Category Archives: Memes

A list!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a listy, meme-type thing, and maybe the depths of July when I’m lazy and tired are good for that. I found this at Musings from the Sofa and My Porch (the sofa and the porch — perfect!). It’s the Sunday Times list of “The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.” Let’s see how I do.

1. Philip Larkin – read him in college, not since.
2. George Orwell – his most famous novels, plus some essays. The essays are best and I want to get back to them.
3. William Golding – in high school, I’m pretty sure.
4. Ted Hughes – yes, he’s awesome.
5. Doris Lessing – no. Need to get to my copy of The Golden Notebook.
6. J. R. R. Tolkien  – read The Hobbit as a kid, but never got farther. This is probably a shame.
7. V. S. Naipaul – not yet.
8. Muriel Spark – three novels so far.
9. Kingsley Amis – yes, Lucky Jim.
10. Angela Carter – read in grad school. Don’t remember much.
11. C. S. Lewis – Narnia, plus some of his nonfiction.  Have probably had enough for one lifetime. Used to like him, don’t anymore.
12. Iris Murdoch – read in college and read another novel later. Don’t think I’ll go back, though.
13. Salman Rushdie – Haroun and the Sea of Stories in college and Midnight’s Children in grad school. Plus I’ve seen him give talks at least twice now.
14. Ian Fleming – no, not really my thing.
15. Jan Morris – who?
16. Roald Dahl – read as a kid.
17. Anthony Burgess – nope.
18. Mervyn Peake – who?
19. Martin Amis – read London Fields in grad school, Time’s Arrow later, probably enough for me.
20. Anthony Powell – not yet, not terribly high on the list.
21. Alan Sillitoe – who?
22. John Le Carré – read recently for book group and liked it, although it’s not quite my thing.
23. Penelope Fitzgerald – read The Bookshop and didn’t take to it, but will try again at some point.
24. Philippa Pearce – who?
25. Barbara Pym – read and like very much. I have several of her books on hand I haven’t read yet.
26. Beryl Bainbridge – read one book and didn’t really take to it.
27. J. G. Ballard – nope.
28. Alan Garner – read one book for The Slaves of Golconda book group; pretty good.
29. Alasdair Gray – who?
30. John Fowles – read The French Lieutenant’s Woman in grad school.
31. Derek Walcott – don’t think so, except maybe a random poem here or there.
32. Kazuo Ishiguro – he’s awesome.
33. Anita Brookner – she’s awesome.
34. A. S. Byatt – she’s occasionally awesome.
35. Ian McEwan – he’s occasionally awesome.
36. Geoffrey Hill – nope.
37. Hanif Kureishi – read a screenplay in grad school.
38. Iain Banks – nope.
39. George Mackay Brown – who?
40. A. J. P. Taylor – who?
41. Isaiah Berlin – nope.
42. J. K. Rowling – she’s on this list really? Read only the first Harry Potter, and it was okay.
43. Philip Pullman – love him.
44. Julian Barnes – love him.
45. Colin Thubron – who?
46. Bruce Chatwin – the one book I’ve read, In Patagonia, bored me.
47. Alice Oswald – who?
48. Benjamin Zephaniah – who?
49. Rosemary Sutcliff – who?
50. Michael Moorcock – who?

I’m fading by the end of this, I see. Well, there are some names to explore here, if I decide I want to.


Filed under Books, Memes

The Time Traveler’s Meme

Emily the Queen o’ Memes, has a new creation with orders to all of her readers that must not be ignored. So here goes:

1. Depending on your age, go back 10, 15, 20, or even more years.
2. Tell us how many years back you have traveled.
3. Pretend you have met yourself during that era, and tell us where you are.
4. You only have one “date” with this former self.
5. Answer the questions.

I think I’ll go back 15 years, which would put me at 21, in my senior year of college.

1. Would your younger self recognize you when you first meet? I think so. My hair has gotten shorter since then, but it’s still basically the same style and color (with possibly less gray now than I had then, believe it or not), and I dress in much the same way. I think I’m about the same weight. If there are radical things that have changed, I’m not aware of it.

2. Would she be surprised to discover what you are doing job wise? No. She wouldn’t have expected the particular location and school I’m at, but the fact that I’m a teacher wouldn’t be a surprise at all. I’ve always been rather boring and predictable that way.

3. What piece of fashion advice would you give her? Find friends who like to shop and who will help you pick things out. It worked well with Becky, although now that she’s moved to England, I’m going to have to get my fashion advice long-distance. But shopping on my own? I’d tell myself to face the fact that I hate it and find friends who don’t.

4. What do you think she is most going to want to know? Probably about grad school, which she was in the process of applying for at the time, and in the longer term about careers. Everyone was saying at the time that academic jobs are hard to get (although they’ve gotten even harder since then), so would her strange self-confidence be justified? But also about relationships and marriage, of course. She wasn’t dating anyone at the time and had no idea that in one year …

5. How would you answer her question? If I could manage it, I wouldn’t answer it at all. I think it’s better not to know things. But I’m not the sort who can be sensible and refuse to divulge things, so I would probably answer everything she asked.

6. What would probably be the best thing to tell her?
Generally speaking, I would tell her not to be so nervous and afraid of new things. Actually, there’s a lot she’s not afraid of, as she’s going to move to a fairly rough neighborhood in the Bronx soon (although she has no idea of it yet), and she’ll do just fine. But she could be less afraid of other people and less worried about making mistakes. And she could be less judgmental about other people’s choices.

7. What is something that you probably wouldn’t tell her?
That she will change remarkably little. This is good in some ways, but disappointing in others.

8. What do you think will most surprise her about you?
She’d say, “I’ve become an athlete? I enjoy exercising? I ride 5,000+ miles a year on my bike and race? Yeah, right. Exercise is just another chore, and I don’t know the first thing about bikes. And don’t care.” And she’d also say, “You don’t call yourself a Christian any longer? You practice yoga and read books about  Buddhism and spirituality? You’ve become one of those kinds of people!?”

9. What do you think will least surprise her? That I’m teaching and reading a lot. That I like reading Victorian novels. That I’ve done a lot of hiking.

10. At this point in your life, would you like to run into “you” from the future? No. Being 15 years older than my former self has made me a lot less confident about the future. I don’t want to know.


Filed under Memes

Literary Confessions

Lots of people have been doing some form of the “literary confessions” or the “I really should have read this, why haven’t I yet?” meme, so I thought I would too. So let’s see — what are the books it seems I should have read by this point but haven’t yet gotten to?

