Desert island

I think if I were to retire from the world and could only take 5 books with me, I would take:
– Collected Shakespeare
– Bottom: On Shakespeare
– The Norton Anthology
(Romantics volume)
Mrs. Dalloway
SAS Survival Handbook

Even without pencil or paper, I would be perfectly happy, because there are so many ways to make poems that don’t involve writing. I would invent systems of language that no one would need to understand because I would be alone on a desert island. Every gesture and sigh could be a poem, if I said it was.


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19 Responses to Desert island

  1. Simon says:

    Desert Island Discs also asks for a book, but you get Shakespeare and the Bible for free.

  2. Jessica Smith says:

    i had to increase it to 5 so I could take Woolf. but what for a 5th? what other book is as essential as these? maybe proust?

  3. Simon says:

    Jessica, what is “Bottom: On Shakespeare”. Are you really so grad student that you are taking a critical work to your island?

    I think if I had to spend infinity with books, I would want it to be me and the author alone, no editors (so, no Nortons…)

  4. Jessica Smith says:

    Bottom on Shakespeare is Zukofsky. It’s a goldmine. It’s just something I could see spending lots of time with because it’s intellectually challenging and enjoyable.

    Yeah, I have to just totally sell out and take the Norton, because it’s a fairly good selection of Romantic poetry *and* it has Frankenstein, so that’s a lot of lit to love. I mean, I just need a gargantuan book of Romantic Poetry, so you gotta kinda have to go with an Anthology (form) for that solution (function).

  5. Amish Trivedi says:

    i wish I could say my top five would be “high art”, but to be honest, I’d end up with at least one Al Franken book on there. I’d need something light and funny to read, of course!

    Also, I am about to get rejected from school again, I think. English has started notifying supposedly.

  6. Jessica Smith says:

    I was counting Mrs. D as my “fun” reading. And Shakespeare is pretty fun. I can’t think of a normal mainstream kind of novel that would keep me occupied for a lifetime on a desert island. But I was thinking maybe the collected Jane Austen? That’s light reading and stands up to rereading.

    Don’t worry about being rejected until you actually hear. Some schools have started notifying, but not all. Have you been hanging out on the Princeton Review grad app bulletin boards? That is a good place for feeding your neurosis.

  7. Dan C. says:

    Zukofsky, right. I was thinking it was Berryman. Didn’t he have a book of criticism on Shakespeare?

  8. Jessica Smith says:

    i dunno. “Bottom” isn’t exactly criticism. it’s not not criticism, but… it’s worth spending a lifetime on a desert island trying to figure it out 😉

    maybe for the 5th book, Barthes’s Camera Lucida? Although having that may just make me miss having a camera (unless I can also take a camera! and some sort of solar energy panel to charge it).

  9. Simon says:

    unless I can also take a camera! and some sort of solar energy panel to charge it

    You are so young!

  10. Jessica Smith says:

    hey, you’re young too! and barthes doesn’t specify a camera that uses 35mm film… plus i wouldn’t be able to develop them!

    better take my ipod, too, for back-up photo storage. (hehe)

  11. Ryan W. says:

    my clock says 12:10 and you haven’t posted your concrete valentine for the public. you have an elastic definition of valentine’s day. not a calendar purist.

    five books. maybe I’d just pick five novels off my shelf I haven’t read. prolly good as anything. by the time I’m done with those five I’m probably hallucinating and so it doesn’t matter anyway.

  12. Jessica Smith says:

    yes, ryan. yes.

    but you just made me realize what the 5th book should be. and perhaps saved my life as far as my life on the desert island was concerned.

  13. Amish Trivedi says:


    Berryman does indeed have a book on Shakespeare. It only took him forever to write, with lots of advances, etc. He kept claiming he was working on it. When he wasn’t.

    God I hope to follow that someday…

    Jessica: and live journal are my fixes at present.

  14. csperez says:

    hi jessica, the survival book is a good choice, but i would also recommend “coconuts in 30 minutes or less” or “101 coconut recipes” or “Desert Islands on 3 Coconuts a Day”.

    but before you go crazy on the coconuts, you might also consider “coconut nation: the dark side of desert island meals”.

    smile 😉

  15. Jessica Smith says:

    craig, good suggestions– i’ll look forward to getting recipes in a bottle from you so i don’t go “stir”-crazy.

    you’ll have to forgive me for that one. i’m a geek.

    on to other things. amish… i really don’t envy you. waiting for grad school decisions is hell. oh, and you can be comforted by the thought that they probably don’t read past the first page of your writing sample and that the final decisions are a mix of randomness and departmental politics!

  16. Gillian says:

    Technically, every gesture or sigh could be a poem now, if you said it was. And if we accept the premise that all language emerges out of a social contract, you also have the option of inventing systems of language that no one — or at least no one outside the society you create — can understand. A society of one? Why not? A society of you and several like-minded friends centered around a bottle of Hendricks? Also a good idea.

    I’d take the Austen.

    (My word verification looks like Icelandic shorthand: rgkjkj.)

  17. Ian Keenan says:

    Take the Romantics rather than À la recherche because you won’t have time to work on that Proustian novel you were talking about.

  18. Jessica Smith says:

    Gillian: oh yes, i Know. indeed. I think part of what upsets me about flarf is that there’s a whole world of post-Fluxus (if I may, Kevin) experimental poetry that is actually interesting….

    What? Hendrick’s? Well, alright. If you insist.

    Ian: My life probably won’t be interesting enough on a desert island to write a gargantuan 7-vol novel. Esp. since so much of ISoLT is about social interaction. My version would be pretty boring… plus, although I have an ipod and a digital camera, apparently, I still haven’t committed to bringing a typewriter, pen, pencil, paper, or the like. At best my long novel would be written in the sand and washed away each evening.

  19. Amish Trivedi says:

    I’m banking on departmental politics:

    1) I’ve met several profs, including the DGS.

    2) They haven’t taken anyone studying poetry in a few years, and this is due to a lack of interest, so hopefully, they’ll be happy to see me.

    3) I live here. I’ve got friends over there. Hopefully it’ll be just enough…

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