15 Books

A shelf on which books can be stored.

Not A Punk Rocker posted a list of “15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you.” Since nothing of excite has been happening of late, I’m stealing it. Like NAPR, I’m not tagging any of you, because screw that. If you want to steal, steal. If you don’t, don’t.

Rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me so I can see which books you love. (Mine are in no particular order.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy By Douglas Adams

This book will always land on my favorite books of all time list, because, obviously, it is one of the best books of all time. If you haven’t read it by now or you don’t think it’s one of the funniest books ever written, you’re probably under the age of twelve or a robot.

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

This was the first book I ever read by Buk, which is fitting since it was his first novel. I’d never read anything like it before and it was love at first read. I made it my mission to read as much of his work as I could. It’s a huge undertaking since he wrote a lot. I own over 20 of his books, which seems like quite a few, but it hardly scratches the surface. He wrote every damn day.

One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I read this book in high school, and like Buk, it opened a new world. I’ve since read most everything he’s written and I own a lot of them:

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There are more that this picture didn’t capture.

One Day In The Life is not the best book by Solzhenitsyn (that honor goes to The Gulag Archipelago) nor even the best fiction (that’s The First Circle), but it’s still one of my favorites.

One day, I hope to remember how to spell his name correctly on the first try. It’s not very likely though.

Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

This and A Light in the Attic were two of my favorite books as a kid. I read them more times than I can count. Sarah Sylvia Cynthia Stout would not take the garbage out.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

I read this book in high school, too. Then I tracked down most of Camus’ other works. For a brief period as a teen, I was a Camus fan and fancied myself an Existentialist until I decided that I didn’t want to follow anyone else’s ideas, but would rather form my own. Still, I have a dog-eared copy of this book and a few others by Camus, as well as some Sartre in my house.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

For a long time, I was a book snob. I wouldn’t read anything unless it was at least fifty years old and preferably written in another language. I figured that any book that had stuck around that long was probably worth reading. I’ve since relaxed my standards, because I kind of ran out of classics to read and, well, that’s just dumb.

Neuromancer was one of the first modern science fiction books I read and it blew my tiny mind. This book is still groundbreaking.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

And, speaking of mind-blowing, modern, science fiction, Cryptonomicon is my favorite. It is obscenely long, didactic in parts and dated in others, but it’s rare that I read over 400 pages of something without stopping. I could not put it down. I love this book so much that I’ll probably never re-read it.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Gogol was part of my Russian phase spawned by reading Solzhenitsyn in high school. What struck me most about this book and why I will always remember it is because it’s funny. Yes, funny. Not in a Douglas Adams, laugh out loud way, but in an understated wry way. It was amazing to me that a book about serfs (a “soul” here means a serf, so the title of this book refers to dead slaves) written in Russian in 1842 could be droll. It made me realize that comedy is timeless and universal.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Another mind-blowing book. Burgess invented his own language in this book and it totally works. I read the version without the glossary in the back (honestly, I think everyone should read that version since having a glossary is lazy). Burgess was such a talented writer that he was able to imply meaning on context alone.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Another high school read. I think everyone read this in high school. It perfectly blends surreality and reality together in a believable way. You identify and sympathize with poor Gregor Samsa. This was probably the first book I read that made me realize that was even possible.

1984 by George Orwell

I am pretty sure that I first read this book in the year 1984, or close to it anyway, when I was a wee lass. Like Burgess, Orwell created his own language for the reader to suss out based on context alone. It’s not quite as broad as Burgess’ language, but just as effective. 1984 and Animal Farm are brilliant allegory. I still love this book, though nowadays, I prefer Orwell’s other books like Down And Out In Paris And London and Keep The Aspidistra Flying.

Journey To The End Of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

This was a Charles Bukowski recommendation actually. Buk often talks about “poor Céline” and writing “one perfect book” that he was never able to surpass. This is Céline’s perfect book. It follows an itinerant protagonist (himself) around the world through various adventures on several continents. It is a fascinating snapshot of the era.

The Woman In The Dunes by Kōbō Abe

I love the sparseness of Japanese fiction. Japanese authors never waste words. They intentionally arrange them much like a Japanese rock garden. The Woman In The Dunes is one of the best. Just like The Metamorphosis, it blends surreality with the real world in a way that is entirely believable. You never question the facts for a minute. Honestly, the movie version is just as good, but I would recommend reading the book first.

As far as Japanese fiction, I also highly recommend Fires On The Plain by Ooka Shohei, which almost went on this list.

Under The North Star trilogy by Väinö Linna

Within the last decade or so, I got on a Finnish literature kick, since they’s my peoples. Among the very best Finnish literature I read was Linna.* The trilogy starts with one man, Jussi, in 1880 and follows his family through the First World War, the Finnish Civil War and the Second World War. It is an absolutely fascinating and entertaining read. I mention it often on this blog.

*The other very best were The Unknown Soldier by Linna and Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi, the national author of Finland.

Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler

This was also a high school read, or shortly thereafter, when I was still in my snobby lit phase. I could pretty much recite the intricacies of the plot verbatim. I could tell you the characters and what happens, which is rare for me, since my memory problems don’t usually allow those kind of details. Rubashov and Harelip will always be stored in my memory banks. I haven’t re-read this book in a long time, but I still think of it very fondly.


Alright, you’re turn. What’s on your list?

Writing Like Buk

Charles Bukowski

I don’t write poetry, yet, I’ve written two poems in the last week. The first one was bad and this one is bad. Today’s daily prompt is to write a passage in the style of one of your favorite authors. I’ve attempted this before actually. I wrote a passage in the style of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger.

Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, I typically answer that I couldn’t possibly answer that question. It depends on context. I have favorite authors in fiction and non-fiction, prose and poetry, and in almost all genres. There are books I adore because of the clever writing and others that I adore because of the clever stories. Asking for just one favorite author is just as impossible as asking my favorite band.

