Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Bookish Questionnaire

Questions via Kim du Toit, who got them elsewhere. I found them interesting enough to lift them and start pondering answers of my own. Do thou likewise, if you feel so inclined.

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

Fanstasy for sure, unless it's got a long track record, like Tolkien. Most science fiction, though there are authors and titles I've loved over the years. I'd say romance, but when does it ever get positive reviews?

If you could bring three [fictional] 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?

In no particular order, and with the caveat that tomorrow, or later today, I would come up with a different three:
1. Taylor, from The Bean Trees. I dig Taylor. I'm not sure I even consider her fictional.
2. Charles Ryder, from Brideshead Revisited. I always felt an affinity for old Charles, sitting calmy (ish) at the center of a storm of crazy friends. Sure, he's a bit stuffy and repressed when we see him as an older man, but I think he gets over it.
3. My friend Thor. He was more fictional than real, and he's gone, and I want him back. Yeah, it's a cheat answer, but I don't care. It's early Saturday morning and there's only so much of this "thinking" stuff I can manage.

No formal event required. Just a comfortable place to hang out and some good scotch and bourbon.

See, I could have said Gatsby, or Huck Finn, or any number of other favorite characters. But do I really want them over to my house? Probably not.

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?

Something by Balzac. I'm just assuming here--so if he's actually fascinating, I'll take a lousy translation.

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 don't think I've pretended to read something I've never touched. But I may have claimed to have read all of Moby Dick. God knows, I've tried. I can't get through it, or even very deeply into it. When I start it, I say, "This is amazingly good and modern and..." And then, before I reach page 100, I'm out of it.

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 don't think so. Though I've certainly read reviews and said "That was what it was all about?"

You’ve been appointed Book Advisor to a 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.

I'd have to agree with the blogger from whom I stole this survey: short stories or short essays. The VIPs I know have dangerously short attention spans and not much time to spare. For stories, I'd go with Lorrie Moore, maybe. Richard Russo and Evelyn Waugh. I'm not a big short story reader, so I don't know all the heavy hitters. For essays, it would depend on their interest. Lewis Thomas for science and overall wonder, George Orwell for politics and overall bemusement, and Annie Dillard, just because she's wonderful.

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?

Ancient Greek. I would love to be able to read the plays, the Odyssey, and Plato...without having to do the hard work of getting there.

A mischievous 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?

The Great Gatsby. No question.
But I'd try to sneak Leaves of Grass in as well, and/or Collected Poems by ee cummings. A man needs a little poetry to get through life.

What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from reading blogs, comments, or other websites (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

Oo, this is a tough one. I've skipped it and saved it for last, not knowing what to say. Now I've done all the other questions, and I still don't know what to say. I've certainly sampled blogs and websites I never would have dreamed of reading, and have found wisdom, compelling argument, and humanity in places where most of my friends would probably never bother looking. Like all reading, it can open you up to opinions and points of view you otherwise would have no access to, and forces you to re-evaluate what you knew, or thought you knew.

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.

Dark and warm--burgundy walls, very comfortable chairs, good sound system. Big windows that can either stay covered, for better reading, or open up onto a spectacular view, for post-reading ruminating. A few signed editions, maybe: Mark Twain, Scott Fitzgerald, Kurt Vonnegut, Milan Kundera. In the Intense Fantasy category, a signed first edition of the next Thursday Next novel, by Jasper Fforde, with the inscription, "To my dear friend A____, without whom I couldn't possibly come up with all of these devilishly clever ideas."

And a first folio Shakespeare, just cuz.

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