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In December, people start compiling lists. I don't quite know why, as there's a whole month left, but they do. Most of them are complete and utter wank, as is witnessed by Laura Miller's top ten at Salon.com. Salon and Miller have always been good for copious amount of wank, and this year you can witness profound statements like, "Most fiction about petty criminals, lowlifes, drug users and sexual deviants is so pleased with itself for depicting such people that it never gets around to saying anything interesting about them." In the following sentence, Miller proceeds to linger over the details of Stephen Elliott's lead character in Happy Baby, with the "cigarette burns on his hands courtesy of a sadomasochistic relationship with a married woman," and his fantasy of "killing an ex-girlfriend's coddled infant son out of sheer envy," that you're left wondering if that opening statement isn't what she likes about those novels, or if she's just as bored with literature as she sounds in the two net pages she has compiled.

Still, what can you expect from Salon? I've got my hand down my pants as I type this to try and sound just like them, but all I can think of is "that difference between genre crime fiction and literary fiction is that the first kind of book is usually concerned with what happens to the people who commit crimes while the second cares more about the people they hurt." Such insightful statements about literature have just robbed me of the ability to think of anything to do with a bit of the old stab and burn, stab and burn to arouse me, so I'll just have to resume typing with two hands.

Maybe I'm just feeling cynical. Post work crash down nastiness. Maybe it's Xmas. Maybe it's just because lists piss me off, even as I begin compiling one in my head, and get frustrated by the fact that I can't remember what I read this year. I sure as hell know it wasn't anything on the Salon list, though.

To continue with this trend of lists I have no respect for, the weekend saw the ABC broadcast of the Top Ten Favourite Books in Australia

Now, I sure as hell don't know who they got to fill in this list, but fuck... am I out of touch with Australian reading habits or what? It's of no real surprise that Lord of the Rings is at number one. (Despite the fact that it sells as three books, blah blah--i mean, come on, the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix don't get listed as the series, but rather one volume gets listed. So why is Tolkien's big snooze fest exempt? Surely people have a favourite volume... But, ah, that's right: it's all meant to be one long pointless journey across the land to the mountain where Frodo and Sam don't fuck. The book and movie promised me homosexual awakening and delight and it fucking failed damn you to hell... Sorry. It's my thing. I'll move on.*)

But the list, it just showed me as out of touch. There was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice clocking in at number two, which, you know, is much higher than I thought it'd rate. Now, I'm aware many fine people like Austen's books, and this, but I swear to god, I read Emma and if I had to sit through one more cup of tea and Mr. Knightly being rather like a gentleman, I would've gone and burnt something. Not a book, I assure you, but something. Myself, probably, just to keep me awake, because I also find Austen's prose to be akin to sleeping pills and I just begin to get all tired and sleepy when the first tea set is trampled out.**

Following Austen was the Bible, which, amusingly enough, is listed amongst ten books of fiction, and written by various contributers. Who says there's no market for anthologies? Obviously, the future of small press anthologies needs a marketing system similar to the Church (in its various incarnations). That means, naturally, book tours in third world countries where food will be given only after stories are read. Sure, it might take fifty, sixty years to get a number three spot in this list, but it'll be time well spent.

Why is it no one ever thought of that before? God fucking damn, if I keep going like this, I'm going to revolutionise the small press industry.

Anyhow, I've not read the Bible. Why? Because I couldn't find a version that said, "Everyone is equal, except fundamentalists."

Following that, there's Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird... which, er, I think I've a copy of round here somewhere. I bought it the first time I saw a list like this, and was motivated in a positive way to see what my fellow Australians were enjoying in books. That was before I realised that lists like this don't really serve much of a point, except to suggest that marketing is a real fine tool.****

At number five, we had Tim Winton's Cloudstreet. Can someone explain Winton's attraction to me? No, seriously, I don't get it.

After this, we begin the long march of advertising with J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The kid vote of Australia, I guess, able to only remember the latest volume, which most of them are still reading and using to beat their brothers and sisters with. Again, I don't get the Harry Potter thing, since there's no orgies between Harry, Ron, and the token girl character, and that's about the only thing that'd make it vaguely interesting to me. Selling sex to kids! That'd make it revolutionary. They could even start with heterosexual fucking, then move to bisexual threesome fucking, and then, in the end of the series, a huge homosexual fuckfest run a thousand pages with Harry and Ron learning all about themselves.*

This post is really going on and on, isn't it?

Well, I'm not going to stop. There's more demands for sex to be had.

But not, you know, in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. I actually like Nineteen Eighty Four, but is it cynical of me to suggest that most people voted for it because they think it's about Big Brother and not about Communism? Would I be off?

You know what I always have wondered? If the reality show, Big Brother, actually has an impact of Orwell's sales. I mean, do people sit there and think, "Oh my fucking god, they're talking about the various bland sexual exploits again--fucking A! This must be what the book is about! Lets find an all night Dymocks and get a copy!"

Well, maybe not.

