mr. zilla goes to town

Saturday, May 14, 2005

when crustaceans challenge

Nick the wily Crustacean threw the some procrastination bait at me the other day, something I have always been powerless to resist. Here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be saved?

If I recall, the premise of F451 was that the books were saved by people devoting themselves to developing word-perfect memory of books. So while there might be great works of the global canon that I should be thinking about, if I have to live with this thing in my head then I’m jolly well going to have something pleasant. I think I’ll take that famous childhood primer on English class relations, Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Menolly in Anne McCaffery’s Dragonsinger played guitar, rode genuine, genetically-engineered, fire-breathing dragons, and had that ‘so stunningly hot that the stupid woman author never got around to mentioning it’ thing going for her as usual. What’s not to get damp trousers about at age fourteen?

The last book you bought was…?

A couple of weeks ago when I bought the Observer it came with a free copy of Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

The last book you read was…?

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and Key Issues in Development by Damian Kingsbury et al. (Did I mention I handed in a 4000 word paper on Wednesday?)

What are you currently reading?

“Tell me a bedtime story!” said the scallywagalicious Ms Z last night as we had our heads on the pillow. I had just reached a new sub-chapter heading on page 83 at the time, so I started to read to her.

“The 1963 Massacres,” I replied in my best Pate Biscuit voice. “The Qasim regime fell, its leader executed, on 8 Febraury 1963…”

“Ohhh, I don’t think I’m going to like this story,” she said. “Doesn’t your book have a nicer one?”

Hmm, Could be tough, since I’m reading Unpeople: Britain’s Secret Human Rights Abuses by Mark Curtis. I’ve been jumping around in it rather than going from the front but the title is a bit of a misnomer so far; Curtis seems to devote a lot of time to documenting Britain’s enthusiastic to-the-hilt support of US human rights abuses and aggressive activity. The chapter on the Vietnam War makes for all-too-familiar reading, as declassified Whitehall memos describe the MacMillan government’s complete behind the scenes support and approval for US actions including strategic (ie, indiscriminate) bombing of North Vietnamese cities while making gestures to placate the anti-war sentiment of British public.

“Well… how about I change a few words?”

“Like what?”

“OK… the 1963 muh, muh, muh, aha! The 1963 Masquerade!” She smiled. I continued. “The curtain on the ball fell, er, rose, the band leader introduced, on 8 February 1963….”

“Much better!”

“The coup, I mean the catering, was run by General Abdul Arif and Prime Minister General Abdul al-Bakr of the Baath party, with substantial CIA backing and organisation. The CIA insisted beforehand on a detailed, er, seating plan! for the Iraqi Communist Party. The CIA provided the caterers with a list of names, around 5000 of whom were hunted down and, um, invited to the ball. They included senior army officers, lawyers, professors, teachers and doctors. The… invitations… mostly took place on an individual basis, by house-to-house squads of army… accordion players… who knew where the guests were, and who carried out on-the-spot invitations and often a merry song and Morris dance too for the guest’s family…”

Five books you would take to a desert island?

1. The world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji by Murusaki Shikibu. If my desert island has good wireless in the local internet café and I can borrow a few bucks from passing German backpackers, I’d even be able to read it online, woodcuts and all.

2 Shipwreck (Island, Book 1) by Gordon Korman. Should there be a lack of passing backpackers, boats or banana republicans, I’d be reassured to know that if six fictional teenagers with behavioural problems can survive on a desert island, then so can I!

3. David HumeA Treatise of Human Nature: Being an Attempt to introduce the experimental Method of Reasoning into Moral Subjects. (1739–40). One of my fondest memories of my Philosophy major at ANU was the Philosophy of the Enlightenment course taught by Dr Chris Falzon. He had such an engaged and friendly disposition and passion for the material you couldn’t help but be fascinated. Since I was a part-time student at ANU while also working full-time I was always rushing to and from the place to get back to work, and often the day’s lecture was also the only chance I would have to grab lunch. So consistent were my habits of going to this great class armed with a still-warm bread roll or two to munch on, that beyond the cerebral joy of getting my mental teeth into a text I still feel a happy associative experience of bakery smells and a full tummy sensation when I read old empiricists and philosophes. I have no doubt that such would come in very handy on a desert island until I figured out how to open the coconuts.

I would also take Hume’s Treatise over many much better works of the period though, as there’s a good amount of filler in the middle there and I’d like to have something I wouldn’t feel too bad about tearing up for a signal fire or loo paper.

4. Bertrand RussellA History of Western Philosophy. Used to have this on the bookshelf in Canberra in the place I shared with Lunch, never got around to reading much of it, I wonder if he got stuck into it at all?

5. Who Murdered Chaucer? A Medieval Mystery by Terry Jones of Python fame and his historian mate, Et Al. It's another one I’ve actually gone 100 pages into here, and have been stuck there for a month or two now, as I always seem to get caught up in sixteen other things before I get back to it, only to find that I’ve lost the thread. Should the coconut issue be resolved, and preferably some rum and pineapple too for a pina colada or three, I would hope that I could be left alone by the briny blue yonder long enough to finish it.

Who are you passing this stick on to and why?

I'd pass it on to absent mates The Bandwagon and The Midday Meal to see where their heads are at, as well as word-worshipper Cristy at Epeolatry.


  • Bertrand Russell... that'd be one of the books on the "lets never move from this place because I cannot be arsed packing up that bastard's library and carting it about for him" bookshelf? I'll have a look...

    i'll think about giving the challenge a a shot too, when i get a short minute or three to myself...

    By Blogger lunch, at 1:20 am  

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