Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Some rather pointless literary based questions

1) What author do you own the most books by?
We own the entire catalogue of a few authors: J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie, and Haruki Murakami. Then there are those who we have more than five of and they include Iris Murdoch, Toni Morrison, Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, Martin Amis, and Margaret Atwood.

I like all those authors though so its no surprise.

Its far more interesting to me that we have lots of books by classic authors like Henry James and Charles Dickens even though I've never read anything by either of them.

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

We have two copies of Catch-22. One is my mums but I have kept because it is dated 12 August 1984 which is twenty years before Megan I were married. I keep it just because of that (and the fact that it's one of my favourite books.) The other is a nice new book which hasn't even had its spine broken which I have just in case my mum ever wants her copy back.
We also have 2 copies of Disgrace (one is hardback), Grimms Fairy Tales, and The Bible.

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

Grammar never bothers me. In fact, I don't really know what a preposition is. Nor do I really care. Words are tools of communication, they should not be constrained with rules.

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

I don't know about secretly in love with, but there are some characters I really like and were they to exist in real life I would like to know them better. Jane Eyre is one, Sumire in Sputnik Sweetheart another. I also really like the unnamed woman from Rebecca and Kathy from Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

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

Probably Matilda by Roald Dahl, or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In recent years there have only been two book I have read twice. The Theory of Clouds by Stephane Audeguy was so good, intriguing, and subtle that I had to re-read it immediately on finishing it, and Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, though there was a gap of about three years between readings of it.

There are lots of books I would like to read again, but there are too many books I want to read once to start reading books twice.

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

The Lord of the Rings. I read it with my dad when I was about 9 or 10, but got bored of waiting to read it a chapter at a time in the evenings and decided to finish the last 300 or so pages by myself. I remember reading it at school and people not being able to believe that I would want to read something so big!

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

I don't believe in a bad book. But there are definitely books I haven't enjoyed. The Famished Road by Ben Okri was one turgid dreamscape after another which might have been enjoyable had it been a couple of hundred pages but as it was was took me almost two months to read and I only finished because I refuse to give up on a book. Apart from that, I didn't really enjoy Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief, (dull, prosaic morality and insipid prose) or Poe Ballantine's God Clobbers Us All (just a bit pointless.)

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

I've read some GREAT books in the past year.
Jane Eyre and Netherland each had such terrific narration and lyrical flow that just reading one word after another was pleasure enough.
Mick Jackson's superbly simple The Underground Man was charming, sweet and lovable. It had that wonderful warmth of a great children's author and made me smile throughout.
And finally, The Man Who Was Thursday amazed me with its combination of incredible witty humour, adroit observations, and cunningly simple plot.

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

I don't think there is one book everyone should read. Everyone's tastes are so different. But I do love to tailor my recommendations to different people. Some of the books I might persuade people to read would be:
Midnight's Children
The Theory of Clouds
Everything is Illuminated
Jane Eyre
An Equal Music
The Secret History
The House of the Spirits
A History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters
The Man Who Was Thursday
84 Charing Cross Road
Music for Torching
Never Let Me Go
Underground Man
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Road
The Sea The Sea
The Quincunx
The Damned Utd
Geek Love
And anything by Haruki Murakami

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

Salman Rushdie, but that is never going to happen. Not the way the world is at the moment. I suspect that an American may take the next award, possibly someone like Philip Roth or Cormac McCarthy. Either that or an Arabic/Iranian writer, I don't know who. The Nobel committee like to use their prizes for grander geopolitical goals as well as artistic merit and they like to keep people guessing.

That said, lost of people have suggested Margaret Atwood and she does strike me as a very worthy candidate.

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

I wanted to make the movie of The Road by Cormac McCarthy because I could picture exactly what it should look like in my head. But mostly I would prefer it if people wrote original screenplays for the cinema rather than just adapt books because they know they will get an easy audience.

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

Midnight's Children. That would just be a complete mess.