  1. Shakespeare’s history plays. With the exception of Julius Caesar, I haven’t read any of them. Almost all the Shakespeare I’ve read was for a full-semester college course on the subject, and the professor I had didn’t emphasize the history plays, going for the tragedies and a few comedies instead. I haven’t gotten motivated to read them on my own.
  2. I’ve read some of the Canterbury Tales but not all of them. Actually, I wonder how many people have read all of them instead of reading just the most famous ones. Regardless, it seems like I should have read the whole thing. But no.
  3. Everyman, the play. Can you see a theme in this list so far? If it’s before, say, 1660, the chances are decent I haven’t read it.
  4. The Aeneid. As far as major epics go, I’ve read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Paradise Lost, but I’ve ignored Virgil.
  5. But on to some more (relatively) modern things. Oliver Twist. I’ve read my fair share of Dickens — Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol. But no Oliver Twist and no Hard Times.
  6. Billy Budd. I’ve read Moby Dick, but nothing else by Melville. In fact, I’m not that great on the Americans, generally. I’ve read The Scarlet Letter, but not House of Seven Gables or Blithedale Romance; I’ve read relatively little Poe; and I’ve read The Pioneers by Cooper but not Last of the Mohicans or any other of his novels.
  7. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This is one that many people get to in High School or thereabouts, right? I missed it somehow.
  8. Anything by Margaret Atwood. I have Alias Grace and Hobgoblin owns The Handmaid’s Tale, but I have yet to pick her up. Soon, hopefully soon. I follow her on Twitter after all.
  9. Catch-22. Hobgoblin encourages me to read this every once in a while, but without any success. I’m not against reading it, but I don’t think it’s exactly my sort of book.
  10. The Last Temptation of Christ. This is one I would like to get to, but I say that about thousands of books.

So that’s my list. I think I’d better get reading now.


Filed under Books, Memes

A bookshelves meme!

Box of Books has a great meme I can’t resist: what do your bookscases say about you?

  • “I think I read much faster than I really do!” I have been collecting books at a fast and frantic pace lately, and somehow I still think that each one I buy, borrow, or mooch I will get to before very long.
  • “I went to graduate school!” I have my share of literary theory and criticism — Foucault, Derrida, Irigaray, Freud, etc., etc. Some of these books have even been marked up and written in.
  • “My husband went to graduate school too!” Although some of our books are on separate shelves, we combine much of our fiction and some poetry, which we keep in our living room. Here you will find not just one, but multiple copies of books like Ulysses and William Wordsworth’s The Prelude, in the big Norton Critical Edition. You will also find multiple copies of obscure eighteenth-century novels that almost no one reads unless they went to grad school.
  • “I studied eighteenth-century British literature!” I have books like Augustan Critical Writing, Critical Essays on Laurence Sterne, Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry, Women in the Eighteenth-Century, and a copy of Richardson’s Clarissa with lots of cracks in the binding.
  • “I’m mildly obsessive!” But only mildly. I keep our fiction downstairs alphabetized, and the books in my study are arranged by subject. But these books arranged by subject aren’t alphabetized. I only go so far.
  • “I love long novels!” I have lots of long Victorian novels, including tons of Dickens, Eliot, and Austen, as well as some Trollope. And I also have long, long books by Richardson, Burney, Dostoevsky, Thackery, Tolstoy, Lady Murasaki, and Cervantes.
  • “I have traditional tastes!” I’d like to read more widely than I do — from more cultures and from lesser-known authors — but the truth is I spent many years being trained in the canon, and although I do read outside of it, the results of that training are still there.
  • “I can’t get enough of essays!” I have a couple shelves devoted to essays, although I’d have more if I added all my unread collections, which I currently keep separately. I have a row of large collections lined up in a row, and the site is a beautiful one.

Anybody else want to say what your shelves say about you?


Filed under Books, Memes

Ten Random Books Meme

I saw this meme over at Danielle’s who got it from Simon, and it looked like fun, so here goes. Here are the rules:

1.) Go to your bookshelves…
2.) Close your eyes. If you’re feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or… basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself – where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc…..
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn’t matter if you’ve read them or not – be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to…

I went to all my main bookshelves in my study and my living room so I could get a variety of books. I did cheat a little bit when I chose books that belong to Hobgoblin or that … well, that bored me or that gave my list too much repetition. But for the most part, this is what I selected, with eyes closed:

  1. Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker. This is one of the books I’ve been meaning to read for a while. In fact, I included it on a list of books I want to read not too long ago, although it didn’t make it to the TBR challenge list (on my sidebar). It’s one of those books that by the time I read it, I will have been saying I’m going to read it for ages. Oh, well. That’s true for a lot of books.
  2. Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa. This is one of the longest books I’ve read, if not the longest, period. This book was assigned for a grad class I was auditing; I didn’t finish it that semester, but the Christmas afterward I got to the end. It’s a great book and I wouldn’t mind reading it again one day — but my God, is it long. I just love epistolary novels, and this is one of the most important.
  3. David Richter, ed., Falling Into Theory: Conflicting Views of Reading Literature. This was a textbook for an undergrad class in literary theory, my first exposure to it. Now it’s a little dated, but looking through the table of contents, it still looks pretty good. I’m not sure why it’s called “falling” into theory, though.
  4. Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book. This book came from my essay shelves. I read it a year or two ago and loved it. Really, if you want to read some nonfiction and want to read something that’s really, really old (10th-11th century) and from another culture, this is perfect. It’s charming and fun.
  5. Maria Edgeworth’s Helen. This came from my TBR shelves. I’ve read Edgeworth’s novel Belinda and really liked it and have been meaning to read more of her work forever (of course). She’s a really good writer who gets overshadowed by Austen who lived around the same time. If you want more fiction from Austen’s time, Belinda is a great book to pick up.
  6. Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs. I was just thinking about this book because Zhiv wrote a post on academic novels that made me want to read more of them. I really liked this book and made a point of picking up another Lurie novel pretty soon after reading this one (The War Between the Tates). Lurie is someone I hope to return to again — before too, too long.
  7. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This one belongs to Hobgoblin, but I read his copy so I included it in this list. It was an incredibly powerful read, dark and scary, but difficult to put down. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m kind of scared of it. I don’t like scary movies, and this is bound to be terrifying. And yet it was such a good book, and I’m curious about the movie version. We’ll see.
  8. Colette’s My Mother’s House and Sido. I read this book a few years ago, but I first thought about reading it back in college when my Advanced Writing professor recommended it to me. That just goes to show that even though I do take forever to get around to reading something, I usually do get there eventually. I loved the book and am glad it stayed around in my mind for so long. Now I just need to get around to reading some of Colette’s fiction.
  9. Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I read this one in college, and I don’t think I’ve reread it since then, although it’s possible. I do know that I listened to it on audio during the time I had a 1 1/2 hour commute each way a few years ago, and it was a good companion on the way to work. It’s such a great novel. I love books about people who read, even when bad things happen to them because of it, and this is such an important example.
  10. Rosy Thornton’s Hearts and Minds. Here’s another academic novel I really enjoyed. I read it a year or two ago and thought it was great fun — a good story, an interesting setting (Cambridge), good writing — it has everything.

Anybody else want to try this? My selections are fairly representative, I think. A decent number of classics, a few contemporary books, a couple essay collections — that sums up my reading pretty well.


