June 17, 2005

Book Meme (Tagged by Monotonous)

Number of books I own: A pitifully small amount. I'd probably place the number in the low double digits. See, my mom is a librarian, and I've been on library boards and committees all throughout high school, the whole concept of 'buying' books is a foreign concept to me. My library card gets more action than a bottle of tequila during spring break, though.

Last Book Bought: Again, I don't really 'buy' books, unless they're for school. However, since I was saddened by my move back home after things with Heart went sour, I bought a few books, including his delightful little book.

Last book read: I recently read A Country With No Name by Sebastian de Grazia, who won a Pulitzer a few years back for the biography he wrote on Machiavelli. This book is the tale of an eager college freshman and his hot British tutor. Her iconoclastic, Socratic lesson plans include how the Founding Fathers illegally overthrew the first U.S. constitution, how our country has no name and therefore does not exist, Emerson's influence on everyone, how Lincoln was a traitor to the country, and why the South really got a bum rap.

Currently reading: A Miscellany Revised by EE Cummings. It's a collection of unpublished drawings, translations of other poems, critical essays on his contemporary authors, reviews and essays he wrote for the New Yorker, and some deleted monologues from his plays. There's some good stuff here, funny too. People always seem to think of Cummings as that poet with the crazy punctuation and capital letters, but there was a rhythm and a reason to his work, and this book shows how forward-thinking he was, and how seriously he took his writing, and modernism in general.

Next book on reading list: A new collection of David Sedaris' favorite short stories, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules. While it's not his short stories, the collection does include some stuff by Dorothy Parker, Joyce Carole Oates, and Flannery O'Connor. There's some quality here, at least about the authors I'm familiar with. An epilogue by Sarah Vowell (another of my favorites) explains that this book goes to the proceeds from this collection will go to charity helping students to write and express themselves creatively.

5 books that mean a lot to me:
(These are in no particular order.)

I've mentioned my love for Martin Bauman multiple times throughout this blog. Even one of the rotating mastheads (the one with the pencil) is an homage to the cover art of this book. In a nutshell, it's a thinly-veiled autobiography of the author, David Leavitt, and how he came to (semi)fame during the 80s as a young gay writer. For a while, I thought I envied that life, but now I realize that the book is eerily similar to a biography of mine, should I ever write one.

The Complete Short Stories and Poetry of Dorothy Parker are wonderful. She is the epitome of the word 'sardonic.' Her poetry is epigramic, and her short stories, though similar, ring true. Her life is what it's like to be too smart to ever be truely happy, and how sarcasm and a good offense is the best defense against the world. A quote machine, she is usually remembered for her 'off-the-cuff' remarks, as opposed to her body of work, though that is slowly changing. Her poetry is recommended for those who don't like poetry, and as a founding contributor to the New Yorker and early writer for Vanity Fair and Vogue, her essays, reviews, and short stories could make a reader out of anyone. She's my favorite of the Algonquinites.

Every gay man with a blog wants to be David Sedaris. Don't bother denying it. You'd totally be lying. He has made his living writing short, personal stories; his books are like a collection of 15 wonderfully thought out blog posts. I'm choosing Me Talk Pretty One Day as one of the books because it was the first one I read, though all of his book are essentially the same: a five- or six-page story of a funny event from his childhood, his relationship, or his family.

Travesties is a book I read for class last semester, and I fell in love with it. I already knew that I loved Tom Stoppard, but I wasn't aware of how much until this play. Lenin (in hiding), Joyce (writing Ulysses) and Tzara (founder of the Dada movement) all lived in the same neighboorhood for a few months in 1917. This play pretends that they all hung out at the same library, and their huge, revolutionary ideas play, bounce, and interact with one another. Scenes are performed with the actors speaking in limericks, and the entire plot is a mesh between real life, references to "The Importance of Being Earnest" and Ulysses. I've never seen this play performed, though on the page it sparkles. It's relatively short, too (about 70 pages).

Last on the list is this blog's namesake, A Raw Youth by Dostoevsky. Though more recent translations title the book The Adolescent, I still like RawYouth as a title. I'm going to copy a synopsis from a website that puts it nicely.
Owing to his unstable childhood, Arkady Makarovich Dolgoruky, the narrator and adolescent in question, leads a solitary life in which he comes to possess a certain powerful "idea." This idea is quite advanced and unusual for someone his age, but, given his personality, it is a logical development. He also feels "safe in his idea," because he knows he can embrace it and put it to work at any time. He is even arrogant as a result. But he keeps putting it off. Or, rather, life’s events prevent him from going ahead with his idea. His situation is such that he needs to do, understand, or take care of, just one more thing — then he can fall back into his idea. He resents the constant interference of others, but is powerless to resist becoming involved in their intrigues. At the same time, he is the first to admit that he is far too impressionable for his own good, and that the slightest distraction sends him headlong into the nearest trouble.
That's probably not the greatest factual summary, but it does more to explain why I like the book, not mentioning facts like the young widow or the will. It's a story of brash immaturity, freshness, and hidden naivete, uncertain and exuberant all at once.

Just like me.
Here lies a most ridiculous raw youth, indulging himself in the literary graces that he once vowed to eschew. Now he just rocks out.