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

I never remember my dreams so have absolutely no idea.

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

Probably The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. I don't really think anything is 'lowbrow' but that said I don't really tend to read the things which most people would say are.

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

The most difficult books are those I cannot get into. It doesn't matter if they are 10 pages or 2000, if they don't have a plot which draws me in or a pleasant narrative then they can become troublesome. I also hate books with small print and no chapters. I like to feel I am constantly making progress while reading; the hardest books are those which don't offer that.

Therefore The Famished Road would have to be the most difficult book I have ever read. But there have been others such as The Golden Notebook and Mrs Dalloway which have also proved troublesome to get into.

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

What a stupid question. Ooh, look at me. I must be intelligent because I've seen an obscure Shakespeare play.

Mine is probably Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Globe Theatre, though I didn't get anything out of that experience (I was 16 and didn't want to be there) so its no great accomplishment.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

Um. I'm not a huge fan of the Russians. (Yes, yes, I get the irony. My masters was indeed based on Soviet literary dissent!) But they are, as a terrible generalisation, too focused on turgid little turd characters with bleak mental and social problems to be enjoyable. It's all a little tiring.

I haven't read many classic French novels but the modern French books I have read I have enjoyed. More reading of each to do before I can answer this question accurately.

18 ) Roth or Updike?

Never read either. Don't even own any Updike.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

Dave Eggers

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Shakespeare. But then I haven't read any Milton or Chaucer

21) Austen or Eliot?

Austen is quite good and enjoyable, even though she has become a parody of herself now that everyone imagines upper class regency society through her vocabulary. All that 'oh mama' stuff just makes me laugh.

I've never read any George Eliot.

So I'm going to go with secret option number three: the Bronte's. They tell thick and enthralling stories with proper narrative voice which are a joy to read. I love both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights but haven't yet read anything by Anne Bronte so I can't yet include her in this. Not yet, anyway.

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

Classics. My modern fiction reading is pretty strong, but anything before the 1940's and I am largely ignorant. I'm trying to rectify that at the moment though.

23) What is your favorite novel?

Midnight's Children.

24) Play?

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. It reflects my opinions on historical truth and the quest for knowledge gloriously. It is also hilarious, superbly intelligent, and has a wonderfully beautiful and bitter-sweet ending.

25) Poem?

Again, I'm not the best read when it comes to poetry. But I guess I would have to say Howl by Allen Ginsberg, simply for its passionate and incessant sense of furious anger.

26) Essay?

Oh gosh, this is really challenging. No, I don't think I can think of one I've read.

27) Short story?

There is a story called 'Electrification' by a Russian author named Mikhail Zoshchenko. It is all about a couple who install electric light in their home only to find the increased illumination makes life harder rather than easier. It is only 4 pages long, simple and profound. And it ends with the immortal line: “light is all very well, brother, but it's not easy to live with.”

28 ) Work of nonfiction?

Into the Wild by John Krakauer or Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed

29) Who is your favourite writer?

Salman Rushdie. No-one else possesses his energy, his storytelling prowess, or his ability to merge the everyday with the mythical.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

Stupid question. If people enjoy someone's work, then it is stupid to judge whether they are overrated or not.

31) What is your desert island book?

If I wanted to be experimental I might say War and Peace or other similar length work. Maybe A Suitable Boy, Les Miserables, Gormanghast or the entire Dance to the Music of Time (though that is really 12 books so probably not allowed!). Perhaps even the Bible which I have never read.

But in reality, if I could only read one book again and again for the rest of my life, I think it would have to be Midnight's Children.

32) And finally: what are you reading right now?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. And loving it too. It's the best book I have read since reading Jane Eyre last October.

1 comment:

Simon said...

I recall reading once that if The Lord of the Rings wasnt your favourite book when you were ten, there might be something wrong with you, and if it's still is your favourite book when you're 25, there's definitely something wrong with you!

Great read about your reads.