Monday, April 27, 2009

The Literary Note Meme

So, I came back from a wonderful trip to Virginia to celebrate what my father described as “the best birthday ever” (hope we are all so lucky as to be able to describe our 80th birthdays such), and my computer went on the blink (sort of. We were having problems with the cable cord). The computer has been fixed, thanks to a very handy neighbor, and I don’t feel like addressing a favorite song tonight. I’m also too tired to do justice to Mandarine’s final question to me (you’ll understand why, I hope, when I finally reveal it). Thus, a meme seems like a very good idea tonight. I just love this one, which I found over at Litlove’s, while trying to catch up on blog reading. Here you go:

1) What author do you own the most books by?

Who was more prolific: Twain or Dickens? Dickens, I think, right? We inherited huge sets from both authors when my grandmother died. I’ve never bothered to count which has more, but many of the Dickens are still in boxes, so it must be Dickens.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?

I haven’t a clue, but my guess is it’s either a Twain or a Dickens, since I know we have those sets plus at least two other copies of such things as David Copperfield and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (The fact that I can’t answer this question should clue you into the fact that we own way, way too many books. Then again, is it really possible to own too many books?)

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

Yes, but it would have bothered me much more if I’d been the one who had written them, had been completely unaware of my errors, and then had come across them six months from now.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

(That one ended with a preposition, too.) Because I’m too embarrassed to admit it’s Dracula, will you believe Simon Cotton from I Capture the Castle?

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?

I’m not sure. When I was a child, I tended to read (non-picture) books that I loved over and over, and some of them I have read more than once as an adult. Possibly Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, but it could also be Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays or Beverly Cleary’s Ramona the Pest. The adult book I’ve read the most is definitely Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.

6) What was your favourite book when you were ten years old?

Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, “the best book EVER.”

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

Charlotte Jay's Beat Not the Bones.

8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Choosing the best is nearly impossible, which is why I so often refuse to do so. But I will give you a few that stick out as having been the sorts of books that blow me away (how’s that for ending with a preprosition?): Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Jeffery Lent’s In the Fall, L.P. Hartley’s Eustace and Hilda, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

Cervantes’s Don Quixote. Tell me the truth: no one really wants to read it, because you're all so sick of hearing me sing its praises, right?

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

Based on the one book I’ve read by him: Jeffrey Lent.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

The Graveyard Book. What fun!

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

Anything by John Irving, but it’s too late. Too many have tried to do so, with disappointing results.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

I don’t remember specifics, but whenever I am reading a particularly disturbing or engrossing book, I tend to have many dreams about it. Most recently, I had a few dreams about Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections that involved both members of my own family as well as characters from the book.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

I don’t remember the title, but I tried to read a Jackie Collins novel once, got about halfway through it, and ended up (literally) throwing it in the garbage.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

The Book of Numbers (the one from The Bible).

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

The play itself isn’t so obscure, but I saw an appalling version of Hamlet at the Yale Rep. Hamlet was played by an African-American female, dressed in an oversized late 20th-century business suit. Need I say more?

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

If we're talking strictly about literature, the Russians, but I've read more of the Russians than the French, so this isn't really a fair assessment.

18 ) Roth or Updike?

I’m only just discovering Updike, and I haven’t read Roth, so it’s Updike by default.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

I think by now you all know the answer to that question. Then again, I’ve never read any Eggers, but I doubt anyone could knock Sedaris from his Emily pedestal.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Do we have to choose? Really? They are all so different. And so brilliant in their own ways.

21) Austen or Eliot?

Again, how can I choose? I’m more likely to turn to Austen when I want comfort, but that is no reflection on how much I adore Eliot.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

I’m terribly English-North American oriented. I’ve read some Russian stuff. A handful of French. German? Nope. Italian? Only Calvino and bits and pieces of Dante. Spanish other than Cervantes? Nada. Chinese? Does Pearl Buck count? Japanese? Can I even name a classic Japanese writer? Middle and South American other than Garcia Marquez, Vargas-Llosa, and Fuentes? Not I. African? Achebe, right? Australian? Do they write books in Australia? Pathetic, I know. I am definitely not a world citizen when it comes to reading.

