Once upon a time I was combing the Internet looking for something to write about, and I came across some book memes. This was long before I started doing Top Ten Tuesdays, but for some reason it took me a long time to write up this one. I liked it because it asked some fresh questions about books and I was able to avoid being too repetitve…hopefully.
1. What author do you own the most books by? Ray Bradbury. I check the sci-fi section of every used bookstore and snag the oldest copies of whatever happens to be on the shelf. I wouldn’t mind having a collection of copies of “The Illustrated Man.”
2. What book do you own the most copies of? I have two editions of “The Martian Chronicles” and two each of a couple F. Scott Fitzgerald books – I think “The Great Gatsby” and “This Side of Paradise.”
3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? Nope. I didn’t even notice.
4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Doctor Who? Oh right, books. I’m a little in love with Vincent Casson, one of the heroes in Alan Furst’s books. Yes, he sleeps with everyone, but it’s because he’s French, and he loves all of his women with a smoldering French passion (and a lot of French talent). I also have a soft spot for Peeta from “The Hunger Games” because he’s The Nice Guy and you’re supposed to have a soft spot for him, even though I wish he would call Katniss out on her emotional incapabilities sometimes.
5. What book have you read the most times in your life? Judging by their spines, I’ve read my Mercedes Lackey and Michael Crichton books often. I’ve read “The Illustrated Man,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Foreign Correspondent,” and “The Lord of the Rings” a couple times. I work my way through “The Mists of Avalon” and “Wicked” every couple years, just to see if they get any easier to read. (They don’t.)
6. Favorite book as a ten year old? Probably an American Girl book.
7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year? I tried to read “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay and I couldn’t stand it. In theory it sounds great: a journalist whose marriage is failing is assigned a terrible story about French police aiding Nazis, while the narrative jumps back in time to tell the story of Sarah, who locked her younger brother in a secret cabinet to hide him from Nazis. I really wanted to know how Sarah’s story ended, but the modern-day saga of the journalist was too cliched, predictable, and preachy to get through. The moral of the story is Nazis are mean and the French were bad for collaborating with them and shame on them. (Golly, really?) The journalist’s stereotypical French husband is stereotypically a cad; their preteen daughter is stereotypically spunky and “wise beyond her years;” and the journalist herself stereotypically finds the perfect man at the last minute and realizes that everything will be okay. Because she found another man, I guess. I read only enough to get closure on Sarah’s storyline and moved on to the next thing on my shelf.
8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year? I thought “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro was beautiful and almost perfect. Almost.
9. If you could force everyone you know to read one book, what would it be? I frequently recommend “The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril” by Paul Malmont because I think it appeals to all kinds of readers. It covers historical fiction, pulp fiction, biography, alternate universes, and writing itself in a madcap pulpy adventure that’s just plain fun to read.
10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? I recently read ”The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi, which is sort of postapocalyptic lite. The book takes place in Bangkok post-energy crisis, where scientists struggle to develop new genetically-modified foods to keep ahead of plagues and rich businessmen entertain themselves with robot geishas. I’d also like to see them finally do a “Wicked” movie - a proper one that keeps some of the darkness of the book while sticking to the musical format.
12. What is your favorite book? It would probably come down to either “The Illustrated Man” (the short-story anthology that introduced me to Bradbury’s science fiction) or “The Lord of the Rings.”
13. What is your favorite play? I dread reading them, but will give almost any Shakespeare play a chance onstage (or onscreen) because you can do so much with those stories. I know many people didn’t like it, but I thought Linfield’s crazy Celtic/samurai production of “Macbeth” was totally awesome. I finally saw Ian McKellan’s alternate-WWII “Macbeth,” and the same play was performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with the title character on modern polio crutches which he used a swords in the battle scenes.
As for reading, my favorite is hands-down “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.” I think every time I read it I pick up new details or develop a new perspective on their wacky existentialist exchanges. Plus, the movie has the best cast ever (Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, and Richard Dreyfuss).
14. Poem? I like this one by Czeslaw Milosz (And Yet The Books):
And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are,” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.
And I also like this one by Mary Oliver (Morning Poem), which I find reassuring and defiant at the same time:
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
15. Essay? I can’t remember any sticking out, but then I don’t think I’ve really read an essay since college.
16. Who is the most overrated writer alive today? I really wanted to like Salman Rushdie, but “Midnight’s Children” was so boring. Dan Brown (of “Da Vinci Code” infamy) and John Shors (who wrote “Beneath A Marble Sky,” which was enjoyably okay, and “Beside A Burning Sea,” which was awful) both get glowing praise that is mostly undeserved.
17. What is your desert island book? My collection of 100 Ray Bradbury stories. Size of a dictionary? Tiny print? Tons of variety? Check, check, and check.