Filed under Books, Lists, Memes

First Lines Meme

Today I thought I would do the first lines meme I’ve seen recently at Melanie’s and Kate’s. The idea is to post the first line from each month’s first post as a way to wrap up the year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this post at first because when I’ve looked over my posts in years past, I’ve been struck at the generally boring way my posts begin. But this year doesn’t seem so bad. So here goes:

January: I’m writing this New Year’s resolutions post three days late and having just spent the morning sleeping in until 11:00 because I was out late last night at a surprise birthday party eating way too much sugar and having lots of fun.

February: I just began Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen, and so far it’s been great fun to read.

March: I had a lovely snow day today — well, except for the snow — in which I did a lot of nothing: some reading, some email writing, some napping, some gazing out the window.

April: What stands out most to me about Stefan Zweig’s novel from the 1930s, The Post-Office Girl, is rage.

May: Barbara Pym’s novel An Academic Question turned out to be an interesting read for unexpected reasons.

June: I think I may be a new Patrick Hamilton fan.

July: I posted my thoughts on Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature the other day, and now I thought would share some interesting bits from the book.

August: Zhiv commented recently that I should try to get over the guilt I feel about buying books, and when fellow bloggers, particularly ones as kind and encouraging as Zhiv, offer good advice, I generally try to follow it.

September: I’m SO close to finishing Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone that I will have no trouble finishing it tonight before I drop off to sleep.

October: It’ll be a quiet Friday night here, as I’m not quite ready to post on the latest book I’ve finished — Cornell Woolrich’s The Black Angel — and there’s not much else to report on, and I’d really rather get reading ASAP.

November: Yesterday, Hobgoblin, She Knits, Suitcase of Courage, and I had a most wonderful day: we went on a literary pilgrimage up to Walden Pond and Concord to see the place where so many great American writers lived.

December: It’s December 1st, which means it’s time to plan what books I want to read for Emily’s TBR challenge.

These lines give a little taste of what my reading was like last year, and they also say something about my habit of taking time to work up to the point I want to make in my posts, often telling a little something about my life before getting on to the books. I suppose that’s not such a bad habit.

Anybody else want to try this meme?


Filed under Books, Life, Memes

Life According to Literature

I just posted this meme over on Facebook, and it seemed too good not to post here too. Give it a try if you like!

Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: Loving (Henry Green)

How do you feel: At Large and At Small (Anne Fadiman)

Describe where you currently live: Among the Mad (Jacqueline Winspear)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? The Other Side of You (Salley Vickers)

Your favorite form of transportation: On Borrowed Wings (Chandra Prasad)

Your best friend is: Jane Austen: A Life (Claire Tomalin)

You and your friends are: The Odd Women (George Gissing)

What’s the weather like: Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)

You fear: The Great Mortality (John Kelly)

What is the best advice you have to give: Nothing To Be Frightened Of (Julian Barnes)

Thought for the day: An Academic Question (Barbara Pym)

How I would like to die: A Great Deliverance (Elizabeth George)

My soul’s present condition: Harmonium (Wallace Stevens)


Filed under Books, Memes

Time for a meme!

Both Musings and Cam nominated me for an award and tagged me to do a meme asking me to describe seven personality traits. I’m not sure what the award is for, but that’s okay! I’m happy to accept awards for whatever reason. And I’m also happy to write about myself. That’s what blogging’s all about, right? (Okay, maybe not, but it can be.) So here goes:

  1. I find it very hard to describe myself. Maybe to others I seem like a coherent, consistent person, but I don’t feel that way. I can’t decide if I’m industrious or lazy, organized or a mess, sociable or isolated, calm or anxious, judgmental or tolerant (probably judgmental). Maybe it would be better to have other people do this meme about me, and then I might recognize myself in what they say. I suppose the best way to put it is that I’m very aware of how changeable I can be.
  2. What I can say about myself with a great degree of certainty is that I’m a worrier. I worry about everything. This means I’m (generally) organized and well-prepared (except when I’m not) because it’s too stressful to be otherwise, but it also means I waste a lot of mental energy on worrying. One of the many benefits of yoga, which I’m trying to practice regularly this summer, is that it helps me calm down a bit. Except in a lot of ways, I already am a calm person (back to #1).
  3. I’m athletic, but I’m also very surprised I’m athletic. I never thought of myself as athletic growing up, even when I was on the track team in high school, because I was always absolutely, completely horrible in gym class. But, all sports requiring coordination aside, I love being active. I’m having a great time riding a lot this summer, as well as doing yoga and pilates, and if I could run without injuring myself, I would do that too, and if I could run, I would swim and do triathlons. But then I’d be in danger of having no reading time whatsoever.
  4. I can be stubborn. But, back to #1, only stubborn about some things. I’m not stubborn about having to win bike races, but I am about riding lots and lots of miles. I was stubborn about finishing my dissertation, but I’m not about having a fabulous academic career and publishing a lot. I’m stubborn about finishing books, even if they aren’t going well. I’m not stubborn about winning arguments.
  5. I try very hard to understand why people think the way they do and do the things they do. I try so hard sometimes, that I find myself persuaded by their arguments and begin to lose a sense of what I think. I find it disturbing when I can’t figure out what someone’s thought process is. Who knows how often I get this right, but I have a strong need to try at least.
  6. As a follow-up to #5, there’s nothing I like better than a good conversation analyzing people. Sometimes this means a long gossip session, which I will admit is a whole lot of fun, and sometimes it means a kinder conversation trying to understand why people are the way they are. But either way, much more fun than a party is a post-party analysis of everything that happened.
  7. As a follow-up to the last two items, this is one reason I like character-driven fiction so much. I don’t care a whole lot about what happens; give me some interesting people and some interesting ideas, and I’m happy.

Wow, that was hard. It took me longer than I thought it would. That said, I’d love to hear answers from these people, if they are interested (no pressure of course! I ignore tags from other people sometimes and don’t mind if you ignore mine). I nominate:








Here’s the picture associated with this meme:



Filed under Life, Memes

The answers revealed

I’ll get back to books at some point soon, I promise. But for now I’ll tell you about my weekend and then give the answers to my quiz in my last post.

In most respects, it was an excellent weekend. It started with a noir picnic. Not sure what that is? Neither am I, really, but it’s fun. It consisted of getting together with my mystery book group, eating lots of good food, and sitting out in the sun on a beautiful day discussing Ross MacDonald’s novel The Underground Man. Perhaps a noir picnic should involve dark clouds, gloomy music, suspicious looks, and threats of violence, but we made do with what we had. We did take a walk in a woods that could possibly be called gloomy, although no one was kidnapped or harmed in any way.

Then on Sunday there was a bike race in my town. You’ll be happy to know that Hobgoblin recovered well enough from his concussion to get 6th place in his race. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that he got stung by something — we don’t know what — at the end of that race, and by the time we got home, he had broken out in hives. He took some Benadryl and seemed okay, so we proceeded to have a fabulous time hanging out with cycling friends and forcing them to walk (we make everyone who visits us walk) a mile into town to get some ice cream. The afternoon with friends was great, but when this morning got here and Hobgoblin wasn’t significantly better, we took him off to the doctor, where he was taken care of, and is now doing just fine. At this point, I think it’s only fair if Hobgoblin gets a chance to go through life without any accidents or incidents for a good long while.