That said, my favorite author is most likely Charles Bukowski. I am not a fan of poetry. I will choose prose over poetry 9 times out of 10. The reason Buk is one of my favorite authors is that he’s the exception to the rule. I actually prefer his poetry to his prose.

A friend of mine told me that I write like Charles Bukowski “if Bukowski was ironically funny.”  I said, “But, Bukowski is ironically funny.” “Not in the way you are,” he said.

I’ve been told that I write like Bukowski more than once and I always take it as a compliment. I suppose, in a way, it could be viewed as a dig; one could take it to mean that I don’t have my own style and I’m just aping someone else, but I don’t believe that. It is entirely true that I would, without hesitation, list Buk as a huge influence on me, but so are George Orwell, Raymond Chandler, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Joan Didion and Douglas Adams.

Anyway, since people seem to think that I write like Buk, I thought I’d actually take the opportunity to intentionally write like Buk. Here are the pitiful results:

I lie
there in the dark
listening to Los Angeles.
The city stretches,
yawns
and wakes up
Its sounds drown out the birds
And the birds
and I
cannot sleep.

We exist
there in the morning light,
the birds and me,
listening to the noise level rise
and a house fly
banging against the window
on the wrong side,
trying to get out.

I close
my eyes
to the morning light.
Cold on the outside,
warm inside.
working up the nerve
to start
another wretched day
in this festering teeming mass.

I lie
there for a while
listening to the birds,
working up the nerve
to be as free
as they are
but I never will.

Bluebird

Drawing by Bukowski. It's actually a sparrow, not a bluebird. Close enough.

Plinky prompt: What is your favorite poem? Why?

I’m not a big fan of poetry. While I can certainly appreciate the technical prowess involved in writing it, it’s rare that I find a poem that moves me. Shakespeare fascinates me. How on earth could he be so damn prolific in iambic pentameter? I’d have a difficult time writing even one sonnet, let alone entire plays in it. Absolutely stunning.

Until about fifteen years ago, I thought of poetry as a highly skilled art form that wasn’t really my cup of tea. I thought of it the way that some people think of ballet… technically beautiful, but boring.

Then I met Charles Bukowski. For the first time ever, I found that I preferred a writer’s poetry to his prose. It’s honest and raw. It doesn’t rhyme and it doesn’t follow any rules. It is forthright and powerful. It speaks to me in a way that no other poet has ever been able to. Even though my life is vastly different than Bukowski’s, I can relate.

Bluebird was published in Bukowski’s book “The Last Night of the Earth Poems” circa 1992. It is one of the first poems I read by Bukowski and it it still and will always be one of my favorites. It is part of what makes “The Last Night of the Earth Poems” my favorite book.

Drawing by Bukowski. It's actually a sparrow, not a bluebird. Close enough.
Drawing by Bukowski. It’s actually a sparrow, not a bluebird. Close enough.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

Powered by Plinky

Booker Award: 5 Favorite Books

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One of my lovely readers, Addy, nominated me for The Booker Award (whatever that is). Thanks! It’s a pleasure to know that someone not only reads my crap, but thinks highly enough of it to call me out.

Still, I can’t help feeling like I’ve just been chain lettered. Look at the rules:

The rules of this award are simple:

1.  Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.

2.  Post the Booker Award picture.

3.  Share your top 5 books of all time

So, in order to win this award, I also need to pass it along. It feels very much like those old school chain letters, now emails: “Congratulations on winning! Send this award to 5-10 people in the next 112 seconds. If you don’t pass it along, 15-20 puppies and/or kittens will die in the fiery pit of death.”

Only you can save us from the fiery pit of death.

Fiery kitten/puppy deaths aside, it is an excuse for a post and I haven’t been doing a lot of that in recent days, so I shall post five favorite books.

There are so many books that I love that there’s just no way I can count them from one to five. The books that follow are not necessarily my top 5 favorite books ever; they are merely the first that came to mind. In no way do I mean offense to any of my books that didn’t get mentioned.

This also applies to nominations for bloggy awards. So, as for nominating 5-10 bloggers to carry on the torch, I’m not going to single anyone out. You know who you are, blogs that I read, because I comment on you or I link you or I like your posts. Some of them are permanently advertised in the right hand column. Click those. The puppy/kitty fiery pit of death killing ends here with me, dammit.

Anyway, five favorite books:

The Last Night Of The Earth Poems by Charles Bukowski

Synopsis:

Poems deal with writing, death and immortality, literature, city life, illness, war, and the past.

Why it’s on the list:

This is a book of poetry. I generally hate poetry. It surprises everyone, most of all me, that it is my favorite book of all time. And it is my favorite book of all time. It is a desert island book. It is a book I have given to people as a housewarming present, no foolin’. I have bought probably twenty copies of it in my lifetime since I’m always giving it away to people who haven’t read it and should. My current copy is dog-eared and well-loved. It lives in my bedside table for easy access.

Excerpt:

Bluebird

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Synopsis:

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.

Why it’s on the list:

If there’s one book that makes me want to go wandering and explore it’s this one. Packed full of absurdity, ridiculousness and tons of humor, The Hitchhiker’s Guide is just plain awesome. I could really go on quoting this book forever. Suffice it to say, it’s goddamn brilliant. Read it if you haven’t. And if you have, read it again.

Excerpts:

“But the plans were on display . . .”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a torch.”
“Ah, well the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.”

“If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”

“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

Arthur looked up. “Ford!” he said, “there’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they’ve worked out.”
“Ford,” he said, “you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”
“But that’s not the point!” raged Ford “The point is that I am now a perfectly safe penguin, and my colleague here is rapidly running out of limbs!”

Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis

Synopsis:

Spider Jerusalem dedicates himself to fighting the corruption and abuse of power of two successive United States presidents; he and his “filthy assistants” strive to keep their world from turning more dystopian than it already is while dealing with the struggles of fame and power, brought about due to the popularity of Spider via his articles.