After that is The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You know, since Adams died, there have been a whole heap of reissues of the book, and, well, there's a movie, don'tchaknow... could it be that the book is here due to the great large machine known as marketing? It's certainly not because the book is large. It's the only science fiction/fantasy novel listed that you can't kill children with, so surely that's a black mark against its name for total supremecy?

The following book, The Da Vinci Code is, however, here because of marketing.

There's no denying that those cheap paperback editions of Brown's book have really been snapped up with people. Plus, there have been those beautiful people who are paid to go around and talk to you about it in bars. Why, just last week,  was out, and a cute girl came up to me, and because I'm so horribly superficial, I kept talking to her... and lord, when we got back to her place, her body was tattooed in Dan Brown's words and every time we began to get intimate, I would find myself caught up in some odd conspiracy. I'm trying to see her again so I can see how it ended, because she wouldn't take her socks off. She said it was to keep the suspense.

There are two books left. Yes, the list was ten, but equal with The Da Vinci Code was Catch 22, which I never much got into. I don't reckon I've got anything to top that Dan Brown girl in socks joke, so we'll just leave it at that, and say that the final book, a Fortunate Life by A. B. Facey was one I didn't even know existed.

Which just really goes to show that the reading public of Australia and I have nothing in common. Bloody Brilliant. And if you think this entry went on just a little bit too fucking much, you should be glad I didn't go through the entire 100 Books, which listed that literary disease, Matthew Reilly.




* But come on, how much better would the book been if Sam and Frodo got it on at the end?

"Oh, Mr. Frodo, I traveled to Mt Doom for you."

"Oh, Sam, you mean so much."

"Mr. Frodo, sir, would it be inappropriate for me..."

"No, Sam. No."


** This would be a fine time for me to point out that I'm not actually have a real critique of any of the books on the list. I don't want comments about how I don't understand Austen. I do want comments on how Sam and Frodo desperately needed to fuck, and that maybe Austen's characters would've done better with a few pornographic tapes and a bottle of tequila, but this isn't meant to be insightful. This is just saying how I'm out of touch with the top ten books. Is there a level of ability in Austen's book? Sure. Did I enjoy Emma? the answer's kind of obvious, really.***

*** Yeah, I have really gotten into footnoting. What of it?

**** See The Da Vinci Code at number nine.

***** "Oh, Harry, I never thought we'd defeat Voldemort. I'm so glad we survived, though."

"Oh, Ron, so I am. You mean so much."

"Harry, would it be inappropriate for me..."

"No, Ron. No

Comments

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ashamel
Dec. 7th, 2004 03:41 am (UTC)
but is it cynical of me to suggest that most people voted for it because they think it's about Big Brother and not about Communism? Would I be off?

I find it difficult to imagine a thought process by which this would happen (though I could say the same about the show as well).

I'd classify 1984 as the best of their 'top ten', but whether that means it's only there by accident is probably not for me to say.

David C
(Who has made a list of the book he's read this year.)
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 03:49 am (UTC)
opps. actually, what i meant, was that people think, in the book, it's about big brother and being watched, not the tv show.
joey_j0jo
Dec. 7th, 2004 03:51 am (UTC)
Draco, not Ron. Draco.

And I quite liked the Da Vinci Code, more then any of Jane Austen's books, or Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (and the film was terribly.)
Harry Potter...well, the fanfiction is much more interesting so to say, then the books. And the whole "heterosexual fucking, then move to bisexual threesome fucking, and then, in the end of the series, a huge homosexual fuckfest run " does happen. A lot. =)
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 04:00 am (UTC)
infect me not with your slashtastic ways! heheh.
burntcopper
Dec. 7th, 2004 12:33 pm (UTC)
You'd think after knowing me for a good six years you'd be infected by now...
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 12:58 pm (UTC)
you know, as i was writing the sam and frodo and harry and ron bits, i thought to myself, 'there was a time when none of this stuff ever occured to me. i was innocent and sweet and oh so nice to take to parties.'

then i realised it was all your fault.
joey_j0jo
Dec. 7th, 2004 05:47 pm (UTC)
*stares* "innocent and sweet and oh so nice to take to parties" ? I'm scared.
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 07:21 pm (UTC)
it's true, and don't you listen to what anyone else says about it.
mariness
Dec. 7th, 2004 08:39 am (UTC)
You know, I honestly spent all of my life not thinking a single homosexual thought about Frodo and Sam and all of the other hobbits.

Not one.

I went through two movies without thinking a single homosexual thought about Frodo and Sam and hobbits.

I went through most of the third movie, until Sam started sniffling about Rosie, and Frodo looked at him, and then I knew it: Sam might not be gay, but Frodo is.

My innocence is lost, I tell you, lost. I blame New Zealand.

benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 01:02 pm (UTC)
come on, sam wants it nearly as much as frodo. maybe more. why else would he go to mt doom? i mean, would you take the ring of attracting monsters and pain all the way up mt doom for a 'friend'? i got to be say, i probably wouldn't take it for a girlfriend, if she asked.

it'd be, 'honey, i love you, but that's going a bit out of the boundaries here.'

'but sam did it for frodo.'

'you can't judge anything in our relationship by their standard. i keep telling you that.'
mariness
Dec. 7th, 2004 03:25 pm (UTC)
Hey, if I had a shot at Eowyn at the end of the film, I might just go up Mount Doom for that.