My own race was pretty uneventful. There were only 11 women racing. It was an odd race because nobody wanted to ride out front into the wind, and so we all went pretty slowly through much of it, until we got to the bottom of the hill, at which point everyone started riding fast. I spent the race falling just a bit behind on the hill and then catching up during the rest of the lap. I got 7th, which was about right given my strength compared to everyone else’s.

But now on to the quiz. I think I might have made it a little difficult, but it’s hard to judge what my readers remember of the things I’ve said about myself. At any rate, here are the answers:

  1. C. I have six siblings. I think I tricked some of you with this one, because you might remember me mentioning the number “seven” in this context, but does that mean seven children total or seven siblings? It means seven children total. I’m the oldest.
  2. C. I’ve been teaching 11 years. I wasn’t teaching full-time all those years, and that number includes all the teaching I did as a grad student, but since teaching a class is teaching a class no matter whether I’m a graduate assistant or an assistant professor, I count them all. I taught at least one course a semester in all those years.
  3. B. I grew up in western New York state, the Rochester area to be specific. My parents are still there, so I return usually a couple times a year. It’s especially fun in winter time, when Hobgoblin and I almost always run into a blizzard.
  4. B. I specialized in eighteenth-century literature in grad school. I write about that enough that all of you got it right.
  5. D. I’m afraid of being upside down. I’m sure I wrote about that at least once on this blog, but I don’t blame anybody for not remembering it. I don’t know where the fear came from, but somersaults terrify me. Let’s not even talk about cartwheels or flips or anything like that.
  6. A. I hate potatoes. I’ve always hated them. There are lots of foods I hated as a child and learned to like as an adult, but potatoes aren’t on the list and never will be.
  7. C. I’m not a fan of D.H. Lawrence. All of you got that correct. That was an easy one.
  8. A. I’m particularly obsessed with essays. I’ve never read any true crime that I can remember, and while I like historical fiction and biographies, I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with them. But I’m always reading essays, most often the personal or familiar sort.
  9. B. I’m usually bored by action movies. All that violence and special effects — who cares? Give me some interesting emotional drama and I’m happy.
  10. A. I don’t like shopping for clothes at all, although I suppose I do do it on the weekend now and then. But I’m much more likely to be found riding, hiking, or, alas, grading papers.

That was fun — feel free to write your own quiz if you want to!


Filed under Books, Life, Memes

The All About Me Meme

Stefanie tagged me to do Emily’s “All About Me” meme. Take the quiz and see how well you do!

Rules: Try to answer the following questions, and leave your answers in the comments section. If you feel like it, create ten questions of your own with multiple choice answers and ask people to see how well they know you. Tag five others to do the same.

1. I have how many siblings?

a. 2

b. 3

c. 6

d. 7

2. I have been teaching for how many years?

a. 4

b. 7

c. 11

d. 13

3. I grew up in …

a. Vermont

b. Western New York State

c. Eastern Pennsylvania

d. Connecticut

4. I specialized in what field in grad school?

a. Early Modern literature

b. Eighteenth-century literature

c. Victorian literature

d. Modernism

5. I am afraid of …

a. heights

b. flying

c. dirt

d. being upside down

6. Which food do I refuse to eat?

a. potatoes

b. brussel sprouts

c. liver

d. cottage cheese

7. Who is not among my favorite authors?

a. Laurence Sterne

b. Virginia Woolf

c. D. H. Lawrence

d. Vladimir Nabokov

8. I am particularly obsessed with …

a. essays

b. true crime

c. historical fiction

d. biographies

9. Which type of movie usually bores me?

a. romantic comedies

b. action movies

c. independent films

d. documentaries

10. On weekends you will not catch me …

a. clothes shopping

b. riding my bike

c. hiking

d. grading papers

I don’t feel like tagging people, so if you want to do this one, consider yourself tagged!


Filed under Life, Memes

Another meme!

This is the semester that will not end, and so, once again, I’m very grateful to come across an interesting meme to make posting a bit easier. I don’t want to go too long without posting here, after all. This is also a thought-provoking meme — it inspired an interesting response from Zhiv, and I’m sure I’ll have some trouble answering the questions as I go along. We’ll see how it goes.

1) What author do you own the most books by?

Virginia Woolf, although I only own 13 of her books, which doesn’t seem like a particularly high number for this question. I don’t tend to collect a lot of books by the same author, largely because I don’t tend to read very deeply into any author’s collection.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?

Frankenstein. I own three or four editions of this book because it’s the book I’ve read and taught most in school. I read it once in college, at least three times in grad school, and I’ve taught it several times as well. I like to have the edition a particular teacher is using, and so with each new class, I’d buy a new edition.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

Not in the slightest. When it comes to grammar, I strongly believe in choosing my battles wisely, and preposition placement is not at the top of the list.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?

I’m not secretly in love with any fictional character, but if you forced me to name somebody I could possibly have a literary crush on, I’m afraid I’d have to be boring and say Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?

Oh, I’m not sure! I haven’t kept track of my reading for most of my life, so that’s a hard question to answer. It’s probably Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey, which I’ve read countless times for dissertation purposes. Frankenstein is high up there on the list too.

6) What was your favourite book when you were ten years old?

I can’t remember exactly what I was reading when, but it could possibly be Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books, or possibly Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, or possibly Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables.

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?

Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness, which is a book I picked for one of my book groups, and which was truly, truly awful. It’s pretty much what the title offers, a book arguing against happiness, which sounds like an interesting premise, but it’s written in a style I couldn’t stand.

8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Possibly Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog or maybe Jenny Diski’s Stranger on a Train.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?

Oh, I wouldn’t want to force anybody to read anything! Well, unless you’re taking a class from me. But fellow bloggers I don’t force to read books, even hypothetically. To be honest, if I love a book, it’s really hard when other people don’t feel the same way, so if you’re likely to dislike something I love, I wouldn’t mind at all if you didn’t read it.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?

And here we get to a bunch of questions I don’t really want to answer. I have no interest in nominating anybody to win the Nobel Prize. The truth is, I can’t keep track of who has won it to nominate somebody who hasn’t.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?

I want to suggest books that would be really hard if not impossible to make into a movie, books like Tristram Shandy (which was sort of made into a movie — sort of) or Nabokov’s Pale Fire. What would they do with that one?

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?

Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past has been made into a movie, right? Well, I don’t want to see it.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.

I don’t dream about writers or literary characters. Do you? They mean a lot to me, and I spend a lot of time thinking about them, but they don’t enter my dream world.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?

Hmmm … I listened to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and I think that’s my best answer. I don’t read a lot of lowbrow books. The truth is, though, that listening to Brown’s book was kind of fun. If I’d read it in paper I might have felt differently though.

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

Literary theory is a great place to go for this question: Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Gayatri Spivak were all a challenge. As for novels, Joyce’s Ulysses is one of the toughest I’ve read.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?

