Ken Layne: Technology Savant & Merry Prankster

No Meme Is An Island [Updated] [Twice]

This pesky little parlor game -- often referred to in the literature as "The Stick" -- has been circulating like a dubious sawbuck on a rotisserie for something like two months now -- a Technorati search for one of its distinctive terms (the crush on a fictional character) yields more than 2300 results -- but it did not come to me until it was referred by Our Lady of Longhorns, Cowtown Pattie.   I'm not really one for such party tricks, especially being such a late comer to the project, but I was also raised with good manners and so cannot say "no" when a proper lady poses a question.  So . . . here we go:

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

A.S Byatt's Possession: A Romance. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll fall in love all over again in your choice of eras, you'll drink your fill of Victorian poetry pastiche and faerie tales, it climaxes in a storm in a graveyard, and there is even an heroic solicitor in it.  Who could ask for more?

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

You bet I have.  Josh Corey, responding to this question over a month ago,  mentioned Emma Thompson as Beatrice in Kenneth Branagh's film of Much Ado About Nothing.  Ms. Thompson is a near-perfect embodiment of that character, as was Kathleen Widdoes in the less well known 1973 New York Shakespeare Festival version (opposite young Sam Waterston's Benedick).  Those performances are merely the fleshing out of a fictional person I have been stuck on since I first encountered her.  While I dote on Shakespeare's Beatrice, Dante's Beatrice would be out of the question: there is probably a special circle reserved for anyone who would presume to a "crush" on her.  Other examples of crushworthy fictions: Anne Elliot in Persuasion, Jennet Jordemayne in The Lady's Not for Burning, Cyrano de Bergerac's Roxanne (who doesn't deserve it, so perhaps I'm just feeling sympathetic to Cyrano's own plight).  And many more! 

Chris Lott got the answer to this one exactly right:

If you haven’t [had a crush on a fictional character], then you either need to start reading books that don’t have any pictures . . . or give up on the enterprise altogether.  Maybe reading’s just not for you.  Double points off if you’ve only had crushes on television and/or movie characters.

3. The last book you bought was...?

Ordered but not yet received: Jack Gilbert's Refusing Heaven.

Pre-ordered simultaneously: Mark Helprin's forthcoming Freddy and Fredericka.

4. The last book you read was...?

Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities, but it doesn't really count because I only read it so that I could discuss it with my son who has to read it for a college course.

On my own initiative, the last book I completed was Gene Wolfe's The Wizard.

5. What are you currently reading?

Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn.

6. Five books you would take to a desert island...

  • Every participant seems to opt for either the Bible or a collected Shakespeare as Choice #1, and I'm no different.  Shakespeare it is.  I would opt for A.L. Rowse's out of print Annotated Shakespeare, but each one has his or her favorite edition.
  • A good edition of the collected English poetry of John Donne, because the spectrum from sacred to profane shines within it; also, he wrote that poem about not being an island, which would be good to read whilst being on an island.
  • Moby-Dick, because it really does contain nearly as much as the aforementioned Shakespeare, and because the whale is nearly as large as an island;
  • I'm stuck on a desert island, so I also select Robinson Crusoe, for the obvious reason that it is about being on a desert island and because a fictional character -- the butler, Gabriel Betteridge, in Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone -- recommends it in terms that are hard to resist:

Such a book as Robinson Crusoe never was written, and never will be written again.  I have tried that book for years - generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco - and I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life.  When my spirits are bad - Robinson Crusoe.  When I want advice - Robinson Crusoe.  In past times, when my wife plagued me; in present times, when I have had a drop too much - Robinson Crusoe.  I have worn out six stout Robinson Crusoes with hard work in my service.  On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh.  I took a drop too much on the strength of it; and Robinson Crusoe set me right again.

[Quote found conveniently in this First Things article -- "The Strange Shipwreck of Robinson Crusoe" -- which emphasizes how little most folk know these days of the True Spiritual Nature of the Crusoe.]

