In Which the Well-Readheads Play with Word Association

RJS: We’ve both been afflicted with writer’s block this week. Seems appropriate that we should share an illness, seeing as how we are lifemates and all, but damn is it ever miserable! What do you say we channel Dr. Freud and do a little word association to get the gears turning again? Just lie back, Lib, and tell me what book you think of when I say “clockwork.”

LH: The brilliant Angelmaker by the brilliant Nick Harkaway! Which makes me think bees, spies, trains and, oh…naughty things. *blushing* I cannot brain this week – my muse is being a stuck-up bitch. But this is fun! Now you – what do you think when I say “armadillo?” Just kidding! (Your head just exploded.) How about “boat?”

RJS: I’m not letting you take the armadillo opportunity away! I think of Owen Meany, WHO ELSE? Our fellow Rioteer Jodi and I have adopted one together. We’re going to wrap him in a paper bag and ship him back and forth to share in our bookish adventures. Anywhoodle, boat. Uhhhh, Life of Pi. How about “fire?”

LH: I immediately think Dan Chaon’s Stay Awake, because there was a fire in one of the stories (and, holy cats, if this book doesn’t get nominated for major awards, I will burn stuff). Also, Triangle, by Katharine Weber, about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911. Related – have you read her book, The Music Lesson? Love love love! It’s art theft in Ireland plus sexy time. What comes to mind when I say “ticket?”

RJS: Oooh, art theft scratches my heist story itch, so The Music Lesson goes on my list. Sexy time is always a plus! “Ticket” makes me think of Charlie Bucket and his infamous golden ticket, partly because of Kit’s terrific post but mostly because I watch a lot of Jersey Shore and they call having sex with someone “giving him my golden ticket ticket.” I wish I were making that up. What does “cherry” conjure for you?

LH: I wish I could answer, but that thing about the Jersey Shore made me shove a nail file into my frontal lobe. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore, Rebs! *sniff* But back to “cherry”: I think of Punky Brewster’s best friend, but more importantly, I think of Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls, because it has cherries on the cover. And – whaddaya know – I was just telling you last night how you mustmustmust read it! Seriously. I may pull a Lysistrata on you and not read Contents May Have Shifted until you read Blueprints. Riffing off that – what do you think of when I say “blackmail?”

RJS: OMG, please don’t let my weakness keep you from Pam Houston. The horror! I wouldn’t be able to live with myself, which I guess is kind of your point. I will pack Blueprints for my trip this week, okay? “Blackmail” doesn’t ring many bells for me. Maybe I’m not reading enough creepy stories. Didn’t someone try to blackmail someone else in Freedom? That seems like the kind of bourgeois behavior JFranz (that’s his Jersey Shore name) likes to take smug opposition to. Speaking of the bespectacled Mr. Franzen, what comes to mind when I say, “bastard?”

LH: Me-ow – claws in, kitten. I’ll tell you, we had Jonathan Franzen at the store once, and he was very nice. He told me he found it amusing to be signing a book called Freedom to Liberty in the “Live Free or Die” state. But I digress. So, “bastard,” eh? My ex-boyfriend is too easy a target – I’m going to go with Norman Mailer. He was a right bastard. But The Executioner’s Song is one of the most phenomenal novels I’ve read – and it’s going to be back in print on May 8th! HELLZ YES. I can’t believe it’s been unavailable for over two years – should never have happened. Working off that, your word is “missing.”

RJS: I’m sure he’s lovely, but the whole “Edith Wharton was ugly and ebooks are scary” thing is too much for me. May 8th is going to be big. Toni Morrison, John Irving, AND Norman Mailer? Holla. Missing, missing….So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman. Creepy-as-hell story about a young woman who goes missing and the small-town neighbors who turn a blind eye to the baddies in their town. Tell me about, “pretty,” Liberty.

LH: Oh, Geek Love. There’s a character who spends her riches convincing beautiful women that their beauty is keeping them from realising their full potential, so she pays for them to undergo disfigurement operations. I keep Geek Love in the continually shrinking file in my brain marked ‘Favorite Books I’m Glad Haven’t Been Made Into Movies’, along with The Secret History, The Giant’s House, and The Lives of the Monster Dogs. You know, book titles would be a really fun category to play on The $20,000 Pyramid. Rebs – your word is “ending.”

RJS: Paradise by Toni Morrison. There are countless moments of skullfuckery in the book, then you get to the end and it’s like, “Oh no she di’int.” But she did! Or, at least, you think she did, but you can’t be sure because your brain has exploded into smithereens.

“Ending” seems like as good a word as any to end on. Join our free association fun in the comments by sharing the books our prompts make you think of, or ask us for a new word, and we’ll give you one!