The Merry Wives of Windsor.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

Here we get into these questions with two choices, neither of which I’m actually going to choose. I’ve had a longer history with and a more emotional response to the Russians, but the French are pretty fabulous too, and I’m looking forward to reading some great 19th century novelists such as Balzac and Zola.

18 ) Roth or Updike?

Um … I would pick up Roth if I wanted something searing and raw (I’m thinking of Portnoy’s Complaint here) and Updike for some beautiful writing. The truth is, though, I’ve probably read most of the Roth and Updike I’ll ever read in my life.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

Except for sharing first names, I don’t see what these writers have in common that makes them worth comparing. I really love Sedaris, but — even though I know it’s popular to look down on Eggers — I like Eggers too. I really enjoyed reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. If you think less of me for this, that’s your problem.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Oh, goodness. They’re all great.

21) Austen or Eliot?

See Zhiv on this one.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?

Anything pre-18th century I’m a little shaky on, which is really, truly not good. But I started off interested in 20th-century literature and worked my way back to the 18th, and never made it any farther back than that.

23) What is your favorite novel?

Pride and Prejudice.

24) Play?

I’ve never thought about this before! I’ve taught Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House so many times I can’t help but love it. I also love anything by Samuel Beckett.

25) Poem?

Any of Keats’s odes.

26) Essay?

I can’t pick one — it has to be Montaigne’s collected essays.

27) Short story?

Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

28) Work of nonfiction?

I have so many. So a list of my favorite nonfiction writers: Jenny Diski, David Foster Wallace, Geoff Dyer, Virginia Woolf, Janet Malcolm.

29) Who is your favourite writer?

Jane Austen, closely followed by Virginia Woolf.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

No idea. I’ll let you answer this one.

31) What is your desert island book?

One of those big books that’s really a collection of a bunch of books, in this case, the complete works of Jane Austen in one volume.

32) And… what are you reading right now?

I’m about to finish The Recognitions (yay!), and I just began P.D. James’s Cover Her Face for my mystery book group.


Filed under Books, Memes

Time for a meme

That post title is appropriate, because about all I have time for is a meme. My life is utterly crazy right now. I think it’s the online class I’m taking that is largely responsible for my busyness, along with cycling and the fact that I volunteered for a couple too many committees. I’m trying really hard not to long for May to get here, because I hate to wish away whole months of my life, but it’s hard. So here’s a blogging meme that I found at The Little Professor.

How did you come up with your blog title OR what does it mean?

I thought about my two biggest obsessions, saw that they both began with “b” and that was that. At one point I would have added backpacking to the list, but I’m not so obsessed with that anymore.

What are your general goals for blogging?

I started blogging as an experiment, just to see what it was like and what it would do to my reading and writing habits. I can’t say I have anything like formal goals for blogging, but over time I’ve come to value it for the friends I’ve made, the books I learn about, and the way blogging encourages me to think carefully about what I read and to record those thoughts.

Do people “in your real life” know that you blog and do they comment on your blog OR is it largely anonymous?

Many of the people in my real life know about my blog, although not everyone. For a while I told no one except Hobgoblin, and over the three years I’ve been blogging, I’ve slowly expanded the number of people who know. Those who don’t know include some family members (some know, some don’t, and I can’t really keep track of it any more) and most people at work.

How often do you post (x per week)?

Under normal circumstances I post every other day, although this has changed over time. I started off posting every day and maintained that schedule for quite a while, but these days I’m happy posting three or four times a week — except in extraordinary circumstances where I try to give myself permission to post as seldom as I need to.

How often do you read other blogs (x per week)?

It’s more like x times per day, but I don’t feel like analyzing how much time I spend reading blogs too closely. I use Google Reader, though, which means I only read blogs when the feedreader tells me there are new posts. So the real question is how many times I check Google Reader a day, which I’m not going to divulge.

How do you select blogs to read (do you prefer blogs that focus on certain topics or do you choose by tone or…?)

Most of the blogs I read are book blogs, and then there are some cycling blogs, some blogs about other topics written by friends and family members, a couple political blogs, a few academic blogs, and a couple that aren’t in any particular category, but I just happen to like the blogger. At first I found blogs by looking at other people’s blogrolls, but these days if I’m going to find a new blog, it’s because the blogger leaves a comment here regularly. Or if a friend recommends one highly, I’ll follow it up.

Do you have any plans to copy your blog entries in any other format, 0r do you think that one day, you’ll just delete it all?

I think I signed on to some site that archives blog posts, but I forget what it is, and I don’t have any other backup system. I’m not too worried about it, to be honest; I don’t feel particularly attached to what I write here. I would be sorry if it all unexpectedly vanished, and I certainly will never delete the site, but I don’t see myself going to great trouble to preserve all my posts.

What are the things you like best about blogging?

Things I mentioned above — friends, community, book groups, ever-expanding to-be-read lists, more careful reading, and a record of my thoughts.

What are the things you don’t like about blogging?

Sometimes it can feel like a bit of a job to maintain the site, but that pressure is well worth it for all the benefits I get.

How do you handle comments? Some bloggers never respond to commenters, others answer all commenters, and still others pick and choose. (1) As a blogger, which is your practice and why? (2) As a commenter, do you care/check back to see if the blogger has responded to you? (3) If you are a reader but never comment, why (this last question may not work since…um…you don’t comment, but maybe you could make an exception?)

I try to respond to all comments, and I usually do, with an exception now and then for super-busy times. As for comments I leave on other sites, I use the WordPress feature that allows me to track comments and responses on other WordPress sites. With Blogger sites, I’ve gotten in the habit of having follow-up comments emailed to me. As far as I can tell, Typepad doesn’t have that option, so I try to check back at the site if I think there may be a comment waiting for me.

Optional: add your own topic here: any burning thoughts to share on blog etiquette? desired blog features? blog addiction? blog vs. facebook?

I discovered something annoying recently with my book give-away post: apparently there are websites that keep track of sweepstakes and give-aways and link to them so that random people hoping to win random things can enter. One such site linked to my post and sent maybe a dozen or so people my way. Once I figured this out, I started deleting comments from people who had never been here before and who I didn’t recognize. I tried to differentiate between people who read here but don’t comment regularly (who are welcome to enter the contest) and people who don’t care a thing about the blog but just want a free book (who aren’t).

At first I felt a little funny about this, but the truth is, when it comes to comments I’m pretty dictatorial — if I don’t like you, you’re out of here, and if you complain, I don’t really care. That said, I like almost everybody, and am glad you stop by.

How do you feel about deleting comments?


Filed under Blogging, Memes

The 25 influential writers meme

I saw this over at Reassigned Time and thought it would be fun to do here. The instructions are to “name 25 writers who have influenced you. These are not necessarily your favorite writers or those you most admire, but writers who have influenced you. Then you tag 25 people.” I won’t be tagging 25 people, so if you want to do this, please do! I’m going to list names roughly chronologically (following my life).