Why it’s on the list:

I’m not sure if this counts since it’s a graphic novel, not a proper novel, but fuck it, it’s my list and I say it belongs. Transmet is my favorite graphic novel of all time. It’s even better than Batman or Watchmen, I don’t care what you say.

Excerpts:

Instead of simply quoting since this actually has awesome artwork by Darick Robertson, here are some page scans:

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Synopsis:

Cryptonomicon zooms all over the world, careening conspiratorially back and forth between two time periods- -World War II and the present. Our 1940s’ heroes are the brilliant mathematician Lawrence Waterhouse, crypt analyst extraordinaire, and gung-ho, morphine-addicted marine Bobby Shaftoe. They’re part of Detachment 2702, an Allied group trying to break Axis communication codes while simultaneously preventing the enemy from figuring out that their codes have been broken. Their job boils down to layer upon layer of deception. Dr. Alan Turing is also a member of 2702,and he explains the unit’s strange workings to Waterhouse. “When we want to sink a convoy, we send out an observation plane first… Of course, to observe is not its real duty–we already know exactly where the convoy is. Its real duty is to be observed… Then, when we come round and sink them, the Germans will not find it suspicious.”

All of this secrecy resonates in the present-day story line, in which the grandchildren of the WWII heroes–inimitable programming geek Randy Waterhouse and the lovely and powerful Amy Shaftoe–team up to help create an offshore data haven in Southeast Asia and maybe uncover some gold once destined for Nazi coffers. To top off the paranoiac tone of the book, the mysterious Enoch Root, key member of Detachment 2702 and the Societas Eruditorum, pops up with an unbreakable encryption scheme left over from WWII to befuddle the 1990s protagonists with conspiratorial ties.

Why it’s on the list:

It’s a toss up between this book and Snow Crash for favorite Stephenson book, but overall, I think this is the better complete work of the two. Cryptonomicon is dense with so many characters and plots that you’re not even sure if they belong the same book. It frequently diverges into pedantic disquisitions and has long layovers in “why the hell should I care about this?” territory. It concerns itself with “present day” technology that is already very dated, e.g. how cathode ray computer monitors work. So far, I haven’t really said much positive about it, so why is it on this list? Because for the last 800 pages or so, I could not put it down. I got so involved in the story that I didn’t eat, drink, hardly peed and barely slept. I made it into work, but it was really tempting to call in sick so I could finish it. But most of all, when I finally devoured all 1,168 pages, I was so sad that it was over, that I almost started reading it again right then.

Excerpts:

“Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”

“Enoch…why are you here?”
“Why has my spirit been incarnated into a physical bodi in this world generally? Or specifically, why am I here in a Swedish forest, standing on the wreck of a mysterious German rocket plane while a homosexual German sobs over the cremated remains of his Italian lover?”

“There’s a bed, a little fold-out table, and cabinets made of actual wood. These in combination with the photographs of family and friends give it a cozy, domestic flavor which is, however, completely ruined by the framed picture of Adolf Hitler on the wall. Waterhouse finds this to be shockingly poor taste until he remembers it’s a German boat.”

“…the insects here see you as a big slab of animated but not very well defended food. The ability to move, far from being a deterrent, serves as an unforgeable guarantee of freshness.”

Journey To The End Of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Synopsis:

Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s revulsion and anger at what he considered the idiocy and hypocrisy of society explodes from nearly every page of this novel. Filled with slang and obscenities and written in raw, colloquial language, Journey to the End of the Night is a literary symphony of violence, cruelty and obscene nihilism. This book shocked most critics when it was first published in France in 1932, but quickly became a success with the reading public in Europe, and later in America where it was first published by New Directions in 1952. The story of the improbable yet convincingly described travels of the petit-bourgeois (and largely autobiographical) antihero, Bardamu, from the trenches of World War I, to the African jungle, to New York and Detroit, and finally to life as a failed doctor in Paris, takes the readers by the scruff and hurtles them toward the novel’s inevitable, sad conclusion.

Why it’s on the list:

Journey to the End of the Night, the original honey badger.

I think every writer has at least one great book inside them. Some have more, but most have one. This is Celine’s. It is full of caustic humor, rash comeuppance and a general honey badger-esque don’t-give-a-damn-ness. Whether you sympathize with the protagonist or not (for me, it was impossible not to), you simply have to marvel at the events of his life. There are more simple truths and one liners in here than at a stand up comedy showcase.

Excerpts:

“A man should be resigned to knowing himself a little better each day if he hasn’t got the guts to put an end to his sniveling once and for all.”

“The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.”

“Lots of men are like that, their artistic leanings never go beyond a weakness for shapely thighs.”

“I warn you that when the princes of this world start loving you it means they are going to grind you up into battle sausage.”

“They came from the four corners of the earth, driven by hunger, plague, tumors, and the cold, and stopped here. They couldn’t go any further because of the ocean. That’s France, that’s the French people.”

“There’s something sad about people going to bed. You can see they don’t give a damn whether they’re getting what they want out of life or not, you can see they don’t even try to understand what we’re here for. They just don’t care.”

“Love is like liquor, the drunker and more impotent you are, the stronger and smarter you think yourself and the surer you are of your rights.”

“The coldest most rational scientific madness is also the most intolerable. But when a man has acquired a certain ability to subsist, even rather scantily, in a certain niche with the help of a few grimaces, he must either keep at it or resign himself to dying the death of a guinea pig. Habits are acquired more quickly than courage, especially the habit of filling one’s stomach.”

“The plain truth, I may as well admit it, is that I’ve never been really right in the head.”

