What’s on your bookshelf?: QWOP, Getting Over It, and Ape Out’s Bennet Foddy

Hello reader who is also a reader, and welcome back to Booked For The Week – our regular Sunday chat with a selection of cool industry folks about books! “What’s with the politics? Stick to games!” is a common refrain you might hear from the sort of winning individual who thinks books are a communist plot to lower their sperm count. Luckily, those people are elsewhere, so I hope you’ll allow me a brief moment of relief that the Tories are no longer in power. This is a great thing, providing you have absolutely no follow-up questions! This week, it’s QWOP, Getting Over It, and Ape Out‘s Bennet Foddy! Cheers Bennet! Mind if we have a nose at your bookshelf?

What are you currently reading?

First of all I have to admit I feel like a bit of a charlatan answering these questions because I didn’t read anything for years, burned out from a career in academic philosophy and too besotted with games and film to look elsewhere. But I’ve picked up the habit again over the last couple of years, and at the moment I’m picking at Mary Beard’s The Fires Of Vesuvius, a historical book about Pompeii that I got started on when I visited the ruins there recently. Friends may lampoon me for embodying the ’men thinking about the Roman Empire’ trope, but at least Mary Beard thinks about it more than I do.

What did you last read?

The Husbands, the debut novel by game designer and curator Holly Gramazio, who is also a friend of mine. It was wonderful – laugh-out-loud funny in places, but also really thoughtful and slyly philosophical. Just as Calvino’s Invisible Cities uses a series of imaginary and fantastical places to say something about the nature of real cities and societies, The Husbands circles gently around the nature of romantic commitment by sketching a series of husbands, as the protagonist gets new ones over and over.

What are you eyeing up next?

Next on the list is actually a graphic novel, Monica by Daniel Clowes. I was a huge fan of his Eightball series in the 90s, it was the thing that really turned me on to the idea that comic books could break with orthodoxy and go wild. Ghost World in particular is a favorite, maybe the 90s-est thing that anyone ever made. But it’s been so long since I’ve read anything of his… what’s happened to him in the past 25 years?

What quote or scene from a book has stuck with you?

Lately I was reading Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and I was haunted by the scene where the young protagonist visits his wealthy father to complain that he is short of funds, and his father deliberately misinterprets this as a request for a different kind of help:

“Well, I’m the worst person to come to for advice. I’ve never been ‘short’ as you so painfully call it. And yet what else could you say? Hard up? Penurious? Distressed? Embarrassed? Stony-broke?” (Snuffle.) “On the rocks? In Queer Street? Let us say you are in Queer Street and leave it at that.”

I’m not a parent, but still I do aspire toward this advanced level of trolling.

What book do you find yourself bothering friends to read?

For years I’ve been trying to get my game designer friends to read Ishiguro’s An Artist of The Floating World. A story about an artist who feels responsibility for his role in getting Japan into the second world war, it deals with the question of whether and how art can have power. Do artists delude themselves in thinking their work can be influential outside the artistic sphere? Or is it a worse delusion to think that it can’t? It feels eternally timely to me, but especially now, when people post memes that look like this:

A meme that Bennet Foddy sent me.
Image credit: Reddit

What book would you like to see someone adapt to a game?

Honestly, I don’t tend to think that books adapt well into games (or vice versa). But I really loved Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson, a book in which aliens arrive on earth and the protagonist (a game designer, of course) asks to play their retro videogames so he can better understand their alien culture. Here on Earth I think we oftentimes need a special excuse to break the genre conventions that are cemented in the contemporary videogame canon, and adapting that book would be a chance to make a bunch of games that seem to come from an entirely different lineage. Any excuse would be a good excuse!

Frustratingly, Bennet did actually name roughly 80% of all the books ever written, but insisted on piling them all up as they went. He’d just got to ‘L’ when the entire stack collapsed. We’re not starting again, so pop back next week for another cool industry person telling us about their favourites. Book for now!

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