Thursday, March 13, 2008


I've been memed

Yesterday Jonathan tagged me for this bookish meme that's been making the rounds for a few years: take a look at page 123 of whatever books you're in the middle of at the moment, read down to the fifth sentence, then transcribe the next three sentences after that. Sure, I'll play along, since next to nothing's happening at the shop. I would talk more about the shop, really, if there was anything at all to talk about. Zip. Nada.

On my bedside table at home, and from the current stack at the shop:

1. The Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Murray 2005), p.123:

"The horsemen rode past. Shaken, he emerged from his hiding place, wandered down into a wadi... and straight into the arms of about forty more rebels. This time there was no escape."

How's that for a cliff-hanger! Nice coincidence. Finished the book last night. Already pining for the next installment. Meanwhile, I've tracked down a copy of his book Yemen, to tide me over.

2. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore (Plume 1986), p.123:

"It (her college writing project) will be about monomania and the fish-eat-fish world of life insurance in Rochester, New York. The first line will be 'Call me Fishmeal,' and it will feature a menopausal suburban husband named Richard, who because he is so depressed all the time is called 'Mopey Dick' by his witty wife Elaine. Say to your roommate: 'Mopey Dick, get it?' Your roommate looks at you, her face blank as a large Kleenex."

Hey, a Melville reference! From the short story How to Become a Writer. I added an extra sentence at the end because that simile was good. I do love Lorrie Moore, but have to read her in snippets because her books are so fraught. Really, if I read one straight through I might have to pull down the shades and take to my bed for a week.

3. The Search for Form in Art and Architecture by Eliel Saarinen (Dover 1985), p.123:

"In his work, the author opens his soul. So does the philosopher. So does the composer. The more direct and honest the work, the deeper does one feel the inner drift that brought this work forth."

Again, added an extra sentence because I liked it so much. The word "his" I can live without. The only bad thing about reading great books from pre-1975 or so are those pesky exclusionary pronouns. Do men notice them? Women sure do, all the time. I think it was Anne Fadiman who said they were like doors slamming in her face, even in the work of authors she loved and respected, like E.B. White. Well, men were the ones being written for, for the most part. Still. Makes it tricky to navigate some otherwise fine writing.

4. Hampshire Days by W.H. Hudson (Duckworth 1928), p.123:

"In scores of works on our shelves, dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, the glow-worm is depicted giving out its light while crawling on the ground, and in many illustrations the male is introduced, and is shown flying down to its mate. They drew their figures not from life, but from specimens in a cabinet, only leaving out the pins. But the glow-worm is not perhaps a very well known creature."

Yet again, I'm cheating a bit - these are sentences five, six, and seven, because the eighth does not flow well with the others and I find I'm quite rigid about readability on this blog. I have a big collection of W.H. Hudson books, of which I've read nearly none, but I picked up this little hardcover at the friends-of-the-library booksale last weekend and I've been browsing in it. He's one of those authors whose work I want to own for some reason (who knows why), and I deeply loved his memoir of his South American childhood (Far Away and Long Ago), so I continue to amass his books and do plan to read them all someday, though many seem dry as dust.

By the way, who has "scores of works" depicting glow-worms (besides Hudson...)?

5. Cat Talk: What Your Cat is Trying to Tell You by Carole Wilbourn (Publisher's Choice 1991), p.123:

"It was best for Tara to progress slowly so her personality would become well integrated on a long-term basis. Tara had experienced a great deal of emotional and medical stress and it would take her a while to recover. (Paragraph break.) A female cat can sometimes become 'very' pregnant before her person gets the message."

Cat psychology. What can I say, it was fifty cents at the f-o-l sale. Ryan and I have been reading it for fun, because by this point we do know what Hodge is trying to tell us. He's a very vocal cat. When he requires assistance getting a stray catnip mouse unstuck from under the dresser, for instance, he makes a very particular kind of trill. We have come to know it well.

That's it - there are many other books in stacks, of course, waiting to be read, but none that I actually have bookmarks in right now. (Only five books going at once, what's the matter with me!) The whole point of a meme is to pass it along, so I'm tagging Rachel and Ian. In the case of the former I know it's slow in shops right now, so booksellers need something to do (they must be reading), and the latter, I feel, needs to be steered slowly but firmly away from his burgeoning reinterest in D & D. I'm hoping this may deflect him at least temporarily.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser (World Publ. 1946), p.123:

"She had too little faith in mankind not to know that they were erring. She was too calculating to jeopardize any advantage she might gain in the way of information by fruitless clamor. Her wrath would never wreak itself in one fell blow."

(Mrs. Hurstwood)

May I add mine here too?

"My dearest Emma, do not pretend, with your sweet temper, to understand a bad one, or to lay down rules for it : you must let it go its own way. I have no doubt of his having, at times, considerably influence; but it may be perfectly impossible for him to know beforhand when it will be."

Emma listened, and then coolly said, "I shall not be satisfied, unless he comes."

"He may have a great deal of influence on some points, " continued Mrs. Weston, "and on others, very little : and among those, on which she is beyond his reach, it is but too likely, may be this very circumstance of his coming away from them to visit us."

Of course, many of you will recognize this one... Emma, by Austen, Oxford University Press, 1952 (fifth impression).
S - chilling! Revenge is a dish best served cold! Brrrr. Makes me think of Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca."

Thanks, Kim - those lovely long Georgian sentences, with a profusion of punctuation, so nice.

I love hearing what people are reading, this is great -
Hi Sarah:

Thanks for the meme tag. This was fun. I just blogged about the books I'm reading and have tagged two others to share the biblio-love!

Thanks, Rachel - I just read your post, great books! That's what I love about booksellers (...and serious readers in general) - we've all got some interesting books going more or less all the time.
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