What’s new in the funny papers, people? One of my big vague resolutions this year is to budget my time more wisely, and one of the results of that vow (I hope) is that I will also break myself down and resculpt myself as a better, more regular blogger. So why not start off the year with a semi-end-of-the-year book meme ganked from Laura of Ruby Bastille? Take it away, meme:
1. What author do you own the most books by? I’m not by my bookshelf right now, but I can answer with almost complete certainty that the answer is Samuel Delany, because my senior seminar was on his work, and then I picked up a bunch of vintage copies of his books at a book sale, so I’ve got to own at least 14 or 15 individual books, and maybe a couple of doubles.
2. What book do you own the most copies of? Probably Faust? I had to buy three different translations for a class, and I think I still have them all.
3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Not really, I’m trying to become less of a prescriptivist. I do still think that rerouting prepositions is doable and not terribly awkward in writing versus in speech.
4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? All of them! Oh my goodness. Okay, maybe not every single one, but I have a million literary crushes. One recent crush is Sabriel from the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix–ahh, she’s so awesome and capable and a badass necromancer, even if she is a bit of a curmudgeon.
5. What book have you read the most times in your life? One of them is definitely Watership Down, by Richard Adams; I picked it up for the first time when I was in 4th grade, and it’s still one of my favorites. Other frequent re-reads are The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot, and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman. (That one’s definitely my most reread nonfiction, anyhow.)
6. Favorite book as a ten year old? I was pretty crazy about Juniper, by Monica Furlong. Cornwall! Magic! Learning to survive! Killing a pig! Plus, I learned what chilblains are.
7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? If we’re counting books I actually read all the way through, I’d say probably Sweet Valley High: Mystery Date, for obvious reasons. For books I have not yet finished, Rain, by V.C. Andrews, for equally obvious reasons. (Jessica knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout.)
8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? Oh god, it’s been a year for really good books. This was the year I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, and The Last Unicorn, by Peter Beagle. This was the year for my first Shannon Hale book, and my first Octavia Butler. Plus, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which brought Tiny Cooper into my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.
9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? If it were everyone I knew, I’d probably pick In The Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker, because I think she’d hit a note with the most people, and she’s a seriously underappreciated sci-fi author.
10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, by Peter Cameron. I don’t know if the movie would lose something by missing James’ first-person voice, but it could also be pretty great! Reading the book gave me a lot of strong mental images, and it would be interesting to see how a director interpreted the same scenes. Plus, uh, it actually is being made into a movie (not sure when it’s being released?), andthe kid who’s playing James looks like he could do James justice. (Same for the actress playing Gillian. Gilliaaaaan!)
11. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read? In terms of book-hating qualities, that prize goes to Ethan Frome. Ahghhghhghhh. Flames, on the sides of my face. Otherwise, possibly a book of short stories by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, because it was in Portuguese, and even after a lot of class-time many of the nouns escape me.
12. What is your favorite book? This changes all the time! Especially depending on what I’m looking for. One of my very favorites is Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, because it’s such a good science fiction novel, and because the language of the book works so well and (in my opinion) isn’t gimmicky at all.
13. What is your favorite play? I have two, both thanks to college: Faust, and Spring Awakening. I worked closely with Faust for several classes, and Spring Awakening for one particular class, and have done close reading work on both of them in German, so they feel special.
14. Poem? I’m probably going to regret putting this down later instead of something that sounds more impressive, but even after all these years I still have a strong fondness for A. A. Milne’s poetry, particularly “The Four Friends:”
Ernest was an elephant, a great big fellow,
Leonard was a lion with a six foot tail,
George was a goat, and his beard was yellow,
And James was a very small snail.
Leonard had a stall, and a great big strong one,
Earnest had a manger, and its walls were thick,
George found a pen, but I think it was the wrong one,
And James sat down on a brick.
Earnest started trumpeting, and cracked his manger,
Leonard started roaring, and shivered his stall,
James gave a huffle of a snail in danger
And nobody heard him at all.
Earnest started trumpeting and raised such a rumpus,
Leonard started roaring and trying to kick,
James went on a journey with the goat’s new compass
And he reached the end of his brick.
Ernest was an elephant and very well intentioned,
Leonard was a lion with a brave new tail,
George was a goat, as I think I have mentioned,
but James was only a snail.
There are also a lot of songs out there that I would classify as poetry, but talking about lyrics sounds kind of dorky, so I won’t.
15. Essay? I haven’t actually read many essays since leaving college, which is maybe something I need to change, but I did read and ponder on Nnedi Okorafor’s essay “Stephen King’s Super Duper Magical Negroes,” which I think is a helpful article for thinking about Magical Negroes in literature in general, and not just in Stephen King’s works.
16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? Feel free to disregard this opinion entirely, because it comes from a place of grudge and not from an actual understanding of the author’s work: Jonathan Franzen. I read the introduction he wrote to his translation of Spring Awakening, and was much aggrieved to find him bashing on the musical based on the play because its interpretation of the play is “incorrect.” I was like, “well fuck you too, mister I And Only I Know How To Interpret A Text” and closed the window, never to read anything by him ever again.
17. What is your desert island book? Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, because nobody ever said I wasn’t a predictable nerd.
18. And . . . what are you reading right now? I finally picked up Dune again, because last time I tried it I only got a few pages in before losing interest. It’s holding me a lot better this time, and I’m actually pretty jazzed about continuing. Political intrigue isn’t usually my thing, but political intrigue in spaaaaace is more promising.
Woo! I feel rejuvenated and enthusiastic to talk about books, I don’t know about y’all! In the next couple of days I’ll post my 2011 books read list (which sort of train wrecked at the end of the year, but whatever) and the TOP TEN BOOKS I READ IN 2011, because I know everyone’s just dying to hear what I think.