I’m not normally given to insomnia, but the 3 hour nap is a big thing in the Rentschler family when vacation is in effect, and I’m more of a no-nap or 30-minute nap kind of guy. 3 hours was my downfall.
But that leaves me time for a contemplative post, thanks to Muse passing a book meme in my direction.
Now, I have a confession to make: this is probably going to be terribly boring for most of you, however many of “you” there are who read this blog. For I am not a fan of fiction, nor am I a fan of books with titles and subjects like Cod, and while I am a fan of poetry (inasmuch as one is allowed to ascribe a category like “fandom” to a high cultural phenomenon like poetry — see Henry Jenkins on that one), it’s been a long long time since I’ve read a book of it.
Most of the books I read are academic books; most of the books that move me are academic books. And what’s worse, I’m neither sorry nor embarrassed. That’s part of why I like my job. Anyway, enough preamble and onto the questions (see, I really do have a lot of time on my hands here).
Which book/s changed my life?
Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Though I have since learned that as with the works of Shakespeare, there is some question as to the actual authorship of this book, it still holds an important place in my life. So important that I own two copies, both of which I paid for. I encountered Attali’s delirious prose as an undergraduate and it was at that moment that I understood how one could ask all the questions of sound culture that people were asking of visual culture and in fact they could be asked better. Never mind that I later learned Attali was wrong on most empirical counts. He asked all the right questions at the right time, at least for me. I own two copies because my enthusiastic undergraduate self marked up the first one in dark black pen. Eventually, I wished to assign sections of Attali’s book, which required a second, clean copy. Mostly because I didn’t want anyone to see the marks on the first copy.
Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, Volume I. No big comment on content, but there is a story here too. HofS was the scholarly equivalent of a first kiss, read early in my undergraduate career to satisfy an “honors contract” for a non-honors course at the University of Minnesota. I also have possessed two copies of the book, but consecutively. My first copy was, with encouragement of a certain TA and mentor, shoplifted from the University of Minnesota’s bookstore. I in no way condone such behavior (do as I say, not as I did) and I confess now knowing that the statute of limitations has run out on that particular crime. That was the main copy I used throughout graduate school. At some point in my professorial career, I took it with me on a plane to read (I have taught it both times I’ve done my Historiography seminar–so consider the lost sale made up for) and left it in the seat pocket. After which, I purchased a legitimate copy. Interestingly, part of the book (the biopower discussion) shows up in my MP3 manuscript, even though I tend to think of this book as more in my intellectual past than my present. It keeps coming back.
Various authors, Naked Poetry. This is a collection of American surrealist poetry. I believe this book was found by my friend Wayne in a garbage can at his high school. It is possible that someone else found it and it came into Wayne’s possession. Anyway, the book was definitely in the trash and recovered. I must have been in 9th or 10th grade when it appeared in my social circle. It was passed around, though mostly it resided in the basement of Wayne’s parents’ house (which he had claimed for himself). I returned to it obsessively and found the writing absolutely electrifying. When Wayne left for college, he bequethed it to me with a very kind and mature note (given that we were basically confused teenagers at the time). After his departure I drifted into a new circle of friends and we wrote a lot of bad, high schoolist surrealist poetry of our own. But that book did more than any other book to impress upon me the power of language. I took courses on creative writing and poetry because of that book more than anything else, and learned the difference between cliché and metaphor. Which I think is one of the most useful distinctions for an academic writer to keep in mind. Maybe someday I will write a poem again that does not have silly rhymes and appear in a card to a family member. Regardless, Naked Poetry sits in the very small section of poetry and literature on one of the bookshelves in the music room.
Which book/s have I read more than once?
This is a boring academic one. All of the above. Foucault, Bourdieu, Deleuze and Guattari, Marx, Hegel (hey, that takes more than one read), Derrida, Attali (of course). Also Ms. Mentor’s Impreccable Advice for Women in Academe. I’m not kidding.
Which book/s would I like to have on a desert island?
That’s a tough one, because I would honestly rather have electricity and some recorded music. Failing that, I’ll take an anthology of poetry (though not Naked Poetry as I suspet I’d find the men’s sexism disturbing at this point), along with some books of art, possibly surrealist or perhaps an exhibition catalogue. I assume the question is about boredom, and so I’d want something that I could contemplate for a long time. A long, synthetic work of philosophy or a giant anthology of science fiction (preferably with a wide range of writers) would be a toss-up for distant third choice.
Which book/s made me laugh?
I don’t really read funny books, and some funny books, like Michael Moore’s or Don Delillo’s, don’t work for me even though they’re supposed to. I did like Richard Russo’s Straight Man for laughs, though. I also find the prose of Jacques Derrida funny, though I’m told by others that this is a troubling personal trait that I should work to eliminate. It’s probably a Jewish pun thing.
Made me cry?
I suspect there were books that made me cry as a child, but I can’t remember a case where a book made my cry.
Do I wish I had written?
I’m not covetous like that. I like it when other people write good books. I would someday like to write a book that’s actually about music as its main subject matter, and I would like the book to be beautiful to read. And I’d like to write another book that has nothing to do with music or sound (I have a gazillion outlines, we’ll see what gets written). Both seem like goals, rather than “wish I had written” sort of things.
Do I wish had never been written?
I could do without most of that neocon drivel paid for by (and written to spec for) right wing think tanks. Also the Chicken Soup for the Soul series annoys me, but if it works for other people I can’t get too upset about it.
Am currently reading?
Academic: Mark Hansen, New Philosophy for New Media; Peter Doyle Echo and Reverb; Josh Kun Audiotopia; Weheliye, Phonographies: Grooves in Sonic Afro-Modernity
On the nightstand: Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness. Though he writes like he has a mouse in his pocket (that awful psychology-speak of “we” this and “we” that), it’s a nice synthesis of research on happiness. My motivation isn’t totally leisure based, though, since I’m looking for new ways to attack consumerist ideology in my revised undergrad course this winter.
Wanting to read?
Stuff in catalogs like: Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New; Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape; Steve Wutzler, Electric Sounds; Sarah Ahmed, Queer Phenomenology and on and on. Also, The 22 Laws of Marketing.
Still Reading? Have a blog?
TAG, YOU’RE IT! (okay, I know that’s a cop out but my eyes are finally getting droopy)