  • I am stymied in committing to a fifth choice: something visual [The Art Book, perhaps]?  Something humorous, such as Thurber?   Another long novel?  The pressure's too much; I can't commit.

7. Who are you passing this stick on to and why?

I bequeath and bestow this here Stick upon the following, in perpetuity or until such time as they bid this stick pass from them:

  • To escapegrace, because she is Los Angeles' newest culturally interesting weblogiste, freshly transplanted from New York, and because each and every one of you should click through immediately and give her your attention;
  • Jointly and severally, to Evan Schaeffer and David Giacalone, because not nearly enough lawyers have participated thus far -- and what a wonderful world it would be if more lawyers spent time on frivolous pursuits such as this one; and, of course,
  • To my best chum Rick at Futurballa, because we share whenever possible and because, even though he's answered most of the questions already, no one has officially asked him to play, until just now.

My work here is done, citizens.


UPDATE [05/10/05]:  The moving Stick writes and having writ moves on.  Here are links to the responses of those to whom I passed it along:

  • escapegrace [a responce just as interesting and eclectic as I suspected it woudl be]
  • Evan Schaeffer [who -- tsk, tsk -- doesn't acknowledge the source from which the Stick came to him, but who earns further points with me for taking John Cheever's collected stories along to the island]
  • Futurballa [Rick fetches the Stick for the second time.]

David, meanwhile, assures me through back channels that he is giving it a lot of thought; I can't hardly wait.

UPDATE 2 [5/14/05]: His disclaimers in the comments below notwithstanding, David Giacalone has done his duty and posted his responses.  As a bonus, there is Topless Shakespeare content, but I think it's safe for work.  [I'll be watching for that first Google hit looking for "topless Shakespeare."  Thanks for the opportunity, David!]


Rick Coencas

I'll bite...


Thank you Cowtown Pattie! I'm so glad you sent it on to the Fool. And I'm very glad the Fool sent the full version along to Futurballa. Lady and Gentlemen, you made my morning!


Thank you, dear sir. I'm blushing.


(e)scapegrace is a very, very good blog. As your taste is so refined, I'm compelled to add (some of) your other recommendations to my reading.

Cowtown Pattie

Our Lady of the Longhorns...snort! What a wonderful name, I shall have to incorporate.

Thanks, George! Your picks make me feel like the rube I am...

Aaron Haspel

It wasn't a poem, George, it was a sermon. So on your island you'd be missing it, unless you took along the Meditations as well.

George Wallace

Drat! Yet again, I am caught out in an error. I meant to double-check exactly that fact, too, and obviously should have done to avoid this embarassment. This is almost as bad as the time (not online) that I attributed "Oh, what a tangled web we weave," etc., to Alexander Pope, who of course said no such thing. At least I got the author right this time, despite the misattribution of context.

Sloppy metrics and all, I'd still take Donne along, with or without his island.


George: These blog memes can be confusing! Far from failing to acknowledge who whacked me, I mentioned it in the third sentence of my post. You probably missed it because it wasn't you: "And now Ambib has passed one onto me."

Ambib is the proprietor of Ambivalent Imbroglio, and he struck me with the stick on May 1. He did it with such force, in fact, that I must have still been woozy when I was hit again by you, George, three days later. Why? Because I didn't realize you'd hit me again until today, May 10. I'm not sure why I didn't notice. Like all good weblogging citizens, I check technorati pretty regularly. But I didn't see the link.

I guess my response to Ambib's whacking applies to yours too? I think it must.

George Wallace

I stand corrected, Evan. Please accept my apology for implying (inaccurately) that there had been an oversight on your part. The only real surprise, I suppose, is that no one lobbed The Stick to you even sooner than Ambib.

I've been thinking about your choice of Cheever to take along on an island. I still think it is an excellent choice, but wouldn't it leave you Very Very Thirsty for a pitcher of stiff martinis after a while? It's always gin and adultery in Cheever Country.


That's one more reason I don't want to go to that island.

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