Okay, okay, several facts: I said I was too stressed for book blogging, which is still true. I also feel guilty for posting about my bookshelves after that and not replying to all my comments and etc. Life is stressful, book blogging in moderation helps. I’ve spent the morning reading through all your wonderful blogs and it has cheered me up, so thank you and thanks for continuing to read my blog, even though I will likely be on again off again for the rest of the year.
Also, confession: I have requested a massive stack of Virago books from my library to prepare for Virago week in January, but now… I can’t seem to settle on reading (or finishing! I have a list of books I’ve abandoned this year and it’s long and rather shameful) anything. I also have a Dickens (Our Mutual Friend) and a Trollope (Can You Forgive Her?) that I’d like to finish this year and sometimes they’re perfect, funny, hearty, other times it’s too much with the Victorian men. I’m thinking I may have to try something lighter, since I just don’t have the mental energy to focus so hard right now. I’m thinking of trying a few good memoirs like Howards End is on the Landing, funny, heartfelt, not too heavy, about topics I’m interested in. I picked up Paris to the Moon last night to that end, which I enjoyed a chapter or two of, but again, may not continue with.
Ridiculously, I keep worrying about how many books I’ll be able to finish this year, alongside the state of my husband’s health and getting this move organized, etc. I’ve read 64 books this year, which is good for me since I’ve been consistently reading about 50 a year since I left university. Book blogging has helped me find more books I enjoy, but I’ve also found more books I mean to read, but for some reason or other, just can’t concentrate on at the moment and so never finish. I know many people read fewer than 64 books a year, but so many book bloggers read so much more! It’s an ungainly dumpling of a number, I had hoped to get to 70 or 75. But unless I fill my time with teen fantasy (something I am considering as I rather enjoyed City of Bones by Cassandra Clare earlier this year and may go back to the second one), I’m frankly too stressed to concentrate for the amount of focused time it takes to read a book, especially Dickens, much as I am starting to enjoy him. (See Hereafter, Clint Eastwood’s movie with Matt Damon the psychic, where he listens to Dickens on audio book as a way to escape — he goes to London to see Dickens’ house and hears Derek Jacobi reading Dickens, it was so moving and helped me see all the merits of Dickens, of why a person could love him, how it could provide solace. I picked up Our Mutual Friend where I’d left off earlier this year and enjoyed it all the more.)
I’ve also been thinking about changing how I blog here. As much as I love books, I do have other interests, in fact, one of my obsessions a few years ago was more obscure British actors, such as Tom Hollander, Rufus Sewell, Toby Stephens, Sam West, Damian Lewis, etc etc. (Watch the BBC miniseries Cambridge Spies to see many of them in their glory!) I have exercised serious self-control not to mention them or any movies here, but now I don’t quite see the point. I thought book blogging was a very regimented, regulated thing, but now I’m realizing many of my favourite bloggers also write about their life and crafts, baking, book related jobs, travels, whatever. I’d like to write a bit more about my life here (although I often wonder where to draw the line on that, since I do find it a bit shy-making writing so publicly) and about movies and actors sometimes. (Cambridge Spies, Cambridge Spies, go watch it! It covers pre- and post WW2, the Spanish Civil War, British dealings with Russians and Americans, and it all really happened!) When Claire of the Captive Reader and I met, we very quickly jumped into discussing adaptations of our favourite British books and after I mentioned that I’ve always thought Fanny Price in Mansfield Park should have ended up with Tom Bertram instead of Edmund (he is more exciting as a reformed bad boy, but part of my argument rests with the wonderful actors who’ve played him, James Purefoy and James D’Arcy), she encouraged me to watch James D’Arcy in Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, which was wonderful and got my husband and I enjoying some gentler mystery shows for a while. It’s certainly easy to love obscure British books like those republished by Persephone when I was already so fond of a good BBC miniseries!
So all that aside (yes also: I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I Loved It. The only comparable excitement after coming home from watching it was putting up the Christmas tree weeks too early!), I was easily tempted away from attempting to start packing by this bookish meme found at A Room of One’s Own.
1. What author do you own the most books by?
It’s a tie between Jane Austen and Marcel Proust, although about three each are doubles! (I had to try Proust in several translations before settling down with the newest one put out by Penguin and surely more than one copy of Jane Austen needs no explanation??) I have the most non-doubles of Elizabeth Bowen.
2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Pride & Prejudice — an Oxford edition, an old Everyman edition found in a used bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London, and a movie tie-in edition (from yes! The version with Keira! I actually like it a lot. I bought myself a nice hardback with Colin Firth and what’s her name on the cover, the same edition featured in You’ve Got Mail but somehow it felt too formal and I gave it to the Firth fanatic friend who introduced me to Jane Austen.) One of my only movie tie-in books, except for my battered copy of Howards End with Sam West on the cover!
3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Ahh, I didn’t even notice.
4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Harry Potter, at the moment. Long term, with Henry Tilney (some library friends and I watched Northanger Abbey together over Remembrance Day and obviously a lovely time was had by all as we laughed over filling the stereotype of library types who love Jane Austen) and I’m going to have to throw Mr. Thornton from North & South in there too. Also Mr. Knightley from Emma a little… (I can’t help it, I keep thinking of Jeremy Northam when I reread the book!)
