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