Tom Levenson of the World’s Best Illuminated Blog the The Inverse Square tagged me with the 123 meme. The rules:
* look up page 123 in the book that is nearest to you at this very minute
* look for the fifth sentence
* then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.
I’m determined not to cheat, but it so happens that the book closest to me is the (uncorrected) galley proof of The Wisdom of Whores, a book which will be published in May in the UK (by Granta) and June in the US (by WW Norton). Now I’m all nervous: is page 123 a page where either I or the typesetters put our millions where our billions should be? Does it say something about the intimate relationship between police, hookers and internet monitors in China? Will my whole site go blank for days? Here goes:
“Being a successful civil servant is all about not rocking the boat. Storming around asking your superiors to give out clean needles in prisons is definitely rocking the boat.
There are other, more complicated reasons why we fail to turn more information into less HIV.”
Not terribly illuminating, but at least galley-proof error free. If you’d ask me to do the same about the book which is closest to my bed (where I read for pleasure) I’d have to give you this:
“Also quite similar to the spare parts department in Waltzer’s Garage. Stewart Waltzer had fan belts, coil springs, but also snakes in formaldehyde, magnetic letters, bookends manufactured on his workshop lathe. Butcher had no interest in Stewart Waltzer or Jack Hogan.”
Which I have to say is not much more illuminating as an extract, although it comes from Peter Carey, a man capable of turning truly glorious sentences on his workshop lathe (this from his penultimate novel Theft, faber and faber edition).
I think it is time to see what people in other continents are reading. I’m going to tag Ong Hock Chuan, who blogs on politics and culture from Indonesia at Unspun and Marina Mahathir at Rantings. I’d also like to tag Amanda Brooks at the Sex Workers Outreach Project, though she works so hard on this really useful and interesting sex work news blog that I don’t know how much time she can possibly have for reading.
I’d love to hear from other readers, too. It’s an interesting exercise, if only because it illustrates how very imperfectly a small fragment can reflect the whole, and how loathe we should be to make important decisions based solely on such fragments. One more reason not to base policy on qualitative data alone.