5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Pride & Prejudice, followed by The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys and Sense & Sensibility – I keep hoping somehow Colonel Brandon will become more Alan Rickman-like, sadly it never quite happens…
6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Swiss Family Robinson. They live in a tree house and a cave! They ride ostriches! I climbed trees and explored the countryside (complete with little red wagon for snacks) with my sister and cousins, I loved adventure books then (and still quite enjoy The 39 Steps and Treasure Island) — why aren’t there more adventure books with girls in them, I wonder?
7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Sadly, With Violets by Elizabeth Robards, about an imagined affair between the painters Manet and Berthe Morisot, set during one of my favourite time periods, the Second French Empire. The romance was not convincing and it just felt painful. Best left to the imagination!
9. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
I would just get everyone to read a good book at all. Anything they liked, just to get them hooked. In the library I see parents trying to force their kids to read this or that type or level of book and I think, why can’t it be something you love and feel comfortable with?? That’s the only way to raise life-long readers I think.
10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I honestly don’t care. It seems to have become more about nationalist politics for some than about the books themselves, Americans complaining their quite well known writers are being overlooked in favour of little known Europeans (which secretly makes me laugh) — if I wanted to get nationalist I’d say Margaret Atwood.
11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
The Lost Garden! (by Helen Humphreys, give it a read already) I think it would make a gorgeous movie, set at a deserted English country house during WW2, taken over by Canadian soldiers and the Women’s Land Army nearby, with beautiful gardens, forbidden love and tinged with sadness at Virginia Woolf’s recent suicide.
12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Books always need publicity! Although personally, Breaking Dawn gets my vote. I read Twilight and secretly enjoyed it, but there’s no need to take it any further with the girl wishing she could die apart from Mr. Sparkles. He may be partly inspired by Mr. Rochester, but she is no Jane Eyre.
13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
Can’t remember any.
14. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
There is some romance set in an archeological dig in Egypt I vaguely recall reading one summer during university when all my roommates were away and I was completely lonely and had nothing to do except read whatever they’d left in the house! (The concept of going to the public library obviously not occurring to me at that moment.)
15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, over a two year period. It’s what led me to discovering book blogs, since I was desperate to find someone else who’d read it! Proust came to feel like a close friend by the time I was done.
16. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Stratford-upon-Avon, where my friends and I were sitting on the edge of our seats, hanging over the edge of the balcony in excitement! It was an absolutely fantastic production, set in the jazz age.
17. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The French. Proust, Zola and Flaubert especially. I loved Anna Karenina when I read it a few years ago, but the Russians just seem a bit too darkly moralistic. (Clearly I prefer the darkly immoral.)
18. Roth or Updike? 19. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Ugh. I’m just going to skip all these and pretend they never happened. I’m not a fan of any of them.
20. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare! (And if you like Shakespeare and anything about the theatre, I highly recommend Slings & Arrows, a Canadian tv show (but don’t let that put you off) with Paul Gross (obviously as it’s Canadian) about a Shakespearean theatre company. They do monologues from his plays in the show! How do more people not know about this? Rachel McAdams is also in the first season, which is about Hamlet. Go find it, it’s moving, it’s Shakespeare!)
21. Austen or Eliot?
Getting difficult… I’ll have to say Jane Austen, as much as George Eliot is also fantastic. She’s just a bit harder to read.
22. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction (1960s-1980s especially), but I don’t consider that embarrassing. I also don’t really stray much from European (or North American) authors, but that’s really because I’d rather be in Europe (England specifically), so… Can’t say I’ve gotten through any 18th century novels either, although I have studied medieval literature, Greek theatre and Shakespeare in university, so those are all covered.
23. What is your favorite novel?
This is a question that secretly haunts me! I can’t decide! It used to be Pride & Prejudice, but I’ve read it so often some parts feel a little worn through. But I can’t find anything as romantic and funny and comforting to really replace it either. In Search of Lost Time is too long and neither Persuasion, Emma nor Northanger Abbey have quite the right mix of desired qualities. Perhaps North & South one day… (although it’s not really a book full of laughs) — you see my problem???
Contemporary: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, partly inspired by listening to an audio version with Rufus Sewell, Sam West and Bill Nighy! Older: Hamlet.
The Circus Animals’ Desertion by W.B. Yeats.
(“…Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”)
The Decay of Lying by Oscar Wilde. It’s really a hoot and written in a dialogue format, so just like his plays!
27. Short story?
I just read Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm out of the Virago Book of Christmas and it is so so funny I almost cried, each detail of the comic misery of their lives before Flora Poste comes just builds and builds (they put coffin nails in their Christmas pudding and Adam tries to dress up as Santa with three red shawls and some turnips). Perfectly seasonal reading!
28. Work of nonfiction?
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.
29. Who is your favorite writer?
Still Jane Austen.
30. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I don’t care. I hate that a few big bland books are being promoted over many smaller more unique ones, but in general I’d rather get worked up about why people spend more time watching tv than reading anything at all.
31. What is your desert island book?
Um um, In Search of Lost Time would last me the longest, but I’d need a complete set of Jane Austen and some Elizabeth Gaskell and some Persephones to truly be set! (Susan Hill allowed herself 40 desert island books in Howards End is on the Landing, that seems more fair!)
32. And … what are you reading right now?
Don’t even ask.