Monday, 21 November 2011

Shelf Life for Dummies

I’m pinching this idea from Craig Ranapia, who pinched it from the “Shelf Life” feature from The Spectator’s Book Blog.

1) What are you reading at the moment?

Umberto Eco’s new one The Prague Cemetery, and Detlev Schlicter’s Paper Money Collapse: The Folly of Elastic Money and the Coming Monetary Meltdown.  (Come on, everyone reads at least two books at once, don’t they?)
I’m not finding Eco’s as enjoyable as his other novels—so far it seems like a rehash of his much better Foucault’s Pendulum but without the drama, humour or sympathetic characters, which leaves me disappointed. Detlev’s book is fantastic in explaining the dangers of central banking and the modern system of paper money creation—why it is both iniquitous and leads inevitably to collapse. Well written, it fills a number of holes in the money creation story.

2) As a child, what did you read under the covers?

I did some of my best childhood reading under the covers. I recall reading the likes of E.W. Hildick’s Jim Starling series, Bertrand Brinley’s The Mad Scientists’ Club and even C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series under the bed clothes, and have turned out none the worse for it. (Quiet at the back!) Thank Galt for good torch batteries. But curious that parents want you to read, then complain enough when you do that you have to hide under the covers to do it.

3) Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?

No (although several scenes from Les Miserables always comes close), but a few carefully placed books did on a couple of occasions save me from crying by being placed down my pants when the cane was being applied. See, you should always have books with you.

4) You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?

Hmm, you’d want something that could be read and re-read and studies and thought about wouldn’t you.  So how about Gibbon’s Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, and Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. Between them that should offer plenty of food for thought. (Mind you, if I were only given one choice it would have to be Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon. Because if I was given only one choice, I would undoubtedly be in a position to learn much from the fate of Koestler’s protagonist.)

5) Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?

Now there’s a question. How many strong, intelligent, sexy women are there in literature? Not many.
But I confess I wouldn’t push Robert Heinlein’s girl Friday out of bed for leaving crumbs. Or Dagny. (And if The Avengers could be reclassified as literature…)

6) If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?

How to Write a Self-Help Book Without Sounding Like an Arsehole. And if I could pull that off, then maybe I’d start on Things Your Teachers Never Taught You (But Should Have), and Did Teach You (But Shouldn’t Have). Because that’s an important one.
But it would be very, very long.

7) Which book, which play, and which poem would you make compulsory reading in high school English classes?

Not being a fan of compulsion, I’d prefer to make them “highly recommended.” But these would be my choices:

  • The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. Offers the crucial lesson to teenagers that if living second-hand (by peer pressure) doesn’t kill you outright immediately, it will certainly kill your soul eventually. (Edward Cline’s Sparrowhawk series would be a close second—an inspiring series of stories about history’s most momentous, inspired and beneficent revolution ever, giving the sort of inspiration that can fire a whole life, and the demonstration that it is ideas that move the world.)
  • The Winslow Boy, by Terence Rattigan. Demonstrates the craft of good theatre, and the importance of standing on principle—how when you fight for a better world, you live in that world today.  (Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People would be a close second. It’s all about principle.)
  • If, by Rudyard Kipling. Because if youngsters discover they can keep their heads while all around them are losing theirs, why then they will create everything there is on earth that’s worth having. (Robert Frost’s Two Tramps in Mud Time would be a close second, with good wisdom on uniting vocation and avocation.)

8) Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?

Well if it’s a fictional party, then one of Hunter S. Thompson’s bashes might be worth the notional damage. If you could remember it.

9) What would you title your memoirs?

Mind Your Own Business.

They’d be very short.

10) If you were an actor, which literary character do you dream of playing?

Francisco d’Anconia. And I’d do a far better job than the slob in the current film version of Atlas Shrugged. But then, who couldn’t?

11) What book would you give to a lover?

Atlas Shrugged. And I’d tell them they’d be examined on it in four weeks time. (Yes, I’m kidding. I’d give them a full six weeks. Smile )
I do confess that being given Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets by a lover was quite a buzz, however, so perhaps I would return the favour.

12) Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone’s bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What’s your literary deal breaker?

What wouldn’t be good would be Someone with no bookshelves at all in the house, but shelves full of movies instead: which usually means a house full of crap and a head full of mush. But you can usually spot that long before visiting their home.
But if they did have shelves and they were full of crystal healing, homeopathy and “the facts” about how the Jews and the Masons brought down the Twin Towers, that would see me heading for the door quick smart.

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