Monday, April 20, 2009

It All Started With "What Katy Did." Question #3

Some time ago, when we were all a lot younger, Rhubarb asked me some questions. In my capacity as queen of procrastination I still have not answered all of them. But time's a-wastin', so here we go with question number three!

"Your love of books and reading is apparent. What genres and authors are your ultimate favourites, and why? Fiction or non fiction?"

The OC recently remarked, to a friend who was borrowing some books from me, but worried she'd leave me with nothing to read, that

"Molly is not so much a reader, as a collector, of books!"

Which is a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black, since he still has physics and chemistry books from college which he never reads anymore, with which he is, nevertheless, loathe to part! I do love to read, but don't seem to get around to reading half as many books as I'd like to. I add books to the TBR pile on my night table at a much faster rate than I remove them.

We read much the same way we eat, the OC and I. If it's dinner time the OC eats. So do I, but I'm a dawdler, always the last to finish, chatting between bites. It's the same with books. If he's reading a book, he hardly puts it down until he's finished, whereas I.....dawdle. I like to take my time reading a book; to savour it. After all, when you consider how long it takes a writer to write a book, it seems a little disrespectful to blaze through it in one afternoon.......

I have Lofty Ambitions. I would like to read the classics that sit in [dusty!] leather-bound splendor on the bookcases in our living room. My Lofty Ambitions include Dante's Divine Comedy, little bits of which I read long ago in a Renaissance Literature class; The Decameron, for which my appetite was whetted in that same class; Anna Karenina, which I still haven't read; The Aeneid, which was crammed down my throat in Latin class at school, and which, at the time, made not one iota of sense to me. I'm mildly curious to find out if I'd understand it now. I never did get why the Department of Education deemed it necessary for fifteen year old Irish lasses, who were mainly interested in fifteen year old Irish lads, to be battering their brains out on the rocks of ancient Romans' ramblings. I scraped a Pass, and promptly forgot all about them. Now, in my dotage, it occurs to me there might have been something valuable to learn there.

But not before I read Sebastian Barry's book The Secret Scripture, which, I have it on good authority [Rise told me!] is excellent! I loved The Long, Long Way.

The Lofty Ambitions list is one thing, but the more pedestrian fare in the teetering,

untidy pile on my night table is what I'm more likely to read any time soon. And just because they've been there a while doesn't mean they won't get bumped by an intriguing-sounding read I find at the library tomorrow!

Rhubarb asks what genres I prefer. I think she wants to know what kind of stories I like.....[genre always seems to me a word that is too big for its britches!] I love a good yarn. When I was a child and we'd go and spend a few days in the country at my granny's, I'd creep from my bed at night and hide around the corner from the kitchen and listen, while my grandmother, mother and aunt sat around the fire telling stories and remembering the old days. To me she was Mum, and it was strange and exhilarating to hear about a time when she wasn't, when she was young and carefree, and thirsty for life.....She was a reader too, and I relished tales she told me of reading long into the night, with a candle under the bedclothes so my grandmother wouldn't see light under the door and come in and snatch away whatever penny dreadful she was enthralled with, all the time trying to ignore her little sister, my Auntie Bid, fiercely hissing at her that she was going to burn them all in their beds!

I am drawn to anything by an Irishman, or woman. Which doesn't mean I will automatically like it. Sometimes I intensely dislike it. Roddy Doyle, for instance....Ugh! Couldn't stand it, though the critics rave. I recently read The Sea by John Banville, also Irish, and loved it. I found myself going back over passages just to savor the words, and the pictures he painted with them.
The Irish R.M was another I loved, which I was prompted to read when it was serialized on Masterpiece Theater.

Just this weekend I was reading the book review section of the paper and came across this gem: "....reading a book on writing can be one of the most satisfying ways to avoid writing..." The writer was reviewing Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within. There is no poet within here, but there is one book on writing that I keep going back to, On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

You don't have to be Irish [but it helps!] to catch my eye. Gerald Durrell captivated me with A Zoo In My Suitcase. Likewise Per Pettersen....whose book Out Stealing Horses was a lucky, random find at the library.

Angela's Ashes By Frank McCourt is another favourite. And not just because he was writing about the town I grew up in. His version of it and mine were very different, but still there was so much that was familiar.... His humor transcended the misery he wrote of, and I loved the way his sentences ran along without much of a nod to rules and regulations, much the way one's thoughts do. When I got to the last page I wanted to go right back to the first and read it all again!

