Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

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Don't Look for Anything Resembling Intelligence in this List

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
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