Saturday, May 7

Memette 1

As host of this webpage, I have been invited by Steve, of Steve Bates, the Yellow Doggerel Democrat, to compose a "book meme." Steve describes the book meme as follows.
The "book meme" comprises a number of questions about the books in your life. The meme is self-perpetuating: you answer the questions for your readers, then tap three other bloggers whose answers you believe would be interesting. For your convenience, here are the questions.

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
3. The last book you bought is?
4. What are you currently reading?
5. Five books you would take to a deserted island:
6. Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Although I do not feel that I am particularly well suited to compose a book meme, for the simple reason that, of late, I have been reading very little and certainly very few books, I will do my best to hurry the baton to a trio of other bloggers.

Parenthetically, I have to admit that I do not know even how to pronounce the word "meme," which looks like a cognate for the French word meaning "same." Nor do I know the word's origin or precise sense. I have nonetheless taken the liberty of likening it to my name, for the title of this post, by attaching the "feminine" or "diminutive" suffix to it. The reader is thereby invited to hear a tone of modesty in the self-description -- not feminine modesty, but the modesty of small sizes and small enterprises.

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

I don't recall exactly which books were memorized at the end of Bradbury's novel, but I do recall feeling terribly frustrated with the presumptions that lie behind the scene in which certain human figures heroically adopt the memorization of a given literary work to the point of having their identity swallowed up entirely by the work. These figures of resistance "become" the work they memorize. The idea that books and therefore human culture might be preserved not only by strict memorization in this way, but by a state of "being" or "oneness," that is, self-identification with a given work (whose contours are thereby assumed to be clearly defined or embodied), seems to me the most radically reactionary and impoverished way of confronting the despotic powers of a culture-phobic regime. It amounts to adopting the conservative and unquestioned view of culture as a static product. If all these culture zombies can do is endlessly repeat their chosen work, then culture has died by other means than by fire. It has, in a sense, been frozen -- but only in one sense, because the metaphor of "freezing" or "ice" is perfectly problematic.

I suppose the idea that Bradbury's characters put their faith in is that, one day, the frozen culture might be thawed and reawakened by others; however, the notion that one might transport a "book," where this is assumed to constitute a self-defined entity and thus one whose meaning can be carried about like sacks of flour from one time period to another, without concern for changing contexts and readers, is an insult to the ideas and language that any book worthy of its own heritage might contain. So, in short, my answer is that I wouldn't want to "be" any book. The question is poorly formed, and Bradbury is wholly to blame for that, I'm sure.

(to be continued...)