  1. Authors of the Bible
  2. Laura Ingalls Wilder
  3. Maud Hart Lovelace
  4. Lucy Maud Montgomery
  5. Louisa May Alcott
  6. Jane Austen
  7. Charles Dickens
  8. George Eliot
  9. Virginia Woolf
  10. Mary Shelley
  11. Flannery O’Connor
  12. Michel de Montaigne
  13. Fyodor Dostoyevky
  14. Mary McCarthy
  15. Samuel Richardson
  16. Laurence Sterne
  17. Henry Fielding
  18. Sarah Fielding
  19. Mary Wollstonecraft
  20. Olaudah Equiano
  21. Dorothy Wordsworth
  22. Nicholson Baker
  23. David Foster Wallace
  24. Jenny Diski
  25. Janet Malcolm

#1-5 are about my childhood, pretty clearly, and then I read a lot of #6-8 in high school, which formed my taste for the Victorian novel (and the novel itself — this list is very novel-heavy).  #9-14 were college discoveries, and you can see the turn to the eighteenth-century I took in grad school in #15-21.  I could easily have added more authors here, including Boswell and Johnson. After that, I tried to think of authors I’ve been most excited about over the last few years; these ones I could possibly change up a bit, depending on my mood. The last few reflect my increasing enjoyment of nonfiction, which is why I like their presence there. I could also put Philip Lopate on the list, not because his writing has influenced me, but because the book he edited, The Art of the Personal Essay, has been so important.

It’s a pretty canonical list, isn’t it? But I suppose at heart I’m a pretty canonical kind of reader. Maybe it’s also true that people’s reading is often from the canon when they’re younger (at least English major types) and branches out afterward.  I haven’t read all of the canon, by any means, but I’ve read enough to feel that I’m ready to branch out more.

Anyone else want to try this?


Filed under Books, Lists, Memes, Reading

Everybody’s doing it …

A “getting to know us” relationship meme, that is.  I saw this one last here, here, and here.

What are your middle names?

Michael and Lynn.  Pretty boring names, but seeing them there like that and realizing they refer to Hobgoblin and me feels very strange.  I’m not a “Lynn.”  Okay, now I’m having one of those moments when a familiar word all the sudden looks foreign and I’m not sure I spelled it right.  It’s especially weird since it’s my own name I’m talking about here …

How long have you been together?

Since August, 1996, married since August, 1998.  It’s almost one third of my life at this point.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

We started dating pretty much right away.  It took maybe a couple weeks or so to figure it out 100% for sure, but that’s all.

Who asked whom out?

Neither one did any asking — it just sort of happened.  We met when I moved to the Bronx to go to graduate school and Hobgoblin happened to be one of a group of students I hung out with during my first few weeks there.  We had a class together — literature of the American Renaissance. We spent some time getting to know each other with the group but soon enough dumped everyone else and started spending time on our own.  We had a “first date,” a first formal date in NYC that we dressed up for, but we were already dating, basically, so it didn’t mean quite the thing it usually does.

How old are you?

I just turned 35; he’s 41 and will turn 42 in May.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

Mine.  We see all or most of my siblings each year at Christmas and sometimes again in the summer, which isn’t all that often, but they are scattered all over the place: Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and, for the moment at least, South Africa.  He has one sister in California whom I’ve only seen a couple of times.

Which situation is hardest on you as a couple?

We’ve always had some uncertainty about where we were going to work and live.  We met and married as grad students, both in English, which is a difficult field for one person to get a job in, let alone two, let alone two in the same location.  So along the way there was always the question about who would get a job first, whether we could get jobs in the same place, who would follow the other if we couldn’t, where we would be willing to live for the sake of a job or two, etc.  We got very lucky and found two jobs in the same area, for which I’m very grateful.  But we’re still dealing with uncertainty, as neither of us is tenured. It’s looking likely, though, that we will be able to stay where we are.  Then perhaps the question will be whether we want to stay here, but we can deal with that one later.

Did you go to the same school?

We went to the same grad school, but very different high schools and colleges.  Our undergrad experiences couldn’t have been any more different — he went to a very large public university where you got ignored and I went to a small liberal arts college where you got babied.  Both of us survived.

Are you from the same home town?

Nope — we’re from opposite coasts.  I’m from western New York state; he’s from California.

Who is smarter?

Hobgoblin has a much better memory than I do and is a better writer.  I think I have more intelligence of the emotional and social sort.  He’s smart with facts; I’m smart with relationships.  Is that annoyingly stereotypical or what?

Who is the most sensitive?

It very much depends on the situation.  I probably am, generally speaking, but there are times Hobgoblin will worry about something I’m able to brush off.  I think, though, that I spend more time worrying and obsessively repeating conversations in my head to try to figure them out, so I guess that would make me more sensitive.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

We eat out at lots of places — it’s one of our favorite things to do.  There are maybe half a dozen restaurants we can walk to in our little town, dozens more we can easily drive to, and thousands of them just a train ride away in Manhattan.  We do our best to support them all.

Where is the furthest you have travelled together as a couple?

California and Cancun.  We went to Cancun for an academic conference.  Really.

Who has the craziest exes?

Probably Hobgoblin, but we never shared a whole lot of details, which is just fine.

Who has the worst temper?

Hobgoblin will lose his temper only rarely, but when he does, he really loses it.  I don’t have much of a temper if you mean yelling and throwing things, but I’m plenty prone to fits of irritation and pouting, which is probably worse.

Who does the most cooking?

Hobgoblin.  He does all the cooking, in fact.  I was all set to learn how to cook when I met Hobgoblin, and it just never happened.

Who is the most stubborn?

I’m not sure.  Maybe me, but just by a little bit.  And of course, it depends on what we’re being stubborn about.  Okay, probably me.  Hobgoblin has enough of the laid-back California attitude that I generally get my way.  I just don’t like to admit it.

Who hogs the bed most?

Me, but I’m not a horrible bed-hog.  Sometimes I’ll wake up with more covers than I should have though.

Who does the laundry?

That would be me.

Who’s better with the computer?

Hobgoblin is, but we’re both pretty good with them.  I’d say we’re equally good at figuring out new programs and software, but Hobgoblin knows more of the technical stuff than I do.

Who drives when you are together?

It’s about equal.  On long drives we’ll take turns.  On short trips Hobgoblin is more likely to drive, unless it’s at night, in which case I take over.  The glare of headlights bothers him more than it bothers me.  I’m more comfortable driving in the snow too, having had tons of experience in my Rochester youth.


Filed under Life, Memes

In lieu of a post requiring thought …

It’s Tuesday night, which means I’m exhausted.  So here’s a meme:

BBC Book List

1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X+
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (totally not interested)
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte X+
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (read the first one, won’t continue)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee X
6 The Bible X (I’ve never read it straight through, but I’m sure I’ve covered it all at some point)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte X+
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman X+
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens X
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott X+
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy X
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller *
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Only some — maybe a dozen plays and some sonnets, and would like to read the rest)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier *
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger – X
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger X
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot X+
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell X
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald – X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens X
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy X
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh *
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky X+
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame (can’t remember, maybe)
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis X
34 Emma – Jane Austen X+
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen X+
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (these last few don’t seem to fit in.  Probably won’t read them)
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (listened to it on audio)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez X
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving X
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins X+
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery – X+ (read multiple times!)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy X
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood *
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan (Listened to on audio)
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel (Audio)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen X+
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon X+
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov X+
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt *
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (Hobgoblin may convince me to read this some day)
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac X
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy X
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (Audio)
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie X
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville X
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – X+
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce X
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath X
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome (Never heard of it)
78 Germinal – Emile Zola *
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray X
80 Possession – AS Byatt X+
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell X
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro X+
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert – X
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (Audio)
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White X+
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom (highly unlikely I’ll read this …)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Some of them)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad X
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams X+
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole * (maybe)
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare – X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Filed under Books, Lists, Memes

A reading meme!

