Mendi O. sent me some questions about books the other day. And after reviewing her answers I thought it was a great way to find out how others approach books and what makes them tick artistically. So here we go.
1. Book that changed your life?
Alejo Carpentier's Kingdom of This World/El Reino de Este Mundo is number one on my list for a million reasons. I did not understand baroque and its use in the literary until I read it. It is also skeletal and delicate in a way, especially the parts where Pauline Bonaparte contracts yellow fever, and the black servant caressing the stone effigy with his hand the same way he massaged her in life. It also made the Creole world available to me and turned me into a surrealist or maybe a surrealist reformer. Carpentier's life also became my idea of what an artist/intellectual is in many ways. I am not finished with this book, his other novels, his work on music nor his life. It is a life long masterpiece for me.
2. One Book You Have Read More Than Once?
I am embarrassed to say that I am not really a person that reads stuff over and over. Books that I have combed through more than once are rare. But there are a few. So, for the sake of picking one that I have chomped down on more than once, I would have to say that Tar Baby by Toni Morrison is that book . Sometimes it is for what I feel is a fractured love story; sometimes it is because I like to contemplate Valerian; sometimes it is to pick over Ondine and her family's blessings and curse; and at other times it is for the shear imagery and characterization. I also like her narrative voice in this novel; it is very matter of fact. The book is NOT my favorite of Morrison's, but it is far from imperfect. Its span is so wide that the holes in the narrative become ornate in a way. Paris, New York, the Caribbean and the uninhibited spirit of dreadlocked, horse backed, maroons riding in the middle of the night meld back and forth with no real center axis. All the characters are believable; it is the situation that I am still trying to figure out with every reading. There is something very isolated about the character interactions that make it an enjoyable problem in the end.
Screw it, there is another. I could read The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles everyday of the week.
3. One Book on a Desert Island?
This is a hard one. I think maybe Tropics of Capricorn, Tropics of Cancer or Nights in Clichy by Henry Miller. There is something that still captivates me about Miller. I started reading him in my senior year of high school, and I could not get a single page. Every time I picked up one of the Tropics it felt like a different story to me. I guess I am addicted to personalities as much as books. I remember watching Reds when I was pretty young, maybe 8 or 9, and being totally amazed by all those people that were interviewed. He was the most captivating personality to me before I knew who he was. That 20th century world in all its funk and power is what I would want to read about on a desert island if time is not an issue.
4. One Book That Made You Laugh?
Groove, Bang and Jive Around by Steve Cannon, which also gave me a raging hard on in the first couple of pages.
5. One Book That Made You Cry?
The end of Ben Okri's The Famished Road made me feel really melancholy and tearful I must say. I enjoyed that book beyond all others in so many ways. His work is unbelievable. There were points of extreme comical farce and there was a level of sadness that underscored absolutely everything in his imagery. I can't even describe how it made me feel and how it made me think about writing. His spin on Magical Realism is the closest to melding the everyday spiritual connections allowed in many African cultures and the sure slide of the marvelous, both act as a wonderful floor board for such strong imagery.
6. One Book You Wish You Had Written?
Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau and the fact that it was written in a Creole dialect and won the Grand Concourt is even a greater accomplishment for what it has done for story telling. I also like the fact that it is written almost as two novels. The first half is a daughter telling the story of her father and is written in the second person. It ends with a wonderful tribute to the father spoken by the daughter. The second half of the novel is the speaker telling her interviewer about her life. There, it shifts to first person. And in the course of these two lives we see the history of Martinique.
I wish that I could have written that book in the sense that I could never have written that book. It is Chamoiseau's superhuman linguistic attentiveness and the social consciousness he brought in writing a master piece in Creole that makes it great. Don't get it twisted, I only read the translation. I wonder if one day I will be afforded the opportunity to understand the novel in the original language. In that way, I wish I had such abilities to write in a totally different language.
7. One Book You Wish Had Never Been Written?
That stupid On the Down Low by J.L King. It is like, "Please, give it a rest". Do most women believe that black men have a penchant for sleeping with one another any more than other social and ethnic groups? The author feeds into very anti-male themes and ideas . . . i.e., the reasons there are no good black men around. Plus, it is divisive in a very toxic way. Does sexuality always have to be discussed in terms of deviance from social norms and Terry McMillan dreams? I guess it does.
8. One Book You are Currently Reading?
Michel Foucault's The Order of Things. I can't even talk about it this dude gets me so mixed up, connected, disconnected, energized and zapped all at t he same time. And I am only on chapter one, which is a magical chapter.
9. One Book You Have Been Meaning to Read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. I want to read that book so bad that I can taste it, but I need more time. Don Quixote is another one that is on my list.
10. Now Tag Five People
Well, let's see. I guess I will ask some friends. Angryblackbitch is number one on the list. Then maybe jockohomo. Pissed Off Pencil is a good blog. I will have to think of two more.