Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Meme, Rather Belatedly

Back when the earth was still cooling, Sheila (she of the awesome reading skillz and amazing brain) tagged me with this meme. Ungrateful twit that I am, I'd not gotten around to it. Finally, Here are my answers:

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

Similarly to Sheila, I refused to read the Harry Potter books for a very long time - certain I would hate them because EVERYONE loved them. But I did eventually break down and read them and fell in love with them... so I suppose they don’t count.

I don't know that it's irrational, but I refuse to read The DaVinci Code. I'm so glad the dull roar of constant, inane praise has died down. People talked about it all the time. I refuse to go near it.

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?

Jubal Harshaw (Stranger in a Strange Land), Hagrid (Harry Potter Books) and Elizabeth Rapella (from Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, she is the main character's unique, loving, free-thinking and wildly charismatic friend)

They aren't the main characters. The books they are from are not great classics (well, not by most standards). They aren't even necessarily my favorite characters. They are simply the characters who I feel I would enjoy the company of. I find them interesting and pleasant (well, Jubal isn't exactly pleasant in the traditional sense but he'd be excellent company). A lot of the great and iconic characters in classic fiction are, quite simply, people I would not want to know. Certainly meeting some of them would be momumental and fascinating. But after meeting them... I might find I wished I could excuse myself. So instead of choosing characters whom I have always wanted to know more about or who are so universally known... I chose people I would want to sit around and have a drink with.

Hagrid was a close tie with Gaspode the Talking Dog from Terry Pratchett's discworld. But I seem to remember Gaspode being referred to as stinky (he IS a stray and presumably does not get regular baths) and thus probably a questionable choice.

I also seriously thought about Jim Williams from Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil (non-fiction technically but clearly a somewhat fictionalized account and, anyway, he's dead so that would be interesting) and a variety of characters from my favorite childhood books. But you cannot very well invite Dickon from The Secret Garden to the same table as Jubal Harshaw. It would be wierd and complicated and Dickon wouldn't be allowed in a pub.

(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?

I can't think of anything. Maybe a collection of Chekhov's plays. I can't stand Chekhov. I realize it isn't a novel, but it's fiction. I find his approach to the plight of the Russian aristocracy mind bogglingly boring. I know. Sacrilege. Whatever. It's how I feel.

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?

I'm a film NUT so, when a book is adapted to film, I am always fascinated by the process of my two great loves joining. If the subject matter is sufficiently interesting to me, I run out and read the book so I can compare and contrast when seeing the film. But if I am NOT sufficiently interested, I have still done all this research abut the adaptation. So I go into conversations about the film knowing how the character was originally described by the author, knowing what major departures the screenwriter made from the original plot, etc. This has lead to some confusion. But I NEVER lie about having read the novel. I try to make a point of letting people know, "I haven't READ it. I've just read a lot ABOUT it." Since the subject at hand is the film, I refuse to feel guilty about making certain I'm informed.

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 know there has but I cannot think what so I give up. I never finished War and Peace (although I did finish and very much enjoy Anna Karenina). It took me forever to remember that I only got 3/4 through.

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 of personalise the VIP)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. If this person doesn’t read often, I’d want to give them something that’s an easy, unintimidating read. I wouldn’t want to waste the VIP’s time on something culturally irrelevant to start with and Hitchhiker’s widespread popularity has made it a cultural reference point (if, perhaps, an odd one). I’d want them to have something they were likely to enjoy - to encourage the habit. Also, if they don’t like it then I don’t want to work with them anyway.

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?

Ironically, probably Russian. I think I have read more books translated from Russian than any other language. And maybe if I could read in his native tongue I wouldn't hate Chekhov as much. Maybe something is lost in translation.

Or maybe French. I've read quite a few books that were partially in French. I have no idea why. It's very irritating to miss a passage on account of that.

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

Richard Grant’s Rumors of Spring. Because I already do. I also own five copies of it - different editions, including one of those advance copies the publisher sends out for proofing and reviews.

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)?

That it really is possible to read everything. So I need to get my act in gear. (Sheila's reading makes me feel totally inadequate.)

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.

My perfect library would have high vaulted ceilings and floor to ceiling shelves of dark wood built into the walls all the way around the room, except for large picture windows on one wall, preferrably facing a pleasant view, taking up maybe a third of that wall. The window should have thick, heavy curtains in a rich dark color and a seat set into the wall beneath it with lots of cushions. I don’t know the correct term, but I would prefer a second level of a walkway set into the wall all the way around the shelving and a circular staircase to the floor - to enable reaching books using only a stepstool for the highest shelf on each level. The room itself would be full of comfy chairs and chaise lounges and little tables for setting books down on. The books would be a vast assortment of rare tomes, paperbacks, coffee table books, out of date encyclopedias, classic works and whatever else strikes my fancy - all having been handpicked by moi thanks to the good fairy giving me an unlimited budget to quit my dayjob and spend my time feeding my biliophile habit. Because filling the library is an enormous part of the joy of a personal library.

And were I to tag someone (which I tend not to)... I would have to say my sister. Consider yourself tagged, kiddo.


  1. I have a thing about the Da Vinci Code, too. We rented the movie and it BORED me to death, so I figure why spend a longer amount of time to end up bored?

    Your library sounds lovely.

  2. Thank you!

    Yeah, for months and months people spoke of no other book. So I can't stand the idea of reading it.

  3. I do the same thing with film adaptations. In fact, I seem to recall that you and I annoyed Bill because he didn't like the fact that we discovered so much about story and character before seeing a movie. I've never lied about it either but I haven't always made it clear. I'll say, "In the book ..." and I'm not saying I read it but it certainly sounds that way. If anyone asked I would certainly say "No, I haven't it."

    Sheila's reading makes me feel totally inadequate. You and me both.

    Great answers all. I'll have to get around to the Potter books myself one day since you even included a character for one of the questions but at this point I think I'd rather read them in twenty years when they will feel fresh again.

  4. My boss is Russian and he recently said i need to read something called "The 12 Chairs". Not sure who it's by but if this little russian man is going to recommend one thing from his entire culture then it may be worth a read. Figured i'd pass it along as i'm not much of a reader, other than your website of course. :)

  5. i'm so happy i now have some time to do some major catching up on your entries! this is an amazing meme! my dream library?! OMG! *melts at the thought* and i'm like you - i still haven't read the harry potter books or the da vinci code or any other book that has been hyped beyond belief. not that i think they're bad books, it's just that i get a little annoyed about reading something b/c everyone else is. i like to discover things on my own time. i think maybe, at least for me, reading is such an intimate experience and taking part in mass consumption of the same title takes away from that intimacy. ya know?