I saw this over at The Book Smugglers the other day and it looked like great fun!
1. What author do you own the most books by?
Hmmm, a quick glance at my bookshelves reveals quite a bit of: L.M. Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling (several copies of each, actually), Julie Leto, and Scott Westerfeld.
2. What book do you own the most copies of?
I collect the old, un-re-edited (no, Aslan does NOT destroy The Island Where Dreams Come True), un-re-ordered (#3, baybee!) copies of THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER. Also, my husband and I have an embarrassingly large number of copies of Aristotle left over from school.
3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
In high school I had the biggest crush on Finny from A SEPARATE PEACE. I also kinda fall for all the boys in my own books. I also discuss my unrequited love for Edmund Pevensie in Through the Wardrobe. I also swoon over Captain Wentworth in Persuasion. And everyone has heard me talk about my adoration for Logan Echolls (though that’s not books, it’s TV — and lately I was totally into Sokka from Avatar).
Recently, I’ve developed crushes on: Ravus, from Holly Black’s Valiant, Po, from Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, and Peeta, from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Oh, and there’s a guy in Carrie Ryan’s Dead-Tossed Waves that I’m totally into, but I can’t tell you about that yet.
4. What book have you read more than any other?
That might also be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Or possibly Anne of the Island. In college, it was definitely Frankenstein. I studied that baby in three different classes. Judging from the state of the paperback on my shelf (being held together with a rubber band), it’s A Girl of the Limberlost, in which I had zero crush on Philip, but was totally in love with Elnora.
5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I think we’re still going to go with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. By the time I was fourteen I was obsessed with The Mists of Avalon, but amusingly, it has not held its charm for me over the years the way Voyage has.
6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I actually didn’t finish it, so I don’t know if it counts as “reading.” But it was baaaaaaaad. I’m kinda shocked that it’s published, to tell the truth. But I think that’s how most people feel whenever they read a book which combines such crass lowest-common-denominator attempts at hitting commercial hot buttons with pedantic writing, flat characters, zero interest in realism and completely tone-deaf plotting. No, I will not tell you the name.
7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
It’s not out yet, but it’s called LIAR, by Justine Larbalestier. Books that are out: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, and Watchmen, by Alan Moore.
8. If you could tell everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The unabridged version of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas (the Penguin Classics version, translated by Robin Buss).
9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
I slogged my way through quite a lot of crap in college, but I found that if it was actually “difficult” I tended not to read it. I found The Brother’s Karamazov unutterably painful and stopped reading it, which is too bad, since I positively loved Crime and Punishment. I have a very low tolerance for this whole “reading books should be like having a root canal” theory of modern literature. I’m fine with “books should be like vegetables” because I love vegetables, but if people tell me that something is difficult to read, I’m like, okay, let’s find something that’s really FUN to read, even if it’s challenging or etc. For instance, I know a lot of people who are intimidated by Clarissa because it’s so massive, but I adored all 1700 pages. That book consumed me. Also, though Borges is a really really “dense” writer and it takes a long time to wrap your brain around the concepts and words and language, I love reading him, too.
10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I suppose the French, because of the aforementioned love of Dumas and hatred for The Brothers K, but I don’t think I’m particularly familiar with the panoply of French Literature (the only other French novels I can think of having read right now are Candide and The Red and the Black), whereas I have taken a class called The Russian Novel. So maybe the Russians, just based on familiarity? I don’t know. this question makes me embarrassed of my degree. Oh. Wait. I also read The Princess of Cleves. yeah, French. Unless we’re counting Nabokov as Russian and not American, in which case, I think Russian.
Clear as mud? Oui? Da?
11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Shakespeare is better performed than read. I loved Chaucer in high school, but that was 13 years ago. I’ve recently rediscovered Milton, though, and am loving it! Why isn’t Dante on this list? After all that French/Russian stuff in the last question, I’m finding this one very English-centric. Discounting Shakespeare (who was a playwright and not an epic poet, like the others), I’m going to say my favorite epic poet is Homer, and my favorite epic poem is the Odyssey.
I guess, though, if I”m going to be a purist about this question, I’m going with the order they are listed: Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer.
12. Austen or Eliot?
Austen. Weird question — you usually see it written “Austen or the Brontes” — and I must admit, I’ve never read any Eliot. Which book do you suggest I start with? (Persuasion is my favorite Austen, btw.)
13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Modern literature. When that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die book came out, I realized that I’d read almost all the pre-1700s works, most of the pre-1800, and a good segment of the pre 1900 — but almost none of the ones from the 20th century, and zero from the 21st. Though I found that list really unbalanced, and very biased towards Ian McEwan in general.
14. What is your favorite novel?
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. But for sheer comfort reading, I find myself turning time and again to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Anne of the Island, The Girl of the LImberlost, The Phantom Tollbooth, Pride and Prejudice, and (for a good cathartic cry) Persuasion.
I’m a huge musicals fan. I love any musical, but specifically Les Miserables, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls… the list goes on and on. As for straight plays, I’m pretty partial to A Winter’s Tale. My husband tells me I’d love Lear if I saw it.
I think we already covered The Odyssey, right? Catullus 101 is awesome, too. And 85. And Horace’s “To Chloe” (Most of my poetry study took place in Latin class). English poems, I like Poe. That’s no secret. My favorite of his poems is “The Bells.” I also like Donne.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some absolutely smashing essays, but the one that comes immediately to mind is David Foster Wallace’s F/X Porn. Seriously, go read it now. Brilliance. I think DFW’s true strength as a writer was his essays. “Consider the Lobster” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” are regularly quoted from in my house.