Top 5 Favorite Authors

Douglas Adams

This is a difficult question that I’m likely to get wrong since it changes all the time. In no particular order other than that in which they occurred to me:

Joseph Conrad

English was his second language, yet this man wrote the smoothest prose you’re ever likely to read. Every sentence is a treasure. Sometimes, when reading Conrad, I lose track of the story because I’m reading a sentence over and over, just marveling at its ingenuity. Who cares about plots and characters when you can command the English language the way that Conrad does? With Conrad, it’s not so much about the story as it is about the way he puts it all together. Perhaps because English was a second language, he was able to master it better than most. In any event, he writes in English better than I do and it’s my native language.

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn is pretty much the opposite of Conrad in the sense that it’s not about the writing necessarily; it’s about the story. Like most people, the first book I read by him was One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. It started me on a lifelong passion for Russian fiction and non-fiction. Though very short, Ivan Denisovich is a perfect book. It superbly encapsulates Stalin-era Soviet labor camps. If you’re looking for non-fiction in the same vein, there are no better books on the subject than The Gulag Archipelago series.

Charles Bukowski

What can be said about Bukowski? Some say he is a one-trick pony, i.e. he only writes about wine, women and hard luck, and while he might write better than most on the subject, it’s still the same trick over and over. I disagree and it’s probably because I’ve read so much of his work. When he became a writer proper, he wrote every single day. It’s impossible to only write about three things if you write every day. There is no one on earth, with the exception of my dog, that I’d rather curl up with after a long, hard day. Nobody gets it like Bukowski, which is why he lives in my bedside table.

Joan Didion

This is a new addition to the list. I recently read her 1,000+ page non-fiction compilation, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live. What I like about her is her easy, conversation style of writing. When you read Didion, you feel like you know her, like you’re sitting down with an old friend and listening to her tell a story. She’s got such a natural way with words.

Douglas Adams

If you haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you should be embarrassed for being so very wrong. I don’t care what your excuse is, you are lacking. Go read it right now to become a better person. Every time I read Adams, I want to go exploring. I want to get in my car and just drive around aimlessly, exploring our little world since we don’t have interstellar space transportation yet and probably won’t in my lifetime. The Hitchiker’s Guide will make you very sad that we don’t. Adams is inventive, compelling and just plain funny.

Runners Up: Authors who are spectacularly awesome:

George Orwell
William Shakespeare
Raymond Chandler
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Neal Stephenson
Warren Ellis
John Steinbeck
Edgar Allen Poe
Franz Kafka
Väinö Linna
Dr. Seuss

Runners Up: Books that are spectacularly awesome:

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Dead Souls
by Nikolai Gogol
Hunger by Knut Hamsun
Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi
Woman In The Dunes by Kōbō Abe
Johannes Climacus by Søren Kierkegaard
Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
World War Z by Max Brooks

And probably a thousand more that I’m forgetting because I never stop reading.

Dear Goldfish Part 11

deargoldfish

Hello, Internet. Welcome back to Dear Goldfish, the (hyperbolically) weekly series where I answer real questions asked by the internet. The following questions have been submitted by people who typed words into search engines with no editing or censoring.

Dear Goldfish,
wizard of oz desserts?

Um, I’m sure someone has made a Wizard of Oz dessert before, but it’s not me. I don’t know why you’d think I’d be the right person to ask. Anyway, here’s an Oz cake I found online:

I wouldn’t eat the Wicked Witch if I were you.

Dear Goldfish,
writing of coolness?

Thank you. I like to think that my writing is cool.

Dear Goldfish,
“dog got stuck under the bed”?

Sigh. Yes, my dog got stuck under the bed. I wrote about it here. She’s also been whining a lot lately because she doesn’t fit in her favorite chair anymore.

Dear Goldfish,
who was unlucky? you or me???

Well, I don’t really believe in luck per se, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was me.

Dear Goldfish,
how was we came to dependent on technology to survive without?

What? Is that even a sentence? I mean, all the words are spelled correctly, but that question doesn’t make a lick of sense. Please, try again.

Dear Goldfish,
abe patterson photo?

Well, I know how you got here with that question. In the post More Well Known Facts, I spun a tale about the deadliest fish in the world and used a photo credited to Abe Patterson. Here’s a little Fish Of Gold Easter egg for you. While most of the names used on this blog are made up through a rigorous process of writing down the first thing that comes into my mind, the name Abe Patterson actually has a meaning. It was created by taking the first name from Abe Zapruder, the man who filmed the Kennedy assassination, and the surname of Roger Patterson, the man who filmed the famous Bigfoot footage. I don’t really know an Abe Patterson, but here’s the picture I used in that post:

A 1960 photograph taken near where Dr. Peters was last seen by Abe Patterson.

Dear Goldfish,
how do i cure stupid?

Sadly, as far as I know, there is no cure. Hopefully, science will be able to create one soon.

Dear Goldfish,
license plate frame i hate speed dumb?

What? That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you want “i hate speed dumb” on the back of your car? I’d suggest trying to come up with something a little more not ridiculous.

Dear Goldfish,
i’ve to wash my shoes by myself?

First, the contraction “I’ve” is awkward in that question. I’d consider typing out both words. Second, shoe washing isn’t exactly a thriving industry. Generally, shoe washing isn’t done unless you have some canvas shoes. You can throw those in the washer without any ill effects, but most shoes aren’t really “washed” as such. Perhaps they can be wiped down with a damp cloth, but not washed. Third, most of us have to wash our shoes by ourselves. Shoe washing is really a one-person job. You’re more than capable of doing it yourself.

Dear Goldfish,
facts about pumas?

Most people are probably blissfully unaware that there is no such cat as a puma. Puma is not a species, but a genus that contains a few different kinds of wild cats like the jagaurundi and the cougar. Puma is to pterosaur as cougar is to pterodactyl. The cougar is often referred to as a puma, hence the confusion. Also included in the puma genus is an overpriced brand of shoe:

An expensive suede puma in its natural habitat.

Personally, I’ve always preferred Vans:

Red suede Vans. Awesome.

Dear Goldfish,
3 things im good at?