The wonderfully talented Ella has tagged me for a meme, for which I am grateful, as I would like to post this evening, but am also feeling a little tired from the 46-mile ride I went on today, as well as the three-mile walk I took later, so my previous plan to post on The Math Gene seems like a bit too much work.  A meme is perfect.

What kind of book are you most comfortable reading? I love reading nonfiction, but I’m most comfortable with novels.  If I have the chance to read more than one book in a day, I’ll pick up the nonfiction first, and then turn to the novel as a treat.  I’ll usually read in a novel before I head to bed as a way to unwind from the day.  As for what kind of novel, I read more contemporary ones than ones from earlier centuries, although I love those too and am devoted to them.  In fact, I’d like to think of myself as someone who reads primarily in earlier centuries, but that’s just not true, especially these days.  I generally turn to literary fiction, although I can get bored by it — contemporary literary fiction at least.  When I’m bored by it, it’s time to turn to an earlier century.

What kind of book do you love to hate? I love to hate self-help books because I pretend to be superior to them, but the truth is that I’m not superior to them at all.  I have benefited from some of them and I’m sure I could benefit from others.  I just pretend otherwise.  I don’t like being this kind of snob … I genuinely love to hate religious self-help, though, at least of the conservative Christian kind, The Purpose Driven Life kind.  I hate Christian apocalyptic fiction too.  And I love to hate those personalized Bibles — the women’s Bible, the men’s Bible, the couple’s Bible, children’s Bibles, the Complete Personalized Promise Bible on Financial Increase.

What was the last book you surprised yourself by liking? I’m going to copy Ella on this one and say Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness.  I haven’t read much science fiction, but this book convinced me I’m missing out on some good stuff.  I’ve recently taken up reading lots of mysteries, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

What was the last book you surprised yourself by disliking? Elizabeth Bowen’s Death of the Heart.  Bowen seemed like just my kind of author — psychological, character-driven, domestic.  I thought I’d like her as I like Henry James or Edith Wharton.  Instead I found the book dull and confusing.

What book would you take with you if you suspected you might be marooned in the near future? If we’re talking about the really near future, and the marooning wasn’t going to be long, something along the lines of being stuck in an airport for a few hours, I’d take along Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, as I’m deep into it and don’t want to quit.  What a great read!  If we’re talking something more long term give me all of Austen’s novels in one volume, please.

What forces you to read outside your comfort zone? Other bloggers!  Well, they don’t force me, but they encourage me by making some books sound so appealing I think I might like them even if they aren’t “my thing.”  Book groups do this too.  I never would have read H.G. Wells if it weren’t for a book group or Margery Allingham or Bruno Schulz or Charlotte Jay ….

If this meme looks fun to you, consider yourself tagged!


Filed under Books, Memes, Reading

Thoughts and a meme

I haven’t had much time for reading lately, which is why the “Currently Reading” section of my sidebar hasn’t changed in a while; I’m enjoying Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day, but I’m still ready for something new. Even though I like a book, I can still feel a bit bogged down in it. Well, this weekend will solve that problem somewhat, as I’ll have to read Frankenstein for my class. But I’m ready to pick up something new purely for fun.

The other thing I’ve been reading, though, is a friend’s novel-in-progress, the same friend whose earlier novel I described reading here. She’s been remarkably prolific this year. I decided to read through the manuscript once to get some initial impressions, and then to read it again writing comments along the way. I don’t consider myself to be much of an editor, but I do enjoy this kind of work now and then; as I was writing comments, I was mainly trying to pinpoint what was going on in places where I felt confused or uncertain, where I felt jolted or surprised by something that didn’t fit or wasn’t developed, or simply where I felt something was off. And I was noting places where I liked the writing or the ideas and places where everything fit together for me.

I do like having a little bit of a hand in the direction the novel will go, but at the same time, it’s a scary process — not because I’m scared I won’t like the book, which I know I will, but I worry my feedback will be frustrating or confusing or will get the writer off track somehow. I’m sure my friend won’t use any feedback that doesn’t seem right, but she still seems to take what I say seriously, and so I want to make sure I say very helpful things.

But to another topic entirely — Margaret from BooksPlease has tagged me for a meme: the “10 signs a book has been written by me” meme. Now I don’t think this book will ever get written by me, but, like Danielle who did this meme recently, I’ll play along. So here goes. My book will be:

  1. a novelistic type thing, although not exactly traditional
  2. character driven, not plot driven
  3. about consciousness
  4. with a female protagonist
  5. with long sentences
  6. set in the U.S.
  7. set roughly in the present
  8. in first person point of view
  9. influenced by Virginia Woolf, although (alas!) not nearly as brilliant as her work is
  10. influenced by Nicholson Baker’s attention to detail, although without the scientific/technological interests.

That would be my book, although thinking about it now, the list looks rather … boring. That’s why I’m a reader of novels, not a writer of them.  I generally don’t tag people for memes, but this time I’m changing my mind.  So I tag the following people, although if any of them don’t want to do the meme, that’s fine by me: Hobgoblin, EmilyBecky, Hepzibah, and Amanda.


Filed under Memes, Reading

Meme time!

A while back Emily tagged me to do Eva’s meme, and I’ve decided tonight’s the night for it. Thanks to both of you for the inspiration!

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? My answer isn’t going to be very original; I was in complete agreement with Becky’s response to the question, so I’ll just copy her: The Kite Runner. The more general principle here is that I want to stay away from any book that everybody seems to be reading. If I hear of it too often, I’m not interested. However, there are exceptions. If I hadn’t read and loved it, Eat, Pray, Love might have been one of those books I stayed away from. That would have been a shame. So, the lesson is I shouldn’t be a book snob because I might miss books I’ll end up loving, right? Something tells me I won’t really change …

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, and Elizabeth Bennett. Surely these characters would strike up an interesting conversation? Elizabeth might be a little shocked by the other two, but I have a feeling her quick wit and sense of humor would serve her well. I might limit them to an afternoon tea, though; otherwise, who knows what Tom and Tristram would get up to.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? Finnegans Wake. I made it through Ulysses, and wouldn’t mind reading it again one day, but I balk at Finnegans Wake. Okay, I haven’t tried it, but I’m very afraid it would mean absolutely nothing to me, and so I’d be running my eyes over the words and that’s it. It can’t get more boring than that, can it?

