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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the books category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

The Baton

The lengthy ramblings that follow are the fault of Rob Annable, who passed me ‘the baton’. The baton used to be a less-irritating-than-usual weblog quiz meme all about music, but, somewhere along the way, it morphed into being all about books.

Books Owned

I think I have somewhere around 800 books, but this depends on whether the three or four large boxes in my cupboard marked ‘Books’ actually contain books. Either way, that’s not very many, and I’m constantly worried that I don’t read enough.

In the six months when I was without a television, I reverted to being the voracious reader I used to be as a little child, and got through a good three or four books a week, several, funnily enough, picked up after reading about them on the weblog of Peter Lindberg, who passed the baton to Rob. But since I bought a telly, I’m back to slumping in front of it, flicking through a magazine (Heat or The Wire) and idly wondering whether Craig is actually going to rape Anthony on Big Brother.

Since folk who’ve been passed the baton in the past have detailed their rigorous shelving systems, I’ll reveal mine: absolute chaos. When I did a quick count of the shelves in the hall to estimate how many books I have, the first four books I was faced with were A History Of British Socialism by Max Beer, The Overcoat And Other Short Stories by Nikolai Gogol, Ricki! by Robert Waldron (yep, that’s a biography of Rikki Lake!) and Oryx And Crake by Margaret Atwood. Which, I suppose, is fairly representative of my reading habits.

Last Book Bought

Erm, I’m not really sure. From the pile by my bed, it looks like it was either Dot In The Universe by Lucy Ellmann (a slightly histrionic but very funny novel about a series of reincarnations disguised by a cover that makes it look like shit chick-lit) or The Affluent Society by J.K. Galbraith, which is one of a fairly large number of books I own in order to better understand economics, but never get around to reading.

Last Book I Read

Again, I’m not sure, becuase I have a habit of reading at least two books at the same time. So it was either The Enchantment Of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt (which like all her books starts well but ends, if not quite poorly, then less well) or Jonathon Coe’s excellent biography of B.S. Johnson, The Fiery Elephant. Books I’m currently reading include:

  1. The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson - a lovely surprise gift that is so unbelievably fucking good I’m reading one of it’s 27 unbound sections each day to make it last as long as possible.

  2. The Independent Group: Modernism and mass culture in Britain, 1945-59 by Anne Massey - I’ve read this before, but picked it up to check some fact or other and got stuck in it again.

  3. The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879-1921 by Isaac Deutscher - this one will take me absolutely ages (it’s rather dry) and then I’ve got two more 500-page volumes of Deutscher’s Trot-fest to go. Reading Martin Amis’ wonderful Korba The Dread in Budapest has sparked off a bit of a communist history and biography jag.

Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me

Funnily enough, two of the five I would’ve picked are mentioned in Rob’s baton post, but I’ll leave them in.

  1. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by the late Douglas Adams would probably make it onto a list like this drawn up by anyone of, roughly speaking, my generation. I read it when I was very little and loved it, and I’ve read the series more times than I should’ve since then. The radio series is also on my iPod at all times, for falling to sleep to when I don’t have a radio to hand.

  2. The Secret History by Donna Tart is, frankly, a load of hackish crap, but it’s another one I’ve read far too many times, because it makes me nostalgic for the time I first read it, when it was happily and excitedly passed around among friends, and we all thought we were very clever and glamorous, just like the pretentious little tits that make up the cast of characters.

  3. The Waste Land - A Facsimile & Transcript of the Original Drafts Including The Annotations of Ezra Pound is a book I only got my hands on last year, having first borrowed it from a teacher when I was in the sixth form. The Waste Land is, I believe, the best poem in the English language, and one that points you in the direction of the highest of highlights in the history of literature, English or otherwise. This edition lets you see it being written, live, so to speak.

  4. Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Andrew Hurley - a bit of a cheat picking an anthology, I suppose, but I love this book so much I keep all my favourite photographs of my friends and family inside it’s covers (sentimentalist that I am!). I don’t know where to start explaining why I like Borges, so I’ll be vague and just say that when I first read him, I knew that he was my writer, the one against whom all others are judged. Something like that, anyway.

  5. The Fermata by Nicholson Baker - I could’ve picked anything by Baker to go here, really, but since this is the first book of his I read it just pipped The Mezzanine or Double Fold. Like Borges, I just plain love the way Baker writes: if I could write novels, they would be like his. (This is the reason why my friend Hannah interrupts me when I say, ‘Ooh, I’m reading this great book…’ to mock me with, ‘…yeah, yeah. It’s about a small pile of salt dreaming about quantuum mechanics, isn’t it?’)

Two honourable mentions that might have made the above list if I’d been writing it on another day: something or other by Paul Auster and Edward II by Christopher Marlowe.

I’m passing this on to…

Glasgow’s Squarespace-powered weblogging crew, comprising Donna, Genna, Mike D., plus Pat. I think I’m meant to do five, but I don’t know any more folk with weblogs, so if anyone wants to take up the baton and post their answers here, let me know.

Update 10/08/05: Mike has taken up the baton. I love the ordering of books into categories like spiritual hippy druggy crap and zeitgeisty generation x-ables!

Posted at 6pm on 01/08/05 by Jack Mottram to the books category.
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  1. good to hear of your borges love, have just started his labyrinths collection of stories. and thanks very much for the baton pass, i’m going to struggle to narrow my favourites to five but look forward to trying.

    Posted by veryape at 7pm on 01.08.05

  2. A great piece of writing there Jack! All ways good to read other people’s musings and lists. Hopefully you’ve inspired me to finish my half read pile of books rather than to spend hours considering whether Craig is probably straight and actually fancies Kinga (but there are only 2 weeks left!)

    Posted by Donny at 9am on 02.08.05

  3. Aha! A fellow HItch Hiker’s nut! I should have known. Nice entry, this meme has been fun.

    Posted by Rob at 11pm on 04.08.05

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