Friday 17 October 2008

The Reading Lamp: a more than simply passable baklava

Vee's idea for a dessert book is, hands down, the best has received so far - I challenge future Reading Lamp interviewees to top it!

In the meantime, Vee has reminded me why there are so many Neal Stephenson books lying around my house - they need to be read and savoured and used to remind me how little I know, the latter in the most gratifying way possible.

Your name: Vee Blackbourn

What are you reading now? Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

Where are you reading it? Mostly on my couch, but this past weekend's reading venues also included my Mum's living room and a Subway sandwich restaurant in Deep River, Ontario.

How did you discover this book? I've been on a Neal Stephenson jag since reading Zodiac and then Snow Crash this summer. I was worried that I would be all Stephensoned-out by the time I got to this one, but I'm still going strong.

What do you think of it so far? Reading Cryptonomicon gives me a sense of what the world might look like to me if I actually understood math and computers. Stephenson seems to be really good at explaining what's interesting about scientific concepts (I can only assume that he's accurate about these things) while simultaneously drawing coherent characters in an engaging plot. It's all pretty impressive. Reading it has been one of those rare occasions in which I am glad that the book is a good 900 pages long.

What would your ideal desert island book be? The complete Oxford English Dictionary in two volumes. Not only would it take a long time to run out of reading material, but I would have a fantastic vocabulary by the time I was rescued. Also, I could use the tiny little magnifying glass that comes with it to start fires for warmth, cooking, keeping savage beasts at bay, and signaling ships and planes. Besides, etymology is really interesting.

What about a dessert book, a book you could read and then eat? I suppose any book liberally interleaved with honey and nuts could make a passable baklava, kind of like those war-time "apple pies" made out of crackers and old bicycle parts.

What writer do you think should be zapped out of history/existence and their works therefore never written? Sophocles! God, I hate that guy.

Favourite childhood book? Das kleine Ich-bin-ich, an illustrated book about an indeterminate animal which, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to bond with horses, hippos, birds, etc. comes to accept its indeterminate self-hood by gazing at its own reflection in a bubble (a Lacanian moment). "Now I know who I am," it cries in its moment of discovery, "I am myself!" And whoever does not know this, the book concludes, "is dumb". German children's books do not mince words.

Has a book ever made you physically ill? If yes, which book was it and why did it affect you this way? Triomf, by Marlene van Niekerk, makes me physically ill every time I read it. It's claustrophobic and full of casual violence, but van Niekerk also writes with wicked black humour, so that I laugh out loud even as my stomach lurches. It's a brilliant book.

I'm always looking for Reading Lamp subjects so drop me a line at colleen at bookphilia dot com if you're interested!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree with the OED. Indeed, I'm ever-so-glad I own a copy. But to make carrying it around on the island easier, why not get the Compact Oxford English Dictionary--same content as the multi-volume set, half the size of the two-volumer, and it comes with a magnifying glass!