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it? I don’t have an answer to this one — I haven’t, as least as far as I can remember, said or hinted that I’d read a book when I hadn’t. I’m too scared to do this. I’m not very good at faking my way through a conversation on books I haven’t read; I don’t have the confidence for it. Clearly, I need to read this book.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book? This hasn’t happened to me, but the opposite has — I’ve read books but then forgotten so much about them that I could re-read them as though they were new. I read a bunch of novels as a kid that I could tell you nothing about now — David Copperfield, for example.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP) It’s hard to say without knowing why the VIP is a VIP, but it seems to me that every VIP should have read some Montaigne. Yeah, the not-very-big-reader VIP might not fall in love with it right away (although I taught him once and my students thought he was great — the trick is finding the right essay), but he has such good things to teach, such as curiosity, honesty, open-mindedness, the habit of introspection and thoughtfulness, and the ability to handle complexity and contradiction.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? Russian. I wanted to learn Russian when I was younger; now I know I probably won’t ever learn it, but it would be wonderful if I could … I’d love to read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov in the original.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? Easy — Pride and Prejudice. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of it!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? I discovered the pleasures of reading multiple books at once. Before blogging I would occasionally read a novel and a book of poetry at the same time, but now I’m likely to have a novel or two, a nonfiction book, a book of poems, and a collection of essays, or some such combination. It’s wonderful to be able to pick and choose depending on my mood.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. The most important thing about this library is that it have comfortable chairs. What’s the point of having a great collection of books if I can’t sit (or lie) comfortably and read? A fireplace would be nice too. A kitchen should be nearby, so I can get food and drink whenever I want. As for the books … leatherbound books would look nice, but I value comfort over appearance, so they’d be easy-to-read trade paperbacks, preferably the kind that fall open easily and that have nice wide margins for writing. I’d want all the books I currently have, plus all the books on my wishlist, plus the ability to get whatever book I wanted within a matter of minutes.

If you’d like to try this meme, please do!


Filed under Books, Memes

First lines meme

It’s time to do the first lines meme.  We’ll see what this uncovers.

January: I’m going to do pretty much nothing today — the dishes and the laundry at most, but otherwise I’ll read books and read blogs and watch movies.

February: I began reading the essay anthology Best American Essays 2006 the other day, and so far I’ve read only the two introductions and the first essay, but I’m looking forward to making my way through it slowly over the next … who knows … month or so.

March: It’s that time of the semester again — the time when I begin to get a little busier and have less time for reading.

April: Let’s just say I’ve got some sore muscles right now.

May: I just checked the last time I rode in a race, and it was April 1st.

June: I’m wondering now why it has taken me so long to pick up this book, The Walk, by Jeffrey Robinson; I’ve had it on my shelves since December, and I’ve kept my eye on it as a possibility, but never quite got around to it.

July: Hobgoblin and I just returned from a trip to Manhattan; we spent a lot of time walking around (my feet hurt!) and looked into a couple of bookstores, the Strand and St. Mark’s.

August: You all know who I’m talking about in the post title, right? [The post title was “More on Jane.”]

September: I think I may try to ride a century this fall — a hundred miles in one ride.

October: I’m in the middle of two novels right now, and let’s just say that the experience of reading these books has been quite different.

November: Charlotte invited me to participate in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month [wait — why national? Shouldn’t it be international?]) this year, so here I am, officially posting every day this month, instead of following my usual most-likely-but-not-necessarily-posting-every-day method.

December: Writing everyday for National Blog Posting Month was hard!

I like the way some of these tell little stories, such as how April and May tell you something about my racing year and November and December encapsulate my NaBloPoMo experience.  Otherwise, these are pretty boring.  I tend to wind my way around to the real point of my posts (if they have a point), giving some information about my life or my riding before I go on to say something about books.  Perhaps I should try for some snappier openings …


Filed under Memes

A Reading Meme!

From Dewey, via Charlotte.

1. Do you remember learning to read? How old were you? I don’t remember learning to read, although I know I learned when I was in kindergarten. My father tells a story about how as far as anyone knew I didn’t know how to read, until all the sudden I came home from school one day, pulled out a book, and began reading. I don’t really remember this though.

2. What do you find most challenging to read? Philosophy and literary theory. I enjoy reading in these categories now and then, but it can be hard work (at least with certain authors). It’s a good kind of challenge, though. A bad kind of challenging read, something I’m no good at? Reading directions. I never read directions; instead I just jump in and try to figure out on my own what I’m supposed to do.

3. What are your library habits? I visit the library regularly for audiobooks, and sometimes when I’m there I’ll check out a book, although I don’t do this regularly. When I check books out, they are usually very recent fiction that’s not out in paperback, and that I’m not sure I want to buy.  Right now I have the 2007 Best American Essays checked out.

4. Have your library habits changed since you were younger? I used to check books out of the library regularly, when I was a kid and didn’t have much money. When I was really young, there was a library within walking distance from home, and I visited it a lot and have fond memories of the place. Then we moved and had to drive to get to a library. Now, I can walk there once again, which is a lovely thing. I should visit more often.

5. How has blogging changed your reading life? Blogging has changed my reading life in tons of ways; I’ve written several long posts about this subject. Briefly, I now read more than one book at a time, I have a long and constantly growing TBR list, which I didn’t used to have, I now read authors I’d never heard of before blogging, and I depend on newspaper book reviews much less. Most of the recommendations I get come from bloggers.

6. What percentage of your books do you get from new book stores, second hand book stores, the library, online exchange sites, online retailers, other? This has recently changed. I used to get most of my books from new and used book stores, but now, within the last year or so, more and more of my books come from Book Mooch. In fact, most of my books these days come from Book Mooch. I also get a fair percentage from online stores.

7. How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog? What are your reasons for not blogging about a book? I almost always blog about what I read. It’s rare for me not to mention what I’m reading at the very least, and usually I will write a review, with varying degrees of thoroughness and formality. When I don’t mention something, it’s usually poetry, and usually poetry from an anthology — in other words, it’s not a separate book, but a poem here or a poem there.

8. What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books? I don’t mind so much how people treat the physical object (although when people fold paperbacks almost in half to read them, I’m not particularly pleased), but I do get bothered when people dismiss books based on stereotypes — i.e., it’s women’s fiction and so I’m not interested, or genre fiction isn’t as well-written as literary fiction, etc.

9. Do you ever read for pleasure at work? No. As a teacher, I’m required to be on campus for class, office hours, meetings (tons of meetings!), and special events; otherwise, I work at home. This means whenever I’m at work, I’m always working — there’s very little downtime.

10. When you give people books as gifts, how do you decide what to give them? I like to give books only to people I know well, people whose reading tastes I’m familiar with. Otherwise, I’d rather give something else, because I don’t want to get it wrong, and give a book that won’t get read. Buying books as gifts is great, but it can be stressful too, because buying someone a book makes a statement about what you think their tastes are. It’s possible to get it quite wrong.

Please, anyone who is interested — give this meme a try!


Filed under Books, Memes, Reading