Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ms. Kitty's take on the book meme

One reason I'm glad CC tagged me for the book meme is that it helped me get a handle on what a "meme" is. The dictionary doesn't really make it clear, IMHO, but being tagged for it does.

Anyhoo, I had to think kind of hard in some of these categories, but I think I have a candidate for each.

1. One book that changed your life? I think the book that tipped me over into Unitarian Universalism, though I wasn't really aware of it at the time, is an old classic "Heavenly Discourse" by Charles Erskine Scott Wood. I read it in college, both tickled and amazed by the idea of God shmoozing in heaven with a variety of saints, Jesus, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Billy Sunday, and seriously questioning what people on earth were doing with Jesus' message. Somehow my copy of it disappeared when I moved away from home (I think my mother probably took one look and jettisoned it, fearing for my salvation) and it took me years to find another copy, because it has been out of print for a long time. Miraculously, as I was preparing for the ministry, a kind old man at my church gave me all his religious books, and there was a copy, tattered and dusty, but intact. Thank you, Dale Foreman! ADDENDUM: I meant to include "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes here and forgot. Because of a marriage in which I often felt stupid, my life was changed when I read this book (after the divorce) and realized that I understood it and was illuminated by it. My self esteem rose markedly!

2. One book you have read more than once? Well, "Lord of the Rings", of course, but more importantly, "The Source" by James Michener. I was enthralled by the story he crafted to describe the millennia of human activity in one small area of the world, the human drama and tragedy and loves that took place there. I developed such an admiration for the Hebrew people because of it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island? I would want my great big unabridged dictionary, the one that was discarded by the junior high librarian where I worked partly because it fell open naturally to the word "fuck", after decades of teenage boy use (and, probably girls as well) but also because it was outdated. A dictionary means eternal entertainment. And I might try to sneak in a hymnal, either the latest Quaker or UCC edition. Why not the UU hymnal? because I already know every hymn in it.

4. One book that made you laugh? Patrick Dennis' "Auntie Mame". I reread that many times as well, just to re-savor the school where the little boy fish were fertilizing the little girl fish's eggs ("spread the sperm, Patrick, don't miss that little girl fish there!") and the trustee of Patrick's affairs went bonkers. The language is delicious, if outdated, and as a kid I imagined that my Aunt Hazel or my Aunt Mabel might have Mame-ish tendencies if they just could lighten up a bit.

5. One book that made you cry? I rarely get too choked up by a book, but as I was looking for something on my shelves, I saw the book I'd list here, as I read it at a time in my life when I felt I had been betrayed and cruelly treated by another woman minister. The book is "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman" by Phyllis Chesler. Then, of course, I had to consider whether I had ever been inhumane to another woman myself.

6. One book you wish had been written? I was in my second year of seminary before I learned what "theology" meant. As a UU, we hadn't talked much about theology in terms of what it meant in everyday life. I didn't know what "the great questions" were called, though I had thought about them. So I wish that a layperson's guide to theology had been available to me long ago, so that I knew what to call my ponderings. And, like CC, I had a book of my own in my head at one time which I wish I had gone farther with, but I got some discouraging advice from a writer friend and never completed it. (I think she was right, but it still would have been a thrill to get it done.)

7. One book you wish had never been written? I howl at Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, but she really missed the boat with a sort of holiday-themed lightweight mystery series co-written with someone else. I can't think of the name of any of them, but they were awful and I thought she let herself and her readers down. Generally, though, I am not one to discourage any writing, even if it's dangerously inflammatory. Of course, The Protocols were pretty terrible.

8. One book you are currently reading? "A Sudden Country" by Karen Fisher, the story of a settler group on its way to Oregon and the relationships (legal and illicit) that form on that trip. I like it because I am pretty familiar with the Oregon Trail from Nebraska west to the Willamette Valley.

9. One book you have been meaning to read? Karen Armstrong's latest, "The Great Transformation". I have read lots of her other stuff but have not been able to get into this one. It's dense and complicated and less accessible. One book I have been meaning to re-read is Wendell Berry's "Jayber Crow", which is absolutely delicious.

Okay, I'm tagging anyone named Joel.


Chalicechick said...

On the other hand, the Stephanie Plum novels have been improving, IMHO. The first few were good, then there were a few where Stephanie was so incompetent that she couldn't arrest anybody without help. I think there was one book where literally the only skip she caught by herself was an old lady whom she ran into by accident.

I recall that "to the nines" was a big improvement. I hope the trend continues.

also a fan.

Ps. Taking a dictionary to the desert island is a great idea.

ms. kitty said...

I am besotted enough with the misadventures of Stephanie and her pal Lula that I would read anything Janet E. wrote about them, no matter how incompetent the heroine(s). And I keep wondering when the other shoe (or pants leg) is going to drop when Ranger enters the picture.

Joel Monka said...

Being a Joel, I accepted your tag and have posted my list on my blog. I almost echoed your pick of Auntie Mame for a funny book, but then remembered another I hadn't thought of in years. Just reviewing books for the list brought up a lot of fascinating if tangential memories- thanks for the tag!

Chalicechick said...

Ooh. There I mgiht have to differ with ya, Miss Kitty. I'm solidly in the Morelli camp, though that Stephanie's exploits are a line item in Ranger's budget did make me laugh.

Personally, I think you have an authentic voice and I know I would read your book. That said, I took on the job of trying to put a book together for Katy-the-Wise once and discovered that shaping sermons and semony writings into a book is really, really hard, so if your book would be along those lines you've got a tough job ahead.


ms. kitty said...

Thanks, CC, I am warmed by your kind words; you've brightened a foggy day.

The book I had in mind began to develop when I was dumped by my boyfriend back in 1991 and faced the prospect of either giving up what I'd learned to love while we were together (bluegrass and camping/hiking) or figuring out how to do it alone, since I didn't want to jump back into a relationship too soon, having made that mistake in the past.

The book's title was "Lady on the Loose" and was a guidebook for single women who wanted to travel and camp and do fun stuff all by themselves.

I had bought an 83 Dodge camper van, learned how to change the oil, the air filter, and do a few things more in case of a breakdown, and I planned to drive back and forth between Colorado and Oregon to see my mother, who was in assisted living in the PNW. I also wanted to camp safely without a man along.

But I mostly needed to get over the idea that I couldn't do anything without a man. I was really scared to do things alone. I barely could go out for a meal alone at the time; I was sure that predators would strike or that, at least, people would pity me for being alone.

Friends had asked me if I thought it was safe to do this drive alone and advised me to take a gun and a big dog, neither of which seemed like a good idea. So I began writing this guidebook, which was initially a journal of my trips and then became a real project.

I've still got the manuscript, but I lost interest in the project once I had gotten over my fear. I reread it periodically just to review how far I've come since then. (Frankly, now the pendulum has swung so far that I almost prefer doing things alone----hmmm.)

I'm holding out for Morelli too and I admire Stephanie's restraint, but I am curious about Ranger, while hoping for Stephanie's continued fidelity.

Joel said...

I should have grabbed this tag when you posted it, but I'll have to put it off until later today.

Joel said...

Awright, awright, it's up. Happy now? :P