Page 123 book meme

So Randy tags me with a cool book meme, and it happens to be the same meme with which Annie tagged him.  As I voraciously read both blogs, I likely would have seen and shamelessly borrowed this little goody from at least one of them—and probably this very evening.

While I’ll reiterate how abhorrent I find most of the tagging meme thing across the blogosphere, I unabashedly enjoy doing those which have some inherent value, such as animeme from theriomorph, seven strange things about me from Amar, and the one word meme I pilfered from Pam.  This happens to be yet another such diversion I see as offering more than mindless gibberish.

That said, this is the “Page 123 Book Meme” (for whatever value the official title and number might offer you).  Here are the rules:

  1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth [full] sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people.

(I added ‘full’ to the third rule since I felt it needed clarification, and without that word it left the door open to all manner of interpretation and differing results.)

Because I am an avid devourer of literature in many forms, I can’t help but be drawn into this dark meme realm.

However, as with Randy, the nearest book to me consists of a stack here on my desk.  This collection represents the “need to read/need to read again” category, something defined by this assembly and a similar pile in the living room next to the couch.

What do you have to look forward to?  Well, here’s what’s in the stack by my laptop (from top to bottom):

  • Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (Matthew Scully)
  • The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary (Ambrose Bierce)
  • The Beloved (Kahlil Gibran)
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost (Robert Frost)
  • My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult)
  • God Created the Integers (Stephen Hawking)
  • The 2007 Writer’s Market collection (3 books)
  • The Fabric of the Cosmos (Brian Greene)
  • The World is Flat (Thomas L. Friedman)
  • e.e.cummings: a selection of poems (e.e.cummings)
  • The Alienist (Caleb Carr)
  • The New Quantum Universe (Tony Hey and Patrick Walters)

“What, no Stephen King?” you ask.

Well, no, not in this stack.  Those are in the similar batch in the other room.

Unless I cheat and rearrange the books, I will assume the closest in an equally distant stack is the one on top.  That would be Dominion.  Given that, let’s turn in our texts to page 123, filter out the first five full sentences, and include here the next three.

They are talking about a species of intelligent mammal whose population across Asia and Africa stands at 5 percent of what it was a century ago; whose numbers were halved in a generation; who suffered casualties of more than 700,000 just in Africa during the 1980s, facing Nitro Expresses on one side and, on the other, swarms of paramilitary poaching gangs armed with AK-47s, radios, and spotter planes. In Africa there is hardly such thing anymore as a middle-aged wild elephant with fully grown tusks, which for illegal poachers still at work has meant twice the killing for the same amount of ivory. In 1979, as Douglas Chadwick writes in The Fate of the Elephant, “it took 54 elephants to get a ton of ivory. Now, with mature tuskers all but non-existent and females the prime target, it took 113 elephants and left an average of 55 orphaned calves and young juveniles to die later.”

Grim?  Heartbreaking?  Too terrible even to comprehend?  You bet.

This book is one of the most important things you can ever read—if not the most important thing you can ever read.  As Natalie Angier in The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Dominion is a horrible, wonderful, important book…. [A] beautiful book, rich with thought, and a balm to the scared, lonely animal in us all.”

To say reading this book the first time pushed me to redefine what it means to be humane would be putting it all too mildly.  In defense of one of the most overused colloquialisms of our time, it certainly is the straw that broke the camel’s back, the final piece of exploration into my own sense of mercy which ultimately guided me to a vegan lifestyle and a focus on all the life humans take for granted, treat cruelly, destroy both intentionally and accidentally, and in the long run will eventually rob from future generations—if there are any future generations.

When Elephants Weep has always been one of my most cherished texts.  Its author, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, called Dominion “[a]n extraordinary book, deep, witty, incisive…”  He went on to state that which I know already: “It just might change your life.”

If you want to know the measure of your own humanity, if you desire full comprehension of the role you play in defining compassion, and if you wish to illuminate shameful destruction and the threat of robbing from our children’s children every bit of the beauty that once thrived around us, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

As for tagging others, consider this an open tag.  Play along in the comments or on your own blog if you wish.  I never feel comfortable trying to tag others…

[please note I intended to cheat on this meme when I realized which book was on top of the stack; I felt perhaps a selection from Robert Frost or Ambrose Bierce would be more palatable, and therefore it behooved me to change the order of the books so one of those wound up on top; then I realized my ethics outweighed my sense of community; perhaps Dominion would be interpreted as too preachy a volume for this exercise; so be it, I decided, for some things in life are more important than acquiescing to self-imposed peer pressure; when it comes to this book, I recommend it with every fiber of my being]

5 thoughts on “Page 123 book meme”

  1. Powerful passage. Glad you picked it. Honestly, I’m not sure if I can bear to read the book because the subject can be horribly depressing. And I tend to read for diversion these days rather than enlightenment. Still, the selection is compelling.

    BTW, I have a copy of Bierce somewhere and your mention of it reminds me that it is past due for a re-read. I do that about every decade, I guess, and have found I entries gain and lose meaning (resonance?) with time. Thanks for sharing, Jason!

  2. I am SO GLAD it was DOMINION. I haven’t read the whole book because just the picture on the cover makes me cry. But then, there was this Not that it meant much in the wider world, but there it is.

  3. You’d love the book, Randy, although I have to admit reading it the first time rent me to the core. I suspect reading it again will do the same. But it’s no diversion, as you point out, so don’t tackle it unless you’re looking for more than just a distraction.

    As for Bierce, it’s never too late to read or reread his works. I’m glad my mention of him reminded you it’s time again to delve into his offerings.

    I’m with you, Annie. While I don’t think at the time I was reading your blog regularly to have seen that review, it probably would have pushed me further to check out this book.

    And yes, the photo on the cover does nothing to assuage the awful truth of what Scully has to say. In fact it only reinforces what I think is an important message. It’s regrettably a lesson most people don’t want to learn.

  4. Thank you for the compliment, Sissy. I wish I could say I wrote this entry with the intent of impressing someone, but honestly I found Randy’s tag worthy of response and grabbed the first book at the ready. Thankfully it provided all the inspiration I could have hoped for.

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