Not that Sam exactly had a shot at her, but maybe he thought he did. Or maybe he was just high on all that lembas bread.

Anyway, it's in the eyes, amigo, the eyes. Look at Frodo, and then look at Sam. Frodo, yeah, he wants it. Sam, he wants food.

(only in the films, only in the films.)
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC)
it's there in the book. you can see it.

but they both want each other in the film. look at the symbolism of the exploding mountain and the oozing fiery lava all round them... and then a white figure coming through the sky towards them. the imagery lends itself to one thing only.
joey_j0jo
Dec. 8th, 2004 12:44 am (UTC)
Darkness creeps Eowyn, as she realises she is drenched in her own warm blood.

In her last moments, she thinks "Arragron, Arragon, where art thou Arragon?" And as she closes her eyes, taking her last breath, she hears the ringing of Sam's laughter. Or is it Arwen's?

*sigh* That wasn't very good was it? Never mind. As long as Eowyn dies.
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 01:06 pm (UTC)
if i did the bottom ninety, it'd be one long rant against matthew reilly. there's no one else in australian literature that's quite up there for success and sheer lack of ability in any form whatsoever.

as a party trick, i go and read bits from one of his books for laughs. it's usually the bit where the man is swimming in artic water staring at the sub, or where he shoots the missle into the air... and it later comes down and saves him by blowing shit up.

and this doesn't even cover the sheer lack of ability he has with prose.
ashamel
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:33 pm (UTC)
Don't use all your ire too early. Traci Harding is also there.
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:49 pm (UTC)
i know. my god. chalk that up to cheap copies and big w, i guess.
jack_ryder
Dec. 7th, 2004 11:54 am (UTC)
Albert Facey's "A Fortunate Life" is non-fiction (it's an autobiography.)

And cogitate on how many of the books have been adapted or are about to be adapted to the screen.

And how one of the books is already a novelisation from another medium.

murasaki_1966 and I decided that if the list was based on works listed by people who genuinely loved books, it would be a lot more diverse.

And Chris Taylor is an attention seeking tool.

That is all.
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
i don't know. i mean, maybe it'd be more diverse, but i've seen this form of list before, and lord of the rings and the bible are always pretty close to the top, so i suspect it wouldn't be. of course, i have a bit of a low opinion of people, so...
ashamel
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:49 pm (UTC)
it would be a lot more diverse

It would, but I still thought it was a pretty interesting list as it was. I don't really expect the 'general public' to be on the cutting edge of style, but neither was the selection entirely bleak.
burntcopper
Dec. 7th, 2004 12:31 pm (UTC)
I shall leave you with the knowledge that that scene between Frodo and Sam exists thousands of times over on teh web, and a small proportion are readable, and most of those? written in a less boring way than Tolkein.
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 01:10 pm (UTC)
yeah, i kinda knew it'd been written. suspected, i did. possibly because my innocence was robbed by you some time in the late ninties...
burntcopper
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:26 pm (UTC)
Says he who was an original part of the kidnapping duo...
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 02:50 pm (UTC)
and then there was the time i read this story about gunn and wes from angel...
switchknitter
Dec. 7th, 2004 06:02 pm (UTC)
Ack! Getting mental pictures of hobbit and Harry Potter slash! Bad! Bad! Damn you, Ben Peek!
benpeek
Dec. 7th, 2004 07:22 pm (UTC)
you're married now. you need this stuff to keep the romance ;)
ceret
Dec. 10th, 2004 12:00 am (UTC)
There's no denying that those cheap paperback editions of Brown's book have really been snapped up with people. Plus, there have been those beautiful people who are paid to go around and talk to you about it in bars. Why, just last week, was out, and a cute girl came up to me, and because I'm so horribly superficial, I kept talking to her... and lord, when we got back to her place, her body was tattooed in Dan Brown's words and every time we began to get intimate, I would find myself caught up in some odd conspiracy. I'm trying to see her again so I can see how it ended, because she wouldn't take her socks off. She said it was to keep the suspense.

Ha. A finer LJ rant I have seldom read, Mister Peek.

you should be glad I didn't go through the entire 100 Books, which listed that literary disease, Matthew Reilly.

Amen. I hear you brother.

One of my students this semester did a presentation on the coded patterns of onomatopoeia in Reilly's books, adding up the page numbers of all those 'Bams' and 'Kabooms' and coming to a Dan Brownesque conclusion that Reilley was, in fact, working for the devil. A sound argument, backed up by facts, and a solid 7 if ever I saw one.

When I read that list in the Age I realised I'm soundly wasting my time writing lit fic.




benpeek
Dec. 10th, 2004 02:32 am (UTC)
>When I read that list in the Age I realised I'm soundly wasting my time writing lit fic.<

i just realised i was wasting my time writing. but it's a good thing i've always been motivated by that sort of thing.

that reilly thing sounds good, though. but i'm not sure about the devil--i mean, isn't reilly's latest book called 'speed race car' or some really idiotic thing?

the devil just has more class.
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