23) What is your favorite novel?

I’ve said a million times that I don’t play favorites. Maybe, just maybe, if someone put a gun to my head, I could name my top 100 favorites.

24) Play?

Aristophanes’s The Birds.

25) Poem?

You’ve got to be joking. If I can’t name a novel, how can I possibly name a single poem?

26) Essay?

Do people really remember essays and who wrote them? All that comes to mind is, you know, that brilliant thing about whatsit that was in youknowthatgreatmagazinewealllove a couple of years back, the one that just said it all so perfectly, the one I wish I’d written.

27) Short story?

Again, couldn’t begin to tell you. However, why does M. R. James immediately spring to mind?

28) Work of nonfiction?

Well, people argue as to whether or not Sedaris is fiction or nonfiction. Let’s pretend he’s nonfiction and say everything he’s ever written (which isn’t really true. Some things he writes aren’t nearly as brilliant as others, but then, that may be because I have such high standards for him).

29) Who is your favourite writer?

I really, truly don’t have one, but certain names pop up over and over again if you read my blog.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

Curtis Sittenfeld, but I've only read Prep. That means she hasn't been given her second chance by me yet.

31) What is your desert island book?

Don Quixote.

32) And… what are you reading right now?

A book that just might be my new, “everyone MUST read this book.” It’s called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. At this point, I think it is probably the 21st-century’s most seminal work. I will let you know what I think when I get to the end of it, as it is definitely inspiring ideas for blog posts. Oh yeah, and when that all gets too depressing, I’m also reading Terry Pratchett’s Equal Rites (great fun), Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, and Book II of The Faerie Queene.

Tagging: anyone else who thinks this looks like fun (and I promise not to force you to read Don Quixote, although you really should, you know).


litlove said...

Loved your answers! Now I need to read Jeffrey Lent. And I am also a big fan of I Capture The Castle and The Phantom Tollbooth - magical books both.

Stefanie said...

That was fun. I've read and enjoyed Don Quixote so your enthusiasm for the book does not worry me. I have never read The Phantom Tollbooth. I don't know how I missed it when I was a kid. I'll have to make up for that one of these days.

Anonymous said...

The Shock Doctrine is the most dicredited public policy work of the last decade. I don't agree with many of the policies that he advocated, but it's hard to dispute that Milton Friedman was one of the most vocal defenders of individual rights and human freedom of the 20th century. The criticisms of Klein's work have originated from the poitical left, right, and center. Only the Marxist wingnuts, as best I can tell, still take it seriously.

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, oh yes, you must read Lent. He's just beautiful.

Stef, oh, I think you'd love The Phantom Tollbooth -- a quest full of fun wordplay.

Anonymous, have you read the book? Having been a librarian, my policy is not to get into debates about a book unless both the other person and I have read it. I haven't finished it yet, so I don't consider myself as having read it. That being said, however, I don't know much about Friedman but plan to learn more when I finish the book. He wrote a memoir that might be quite interesting. Meanwhile, as someone who believes passionately in the teachings of Christ, I am much more into human rights than individual rights, because if we all learned to live by his teachings, the notion of "individual rights" would be moot. Of course, I realize that's counter to the Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest, which, of course, is what individual rights, when boiled down it to its basic biology, is all about, and maybe it's just not possible to expect everyone to be able to fight basic biology. Also, I've learned over the years that Americans have a tendency to confuse freedom with license (which are two VERY different things), so I'm quite skeptical when someone goes on and on about "freedom." I've never thought of myself as such, but maybe I'm a "Marxist wingnut." :-)!

Dorothy W. said...

This meme IS fun, isn't it? Funny that you and Becky both mentioned the Charlotte Jay books as possible worst books of the past year. That one really didn't go over well, did it? I wouldn't mention it as the worst book I've read, but it's pretty low on the list.