Friday, January 25, 2008

Book 'em, Danno

Huzzah! A book meme from Sheila! (She didn't tag me, but one of her taggees is on a temporary hiatus, so... I'm pinch-hitting.)

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

This is one of the few problems I don't have. If someone says "You've got to read this," I usually do. I am much more resistant to movies than books, and especially adaptations of favorite books. With a book I can curl up comfortably, read at my own pace, re-read things I want to understand better, flip around, and what have you. In a movie the pictures and the pacing are forced on me. For example, I refused to see The Fellowship of the Ring when it came out. I eventually relented by the time The Two Towers hit, and while I enjoyed all three, I was also right: they left out some things I felt important, AND tinkered with the characters to an uncomfortable degree - especially Faramir.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Wow. There are probably dozens, and it would depend heavily on which event we were discussing. To me, one of the greatest joys of a good book is the feeling of living this question in reverse. The characters are the real people, and you are the work of imagination, brought to life to join them for a short time.

Now, if you want an actual answer, my thought is a holiday dinner, where people can talk and laugh and have drinks for hours and there's no worries about getting up for work the next day. This is assuming that Sherlock Holmes would likely decline, and take Dr. Watson with him: I'm going to invite Anne Shirley, David "Puddn'head" Wilson, and Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy (which I know is cheating, but do you think they'd come separately? So there).

I would be completely unable to keep up, and it would be completely awesome.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Well, I've already read "Moo" by Jane Smiley, so that whole immortality thing? Yeah, that ain't happening.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Sheila's answer to this was pretty funny. My story? Well, we were assigned a paper in Exposition and Argument; my book was "The Wretched of the Earth" by Frantz Fanon. I browsed it enough to grasp about a third of the idea, and then totally weaseled out of the assignment by writing a short play representing a debate between Fanon and a fictional US Ambassador to Algeria. I still can't believe that I even tried something so pathetic; nor that I scraped a B out of the farce. The professor helpfully noted that I seemed to misinterpret some of what Fanon was saying, and I should pick a book more within my abilities next time.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

I've had the reverse, where I've forgotten entirely that I read something, and then constantly realized "Hey! I know this part!" upon re-reading. The closest to this, though, is my experience with "The Three Mustketeers." I've read an abridged version of it, wonderfully illustrated (not a comic but an illustrated book, about 100 pages or so). It was actually very good. I wish I still had the thing, as I've tried to find it since and been thwarted. But not only can I not find that, but I find the actual Three Musketeers to be somewhat less crisp than the "good bits" version. Now that I'm older I need to try again.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP)

Tough one. Of course, I take for granted that everyone ought to be reading their Bible, so that doesn't need my recommendation. I think I'll just start handing out poetry anthologies.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Well, now. Only reading? I'd love to be able to speak these languages also. I think my first choice would be Russian, like Sheila, because of the richness of the literature. It would definitely be worth it to read guys like Dostoyevsky and Chekhov in the original. Second, I'd take Italian, since I've always been ashamed that I don't know the language of the country where all my ancestors came from. Third, Japanese, just because.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread one a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

"The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cummins." It's excellent, and it's short so I won't get absolutely bored plowing through it over and over.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

Here, my wings are tipped to the one and only Sheila O'Malley: a prodigious reader and a prolific (and great) writer. Her blog got me reading more poetry, taught me a lot about getting more out of what I read, and has also gotten me to commit to reading James Joyce. Yes, this is my shame - in a criminal case of bowing to the literary zeitgeist, my high school and college assigned me exactly ONE James Joyce tale - his short story "The Dead." That's IT. (Come to think of it, I had to get my Jane Austen on my own too.) A lot of what people have always considered part of the classical canon of Western Literature was ignored for trendier modern work; not that it's bad to read new things, but to ignore the giants? No Joyce, no Austen, no Victor Hugo; no Hemingway, even? Whew.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

This library is designed for reading comfort and ease of use. All of the furniture is plush and relaxing and tasteful - there are private rooms with recliners and ottomans, and larger rooms where groups can lounge on couches and talk about their books as loudly as they want without fear of disturbing anyone, since the rugs are all deep and the walls muffle everything going on outside. There are fireplaces and good lighting, solid wooden tables with plenty of space to stack books, coasters for your mugs of what-have-you, and a small stone-flagged kitched where drinks and light snacks are prepared by a skilled staff of grandparents, just the way you like it, dearie.

There is a research section, and computers for lookups - and Google and Wiki are always correct. Left-click opens a new browser window for you, and right-click tells you exactly what room and shelf holds the book if you'd rather just read the thing properly. There is a special section here for literary criticism: the authors themselves on their work, other books, and life in general.

The books themselves are never mis-shelved, always look and smell perfectly like good old books, and are printed on special paper that can neither rip nor stain. The shelves are recessed so nothing sticks out into the room and one can walk freely. They have ladders on wheels in tracks so you can safely reach the books on high shelves. The free-standing bookcases in the middle are cherry and mahogany, and they don't go all the way to the ceiling, so nobody gets too claustrophobic. And there are blank spots on the walls for art, and windows looking out on the woods and the mountains.

There is an actual card catalogue right in the middle; the cards are printed on the same paper as the pages of the books. And there is an official cat of the library that nobody is ever allergic to, and who knows almost as much as the librarian, but will never tell your secrets. She always has the best advice, expressed entirely in purring.

For those who want a break, there is also a room with chess sets, Scrabble, sketch pads with pastels, pencils, and charcoal (we're always looking for new artwork); and there is a children's section with the classic edition of every great kid's book, lots of bright colors, instructions on how to use the card catalogues and find things, and Legos, because every kid should stop to build things every once in a while. For the same reason, adults caught sneaking in to read or play shall not be reprimanded, as long as they share.

No comments: