Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yet Another Reading Meme

So, my last post was a real post, which was just way too taxing for the dog days of summer. Thus, you get another meme from me. In defense, I was tagged twice for this one. First, Dorr said, “If this meme looks fun to you, consider yourself tagged!” Well, when did any meme (especially one about reading) not look fun to me? Then Bloglily went and tagged everyone on her blog roll. I thought, “Well, I’m off the hook,” until I remembered she sneakily has me under “Emily” not “Telecommuter Talk” on her blog roll.

What kind of book are you most comfortable reading? One that doesn’t try to be too erudite or too technical. I’m really not someone who wants to spend an entire book learning about how smart the author thinks he or she is. When it comes to novels, I prefer old-fashioned story-telling to post-modern confusion (but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been known to relish some post-modern works like those by Italo Calvino). When it comes to nonfiction, I like it to be clear, and I love personal stories: biography and autobiography. And then there are all those laugh-out-loud personal essayists, like Sedaris, Rakoff, Vowell, etc.

What kind of book do you love to hate? I love to hate series and trilogies (so much to read!), and then I go and read my way through all kinds of series and trilogies like J.K. Rowling, Ross Macdonald, Philip Pullman, and Janet Evanovich (however, I do so very, very slowly, often saving one or two, because I hate it when I reach the point at which I’ve read everything any given author has to offer).

What was the last book you surprised yourself by liking? I absolutely loved Robinson Crusoe, a book I had basically just decided, “Well, here’s one I ought to read.” I didn’t expect it to be so full and so wise and so philosophical and to make me think so much about myself and what’s important in this world. I also didn’t expect (and I don’t know why) that it would establish the fact, once and for all, that I have absolutely no survival skills whatsoever. However, that’s what sprung to mind as I read all the description of how, exactly, he managed to keep himself alive. I always love it when I expect to be bored to tears and instead find myself fully engrossed, even enraptured by a book.

What was the last book you surprised yourself by disliking? Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life. It isn’t so much that I actively disliked the book (although it did drag in places. She had a very matter-of-fact writing style that didn’t lend itself to igniting the imagination much); I just was surprised to find myself thinking that she was a little full of herself. And then I was annoyed with myself for being so judgmental of this poor person who’d certainly had a much tougher life than I have.

What would be the worst book to be marooned on a desert island with? That’s a question that’s almost as bad as what one book you’d take with you. So many answers spring to mind: The Joy of Cooking, for instance, knowing there was no way I’d be preparing/eating things like blueberry pancakes or chocolate cake for god knows how long. Robinson Crusoe would be enough to make me mad with insecurity at my own inability to do such things as hew boats from tree trunks. I’d also be pissed as hell, reading that one, because I would never have such luck as to have salvageable, useful materials on my shipwrecked, but not sunk, boat. No, my boat would sink to depths only accessible by submersibles, leaving me with nothing, and I bet my island would be one full of cacti and iguana, rather than any sort of tasty plants, mammals, and acreage for planting corn (of course, not that I would know how to plant and grow corn or have the seed anyway). Or what about something like The 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die? Great, you finally have time to read them, and at this point, the annotations make even those you’ve always hated sound fantastic, but you have no access to any of them. Give me the “what one book would you take with you?” question instead, please.

What book would you take with you if you suspected you might be marooned in the near future? Ahhh, here’s the one-book-you’d-take-with-you question. Hmmm…in the near future? And am I going to be marooned as long as Robinson Crusoe? And I get to plan? It probably ought to be something I’ve never read, then, and also something that is appropriately long. Maybe Les Miserables (finally!). In fact, maybe I should get a version that is French verso, English translation recto, so I can teach myself a new language while marooned, in case, you know, my rescuers happen to be French (although my pronunciation would probably be so dreadful, we still wouldn’t be able to communicate). But, of course, having read Robinson Crusoe, I am aware that if left completely alone on a desert island, lacking all necessary survival skills, I would be dead within three days, so it’s really a moot point.

What forces you to read outside your comfort zone? Classes did when I was still in school, followed by book discussion groups. Now, I guess, it’s Bob more than anything, along with all my book pushers (including bloggers). Sometimes traditional review media will as well. And then there’s Slightly Foxed, whose contributors, I’m convinced, could make a car manual seem like the best thing ever written.

Fun, no? Let’s hear your answers.


litlove said...

Great answers, Emily, and I loved, loved your response to what book not to take on a desert island. Hilarious!

ZoesMom said...

I read Robinson Crusoe in middle school and I felt similarly -- I thought I would hate it and read it reluctantly, but I loved it and have read it again a couple of times.

Love your answers! I guess I'll have to give this one a try because it is fun.

Rebecca H. said...

Yay for Robinson Crusoe! I loved your answers to the question of what not to have on a desert island -- the 1001 books to read before you die would be the worst -- or the cookbook would be the worst -- oh, they all would be terrible!

Anonymous said...

Considering your admitted lack of survival skills perhaps the book you'd best have with you on that island is a survival guide ;)

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, so glad I was able to make you laugh, as I'm sure you needed it.

ZM, you didn't happen to read it while you were pregnant with Zoe did you? (I'm still trying to figure out how she can just intuit how to build things.)

Dorr, and, you know, I bet if we all thought about it, we could come up with others that are even more terrible.

Stef, well, see how inept I am at surviving on my own? It would take someone else to convince me I needed such a book (which would, of course, then sink to the bottom of the ocean before I had a chance to remember to grab it and put it into the dry bag, another thing I'd only had the foresight to bring along thanks to someone else, before swimming to shore).