A Unit of Imitation

After reading BlogLily’s recent post and looking around and seeing versions of this meme thing otherwise known as the viral book questionnaire, I just had to do it too.  Meme being “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation,” it certainly qualifies as the latter.

I liked BlogLily’s variation of setting up a scenario to answer the ubiquitous questions, and to have some fun at the same time.

I’d like to keep the radio interviewer or even a television interviewer of some kind with an interest in books. And it takes place a few decades ago. I have to come up with some reason for media interest in the interviewee.

Let’s say the interviewee is a 12-year-old boy, sort of like me, and sort of not. He’s come to the attention of the interviewer after being rescued from a dry well he fell in while trying to learn how to juggle.

While in the well waiting to be rescued he sang to console himself an impromptu song lyric which due to the spotlight of the media was taken up by a fledgling rock band, The Other Virtual War Dogs, who made it an immediate hit. After he was rescued, a scandal broke out about whether he was illegitimate or not, and he wrote a short, surprisingly literate, letter to Harper’s magazine decrying the media. And so, he became fit to be interviewed.

The boy sits before the interviewer, very uncomfortable in stiff new brown corduroy pants and a paisley shirt that his mother insisted he wear. (His mother really gets on his nerves.) 

One book that changed your life, the interviewer asks.

The Incredible Journey. It’s a story about pets struggling to survive in northern Canada. It made me understand the depth of animals.” (The boy won’t mention that this book made him cry out of deep feeling. It was a little scary and not very manly. But he understood for the first time the emotional power of words.)

One book that you’ve read more than once.

“The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson.  Aliens decide to conquer Earth during the middle ages. But they run into these medieval knights who are experts at hand-to-hand fighting while the high-tech aliens aren’t.  So the knights capture their spaceship and take off for the stars. The leader of the knights thinks they’ve been destined to lead a crusade to the Holy Land with this starship and they end up lost in space fighting off all the aliens who are really mad by this time.”

One book you’d want on a desert island.

“Encyclopedia Brittanica, Eleventh Edition.” He looks around, hesitant. “I know there are quite a few volumes, but I like to read encyclopedias and my Dad gave it to me. He told me I could restart Western Civilization with it.”

One book that made you laugh.

“A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” The boy laughs. “There’s a part in there when Merlin makes a ‘veil of invisibility’ that doesn’t exist. When the veil is on, people pretend they can’t see the wearer, even though he is in plain view. That’s funny.” (He refrains from telling the interviewer that this is exactly how the adult world seems to him.)

One book that made you cry.

“No books make me cry.”

One book that you wish had been written.

“A book about my Dad fighting in the Pacific against the Japanese in World War II. We have these neat swords from the war we use to clear blackberries.”

One book that you wish had never been written.

“Well, I wish they didn’t force us to read William Faulkner’s Light in August in school. I really hate that book.”

One book you’re currently reading.

“Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. A retarded guy gets a special treatment that makes him at first smart and then a genius. But then the treatment starts to fail. The story shows him slowly returning to his original retardedness. It’s very sad.”

One book you’ve been meaning to read.

“Dark Universe, by Daniel Galouye. I was told it’s about humans living in total darkness, like at the bottom of a well, living on plants that use heat instead of light to grow. And the cover says they make light into God, since they’ve never seen it. Cool.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: Science Fiction, Writing

7 Comments on “A Unit of Imitation”

  1. bloglily Says:

    Hi Mike, I really like hearing what it was like for the fencer who was a twelve year old boy. (Or the fictional boy of your story.) Have you ever considered writing a science fiction book for the boy you were? It might be fun to do. I like your answers. I’d forgotten about a Connecticut Yankee. That might be fun to read again. And the encyclopedia is brilliant. I loved our encyclopedias. Best, BL

  2. qazse Says:

    Drats, Bloglily always beats me to the comment. (I think she is cloned. That is just between you and me fencer.)

    You put this together nicely. The set up was imaginative as always. I especially connected with the book you/he would like to see written. My father was in the European theatre. He only spoke briefly about it and that was about the good times : eg. diverting shipments of French wine for the Generals to the troops (he drove truck and jeep – Omar Bradley for a while). He is long gone (1981) and for years I would look for his young face in the the WWII documentaries. Still do from time to time.

    I like Lily’s suggestion.

    I envisioned the inerviewer as Dick Cavett

    Happy trails fencer and check the lower forty…

  3. bloglily Says:

    I heard that Q! I thought YOU were my clone. xxoo, BL

  4. secretmojo Says:

    Every time I read one of your posts, I can’t wait for the next one. Beautifully done.

  5. fencer Says:

    Hi bloglily,

    I have been working on a character for the science fiction story I have in mind, but he’s a little older than 12… But that age is an important one. I’ll have to see if it works for me. Thanks for your encouragement! And I am an advocate for the 11th Edition, Encyclopedia Brittanica. An incredible work.

    Hi qazse,

    Yes, there are many stories of our fathers that deserve to be told from the Second World War. It had such an indelible impact on their lives.

    Thanks for your comments… Dick Cavett! I can see that too. What ever happened to him? Occasionally I see a DVD in one of the stores that compiles his interviews and performances from various musicians of the day. I keep meaning to buy it, but it’s quite expensive and I procrastinate. It’s never there the second time. It has nine hours of interviews and music from David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and many more.

    Hi secretmojo,

    High praise, and I thank you! Just havin’ fun…

  6. hyperpat Says:

    Dark Universe hs never really gotten the readership it deserves, one of those forgotten classics like Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo. It’s easily his best book.

    And I always get a chuckle out of the High Crusade whenever I happen to re-read it.

  7. fencer Says:

    Hi hyperpat,

    I remember reading Dark Universe as a teenager and being awestruck by the power of it. I really have to read it again.

    Thanks for dropping by!


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