OK, people, for the love of fuck, stop asking me what you are good at. For the last time, I don’t even know who you are, so I couldn’t possibly know what you are good at. Please ask friends, family, teachers and peers instead if you really don’t know.

Dear Goldfish,
зло бесы?

Russian again, eh? OK, let’s translate that… it means: evil demons? Isn’t that sort of redundant? I mean, is there any other kind of demon besides an evil one? Are they like Smurfs where they come in all flavors, e.g. Brainy Demon, Clumsy Demon, Vanity Demon and Demonette?
Grouchy Smurf is probably the closest to a demon.

Dear Goldfish,
8 inch articulated real woman?

I’m sorry that you’re so lonely. Just so you know, real women are usually A) articulated so adding that is a little redundant and B) not 8 inches. Real women tend to be a little taller than that. The world’s shortest woman was a whopping 23 inches tall.

Dear Goldfish,
what makes a hero sandwich a hero?

It’s not because of their heroic acts, that’s for sure. I’ve never heard of a hero sandwich climbing a tree to rescue a kitten. I think it has something to do with the bread, since the bread is the hero of every sandwich. Without bread, you wouldn’t have a sandwich. You’d just have a handful of meat and condiments. The truth is, no one really knows where the term “hero” came from to describe a sandwich.

Dear Goldfish,
i hate my own sense of humor?

I’m sorry to hear that. The sad fact is, not everyone in this world is funny. In fact, funny seems to be a relative rarity as far as personality traits are concerned. The important thing here is that at least you recognize the fact that you’re not funny. The worst thing in the world is someone who thinks they’re funny when they’re not.

Dear Goldfish,
hitler fish?

Oh, fine. Call my bluff. So, the worst thing in the world isn’t a phony comic, but Hitler. Hitler is the worst thing in the world. Or he used to be anyway. I have no idea what you think Hitler and fish have in common. Let alone the fish known as me.

Dear Goldfish,
goldfish nibble my penis?

EXCUSE ME!? This is a family column. Well, it isn’t really, but damn, I don’t even know you. So, no, I will not nibble your penis. I’d appreciate it if my audience refrained from such talk again. You will get no sexual acts from me. Ewwwww. Moving on.

Dear Goldfish,
things that have 15 parts?

Lots of things have fifteen parts. A lot of things have even more than fifteen parts, like a car. I can’t really think of anything that specifically has fifteen parts. That last question threw me off  bit. Sorry.

Dear Goldfish,
fuck the constitution?

Hey, now. If it weren’t for the United States Constitution, you wouldn’t even be able to say fuck the constitution. I’m rather fond of it myself. It protects my rights.

Dear Goldfish,
bukowski math was never my strong suit?

I’m not sure what Bukowski math is. Did he invent his own variety of mathematics? Or did he just say that math was never his strong suit? I don’t recall mentioning a Bukowski quote like that. I can tell you with all certainty that I might have said math was never my strong suit, because it isn’t. Like, at all.

Dear Goldfish,
how would you get out the front door if you’re snowed in?

Simple. Two words: start digging. Or you could build a makeshift refrigerator like this person did:

Nature’s refrigerator.

Well, that’s just about all we have time for today. Remember, you can submit your own question to Dear Goldfish. Thanks for joining us and be sure to come back for more Dear Goldfish next week! Thank you and good night!

More Dear Goldfish.

2011 Reading List: Second Half

realworld

It’s close enough to the end of the year that I feel confident posting this now (before I forget). The first half of the year can be found here.

The Lower Depths and Other Plays by Maxim Gorky

I have long been a fan of both film adaptations of this play by Jean Renoir and Akira Kurosawa. After reading the play, I love them even more.  I think both of them did a superlative job adapting this play. I’m not usually a big fan of reading plays, mostly because you miss a lot of the guts. Even though the dialog is all there, you’re missing the narrative bit. That said, Gorky is worth a read. Also in this book are the plays Enemies and The Zykovs. Personally, I think the play Enemies is even better than The Lower Depths and I prefer both film versions by Renoir and Kurosawa to the play itself.

Real World by Natsuo Kirino

This was my second book by Kirino. I read Out last year, which I discussed in last year’s book post. Like Out, Real World has a pulp quality to it. It’s not especially intricately written nor is the story overly complex. This story has several different first-person narrators, each with their own chapter. Writing this now, that’s pretty much all I can remember about it. For what it’s worth, Real World wasn’t as enjoyable as Out and that book was barely worth recommending. It’s a decent enough, quick and dirty book. It’s good airport reading for when you want something to occupy you, but don’t want anything too heavy.

The Unknown Soldier by Väinö Linna.

This book, like everything else I’ve ever read by Linna, is great. If you’re interested at all in The Continuation War between the Soviet Union and Finland during WWII, this is your book. Even if you’re not, this makes for excellent reading anyway. It follows a plucky group of Finnish soldiers from training camp through their ultimate defeat. It’s both sad and funny with that typical dry Finnish wit. You come to really love all of the characters and feel everything they feel. Well done. I wish they’d translate more Finnish lit into English.

Martha Washington by Frank Miller

Frank Miller is hit and miss with me. Some of his stuff is great (Sin City), while I’m not so fond of other books (Ronin). Martha Washington tends to falls towards the “great” category, but not necessarily squarely in it. There’s a foreword here that talks about how much Frank Miller and everyone else who worked on this really loves this character. I can see why. Martha Washington is a badass. I read the big, fat compendium of all the Martha Washington stories and it’s definitely worth a read.

Bone Palace Ballet by Charles Bukowski.

Another compilation of Bukowski poetry that I’ve owned for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to reading yet. This one has some highs and lows like the rest of them. Most of it was written when he was older. I tend to prefer his older writings. They contain a sense of perspective and sagacity that is sometimes missing in his early writing. Still, as far as his later poetry books go, this one still falls below Septuagenarian Stew. I’ve linked above to Harper Collins, who is now publishing his works, but my copy is Black Sparrow (Not that I guess that makes any difference, but I’m trying to be as accurate as possible about the books I read… and to gloat. Definitely gloating. na na na na na).

