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New Year Procrastination Spectacular!

From bearshorty, fifty-five questions about books for me to answer instead of getting my work week in order.

1. Favorite childhood book?
Jane Eyre and Ramona Quimby all the way. Emily of New Moon is my favorite-favorite, but it's more of an adolescence book for me.

2. What are you reading right now?
Finnegans Wake (resumed after hiatus), The Maltese Falcon, Swann's Way, Watching Television, Titus Groan.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None currently

4. Bad book habit?
Beginning too many books at once, so that there is a stack of unfinished books on the floor of my living room that just keeps growing taller and more tottery.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
The Light and the Dark by C. P. Snow, Collected Letters of Emily Dickinson, The Cuckoo's Calling, The Complete Novels of Dashiell Hammett.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No. The format doesn't really work for me.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One at a time is probably better, but it almost never happens.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
They've gotten marginally less chaotic, and my ability to finish books before starting new ones has improved.

9. Least favorite book you read in 2015
I'm not sure! Of the books I finished, probably The Vacationers or Five Red Herrings, both memorably unrewarding wastes of my time.

The Franchise Affair was bizarrely unpleasant, but interesting. The Fashion in Shrouds had so much WTF it almost warped into being good (no it didn't). Catastrophe Planet was so inept I couldn't hold anything against it. In all, a good year for books: plenty of mediocrity, but very little to hate.

10. Favorite book you’ve read in 2015?
PERSUASION. Lud-in-the-Mist was more perfect, but Persuasion was a rollercoaster and I can't resist a rollercoaster.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Not often enough, probably!

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Currently? Loveable detectives making poor life choices, and sometimes good ones.

13. Can you read on the bus?
This town HAS no bus. When I am able to live in civilized places again, I will read on the bus.

14. Favorite place to read?
These days I mostly read at work or at home. I have a nice armchair, but sometimes I use it to stack books on and sit on the floor.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
If you need a book, I'll lend it to you, no questions asked! Unless it's my super-special childhood first edition or something. Most books are easy to come by.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I had no idea until about five years ago that "dog-eared" was a specific thing (corner of a page folded down to mark place), and not just a general expression meaning "worn and shabby." But yes, all the time! And leave books open face-down. Less now that I am in the used-book trade, but sometimes I don't have a bookmark handy and need to do something.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

18. Not even with text books?
What do you mean, "not even"? Also, I am hella old and have not had a "text book" in many years.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
I am a monolingual American idiot.

20. What makes you love a book?
Anything can make me love a book. I'll forgive a lot if there are characters I like, or if you make me laugh, or if the language is interesting.

The most reliable and effective way to make me love a book is to create the impression that you have gotten away with something most people would know better than to attempt.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I think someone I know might like it, or if I want someone to talk about it with.

22. Favorite genre?
- Detectives!
- whatever you call it when it's like a close-up of some characters' consciousness and you keep thinking, "Hah, I thought I was the only one; who gave you access to my invisible diary?"
- whatever you call the thing Jane Austen does -- emotionally risky social comedies?
- coming of age stories and Portraits of the Artist as a Young Woman

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science fiction! I love sci-fi on TV, but with fiction I often feel like there's a barrier to entry for me, and I'm not sure what it is.

24. Favorite biography?
I don't think I have a favorite. I really enjoyed the Kafka biography I read last year, and Emily Dickinson this year. I nearly always enjoy biographies, but I don't read a lot of them.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I'm sure I have!

26. Favorite cookbook?
I don't have one.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I'm not sure! Inspirational isn't really a word I use.

