The Literary Note

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?

Both.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

Shakespeare.

21) Austen or Eliot?

Austen.

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.

24) Play?

A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally.

25) Poem?

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!).

26) Essay?

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. 🙂

13 thoughts on “The Literary Note

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

    Probably Stephen King. Sorry, Harold Bloom.

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

    The Bible.

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

    Am too hung over to notice (or care).

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

    If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, now would it? Does James Tiptree, Jr count as ‘fictional’? If not, we’ll go with Jilly Coppercorn from Charles De Lint’s Newford series.

    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)?

    The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay

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

    The Hobbit.

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

    I don’t read books that suck. 😉

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

    The Dark Side by Jane Mayer. A sobering, harrowing read, very necessary. Recommended in conjunction with Angler by Barton Gellman and The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind.

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

    Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson. Quite simply the best book about American politics EVER.

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

    Yeah, let’s go with Atwood. Canadia represent! /nationalism

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

    Neuromancer by William Gibson. Has been optioned on numerous occasions.

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

    Neuromancer by William Gibson. Don’t trust ’em after the hack job done to Johnny Mnemonic.

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

    John Peel reading to me from the Rough Guide to Rock while sitting the kitchen of some rickety old farm house in the English countryside.

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

    ‘Lowbrow’? What, like pr0n? Ok, let’s go with Ann Crispin’s novelization of the classic alien invasion miniseries, V.

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

    Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. Hands down.

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

    Probably As You Like It

    17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

    Don’t forget Poland. Hey, you laugh but Stanislaw Lem is win.

    18) Roth or Updike?

    Burroughs. As in ‘William S.’, not ‘Edgar Rice.’

    19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

    Sedaris all the way, baby.

    20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

    Shakespeare.

    21) Austen or Eliot?

    Austen.

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

    The aforementioned French and Russian.

    23) What is your favorite novel?

    Neuromancer by William Gibson.

    24) Play?

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    25) Poem?

    ‘The Immigrants’ by Atwood.

    26) Essay?

    ‘Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t’ by Jessica Hopper

    27) Short story?

    ‘The Women Men Don’t See’ by James Tiptree, Jr.

    28) Work of nonfiction?

    Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

    29) Who is your favorite writer?

    Harlan Ellison

    30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

    Michael Ondaaji

    31) What is your desert island book?

    American Gods by Gaiman.

    32) And… what are you reading right now?

    The Graveyard Book by Gaiman, with Twilight next on deck (what was that about ‘lowbrow’?)

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

    Was gonna say Neil Gaiman or Shirley Jackson, or possibly Somerset Maugham; and then I realized, fuck me, I have all seven of the Harry Potter books…

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

    I actually got rid of my duplicates in the last purge I think.

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

    What for?

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

    …mind hazy, ask again later.

    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)?

    Probably “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham.

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

    When I was -ten- I was reading the friggin Sweet Valley High series. srsly. I had better taste when I was five (The Wizard of Oz and so forth). uh besides that probably Harriet the Spy was up there.

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

    I don’t think I’ve completed anything that godawful in the past year. Life is short and so is my attention span.

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

    Un Lun Dun by China Mieville.

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

    Collected essays by George Orwell, the one including “Politics and the English Language.”

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

    fuck if I know, I’m so not paying attention…

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

    “Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell,” if they could actually do justice to it (I’m dubious)

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

    See above re: dubious.

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

    Have dreamed at least once of writing a great story that of course I forgot once having woken. Not that weird, but deeply aggravating.

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

    I’m going to have to go with the National Enquirer book about Michael Jackson (“Freak!”)

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

    I’d say “Ulysses” or “Gravity’s Rainbow,” but truth is I never read either completely through or even close. Can tell you all the dirty bits in both of them, though.

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

    It was so obscure I’ve forgotten it.

    17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

    The Russians. They’re funny even in their angst. Or especially. The French are just insufferable.

    18) Roth or Updike?

    …I guess Roth for “Portnoy’s Complaint,” but I’m not really interested in either.

    19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

    Not interested in either.

    20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

    Shakespeare.

    21) Austen or Eliot?

    Austen.

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

    A whole shitload of “classics” apparently. A lot of WoC writing I’ve been meaning to get to. Pretty much everything ever really.

    23) What is your favorite novel?

    Probably “American Gods” at the moment. Used to be “Of Human Bondage.”

    24) Play?

    Would’ve said “Angels in America” once, seen too many mediocre productions to still think so. “Skriker” by Churchill, maybe, although “favorite” isn’t exactly right.

    25) Poem?

    “The Queen of Wands” by Judy Grahn.

    26) Essay?

    “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool” by Orwell. A couple by Joanna Russ from “To Write Like a Woman” come close.

    27) Short story?

    …can’t think of a “favorite” off the top. Some I’ve liked a bunch: “Bliss” by Katherine Mansfield, “Grail” by Neil Gaiman (actually quite a few by Gaiman), “Come Dance With Me In Ireland” by Shirley Jackson

    28) Work of nonfiction?

    Jon Ronson, “Them!” for the lulz

    29) Who is your favorite writer?

    Orwell or Joanna Russ for nonfiction, Gaiman currently for fiction.

    30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?

    Judging by what little I’ve seen of his work, I guess I’d go with David Sedaris. I don’t get it.

    31) What is your desert island book?

    I’d be too busy freaking out to settle down with a book, sorry.

    32) And… what are you reading right now?

    Couple of books on leadership by Arnold Mindell, “Love Belongs To Those Who Do The Feelings” (Judy Grahn’s newish collection), Perdido Street Station finally, the latest “Angel” comic (shut up)

  3. oh, I guess I’d add MFK Fisher to one of the “favorites,” either general nonfiction (her fiction’s just eh) or specifically for a couple of essays.

