The Page 123 Thing

The proprietress over at Writer Way says she has "tagged" me.

"Meme tagging" (sometimes called "blog tagging") is Something Kids Do These Days: it's basically a combination of a chain letter, truth-or-dare, and social-introduction games that conveniently generates that demographically-precious interlinked content for publication on Web pages or blog entries. The idea is that readers—and fellow "tag-ees," and their friends, etc.—can read everyone else's responses to the meme, compare notes, leave comments, or otherwise engage in so-called "social media." Folks supposedly get to know one another better, and coincidentally participate in a readership loop that increases traffic (and potential revenue from advertising and viewership) for the site.

Yes, I'm cynical, and I am over-analyzing it. It's just supposed to be fun.

This particular meme game requests tag-ee's do the following:

  1. Pick up the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

When I first read this, my first instinct was not to participate. Unlike, it seems, most other writers, I don't keep books near my computer. Partly, this is because I don't read at my desk: a recurrent ligament injury makes it s painful for me to sit for long periods of time, so I tend to organize things so I have to get up and move fairly regularly. Up, down, upstairs, downstairs, into the other room, back again. I don't sit at my desk and read. There are two pseudo-comfy chairs in my office, but they're mostly covered with coats and bags and stuff…and they're intended for other people, since I don't find them more comfortable than any other chair.

There are no bookshelves in my office. Partly, this is a space concern: my office is small and always walking that fine line between "useable" and "overwhelmed with clutter." I treat my desk like a workbench: it always has good monitoring headphones, a few varieties of tape (don't ask), a thermometer, a can of compressed air, miscellaneous instrument and audio paraphernalia (plectrums, an eBow, allen wrenches, foil, cotton swabs, batteries, AC adapters, etc.) My digital camera is usually nearby, as are numerous CDs and DVDs filled with files from projects I'm working on. There are also tissues, a bug jar (don't ask), some candles that occasionally get camped on a teeny hot plate…and at the moment there's a plethora of pens (I seem to be finding all the Uniball micro roller pens I'd lost over the last ten years), odds and ends, and stuff at the edges for which I haven't found a real "home," but which gather dust. I should probably just toss most of that.

But books? Not so much. Books near my desk are either things that haven't found their way to more-permanent homes, or which are only at my desk briefly for a specific purpose. Physically, the closest book is jammed on a short table under my desk: it's the reference manual for Digital Performer, which I find I have to open up at least once on every audio project to remind myself how some bizarro feature is supposed to work. Also technically nearby: a Spanish-English dictionary (from high school!), a worn paperback dictionary I saved from a refuse bin at the Oberlin College a billion years ago (and still the only paperback dictionary I've seen that lists "whigmaleerie"). Also nearby, the Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed., I'm afraid) and The Associated Press Style Book (1994 edition, I think). Haven't cracked either in years.

Oh, also, looking under my desk: a drill, a container of spackle, my "good" recording headphones for bass, and a 1990s U.S. road atlas. And a rag.

So, I decided to go with the book that had most recently crossed my desk, although it was only here for a few moments and it's currently about 12 feet away on a shelf in the hallway. Unfortunately, I shall have to bend the rules since it's in verse:

Riverside Chaucer
He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
A slyer boye nas noon in Engelond;
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
That taughte hym wel wher that hum myghte availle.
He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
To techen hum to foure and twenty mo.
For thogh this Somonour wood were as an hare,
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
For we been out of his correccioun.

It's from The Canterbury Tales, near the beginning of The Friar's Tale. My text is the third edition of The Riverside Chaucer with Harvard's Larry D. Benson serving as general editor, published in 1987.

Somewhat ironically—since, according to family lore, I was named for Chaucer—I pull this book out every now and again just to read the Middle English, although I most frequently turn to A Treatise on the Astrolabe or The Romaunt of the Rose rather than the well-travelled Canterbury Tales.

I'm afraid I can't think of five people to tag. Pretty lame, yes?