28. Favorite reading snack?
Chips! (crisps in the UK)

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I can't think of any! Usually I love it when there's hype; then I can feel like other people share my love! If a book is hyped and I don't end up liking it, that's just something that happens. Plus, I tend to live under rocks, so most of the hype doesn't reach me anyway.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I have no way of gauging this. I'd have to start reading a lot more critics and it's not worth the effort right now.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I don't really review books, so it isn't an issue. My affective fallacy and I just surf along on wave after wave of unexamined feels, which I assume can't hurt anyone.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE. Well, Russian, I guess.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I don't know; I don't intimidate that easily these days. Everything I've read that cultural osmosis taught me to be intimidated by (War and Peace, Moby Dick) has turned out to be hilarious and great. Finnegans Wake is a long road, but it doesn't feel intimidating while I'm reading it. I guess I had this problem with The Master and Margarita when I read it a couple years ago: I enjoyed it on a completely shallow level, but felt there were many, many things that I didn't "get" because of a lack of background knowledge -- so many that I wouldn't know where to begin figuring out what they were.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Quite a few of the history books on my shelf, not because I'm afraid I won't understand them, but because they are real-life horrorshows that will give me day nightmares.

35. Favorite Poet?
My poetry-reading game is weak, so I'm going to pass on claiming a favorite. When I was an emo teen, it was Rilke all the way down.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Anywhere from 0 to 15.

37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread?
I used to when I was in school, not so much anymore.

38. Favorite fictional character?
WHO KNOWS. I love them all. I've found myself thinking about Anne Elliot a lot lately. Cormoran Strike is a recent addition to the favorites table.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
The Silmarillion has great villans. I think Ungoliant the giant elemental hunger-spider is my favorite, though Morgoth's long decline into ever-pettier tyranny and paranoia is also excellent. Sauron is just an asshole who needs to get his head together and be less egregious in every way. Glaurung, too, even though he is a dragon and probably doesn't have the same values as you and me.

Oh, and how could I forget DEAN PRIEST? He is neither a villain nor from the Silmarillion, but he is the worst.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
It depends on the vacation. If I'm traveling alone, I'll tend to bring something familar and well-loved. If I'm traveling with others, I'll bring something I haven't read yet. Sometimes I bring one book for transit that I know will pass the time well, and another (new to me) book for reading when I'm standing still.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
A day, maybe? If you mean "without reading for pleasure," probably longer, maybe three or four days at a stretch when I was in school. But it doesn't happen now. It might be interesting to try not to read for a few days and see if anything came of it. I could go for a lot of walks? Or try painting?

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
From this year: Woman in Red by Eileen Goudge was an interesting premise very clumsily handled, to the point where reading it made me squeamish. A Distant Trumpet was mind-numbingly boring for reasons I can't begin to untangle.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Customers (at the store), being cold and/or deciding to make tea (at home). Or sometimes I'll read a passage and have to jump up and walk around because it was good, or bad, or a mix of both.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I don't know! Sense and Sensibility had some weak spots but it was pretty good. I'm hoping it's going to be this War and Peace miniseries, but some of the casting is weird. We'll see!

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Winter's Tale, no contest. An indefensible waste of Jennifer Connelly's eyebrows.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
The only thing that stops me from spending an infinite amount of money in bookstores is my lack of money. Probably eighty dollars?

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I don't think I've done this.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Really bad stereotyping in contemporary fiction, extra-prurient depictions of violence, unreadable prose, misogyny untempered by interesting language or characters. Or if I'm so bored my eyes can't focus.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I don't have time for that. I just stuff them wherever they'll fit.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Give them away, unless I have compelling reasons to keep them (because they're my favorites, or I know I'm going to want to look at them again soon).