Ironically, the most awful excuse for writing by an Irishman I've read in recent years was between the covers of Malachy McCourt's book A Monk Swimming. The title was brilliant, but the brilliance ended there.

I have no interest in science fiction. Just not interested. Period.

I like a good romantic story, but the romance "genre" makes me shudder! A woman I was friendly with when The Bean was a babe, went on to become quite a famous Romance novelist. I bought a paperback of hers once, making sure no-one I knew saw me lurking in that section of the bookstore! I tried to read it, but it made me gag.
Which isn't to say everything has to be great literature, but there is enough out there that's worthwhile reading that I can't see wasting time reading rubbish. Which sounds harsh, but hey, I'm just trying to answer the question.....

Romantic stories that I've loved include Dr. Zhivago, which made me swoon, and for once, the film did justice to the book. I have an ancient and tattered copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier which belonged to my mother. It was a gift from a former beau, who exhorted her to remember him on the inside back cover,

which means it predates my wonder it's falling apart.

I loved Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre, when I was in school. I tried to reread them recently and just couldn't get off the ground. One of our English books in school contained excerpts from many famous English writers. The excerpt from Pride And Prejudice was called "Mr. Collin's Proposal." I was immediately hooked! Another was an hilarious excerpt from The Pickwick Papers. Yet another got me reading The Mill On The Floss. There was one extremely funny excerpt called "The Man Of Feeling." I have tried many times to find the book it was taken from, my efforts being seriously hampered by not knowing the title of the book or the author. If it rings a bell with anyone reading this, I'd love to hear your suggestions. My memory, which is vague at the best of times, is that it was about an English gentleman, who was socially inept and suffered from gout.........slim clues I know.

Maeve Binchy's earlier books were a great read but became boring when she started churning out the same tale with the names changed to protect characters she'd trotted out too many times before.

I enjoy books by Edna O'Brien, whose books were banned, I think, in Ireland for a while because she was so naughty, and embarrassed The Church by writing unflatteringly about the holy nuns and Irish colleens getting up to unholy mischief. Of course The Church has since found much more to be embarrassed about than Edna O'Brien.....

I hope my answer was satisfactory, Miss Rhubarb, even if it had to be dragged out of me.....And by the way, is there a prize for the person who drags this meme out the longest?? If there is, I must be a finalist, at least, if not the Grand Champion!

Meanwhile it's Monday morning. Barely a week to go! I need to get cracking and leave a sufficiency of clean socks and underwear, and tidy living quarters, so the natives won't grumble when I'm gone. Not to mention stitching to be finished.............


PBS said...

What as interesting discussion on books! I have lots of classics that someday (maybe) will get read. Used to love Maeve Binchy, until like you, the characters all started to sound the same to me. Bet you can hardly wait to go flying to see your newest grandson!

Kacey said...

Amazing! You not only quilt, but are hooked on books, too! There is something about the way words are strung together that can be better can jewelry. This must be the reason I love to read good blogs....your blog is right up top. Some of the favorites that come to my mind are "In This Sign" by Joanne Greenberg. "Tomorrow Will Be Better and Joy in the Morning" by Betty Smith, almost anything by England's Catherine Cookson, medical fun by Echo Heron and mysteries by Ann Rule. Funny authors like Henry Denker, "Horowitz and Mrs. Washington" really make me laugh out loud, but they are few and far between. I have been enthralled by classics, but get into lighter writings as I get older....but still, I savour the words and roll them around in my head. If I like a writer's style, I tend to read everything until (like Maeve Binchy) the plot is all too familiar.

Micki said...

Your blog is wonderful. We do have a lot in common as to our reading interests. I was an English teacher and loved teaching the classics. We will have to discuss books one day with each other. I started a book group in town, and we met in a hotel once a month discussing books. The book that caused the biggest stir was Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion...need I say more?
Thanks for stopping by my blog.
In Ireland

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you answered this. You make my questions sound interesting! Only 2 more to go...

Ali Honey said...

I would have taken you for an avid bookworm. I too like to savour what I'm reading! But I know I have a book that delights me when I just can't put it down...or have the light on till all hours.

Was Henry Mackenzie possibly the author of the book you remember?

Lily said...

It might actually be called "The Man of Feeling" ( you know. Hi from crazy-land.

meggie said...

I so enjoyed reading this post!
I find now, I don't stop to bother with books that don't grab me!
I too felt Malachy Mc Court's writing to be... well.. an extremely rude word!

Anonymous said...

Poor old Malachy McCourt- I felt the same! My head is swimming with books at the moment because it's the school holiday break -burning the midnight oil!