Received this baton from Guillermo. So here goes:
1. Total number of books I've owned
This is more or less impossible to speculate. Like Guillermo, some of the earliest books I owned were comic books (it would be interesting to do a comic-book meme) and there were tons and tons of them. Most of them were Marvel superhero comic books. I especially liked the ones based on toys when I was very young, and then as I progressed to adolescence I started reading Moon Knight, The X-Men, and The New Teen Titans (mostly because of Starfire's chainmail bikini...). Also, when I was a little kid I was allowed to purchase as many books as I wanted (other purchases obeyed the usual parental restrictions, but I was given more or less a carte blanche with books), which must have, I suppose, contributed to my later bibliomania in one form or another.
As it stands now, I have no idea how many books I own. Thus, the only real answer I have to this question is, "A lot."
2. Last book I bought
Again, tough to answer because I'm pretty much constantly in the process of buying books online from places like Alibris, etc. The last books I have received in the mail, more or less simultaneously are a copy of Bernstein's A Poetics (had only read photocopied chapters prior), an old library copy of John Wieners' Nerves, and a used copy of Mamoru Nagano's Five Star Stories Vol. 1 (old habits die hard, I suppose.)
3. Last book I read
This is also somewhat difficult to answer, believe it or not. I read very slowly and I read a whole bunch of things simultaneously. Chronologically, I believe the last thing I finished in its entirity was Balzac's Unknown Masterpice, which was for a class. Chapbooks (which *are* [ahem] "real books") I read more quickly and frequently, so that is tough to answer.
4. Five books that mean a lot to me
This is much easier to answer.
Kenneth Rexroth 100 Poems From the Chinese. My discovery of this book in the midst of an undergraduate library job was epiphonic. Though I had long toyed with the idea of becoming a poet, this book for some reason gelled it for me. Odd given that the poets here are from a different culture and long dead, but for me it was a point of entry alternate to the Western Romantic/Modern tradition and opened up a lot of doors for me. My studies of Asian literature would eventually lead me to an Asian Studies professor at Marlboro who would introduce me to literary theory and postmodernism (Eagleton, Kristeva, Barthes, Benjamin, etc. etc.).
Gerard Manley Hopkins Collected Poems. I have owned any number of editions of Hopkins' work over the years, so this just sort of stands in for his ouevre. It is perhaps cliche for a writer of my stylistic bent to mention Hopkins, but as they say, the reason it's a cliche is because it's true. Hopkins' way of making language shimmer and sputter and clang was eye-opening to me, as well as his penchant for inventing hybrid words. Inscape as a metaphor for the subjective singularities of an entity or experience would also become an important touchstone for me. His use of artifice to adumbrate the nigh-inexpressable sublimities of the "soul" were and are a guiding force.
John Berryman The Dream Songs. Like so many others this was my bible through many years of bad behavior and worse writing. There is still much of worth to be found here, but if only there were the same cornucopia of SSRIs available then as now, things would have ended differently for Mr. Berryman and we would have seen changes in him and his writing later in life. I mean, yeah, I probably still haven't stopped imitating Shakespeare, either, but Berryman's "I'm a drunk old overeducated pervert" schtick is cloying to me now.
Ange Mlinko Matinees. A little while after I moved to Boston, before I knew anybody in these parts, I stumbled across this book and bought it because I liked the cover. It opened doors for me, stylistically, and also insofar as it offered a window into literary Boston which had existed and was existing in my midst. I would later make the acquaintance of any number of characters who appeared therein. Thus, this book was important to me aesthetically, and also as a kind of premonition of things to come.
Plato Cratylus. This is a recent addition, but I have found in this text and interesting dramatization of many of the central elements/issues manifest in my writing. Heartening that these things were being thought of in antiquity. The echoes of the Cratylus/Hermogenes dispute are still heard today in any of the various dialectics/bumper-car matches present in our contemporary literary culture. Socrates/Plato's arch synthesis/disarmament of the whole mess is inspiring, and a worthy paradigm to think upon.
5. Which five bloggers am I passing this to?:
I will pass this on to others with an eye towards those who aren't already meme-weary (there have been a lot of them going around lately): Gina, Chris (hello, Chris, are you there?), Cat, Jean, and Scott.