Steve Aylett, and John Brown, Abolitionist by David S. Reynolds. I'm planning on reviewing Gunning for the Buddha and Our Napoleon in Rags if I end up liking them, so I'm almost certain to finish those ... the others I'll finish if I happen not to be distracted by other things. (Lint I'm finding to be a one-punchline joke extended over a lot of pages, so probably won't finish that, actually, although it's an amusing enough joke that I might.) I expect to start reading Lucius Shepard's Floater and Viator within the next couple days.

Last Book I Bought
I'm about to start a year-long sabbatical from teaching and go to graduate school, so suddenly I have no disposable income, and haven't bought any books recently. I think the most recent purchase was a copy of Jeff Ford's The Physiognomy, because I'm interviewing him soon and haven't yet read his early books.

Last Book I Read
Gave that away above: Beasts by Crowley. While reading it, I thought I might write an essay of some sort about it and Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, but I don't think I'm going to. Nonetheless, I found Beasts oddly provocative.

Five Books That Have Meant A Lot To Me
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown -- the sentence "Goodnight mush" is, I think, one of the greatest ever written in English. It still makes me smile to think of it, and yet also retains a weird sadness.

Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn -- read at an impressionable time, it changed how I thought about politics, history, and compassion.

Chekhov: Four Major Plays translated by Carol Rocamora -- favorite translations of the plays I know and love best.

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner -- the novel I find simultaneously most engrossing and beguiling

Breathturn by Paul Celan, translated by Pierre Joris -- the most visceral experience of reading a book of poetry I've had, and continue to have

As for choosing somebody else ... well, consider yourself chosen.


  1. Where are you going to grad school?

  2. I'm headed to Dartmouth to do a masters in Liberal Studies, which is essentially a degree in nothing, but it's useful for me career-wise, because it broadens what (at least on paper) I'm qualified to teach, and makes it more likely I could work at places other than the place I currently do. I like how interdisciplinary the program is, and also that I can do it in about a year.

  3. Yes, congratulations on the grad school thing, I expect you'll find it a nice change from so much teaching and advising? Good chance to read a lot, anyway.

    But mainly I'm posting to say that I have always been OBSESSED with the line "goodnight mush"! When I was little it would send me into a frenzy....

  4. Matt

    Congrats on the grad school departure - onwards and upwards is always good. You're in for a treat with 'The Physiognomy' and its companion novels, and I'll be very interested to know what you think of them - I'm trying to write about them at the moment, and other opinions are always good. And I've never heard of 'Goodnight Moon', and so have never read 'Goodnight mush', and so now feel that my life is lacking. So I'm off to the library this lunchtime, though I have no idea if such a book would exist as far as libraries in Canberra are concerned.


  5. Thanks, Rob. I'll probably post some thoughts on Jeff's trilogy once I've finished it, though not a full-fledged review, since we've become friends and pretending to be objective at this point would be silly.

    I do hope you find Goodnight Moon -- in the U.S., at least, it's one of the all-time bestselling children's books. I don't know if it will have the effect on you as an adult that it had on me when I was 5 and younger, but I'll certainly be curious to know!

  6. Hi Matt.

    Congratulations on your sabbatical/grad school jaunt in the fall. I've linked to your blog on my site. I've been following your posts for a while and enjoy them.

  7. Matt - it sems Goodnight Moon is indeed available here in the Antipodes, and I have a 5 year old and a 7 month old who can revel in it on my behalf - so I'm sorted, really!