Monday, June 27, 2005


Monday Meme-ing

Another meme!

Troy, the Percipent Scribe, has thrown down a gauntlet I can't refuse. (Funny how the phrase "throw down the gauntlet" has survived so much longer than actual gauntlets, isn't it? Not terribly practical, those gauntlets. Not that this has anything to do with Troy. He's not obsolete yet.) He's tagged me with the ubiquitous book meme, and I couldn't resist.

Number of books I own: A lot! I hoard a lot of things, but I hoard books above all else. And I married a book hoarder. Really, we shouldn't be allowed to breed, us mutual book hoarders, because there just isn't enough space in the house. I have no idea how many books we have, but there are five bookcases I can think of, plus happy piles of paperbacks and magazines everywhere, and I think another box or two of books tucked in my bedroom closet since we moved two years ago. And another box of paperbacks in the garage that didn't sell at the garage sale last summer but that I am now re-thinking discarding because who knows, I might want to re-read them some day even if they are trashy. A lot of books.

Last book I bought: um... thinking... thinking... hmph. Been a long time since I bought a book. Between the library's wonderful online reservation queue and the steady diet of pulp paperbacks from my mother (she reads at least one a week), I'm sure it's been six months since I bought a book for myself. Most likely, the last thing I bought was for the boys, probably a Sandra Boynton or maybe something with Bob the Builder.

Last book I read: Finished Stephen King's On Writing yesterday. Excellent!

Five books that mean a lot to me: Crap, this is hard. Authors would be easier than books, but let's give it a try.

1. Contact by Carl Sagan: I went to a Catholic high school, and during our Grade 13 grad mass, my history teacher who happened to be an Oblate priest talked about this book in his sermon, and the first summer I lived out here (1988) I bought it. I have it in paperback, hardcover, unabridged audio book on CD and a VHS copy of the movie. I simply adore this book. I love the examination of the relationship between science and religion, but I also think it's just a really great story. The movie is not bad but the book is amazing.

2. Generation X by Douglas Coupland: I credit this book as one of the forces that gave me enough courage to shake off my unhealthy marriage and set off to find a better me. It opened my mind to the fact that I was way too young to be cloistered from the world in a marriage that was doing me more harm than good. Every book of Coupland's does that to me - connects startlingly with my inner self, the self that I lose in the minutia of daily life. (I once went to a reading by Douglas Coupland at the national library, I think it was when Life After God came out. I met an old friend in the queue to get our books autographed, and he inscribed my friend's book, "Tom, thanks for helping me knock over that 7-11. Your pal, Doug." If by some fluke of the universe I am ever in a position to be autographing my books for people, I plan to be that kind of quirky.)

3. Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro: Really, this could be any of Alice Munro's books, but I list this one because I so clearly remember 'discovering' Alice Munro in Grade 9 through the short story "An Ounce of Cure" from this collection. I was fascinated by this story because it was about someone young like me but not written with the cloying simplicity or condescention prevalent in most stories about young people. I have also loved Alice Munro for decades because her stories are often set in the southern Ontario that is the geographic backdrop of my childhood. Her writing resonates with me on more levels than I can explain.

4. An Acre of Time by Phil Jenkins: I was in the car one day, just pulling into the mall parking lot, listening to a discussion about this book on CBC radio and I was so intrigued I went straight to the bookstore and bought it. It's - well, it's incredibly hard to describe, but it's a book about an acre of land just a mile or two west of the Parliament Buildings here in Ottawa. It discusses the physical history of this land, from Pangea to the bottom of the Champlain Sea to the natives to the first French explorers and courriers du bois (phew, worked in some French for Troy!) to the working class families who settled there when Ottawa was a hard-core lumber town to the great fire of 1902 (?) to the expropriation of those workers' homes to build a grand boulevard leading to the Parliament Buildings in the 1960s to an empty and abandoned acre of grassland in the heart of the city. It's a geographical, political, sociological and anthropological (among other things) history of Ottawa as seen through the prism of this single acre of land. If you're in the least interested in the history of Ottawa or even Canada, it's a great read and very unique.

5. Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella : Actually, any of the baseball stories by WP Kinsella will do. I also loved The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and Box Socials. I have a thing for magic realism (see Alice Munro reference above) and quirky characters, and Kinsella's work is filled with both. Kinsella captures a sense wonder and innocence, weaves it together with baseball folklore, and bastes it with gentle humour. His books are emotional comfort food.

Phew, that was almost as many words as I have books! This is a bit of an onerous task, but I love to see what books other people hold sacred, so I will gently tap on the shoulder a few souls and politely ask them if they would like to play. No pressure, but consider yourself invited if you've got nothing better to do.

Let's see, how about Ann, Cooper, Mommy-Abroad, Andrea and YOU! (Yep, leaving this one open to pretty much anyone who wants to play. What can I say, I'm feeling inclusive today.)