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May 02, 2005

Countering that book meme

While I was at the Mesa Refuge, the lovely and talented Girl Scientist (aka Hedwig the Owl) tapped me for the infernal Fahrenheit 451 Book Meme. As did the equally but differently lovely and equally but differently talented Paperwight.

The thing is, I have so been there and so done so that. So.

I see a vicious, evil future here, folks. Each new participant in this thing sends out a few invitations, and pretty soon - can you say "exponentially"? I knew you could - there are more book meme shoulder taps flying around than there are bloggers. And while it would be nice to have my inbox overwhelmed by something other than Nigerian Viagra pr0n refinancing offers, I still think this will definitely cause the Death of The Internet.

And while that would probably be a good thing, it's nowhere near certain enough for me, so I'm going to make a bad situation even worse by lighting a metaphorical backfire. The increasing prevalence of this meme creates what ecologists would call "new niches," and like any good ecologist would do, I've decided to fill those niches with a chimera of my own creation: a countermeme, parasitic on the old meme, that is infectious and spreads through the very channels that propagated its host.

Here's how it works. I'll start it out by tapping the shoulders of those who tapped me for the orignial book meme. Their job is to answer the question and then tap the people who tapped them for the original meme, and so forth. (No fair sending it to someone who didn't tap you.)

The advantage of this countermeme is that once it gets going, it's likely that each person will get tapped by two or three others, as it follows the original meme upstream. This thus speeds the draining of our vital email fluids and hastens the Death of The Internet.

To make it simple, there is only one question. And as the original meme was essentially positive - books that the participant liked - a countermeme must need be essentially negative. That question?

Which book, out of the millions ever published, do you most wish never to read again?

Here's my answer: gosh, that's a hard one. There are so many choices... anything by Ann Coulter or Ayn Rand, anything from the Intelligent Design canon, Dahlgren by Chip Delany (whose writing I love, but I finished that one under the promise to myself that I wouldn't have to read it ever again, plus I was on a Greyhound Bus on I-80 in Nebraska)...

But I'm gonna go with Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything. Talk about your narcissistic exercises. Here's the book, summed up:

1) Scientists say these things.
2) Some of these things support my world view.
3) Others do not, and are therefore wrong.
4) Therefore, science supports my worldview.

... all wrapped up in that familiar condescending smarm that Wilber does so well. Ugh.

So that's mine. Now let's get this rolling. I'm tapping the lovely and talented Girl Scientist, the equally but differently lovely and equally but differently talented Paperwight, and the surpassingly lovely and consummately talented Pica,all of whom tapped me for the original Fahrenheit 451 book meme. They must answer and tap the people who tapped them for the first meme, and so forth. If and when this reaches the originator of the meme, she must send it to Al Gore and declare victory. The Supreme Court will then set aside that victory by a 5-4 vote.

A note to participants: if you get stuck and honestly can't think of a book you wouldn't re-read, just choose A Separate Peace by John Knowles and keep the chain going.

Posted by Chris Clarke at May 2, 2005 11:24 AM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Negative Book Meme
Excerpt: But, of everything? I would have to pick the collective Wheel of Time series. The first couple books have some redeeming value, but after that, it was just a frustrating exercise in bloviating soap-opera misogyny, and one on which I gave up several b...
Weblog: Paperwight's Fair Shot
Tracked: May 4, 2005 07:56 AM
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Okay, coming up tonight.

Posted by: Pica at May 2, 2005 01:25 PM
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Wilbur once touted the wisdom of Franklin Jones, aka Bubba Free John, later Da Free John, later still Love-Ananda, and now (or the last I heard) Adi Da Love-Ananda Samraj, the Ruchira Avatar.
Wilbur later, however, recanted, which proves that at least on one occasion he actually realized that he (Wilbur, not to mention Franklin Jones) could be mistaken.

Posted by: Jim McCulloch at May 2, 2005 03:01 PM
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Maybe you could displode the interweb easier with something like a "Top three memes you'd want with you on a desert island" meme or something.
Or a "what kind of meme are you" quiz.