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Not consciously. Room for a while, but there was never much risk of me reading it in the first place. Oh, wait, I know! Go Set A Watchman is everywhere here in Harper Lee Central and I could not be less interested in it if I were dead.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Fahrenheit 451 is the meanest and stupidest cane-shaking rant disguised as a paean to the life of the mind I have ever encountered. If Harold Bloom and Allan Bloom had a gigantic surly baby that never grew up, but only grew massive and more colicky by the day and wailed inconsolably every time the TV cut on or off, its insights into Our Modern Popular Culture would be more valuable and less annoying than those of Fahrenheit 451.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Catcher in the Rye was the biggest surprise of 2015. I was blown away by how much I loved it, after twenty years of thinking I had no use for it.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Most of the Margery Allingham books I've read. They just didn't come together for me, on a very basic technical level. Even the bits I liked were vaguely disappointing.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
All of my pleasure reading is guilt-free! Well, almost all.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2016 04:16 am (UTC)
Persuasion is so so good. It is definitely my favorite Jane Austen novel. I read when I was 27, the same age as Anne, so that was fun. I adore the movie adaptation with Amanda Root Ciaran Hinds.
Jan. 5th, 2016 12:06 am (UTC)
It's the best! I'll have to make time to watch the movie soon. Ciaran Hinds was in the TV show Rome and was good enough to almost (ALMOST) make me like Julius Caesar for a minute.
Jan. 4th, 2016 02:21 pm (UTC)
DEAN PRIEST, man. He's such a great villain because he sneaks up on you: sure, he's vaguely creepy from the start, but in no way did I expect the DEPTHS OF EVIL to which he sunk, and it's especially awful because he's such an important and broadening influence on Emily's intellectual development.

And then he tells her that her book is bad (and, IIRC, not just bad but shows no promise? So not only is this one bad, but ALL HER BOOKS WILL BE BAD FOREVER), and it's such a despicable betrayal. It's so bad that even when he confesses and apologizes, it's not really enough to redeem him, just enough to make him slightly less despicable.

(But he's so well-written that I still kind of want him to get his happy ending. Far, far away from Emily. Perhaps if he is a very good boy they can exchange Christmas cards.)

Also I'm glad that someone else hates Fahrenheit 451 as much as I do. What a ridiculous, overblown book. I hated Bradbury's portrayal of the hero's wife (I can't remember anyone's names now), and the ridiculous quotation battle at the end (why would this guy know all these quotes anyway?) and just generally the whole book is pretty much a temper tantrum.
Jan. 5th, 2016 12:28 am (UTC)
"We don't bruise the pretty visions of a child," said Dean. "But it's foolish to carry childish dreams over into maturity. Better face facts. You write charming things of their kind, Emily. Be content with that and don't waste your best years yearning for the unattainable or striving to reach some height far beyond your grasp."

He shows Emily this condescending parody of herself, where she's just a charming child no one wants to wound. He KNOWS IT'S FALSE but he says it anyway, because he's burning up with envy of the truth. And Emily believes him because Dean knows so much and has seen so much more of the world, and because it's what she's always feared was true anyway. And no one's pleas can reach her because she KNOWS now that they're all just trying not to bruise the pretty visions of a child.

He is the worst (and also extremely well-written).

Mildred was the hero's wife in F-451. I will remember her always because she was a gigantic slop bucket of misogynist garbage with a cartoon hair-bow stuck on top. Seriously bad and careless writing from Bradbury, even if the rest of the book had been better (which, alas, no).
Jan. 5th, 2016 02:12 am (UTC)
Dean Priest is the wooooooorst. And it's even worse, because he's so believable - both in the sense that Emily believes his criticisms, and that the reader believes in him as a human being; there's not a hint of mustache-twirling about him - and he saves his awfulness for when it really, really counts, so he has all these years of being more or less truthful behind him to bolster the idea that he's being truthful now.

He really is lucky that Emily didn't stab him with the scissors when he confessed to his evil deed. Probably she figured it would be beneath her dignity.

The horrible caricature that is Mildred put me off ever reading any of Bradbury's other work. How can I trust him to be fair to anyone else after that?
Jan. 4th, 2016 03:35 pm (UTC)
I have the same problem with novel sci-fi, but then the TV sci-fi I like isn't very sci-fi either, like the Clangers:)

I thought the first ep of 'The War and Peace' mini-series was good enough to make me watch ep 2. I don't know if it's like the book whatsoever though.