Apathy And Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan

This is funny stuff. A lot of times, when I see “funny” on the cover of a book, I brace myself for disappointment (see all of my previous book posts). It seems that a lot of writers and reviewers don’t have a sense of humor that even remotely resembles mine. Neilan does. Neilan could be my brother or my drinking buddy or my drinking bother. He’s droll, clever and he can write. He even has tangential paragraphs like I do that lead nowhere really except to a laugh. I hope he’s working on another book since this is his first. Read it. It’s short. It’s good. I liked it.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

I’d like to say that this is an interesting first-person reflection of one very uptight butler’s obliviousness to his employers Nazi tendencies and that the housekeeper is throwing her vagina at him to no avail, but interesting doesn’t really apply. I’m more inclined to use adjectives like tedious, lengthy, frustrating, annoying and boring, with minute and sporadic moments of real insight. I get it; I just don’t like it very much. I haven’t seen the movie in a thousand years, but it’s got to be better than this. Maybe? Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps this book just isn’t my cup of tea, but it was a struggle to finish this.

Drinking, Smoking and Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times by various authors

I bought this book, because, well, because look at that cover. Three of my favorite things together at last and some of my favorite authors are in here as well. I started this book a thousand years ago and never finished it. Then I ran out of things on my “to be read” pile, so I started from the beginning again. Now I know why I never finished it. The problem with this book is that it’s all shorts. That’s fine, if the original stories are shorts, but for the most part, they’re not. The editor just ripped out snippets from longer works. For instance, Bukowski wrote a ton of shorts that would be perfect for this book. What did they use instead? An except from the full-length novel, Women. And he’s not the only one who got the clipped treatment either, so when you’re reading something from this book, you feel like you’re not getting the full story. Because of the format, when they’re all noshed up together like this, it reads as clinical and didactic. I really wonder how it’s possible that such titillating subject matter could teeter on boring, but this book managed it. There are some good authors in here that are enjoyable to read, but all told, you’d be better off just reading the source material from whence the excerpts came.

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

I asked for book recommendations from everyone, even you, and one of my friends asked me if I had read this. He told me I should just kill myself now because I hadn’t and “you can’t really consider yourself well read if you haven’t read this book.” As an alternative to suicide, he handed me a copy of it. I dropped whatever I was reading and read it straight away so that I might continue to live. After reading it, I’d have to agree with my homicidal friend that you can’t really consider yourself a comic book geek until you’ve read it. Miller makes Batman interesting and I wasn’t even sure that was possible before.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

And while I was on Batman, the same friend handed this book to me. While Miller is hit or miss, I love the hell out of Alan Moore, and in this book, he makes The Joker super, hella awesome. I’ve never been into superhero comics, which is why I’d never read The Dark Knight. I prefer comics like The Walking Dead or Transmetropolitan. True Batman aficionados will probably yell at me for saying this, but I’ve never found Batman to be all that great. He doesn’t even have any powers. All he has is a fucked up childhood and lots of money. Boo hoo hoo. I had a fucked up childhood, too, but you don’t see me running around in tights (probably because I don’t have his money. Oh, and I’m lazy and not exactly good. I’m more chaotic neutral.). Anyway, I always preferred the villains in the series and The Joker was my favorite. The Killing Joke takes my favorite Batman villain and adds Alan Moore to the mix, producing flawless victory.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If what you just read about the Batman makes you want to angrily proceed directly to the comments section with your pitchfork, remember that I’m a girl, so the fact that I read comics at all is sort of impressive, right? (Maybe? Be gentle.)

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction by Joan Didion

I’m still reading this actually. I’m only 400 some odd pages into this 1,100 plus page book. So far, every word has been worth it. This is a collection of short pieces on various topics, sometimes working into a larger work and other times, standing alone. The subject matter is fascinating to me since most of it takes place in the 60s and early 70s when I was barely a twinkle in my father’s pants. This is the first time I’ve knowingly read Didion. I say knowingly because she seems somehow familiar to me, like an old friend. She’s neurotic in a way that I am not, but I still like her. She has a very conversational style about her as if she’s talking only to you. She’s a smart, interesting lady and I could definitely spend some time with her knocking back drinks and talking.

MORE AUTHOR’S NOTE: Counting this post and the post from the first half of the year, I read 21 books in 2011. The post from 2010 has over 40 books listed. There was that month or two or four this year that I got sucked into video games. Also, I spent last month trying to write for NaNoWriMo. Plus, I have a job this year and I didn’t for half of last year. Still, that’s a lot less book to have read. This drastic reduction in number of books consumed leads me to several possible conclusions:

A) I read way more books last year than I did this year. Almost thirty times as many if my math is correct.
B) I included books in last year’s post that I didn’t actually read last year, but possibly read the year before that.
C) I am forgetting some of the books that I read this year, which is highly probable since it really seems like I am.
D) The dog ate my reading list. Also a possibility.
E) I can’t count.
F) I forgot how to read.

Dear Goldfish Part 4

deargoldfish

Hello, Internet. Welcome back to Dear Goldfish, the series where I answer questions asked by the internet. The following questions have been submitted by people who typed words into search engines.

Dear Goldfish,
rosie the jetsons nap?

Hm. Did Rosie from The Jetsons take naps? I don’t remember since I haven’t seen that show since I was little. I mention The Jetsons a lot on this blog because I’m annoyed that I still don’t have a Jetsons’ car or Rosie, the robotic maid. This is 2011, for fuck’s sake. We should have had Hal 10 years ago, but no. We don’t have any robots that do housework at all. Sorry, I’m off topic. What was the question again? A Rosie nap? What does that mean? Regardless of the logic of your query, yes, I’d like a nap, thanks, and while we’re at it, I’d also like a Rosie.