Posted by: craig at May 2, 2005 05:13 PM
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Am I the only person to get a chuckle from this; "infernal Fahrenheit 451 Book Meme"? Tell me that this was intentional so my worshipfulness (is that a word? well, it is now!) of you can increase, Chris.


Posted by: GrrlScientist at May 2, 2005 05:55 PM
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I did intend that little bad pun, yes. But not at first.

worshipfulness - Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

Worshipful \Wor"ship*ful\, a.
Entitled to worship, reverence, or high respect; claiming
respect; worthy of honor; -- often used as a term of respect,
sometimes ironically. "This is worshipful society." --Shak.
[1913 Webster]

[She is] so dear and worshipful. --Chaucer.
[1913 Webster] -- Wor"ship*ful*ly, adv. --
Wor"ship*ful*ness, n.
[1913 Webster]

Seems to mean, in the context in which you used it, that you are worthy of worship by me. Which is certainly true enough, and remind me to run my pet theory on the evolution of avian flight by you. Neither cursorial nor arboreal.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at May 2, 2005 06:12 PM
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not at first?
Does that mean you decided to intend it after she pointed it out to you?

Posted by: craig at May 2, 2005 06:40 PM
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That would be funnier.

But what I meant was that when I fiirst callled it the Infernal Book Meme, back last month, I wasn't thinking of literal fire. But this morning, I said hey, that's funny... I'll keep it that way.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at May 2, 2005 07:02 PM
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I love the idea of passing along the book I most wish I had never read. That dubious distinction must go to "The Coldest Winter Ever" by Sister Souljah. When the author makes herself a character in her fiction it is a truely a narcissistic exercise. Nuff said.

Bring on the death of the internet I say.

Posted by: charyn at May 3, 2005 12:49 PM
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I got tagged to the book meme, too. I'm so worried about offending anyone I'm going to do it.
Hell, I got tagged to do the eye meme. I didn't pass it on.

Couldn't agree with you more on "A Separate Peace." We had to read it in 7th or 8th grade (all boys prep day school; I guess they thought we would "relate" to it. It was, without exception, universally loathed. At the end of school I remember looking out our classroom window into the air-shaft. At the bottom of it lay at least 20 copies of "A Separate Peace." Mine
After Ayn Rand's "Anthem" I've never been able to stomach another of her books. I have a copy of "Dhalgren" purchased in '75 or '76 (whenever it was published); still haven't gotten to it. "Nova" is one of the best reads from the 70s.

I bypassed "The DaVinci Code" and tried "Digital Fortress" and couldn't get beyond 90 or so pages. Just bloody awful.

Posted by: The CultureGhost at May 3, 2005 04:36 PM
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I owe one very useful concept to A Separate Peace -- the distinction between "solemn" and "serious." Other that that... you know how C-Rations and K-Rations and MREs are to soldiers in the field? That's how some books are to students, and that was one of those, for me. You chew through them and go on to the next thing and don't demand anything so rarefied as flavor from them.

Call me a pervert, but I liked Dahlgren and have reread it a couple of times.

I read the first page of Danielle Steele's Palominowhile standing in the aisle at Costco, and got some funny looks because I broke into helpless laughter halfway through it. I'm ambivalent about having read it the first time -- she got paid lots of money for it, which makes me want to slit my wrists lengthwise. But goddamn it was funny.

A classmate mailed me a copy of... was it Atlas Shrugged? Yeah. -- the summer between junior and senior years of college. And then Anthem, which even then made me giggle. I was more an omnivore than a critical reader then, but I had a feeling that a book in which you could spot the Good Guys and the Villains by their names -- the Good Guys sounded like dropping a handful of cutlery; the Villains like dropping a double handful of pudding -- was probably not good.

My classmate copped to sending the books , about six months later, and I gave her a Most Dreadful Scowl.

Posted by: Ron Sullivan at May 4, 2005 07:49 AM
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