Archive for the 'Memory' Category

tagged by meme-sahib

May 30, 2007

My lovely friend Equiano at Lost in Translation has tagged me with a meme – she is now the meme-sahib (reluctantly or otherwise).

I’ve gotta say, kinda like with chain emails, I’m not a fan; I can’t refuse Equiano, however, as her motives are good, I feel.

So, the meme is to reveal eight random facts about myself. I won’t be tagging anyone else – you could say: the meme stops here.

So, the easy ones first:

  • I’m allergic to penicillin.
  • I’m 12 days younger than MLW.

Some that might be a little unexpected:

  • My mother and Harrison Ford have exactly the same birthday (perhaps not down to the hour and minute, but same day, month and year).
  • My father and brothers were all married aged 24 – I married at 28.

Digging deeper now…

  • When I was a lot younger I dreamed of being a Formula 1 racing driver. I grew to be 6ft 4.5in, so that dream turned out to be a bit unrealistic. But hey, isn’t that what dreams are for?
  • Many of my favourite authors and movie stars were born around 1930 (within a year or two each way) – it must be a generational thing. E.g. John Barth, Ursula Le Guin, John Updike, Peter O’Toole etc.

And so, finally, to the competely random:

  • I’ve tasted a lot of different animals, even though I don’t really think of myself as a passionate meat eater. Off the top of my head, the list includes: cow, baby cow, sheep, lamb, pig, piglet, warthog, chicken, goose, turkey, duck, pigeon, pheasant, guinea fowl, ostrich, elephant (strictly legal, but not something I would do again), buffalo, kudu, springbok, impala, bloubok, gemsbok, shark, crocodile… and a long list of fish and seafood, raw and cooked, including but not limited to lobster, oysters, mussels, clams, tuna, chad, yellowtail, mussel cracker, salmon, trout, bream, haddock, herring, anchovy, octopus, squid, barracuda… I don’t think any of them deserved it. (Wow, making that list makes me feel a bit.. weird. I’m pleased to be able to say that a corresponding list of fruit, vegetables and fungi would be much longer.)
  • I find it difficult to name a favourite anything (hence not being a fan of memes etc.) – I like this, I like that, and I can see the merits of the other. Overall, I see this as a good thing about myself, but it is not necessarily a good way to get along in the world of today.

OK – my humblest apologies to Equiano – that was actually quite fun to do.


desert island novels

April 12, 2007

Prompted by a conversation with MLW this evening about the death of Kurt Vonnegut (MLW: what’d he write, then? ME: omigod how can you not know??? Slaughterhouse-5? MLW: ? ME: if I had to name my ten favourite novels of all time, that would be one of them! MLW: what would the other nine be?) I have compiled a list of my ten favourite novels of all time (not ranked though – it was only one glass of red wine):

  • Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Tidewater Tales: A Novel by John Barth
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  • Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
  • The Counterlife by Philip Roth

The first five flowed quite easily. I had to think harder about the next five, and choose some over others:

  • The Biographer’s Tale by AS Byatt
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
  • Happenstance by Carol Shields
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • The Master of St Petersburg by JM Coetzee

I’m aware that 5 of those 10 are books I studied at varsity, and so had a deeper engagement with. The others were just most thoroughly enjoyed. The novels I chose over were:

  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • The Day of Creation by JG Ballard
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow

Significant SF at NTC

December 15, 2006

(From The Silver Eel)

Update: marked a few new titles as ‘read’ (03/09/08)

The Key:
Bold the ones you’ve read.
Italicize those you started but never finished.
Put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. *The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. *Dune, Frank Herbert

4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. *A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick

9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe

12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. *Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. *The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. **The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. *Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. *Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks

49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

I think Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness will always be my favourite SF novel. It is a brillant transposition of the gender puzzle into an SF context that reveals new ideas about gender that conventional fiction never could. It’s also an eloquent, Jungian study of nationalism. And a cracking good read.

Other favourites include Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-5, which is a stunning novel with funny and tragic moments, some great lines that have stuck with me, and a strange potion of unsettled temporality that, when taken, somehow imparts a bit of existential comfort.

I’m on a bit of a Blish binge at the moment – just finishing up the Star Trek books, and I’ll soon move on to Cities in Flight.

I think, as with all lists, this list is not definitive at all. Blish’s A Case of Conscience is not there. And what about E E Doc Smith’s Lensman series? Lem’s Solaris? And so on. But it’s fun to reflect a bit on things read years ago, and this list is a good stimulus for that.


July 19, 2006

Equiano (MLW educated me as to the origin of this moniker) recently recommended a book to me by Dorothy Whipple called Someone at a Distance (her last, originally published in 1953).

I’ve not previously read any Dorothy Whipple. In fact, I’ve not previously heard of Dorothy Whipple.

Apparently, she was a popular author in her time, but our time has forgotten her. But her time was the 40s and 50s – not that long ago. So how is it that she’s not read anymore?

Equiano recommends the book as intelligent, subtle and involving.

what’s your smell?

June 19, 2006

Anthony Cronin quotes Samuel Beckett describing the powerful nostalgia of a scent present in the air in childhood, that links you, when smelled again, to your childhood memories:

the lemon verbena to whose scent he refers, a flower which, by the time Sam was a toddler, already grew in profusion round (sic) the hall door, giving forth 'a fragrance in which the least of his childish joys and sorrows were and would for ever be embalmed'.

For me, it's jasmine.

forgotten gestures

May 3, 2006

My train book at the moment is Staying On by Paul Scott. In true Douglas Adams style, this, it transpires, is the fifth book in the Raj quartet. It also won the Booker prize in 1977.

One of the protagonists is Mrs Lucy Smalley, wife of Colonel ‘Tusker’ Smalley, and employer of Ibrahim. Here are two short excerpts from a scene where she and Ibrahim negotiate the hiring of a new gardener or mali.

She was playing with the beads, telling them off, calculating by means of a handy abacus slung around her withered old neck the cost of a new mali

We see this gesture through Ibrahim’s eyes and the analogy is appropriate because the key issue in hiring a new gardener, for both characters, is the cost; however, the gesture is not one of counting so much as that of distraction.

She chortled again. Ibrahim laughed. She had one hand near her throat, the other on her hip. Now she gave a full throated laugh, then tapped him on the arm.

Here it is the placement of the hands that interests me. The hands perform the primary gesture and the rest of the body adjusts into the secondary gesture, a certain stance.

Why I find both these descriptions interesting is because they remind me of my paternal grandmother – Granny Anne. She held her long string of pearls in that way, and struck that stance of hand to throat and other hand to hip.

And what struck me about this resonance is that these are gestures that belong to women of her generation and that, amongst women of my generation, they are essentially lost. I think my mother and my aunt – their generation – still perform an echo of these gestures, but they don’t own them in the same way. Perhaps the ownership is stronger when you also have a blue rinse hairdo.


February 5, 2006

Imagine a world of emerald green, where trees grow underwater. You travel across a vast lake, the green trees swaying beneath you. There are rough, crenellated islands of leafy treetops rustling around you. You drift at first and then you fall in, careless, the cool water closing around you. Your flat-bottomed boat spins slowly away above you as you dive down amongst the branches of the trees. The bark is rough when you stroke it, but soft and spongey when you press and poke it.

You surface for air, and an orangutan has stolen your boat. You see it speeding away, a long, hairy, orange arm at the tiller.

What now?