  4. I’m right there with you on the topic of Harold Bloom. I was forced to take an entire university course on him. He’s critic for pity’s sake! While I’m completely awed by the fact that he remembers everything he’s read and quotes from memory – I hate the fact that he’s so arrogant as to never actually help his readers with references – ’cause the rest of us have not read everything there is to read, nor do we remember which of Browning’s poems that line came from etc etc. Ah the frustration. Suffice to say I’m no fan of Bloom 😛

  5. I’d be too busy freaking out to settle down with a book, sorry.

    For some reason, that struck me as hilarious. Am sitting here, giggling hysterically.

    Jemima, yep! Orlando Bloom over Harold Bloom any day of the week (even Sunday).

  6. Well, hasn’t that desert island question bugged anyone else? I mean! I’m stuck on a desert island ffs! “How to flag down passing ships and GET THE FUCK OFF THE GODDAM ISLAND 4 DUMMIES.” Oo! Wait! I know! “LORD OF THE FLIES,” there, THAT’S my desert island reading material! “Thank God at least I’m here ALL BY MYSELF and not with a gaggle of preadolescent boys or anyone who can build a fire, or…Say, what’re those noises and shadows after dark…?”

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

    Probably a tie between Charles Bukowski and Neil Gaiman. I used to have a whole slew of books by Henry Miller as well (a favorite author), but I’ve given a lot of them away to spread the love.

    2) What book do you own the most copies of?
    I’ve owned quite a few copies of Time Traveler’s Wife, but again, have given them away. As of recently I gave the last one away, so I actually need to buy another!

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

    Nah.

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

    Henry from Time Traveler’s Wife. He’s wonderful, and Claire is a lucky woman. I hate that Eric Bana is playing him by the way.

    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)?

    Um…I dont necessarily revisit entirely. I occassionally grab a book from the many shelves and skim, rereading favorite parts, but I haven’t reread a book since maybe middle school. I remember liking a book called Teacher’s Pet when I was younger. I dont know.

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

    See above. I was addicted to horror stories, and fantasy fiction. I read every book in the Babysitters Club, Vampire Diaries, Anne Rice. I read a lot and was alone a lot at that age.

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

    Clown Girl by Monika Drake. Here’s why: the protagonist was utterly hopeless. I got about 100 pages in and still there wasn’t a bit of sunshine to be found, and it wasnt ironic, just boring. So, the concept of a woman working professionally as a clown, who’s been left behind by another professional clown is interesting. But DO SOMETHING WITH HER!! Do not read this book. I’m surprised Chuck Palahniuk wrote the foreward, but then again, maybe he saw something that I didnt.

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

    I just finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and shed a few tears when it was all over. Beautiful and definitely worth the praise.

    Natalia, what did you mean by the meatier version of American Gods, there are two versions??

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

    Only One?! How about 3; Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Women by Charles Bukowski.

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

    Uhhhh…I’m not sure. Nobel Prize? I’m still looking.

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

    I’d have to say that I disagree with Natalia in that Good Omens should be made into a movie. I’m not a huge supporter of books into film, but screenplays into film. I like the stories remaining in their realms, but thats just me.

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

    None 😉

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

    Dreams tend to fizzle pretty immediately upon waking, like a breath of air on a pile of ashes. Tropic Of Cancer traveled many a road with me though, and so I dreamt at times of some of the scnenarios, and bohemian flats in Paris. All vague now, unfortunately.

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

    Oh man, Laurell K. Hamilton’s book are pure (sorry, Ms. Hamilton), trash, but I do enjoy getting into Anita Blake’s world from time to time as filler for the uninspired moments.

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

    Hmm hard to ingest, or hard to comprehend? Hard to ingest is a tie between American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. Hard to comprehend…Dante’s Inferno still stumps me…in Italian and English. heh.

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

    Performed?

    17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?

    Ha, French. Definitely French.

    18) Roth or Updike?

    Can’t say I’m a huge fan of either, so pass.

    19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

    Sedaris has dwindled a bit since his last book, and Eggers on my to do list ( I know, I know , I i’ll read him soon, ok?!)

    20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?

    Shakespeare.

    21) Austen or Eliot?

    Austen.

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

    Need to brush up on more classics.

    23) What is your favorite novel?

    Too too tough. Favorites to date, Tropic of Cancer, Time Traveler’s Wife, Hick, White Boy Shuffle, High Fidelity, Ham On Rye, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Unbearable Lightness of Being, Love In The Time Of Cholera…

    24) Play?

    Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett

    25) Poem?

    So You Want To Be A Writer by Charles Bukowski. Most influential poem, anyways.

    26) Essay?

    Favorite book of Essays is, I was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. She’s brilliantly funny.

    27) Short story?

    Most recently, We Bluegills by Robert Travieso. Great story that One Story recently published.

    28) Work of nonfiction?

    Hmm Andy Summer’s autobiography was wonderful. Into The Wild was fantastic. Loved Eric Clapton’s too.

    29) Who is your favorite writer?

    Are you SERIOUS? Probably Neil Gaiman at this point. He’s an inspiration.

    30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
    David Sedaris? I wasnt hugely impressed I guess.

    31) What is your desert island book?

    The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Also, Tropic Of Cancer by Henry Miller.

    32) And… what are you reading right now?

    Finishing Wasp Factory by Ian Banks, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, and No One Belongs Here More Then You by Miranda July.

    :::Kris takes a bow, and exits:::

  8. Terrific! I am having so much fun with this.

    Natalia, what did you mean by the meatier version of American Gods, there are two versions??

    There’s the “Author’s preferred text,” yes. I’m pretty sure you should be able to find it on Amazon. A very kind person brought me back a copy from London.

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