Many apologies for the continued neglect of the blog; I should be back in the neighbourhood at the end of the month. I’m intending to catch up with another chunk of reviews on the weekend, and today here’s a couple of memes I’ve been kindly invited to do. The first comes from the delightfully talented Box of Books, the second from the entirely charming Couchtrip.
What kind of book are you most comfortable reading?
Contemporary fiction, but I’m getting ever more into the recent non-fiction that has a bit of a twist to it.
What kind of book do you love to hate?
Joke books published solely for the Christmas market. Books like Neil Strauss’s The Game, in which a man decides he has figured out the fool-proof way to pick up women, which only works if you are irrevocably and hopelessly foolish and determined not to relate to other people. The kind of soul-leechingly awful literary criticism that took theory and turned it into a war zone of pretention and obscurity.
What was the last book you surprised yourself by liking?
I tried really hard to think of an answer for this, honest. But I think I expect to like everything I read. Okay, let’s say Hemingway’s A Movable Feast, as I wasn’t sure whether it would suit me or not (although being a writer in Paris sounded a pretty wonderful premise.)
What was the last book you surprised yourself by disliking?
I have to read books by the relatively canonical modern French writers, Georges Perec and Helene Cixous, in which both authors detail a series of dreams they’ve had. Perec notes 124 dreams, Cixous only about 50. I’ve started these books several times each and cannot get into them. Other people’s dreams, described straight up without explanation, are hopelessly unengaging no matter how good the writers are.
What would be the worst book to be marooned with on a desert island?
Lettres persanes by Montesquieu. Eighteenth-century French text in which two jolly Frenchman travel to Persia, witness life in seraglio, make lots of ironic/naïve comparisons to so-called civilized life back home and I don’t know what happens at the end. I lost the will to live about 60 pages in.
What book would you take with you if you suspected you’d be marooned in the near future?
I have a huge reading list I need to get through at the moment. It would be very kind of someone to airlift me to a nice desert island with the majority of it, so I could get on. But in a parallel world, I’d probably take Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, as I’d like to read it and cannot imagine at the moment when I’d have the time to get through its 1000 or so pages.
What forces you to read outside your comfort zone?
Work. My research is always taking me to places I would never have thought to go of my own accord. It’s probably one of the very best features of the kind of work I do, and a source of great pleasure and enlightenment.
What were you doing 10 years ago?
Not a good time in my life. Ten years ago, summer 1998, I was still trying to recover from the viral pneumonia I’d caught the previous Christmas. I was far from well and sinking into chronic fatigue, although I didn’t know it at the time. Nominally, I was a research fellow at Magdalene College in Cambridge, but I hadn’t been well enough to do much teaching, or indeed, research. I’m very glad I didn’t know then what a long, long haul, healthwise, workwise, lifewise, lay ahead of me.
Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect non-weight gaining world? (I very much need to put on weight, thanks to the no-sugar, no-yeast exclusion diet that, alas, seems to help a lot with chronic fatigue. Life is swings and roundabouts.)
Ginger nut biscuits
Little cheesie biscuits
Hot, buttered toast
Five snacks I enjoy in the real world.
Ready salted crisps
Ryvita with tuna pâté
Bowl of muesli
Five things I would do if I were a billionaire
I’d run a philanthropic venture in the arts, probably a writing retreat where people could do courses and also just work in peace and quiet on their projects.
I’d also love to run a finishing school, one that focused on teaching culture, financial management and foreign languages to young adults. There’d be lots of sport and councelling available too.
I’d also be very tempted to buy and run a little bookshop.
I think I’d better invest some of this money in cloning, as I clearly need several of me if I’m ever rich.
I’d also want to work with a number of charities, involved with children, I think, and their educational and medical needs.
Five jobs I’ve had
General clerical dogsbody for my dad in his office
Conference hostess, Nice, France
Marketing officer, BPCC Books Ltd
Lecturer in French, St John’s College
Chewing my lip when I’m thinking
Lengthy, catastrophic/idealistic fantasizing
Pointlessly telling the men around here to tidy up after themselves/be careful/not put empty cartons back in the fridge, etc.
Five places I’ve lived
Colchester, Essex (home town)
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire (armpit of the UK)
Villeneuve-sur-Lot, France (delightful small French town)
Hemingford Grey, nr St. Ives, Huntingdonshire (Agath-Christie style English village)
Cambridge (dreaming spires)
ps I have found out that this particular computer seems to disable the wordprocessing parts of the blog that permit links, bold type, etc. But my son is playing on the other one at the moment, so apologies for total lack of formatting, once again.