Dear Goldfish,
whats the first amendment?

Well, my esteemed reader, the first amendment is arguably the most important amendment to the United States Constitution. It reads as follows:


The First Amendment gives us a right to express our opinions, publicly or privately, no matter what they are or how they differ from the majority. It gives us the privilege of worshiping any god we choose, or none at all, without government interference. It allows us the ability to protest anything we don’t like about the government. Without the First Amendment, there would be no Occupy Wall Street movement at all.

And then we have a related question…

Dear Goldfish,
how the first amendment can be improved?

Well, dear audience, I’ve already written up the answer for you in The New And Improved First Amendment and The New And Improved First Amendment Part 2 if you’re curious.

Dear Goldfish,
orangutan lottery?

Is that a lottery where you win an orangutan or a lottery for orangutans? Either way, I don’t think anyone wins in that scenario. Orangutans shouldn’t be gambling.

Dear Goldfish,
yokai action figures?

Interestingly, they do exist. I’m not sure why exactly except that yokai are Japanese and the Japanese seem to have action figures for everything. For example, you could buy this lovely Buttocks Eye:

“1/9th scale fully articulated action figure stands 8 inches tall and plays with all Yokai”

Or this articulated Umbrella Ghost:

Some people clearly have too much time on their hands.

Dear Goldfish,
your laugh makes bad things?

I don’t believe so. If I was laughing at someone in a derisive manner, it might make someone feel badly, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, people need to be pointed and laughed at to make them feel better about themselves. I don’t believe my laugh has the power to “make” anything other than laughter. That would be an interesting concept for a super villain in a comic book or something. The Laugher can cause bad things simply by laughing. Although, I suppose that’s a little too similar to The Joker, so never mind.

Dear Goldfish,
‘anyone missing a shoe”?

Hm. I guess this person still hasn’t found the owner to the missing shoe from the last time I asked in Part Two. I’ll ask again; anyone missing a shoe? If so, please contact that random person on the internet who keeps asking me.

Dear Goldfish,
courage, honor, justice, and a readiness to help the weak?

Wow, that’s a mouthful. That’s a lot to ask of one person. I have found that courage and a readiness to help the weak are more readily found in this world than honor and justice. There are a lot of courageous and philanthropic people in the world. It’s much more difficult to find someone who is honorable and justice is nearly impossible. Still, those are excellent qualities to strive towards. Good luck.

Dear Goldfish,
if only i could know my future?

Alright, people. Enough with the fanciful wishes of knowing your own future. You won’t know your own future until you live it yourself. That said, there are things that you can do to make your future potentially better. You could get a new job, go back to school, learn a new trade, move to another city, etc. All of these things could change your future for the better… maybe. Or they might make it worse. Who knows? The answer is no one knows what the future holds. Just do your best.

Dear Goldfish,
describe a person who make me laugh?

I am not sure what you find funny, so I can’t, in all honesty, describe a person who makes you laugh. Hopefully, if you read this column, I make you laugh from time to time. People who make me laugh are broad and varied in number. And we have another related question…

Dear Goldfish,
your laugh so funny your laugh sounds like?

Thank you for the compliment (I think). My laugh sounds like, well, it sounds like a fairly standard laugh. It’s a pretty good laugh. It has served me well. I described it here.

Dear Goldfish,
“i am not bukowski”?

No, I can say with certainty that you are not, mostly since Charles Bukowski is dead. I am not Bukowski either, but I have been told that I write like him, which I certainly take as the highest of compliments. I hope you don’t find it too shattering to hear that you are not, in fact, Bukowski, valued reader.

Dear Goldfish,
does gold fish bloat go away by itself?

Well, that’s an awfully personal question, don’t you think? There’s got to be someone better qualified to discuss this than me. I’ll give it my best shot. Once a month, women get, well, how do I put this? We, um, well, we experience “female troubles,” which can produce symptoms that include moodiness, irritability, cramps, and yes, bloat. Once our monthly time is over, the symptoms do tend to go away by themselves. If you have any more questions on that, ask your mother or your health teacher in school.

Dear Goldfish,
jesus my ass?

Ahem, I’m not sure that “to Jesus” is a verb. If it is, what is the definition of it?

Jesus |ˈjēˈsəs|
verb ( Jes•uss•ing ; past Jes•uss•ed )
DERIVATIVES
Je•suss•a•ble |ˈjēˈəsəbəl| adjective
Je•suss•er |ˈjēˈskəsər| noun

To make water into wine? To turn fish into loaves of bread? To die on a cross? I’m going to Jesus this water into wine for the dinner party.

If it is a verb, how does one “Jesus your ass” exactly? Kids these days… You’ve stumped me.

Dear Goldfish,
reasons when is killing acceptable?

It’s always acceptable to kill. Oh, excuse me a moment…

I can’t say that? Really? Why not? … Oh.

Thanks for waiting. I’ve just been informed that it’s never acceptable to kill.  Killing is considered a “sin,” whatever that is, and it’s against the law almost everywhere. The only times you’re allowed to kill by law are in self defense and shooting little fuzzy animals, provided that you have a hunting license. That doesn’t seem fair to me. It should always be acceptable to kill.

…Well, it should be! … Alright, alright. Fine. I’ll lie then.

Dear audience, it’s never acceptable to kill. Killing, apparently, is not a respectable pastime. Killing is bad. Don’t kill things, okay? I wrote more detail on this subject here if you’d like more information. Moving on.

Dear Goldfish,
who the leader in graphic design?

I have no idea, but I can tell you it’s not me. That’s all I know really. Other than some coworkers, I couldn’t name even one graphic designer. I don’t go to conventions or trade shows. I don’t have graphic design magazine subscriptions. I don’t pay attention to industry trends. I probably should, but I find that I just don’t care what’s “in” or “trendy” right now in any area, especially graphic design. I do classic work that is never out of style, or so I’d like to believe.