I am much disapproving of anything that wastes a use of an eyebrow.
Jan. 5th, 2016 12:31 am (UTC)
The miniseries is out already!? I'd better get on that. Based on the trailers, I love the guy who plays Pierre (he looks like he was born about twenty minutes ago) and am unsure about everyone else.

What's The Clangers about?
Jan. 5th, 2016 04:18 pm (UTC)
Yes - in the UK. I don't know when everywhere else is going to get it. I think the actors are all right so far, don't know if they match the written characters.

The Clangers live on a planet with the Soup Dragon and eat blue string pudding. If you've seen 'The Sea Devils' the Master enjoys watching them.
Jan. 6th, 2016 05:59 am (UTC)
I haven't seen 'The Sea Devils' yet, but that is a ringing (clanging?) endorsement!
Jan. 6th, 2016 03:29 pm (UTC)
'The Sea Devils' is my second fave Delgado!Master serial, therefore yes:D
Jan. 6th, 2016 02:32 am (UTC)
My affective fallacy and I just surf along on wave after wave of unexamined feels, which I assume can't hurt anyone.

:D :D

I didn't have as many issues with Fahrenheit 451 (plus hey now I can spell Fahrenheit, woo) as I expected; I interpreted the anti-TV thing as being not specific to TV so much as that medium's headlong plunge into nothing but hedonism (and everything getting suppressed along the way).

I am avoiding To Set a Watchman too. The whole situation around its publication is giving me the heebie jeebies.
Jan. 6th, 2016 06:28 am (UTC)
Did you find the headlong plunge into hedonism believable? I think one of the biggest problems I had with the book was that the worldbuilding wasn't cohesive enough for me to read F-451world as anything other than Bradbury's satiric vision of Stuff Ray Bradbury Hates.

There were some cool details and every now and then an image came into focus, but it never felt like a lived-in future to me. Instead, it felt like I was being asked to mourn for a false past and be repulsed by an inaccurate caricature of the present. I'd probably mind that a lot less if I thought the setting and the characters worked better on their own terms.

ETA I don't mean that you're wrong if you thought it worked as a world -- just catching a wave, as always.

Edited at 2016-01-06 06:31 am (UTC)
Jan. 6th, 2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
Did you find the headlong plunge into hedonism believable?
Hm, I'm not sure. I don't read Bradbury much - he used to come up in literature classes, so I've read the Veldt and things like that. Also the rain on Venus one which I know it's horrible and everything, but mostly what it left me with was a terrible desire to read pre-knowledge-of-the-hell-that-is-Venus books all about Venus. But I digress. What I meant to say is that yeah, his novels always seemed a bit thin; he is good at presenting horrifying scenarios but without putting in the background. This works fine in short story, but fails somewhat in longer novels (F 451 was pretty short though, which doesn't help). It does feel a bit thin. I'm trying to think of where horror does work for me, like the Lottery by Shirley Jackson; I think in her case I can easily believe humans would do that. Hmm. I guess I'd have to read the book again to see if I feel it holds up, it's been awhile. It's a good point.
Jan. 6th, 2016 11:53 pm (UTC)
I love that rain-on-Venus story, though I haven't actually re-read it since middle school. It's one of my strongest memories of being completely undone by a short story.

One thing "The Lottery" has going for it is that the premise is really simple. The language is simple and the imagery of village life is familiar, so all your attention gets focused to a single point, like a laser.
Jan. 15th, 2016 02:02 am (UTC)
Somehow the horrible treatment of the girl never stuck in my mind - I also probably first read it back in junior high. I absolutely love the retro novels that explore what we thought/imagined life was like on other solar system planets - like the Princess of Mars depiction of Mars. (Atmosphere! Low gravity! Moss growing everywhere! Strange creatures! Rivers on the surface!) I think it's because I like space opera and different worlds, but I like it when it's grounded in our reality/solar system (instead of say Star Wars in a completely new galaxy). But I digress!

Ooh, that's a good point. The familiarity with small-towns definitely helps.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )


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