This one was originally facilitated by Facebook, it came to me via a very old and very well-read friend – John – who himself received it from a lovely person named Carole. It’s more challenging than it looks.
You have received this note because someone thinks you are a literary geek. Copy the questions into your own note, answer the questions, and tag any friends who would appreciate the quiz, including the person who sent you this. Don’t bother trying to italicize your book titles. We know you want to.
1) What author do you own the most books by?
I’m pretty sure it’s a toss-up between Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, and Neil Gaiman. As it stands.
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
The Lord of the Rings.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
No. I’m horrible about that stuff anyway.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Robbie from Atonement. The Woodsman from The Book of Lost Things.
5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson. I also have to reference the Bible a lot.
6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Konstantin Paustovsky’s memoirs. Like me, he was born in Kiev. The events of 1905, WWI, the Russian Revolution, the Civil War and so on are the backdrops to his life. He was a romantic. He knew Mikhail Bulgakov, and mourned him, and wasn’t afraid to point out that Stalin tormented Bulgakov.
7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I couldn’t finish All the Anxious Girls on Earth – a collection of stories by Zsuzsi Gartner. Maybe it was the state of mind I was in when it was recommended to me, but I felt like it was a collection of stories that was written through a dirty glass, if that makes any sense at all. As far as recent books go, I ran away screaming from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Why do people keep recommending it to me? Are they trying to tell me something? Bastards.
8) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
In the past year, I finally read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (it was the longer, meatier edition). This past year has been a very difficult year – and this book stands out as a piercing ray of light. It’s also brilliant. I also cannot recommend The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher more highly – this one is by Kate Summerscale and, as I’ve mentioned before, anyone interested in crime history or crime fiction or the Victorians needs to pick it up.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. Because you never know. And The World Without Us by Alan Wiseman. Because it goes without saying.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
If I could twist the world’s collective arm, I’d give it to Margaret Atwood.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I think it’s about time that Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett was made into a film. I mean, the powers that be have only been trying to get it off the ground for roughly a billion years or so. And it’s perfect for the screen.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. It’s a fabulous book, and I bet it would get butchered.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
The weirdest one cannot be mentioned online, since children (and impressionable adults who like calling me words like “whore”) might be reading. I’ll tell you the second-weirdest: I once had a dream that could be summarized as Aragorn, the Early Years. I dreamed I was camping out with a young Aragorn, on the edge of a forest, facing a desolate field we would have to transverse the next day. I remember how cold I was. He talked to me at length about death and his future and my future, and the future felt as though it had already happened. There was no point to our journey. We both knew it, but had to cross the horrid field regardless. He took a long time starting a fire, and my fingers looked like they were turning to sugar. I feel cloudy each time I think about it.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Oh dear. Some assholes people would say that most things I read are pretty lowbrow. But, if you must know, I have a special place in my heart for trashy bodice-rippers. Always will.
15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses. I don’t think that’s necessarily a compliment, by the way. In terms of emotional difficulty, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road still gives me nightmares. And Macbeth just took a wrecking ball to my entire existence the first time I read it.
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
Like John – I’ve seen Winter’s Tale. I have rather vague, unsatisfying memories. It’s very possible that I had to pee for half of it, or something.
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Well, gee, let me think about this one… I appreciate the intellectual rigour of the French, but the Russians are the Russians. Enough said.
18) Roth or Updike?
Overall, I’m not a huge fan of either. But The Centaur was a great book – so I’ll say Updike.
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
21) Austen or Eliot?
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
The aforementioned French.
23) What is your favorite novel?
Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet.
A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally.
This is really hard, so I am going to cheat a little:
My favourite poem in Russian is Boris Pasternak’s Земля (Earth). It’s set in Moscow, in the spring. It talks about what poets are for. It slashes me up sweetly every time that I dare re-read it. It’s a religious experience.
In English, my favourite poem is probably gee i like to think of dead by e.e. cummings.
I also love Goethe’s Der Erlkönig. It’s one of the few poems in original German that I managed to understand deeply (I think), before the German language abandoned me (get back here!).
Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist by David Sedaris.
27) Short story?
It’s a toss-up between Light Breathing by Ivan Bunin and Neil Gaiman’s Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire. The latter is about writing, and is like a glittering talisman. You carry it around with you. The former is a very Buddhist sort of story. It’s also one of the most immaculately constructed literary works in the history of our collective civilization. If you’re wondering why Bunin ever won the Nobel… wonder no more.
28) Work of nonfiction?
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.
29) Who is your favorite writer?
Kate Atkinson or Mikhail Bulgakov (actually, Gaiman and Nabokov need to be in here too, even though I have yet to read everything by them. Goddamit. Playing favourites is hard.)
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Harold Bloom. I know he’s a critic – but people constantly worry about what Harold Bloom is thinking. I’m just tired of it. He’s like the Britney Spears of the literary world. Always getting thrust into my face when all I’m trying to do is have a pleasant evening.
31) What is your desert island book?
The Beach by Alex Garland. So I don’t get carried away with creating my own modern, murderous utopia.
32) And… what are you reading right now?
A great many things: Pamuk, Gaiman, Paxman, Amanda Foreman, et cetera.
If you want to participate, please go head. Just for the hell of it, I am tagging LitLove, Wallace, Madeleine (you haven’t blogged in a while, lady, you need to get back on your game) and Lynn – because I feel we haven’t been in touch lately, and this is a way of saying “hey there, I miss you.” So hey there, I miss you. And I want to read everyone’s responses.
Thanks to John & Carole. 🙂