19. Non Fiction
How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Though judging from the timing he gives on his roast chicken, it’s not entirely non-fiction.
20. Graphic Novel?
In college, I loved Maus. Does Transmetropolitan count as a novel or a series? I should really read more graphic novels. People tell me Sandman is great.
21. Science Fiction?
Honestly? “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” by Jorge Luis Borges. Though I’m not entirely sure that counts as SF. Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem does, and when I was in college, I wrote one of my favorite papers comparing the two stories. So I suppose you could make the argument. I also really enjoyed Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. And A Stranger in a Strange Land. And Brightness Falls from the Air. And Frankenstein. And the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld. Pretty much anything by Susan Squires. Feed by M.T. Anderson. Wow, this list can go on and on…
I’d really love to write a science fiction novel one day. There are some science fiction elements in Rampant, but it’s rooted in fantasy/mythology/magic.
(In passing, I’m kinda obsessed with finding images of “my” copies of these books. I can’t find a picture of “my” Solaris on the internet, so instead, you get “my” Ficciones, which holds “my” copy of Tlon.)
22. Who is your favorite writer?
L.M. Montgomery. I can always sit down with one of her books or short stories and get swept away.
23. Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
Cormac McCarthy. Sorry, but there it is. I think my least favorite book of all time is All the Pretty Horses, and the way he was such a jerk about The Road and insisting that it wasn’t spec fic really pissed me off. That English dude they fawn over who is an admitted plagiarist of a romance novelist but-gosh-it-doesn’t-count-because-he-writes-lit-ur-a-ture-and-she’s-just-a-romance-novelist counts too. Wait, is that Ian McEwan again? Curious.
24. What are you reading right now?
Shadowed Summer, by Saundra Mitchell, The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall, and an ARC of The Teashop Girls, by Laura Schaffer.
25. Best Memoir?
Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane. That was one of the best books I read in high school.
26. Best History?
Gosh, you know? I don’t think I’ve read a history since Thucydides freshman year of college. Sad, huh?
27. Best Mystery or Noir?
I am finding these questions rather odd. They ask about mystery and SF but not fantasy or romance? Also, I realize that I don’t really read mystery. Thrillers, yes, but not mysteries. And though approximately 75% of the television shows are mystery, I don’t watch any of them. I watch no CSI or L&O or Bones or House or Monk anything that can be characterized as a procedural or mystery. Which is weird, since I loved loved loved loved loved Veronica Mars, which was, ostensibly, a mystery show. I mean, it was about a detective. I wonder why I loved that one so much when mystery usually leaves me cold?
Like, right now, I’m trying to watch Psych. I love Dule Hill, and it came highly recommended to me by Cassandra Clare when we were in Ireland. But I am just so bored by the mysteries. Every week, la-di-dah, where’s the dead body? Maybe that’s why I liked Veronica Mars so much — because the mystery-of-the-week was never really the focus. Not like the class struggles and her life falling apart and her relationship with her dead best friend and her father and her mother — and why, after all that was solved, I was never really as drawn to the show as I had been before. (Also, Veronica’s adversaries were usually moderately to very clever, and Sean and Gus’s adversaries are always displayed as being appallingly dumb.)
I am thus always surprised when someone characterizes one of my books as a mystery. To me, “whodunnit” — which is the central focus of any mystery — is never really the point as much as what they are doing, or why, or how knowing doesn’t really prevent the good guys from being able to stop them (again, thriller elements). Sometimes the POV characters know the identity of the bad guy, sometimes they don’t — but it doesn’t mean that they can solve the problem.
For instance, (whited out for Under the Rose spoilers) Amy suspects from very early on that Jenny is behind the problems in Under the Rose. She just can’t get anyone else on her side, because it’s so inconceivable to most of the other Diggers that one of their own might betray them. So the fact that it is, in fact, Jenny, is not supposed to be much of a surprise to the reader. After all, Amy’s been banging that drum for a hundred pages. What I was interested in talking about –alongside Amy’s growth as a person and a Rose & Grave member — is what led Jenny to that point, why she made the decisions she did, and how, underneath it all, she was really kind of a double agent, and actually helped uncover a bigger mystery that she didn’t know how to tell anyone about. What I discovered when the book came out is that the people who were reading for those things enjoyed the book, and the people who were reading it like a mystery novel, like the point of the book was to find out who was behind everything — well, they weren’t satisfied, because it was obvious it was Jenny.
Which is something I’m learning as a writer, that sometimes, people who don’t like a book don’t like it because they expected it to be a different book entirely, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Like, did anyone else notice that by the end of the run of Harry Potter, there were a lot of people who seemed to think that the sole purpose of each book was to kill someone off? And it was all, “Who dies in this one?” And then got all pissed off when the person or persons they expected to die in the last one didn’t die? And there were these roving bands of spoilers who would do drive bys of the lines outside bookshops and shout out the name of the dead person, or would go into chat on World of Warcraft and scream it?
What was up with those guys? Weren’t they reading for the cool fantasy world and the funny candies and the relationship between Harry and his friends and the epic storytelling?
But I digress. All of which is to say, I’m not very familiar with mysteries, and, as a genre, it’s not my cup of tea. I didn’t even read Nancy Drew or similar growing up. I was too busy memorizing The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, apparently.