A fortnight ago, Chris ‘tagged’ me to write about books. I’m going to assume that the category includes fiction, drama and poetry. So, here goes (the questions come from the tag).
How many books do you own? Lots. I don’t live with all my books, and the books I live with aren’t all mine.
Last book I read: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kisolver. It had been ignored on the shelf for years, and I’m glad the church book group finally made me read it.
Five books that mean a lot to me:
The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley. A retelling of the Arthur tale through the eyes of the Lady of the Lake. Gender and politics. Christ and the goddess. Celtic and Roman. History and wonder. For many years, the prologue came as close as anything to articulating what I believed. Beliefs have moved on, but it is still a stunning book that I re-read every five or six years.
Night, Elie Wiesel. The first book I read all in one sitting (which was not altogether wise, given that I began reading it at 10pm on a school night). It is the most powerful telling of the holocaust I know. I once spent a fortnight reading it to a small group of 17 & 18 year old ‘boys’, and even the good looking popular one cried openly.
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Janette Winterson. Colour coded demons; longing and betrayal; people making a mess of trying their best; pursuit of integrity and a chance of forgiveness. All amidst prose that swoops and dives and takes your breath away.
The Wasteland, T. S. Eliot. An early edition of Eliot’s poems lived on the best bookshelf in the sun-parlour in the house I grew up with (funny how words for rooms always give away regional roots). The book was hard-backed with an ivory paper cover, and had occasional notes penciled in from my father’s undergraduate days. I started reading The Wasteland when I was about ten — hiding in a quiet corner of the house, while my cat chewed on my grandmoter’s Boston fern. I couldn’t even begin to understand it, but it was compelling. I fell in love with the language and the rhythms and it shaped my firm belief that understanding is overrated when it comes to poetry. Even now, I resolutely ignore the footnotes.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, Edward Albe. This was a toss up really. This, or Long Day’s Journey, or Equus, or The Lion in Winter. But Albe won out probably because he’s a fellow Choatie, and the film was set in the town where I did my teaching degree. Anger, delusion, disappointment, pretense, ambiguity, pain, betrayal and stunningly brutal dialogue. Catharsis, but no comfort. All I hope for in a play, really.
p.s. — I haven’t tagged anyone since tags aways feel a bit too much like chain letters (which I resolutely ignore). But for those of you reading this who have not yet written on it: do join in.