Dear Goldfish,
evolution of the word glossophobia?

I’m not sure why you’re asking me instead of Wikipedia, since I’m just going to quote Wikipedia anyway, but here you have it:

Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking.  The word glossophobia comes from the Greek γλῶσσα glōssa, meaning tongue, and φόβος phobos, fear or dread.

Dear Goldfish,
carl sagan fish?

Carl “Bad MoFo” Sagan

No, cherished reader, Carl Sagan was not a fish. He was a human being. He was actually one of my favorite human beings, even though I didn’t know him personally. He said amazing things like this:

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

RIP, Mr. Sagan.

Dear Goldfish,
what does the fishbowl sticker mean?

I don’t have any stickers, so I’m not sure what they would mean if I did have some. Maybe I should make some up. Feel free to print these out and glue them to your car.

We could go with the classic:

Or just the fish version:

Or some catchy tag line:

Sorry, I’m too lazy to do any real design for these right now. Maybe someday I’ll create some real stickers. The possibilities are endless, but to get back to the question at hand: what does the fishbowl sticker mean? It means absolutely nothing, dear reader. Nothing at all.

Well, that’s just about all we have time for this week. Remember, you can submit your own question to Dear Goldfish. Thanks for joining us and be sure to come back next week for more Dear Goldfish! Thank you and good night!

More Dear Goldfish.

5 Important Books

post-office-cover

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

This was my very first taste of Bukowski and I fell in love right then and there. It started me on a path of obsession, immersion and collection. There are more Bukowski books on my shelves than any other writer. I’ve read them all, some multiple times. I will keep collecting and keep reading until there is no more. Fortunately, Bukowski was quite prolific.

One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich
by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This was my very first Russian book. It is responsible for my total obsession with Stalin era Soviet Union, particularly prison camps. Since I first read this book in high school, I have read countless others on the same subject. This book remains one of the simplest and the best fictional representation of Stalin-era labor camps. It perfectly encapsulates the circumstances that the author experienced. It’s a brilliant little book.

1984 by George Orwell


This spot is actually a tie with Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the same reasons, but I read this book first, so it wins. 1984 and A Clockwork Orange are two of the best and most complete science fiction universes ever created. 1984 is scarily built so much on reality (Stalin-era Soviet reality), that it hardly even seems like science fiction. It’s more science fact spread with a think layer of science fiction icing. Fascinating stuff. While I’m not a huge fan of the science fiction genre, this book expanded my reading scope and now I give it a chance.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Ah, to be me when I first read this again. To be so awestruck and full of wonder. To read words and concepts, half of which I didn’t really even understand yet, that just blew the little boundaries of my tiny primate mind. This book started me on a love affair with cosmology and astrophysics. If only I could do math, I might have actually gone into this field. It fascinates me so. Hawking and Sagan are my heroes.

The Republic by Plato

I read this book at a ridiculously young age and can barely remember the gist of it now. At the time, it was hugely influential on my tiny pea brain. What I took from this book was how people have always been and will always be people; that we’re all essentially the same, no matter what era we live in. Ideas are immortal. It was written by a man nearly 24oo years ago. Think about that for a moment–really let that sink in–twenty-four hundred years ago. That’s older than Jesus. I can hold words in my hand expressing opinions and philosophy that are older by thousands than I will ever be. I have a lovely leather-bound copy of this book. I’m tempted to read it again to see if Plato and I see eye to eye, but part of me doesn’t want to know. It’s enough that his words are immortal and living on my shelf. It’s enough that I see 2400 year old words and aspire to that myself someday. As a writer, there is no better fate than having your words outlive you.

Literary Tattoos

fahrenheit-451-cover

I have tattoos. I don’t have as many as I would like since I’m a poor, starving artist and new tattoos rarely seem to make it to the top of the priority list, but I have some. The tattoos I have are all big and visible, e.g. my arm, my leg and my knuckles. There ain’t no hiding knuckle tattoos.

I got my knuckles tattooed specifically so that I could never be a corporate stooge ever again. In the late 90s, I sold my soul for a corporate job where I pretended to like Dave Mathews Band, Ally McBeal (which I’ve never actually seen), and sort of had to imply that I was Catholic and voted Republican. Gulp. This particular company had just quashed the rule that women weren’t allowed to wear pants in the workplace right before I started in the late 90s. I was told that my dark purple nail polish –my nails were the one place that I still thought I could express myself a little bit –was unprofessional. How can a color be unprofessional? I hated every minute of that job except the paycheck. When I finally left after four years of soul suckage, I swore that I would never take a job again where I could not be myself. As reinforcement, since I don’t trust myself where large paychecks are concerned, I got the knuckle tattoos. It worked.

My tattoos have no significance to anyone else but me. That’s the way it should be. Do I love a book or an author enough to get them tattooed on me forever? Probably not. I love the hell out of Charles Bukowski, but I wouldn’t get a book jacket or a portrait of him tattooed on me. I might do an interpretation of something relating to something he wrote, but I don’t think I would ever get a straight-up literary tattoo. Just as I don’t put bumper stickers on my car because I don’t like the concept of people judging me based on them, I wouldn’t get a tattoo that meant anything to anyone but me.

I have friends who have literary tattoos. One of my friends has the guy from the cover of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 tattooed on him. It’s the same basic outline, but he has customized it to him. Being an artist, I’m not really a big fan of using someone else’s art on my body (other than the tattoo artist’s, of course). The huge tattoo I have on my leg was drawn by me and refined into tattoo form by the tattoo artist. It is my favorite tattoo because there’s a lot of me in it. I can’t imagine getting something tattooed on me that didn’t have a bit of me. Then again, not everyone is an artist.

Tattoos are, or at least they should be, very personal. If a book means enough to you to get it tattooed on you permanently, I say go for it. Do what you like. Just try to refrain from getting any Ayn Rand tattoos, please.