Borrowed from Catherine – thank you!
1) What author do you own the most books by?
Inevitably Colette and Marguerite Duras because of research (and I own them in French AND in English). But I do have an awful lot of Anthony Trollope novels because the printing factory where I worked produced them and so many sad and lonely file copies needed a good home. And probably after that comes Virginia Woolf, Alison Lurie and Anne Tyler, prolific authors one and all.
2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I love the idea of being a proper bibliophile and treasuring different editions, but when push comes to shove, I’ll spend my money on a new story. So with the exception of Colette and Duras (see above), I don’t even have any doubles.
3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Less than perhaps it should have done.
4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Julian, from the Famous Five. I do like a man with natural authority.
5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?
Probably Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. I had to read it for my university course, and I fell in love with it and reread it countless times. Alas, now I can no longer read German, so I’d have to buy it in translation if I wanted to read it again, and I fear it might not be the same.
6) What was your favourite book when you were ten years old?
Whichever book I was reading at the time. I was greedy and utterly undiscriminating.
7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
I wouldn’t wish for it to be classified as the ‘worst’ as it’s a recognized modern classic, but I couldn’t get even a few pages into The Master and Margerita. It was very frustrating as I’d wanted to read it for years.
8 ) What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
It’s very hard to choose just one. Drusilla Modjeska’s The Orchard. Or maybe Mariana by Monica Dickens because it was so funny.
9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
The Chateau by William Maxwell. You don’t come here very often if you don’t know that.
10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Hmmm, I like Antoine Volodine, whose fantastic, post-apocalyptic worlds are quite something. But I’d be happy to see someone like Toni Morrison get it. And you know I’d give Julian Barnes anything.
11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. Ah, pass me the tissues.
12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Anything with a deep, significant psychological dimension.
13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I have a shocking paucity of great authors in my dream world. However, Alan Titchmarsh, who is better known as a gardener with a series of television programmes has also started writing novels, and I once dreamed we were going to get married because the mafia was after him and the marriage would provide cover. In the dream, he came to find me before the ceremony to read me a poem he’d written for the occasion and said perhaps I would like to compose something, too? Really, he was completely charming, and when I woke up I was so sorry to think he wouldn’t be sorting out my garden.
14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
What a loaded question. Probably Jilly Cooper’s Riders, and I loved every minute of it. I’m also very partial to books of Peanuts cartoons – but surely they classify as quality lit?
15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia, which I did get through. But there are books by Jacques Derrida, notably On Grammatology, that I have tried and failed gloriously to read.
16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I’ve seen very few Shakespeare plays. Othello, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra; anything strike anyone as obscure yet?
17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Oh the French, every time.
18 ) Roth or Updike?
Am I allowed to like both?
19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Never read Eggers, but adore Sedaris.
20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, by default. I’ve never read either of the others.
21) Austen or Eliot?
Austen, for me.
22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
It should be apparent by now that it’s pretty much everything prior to 1830.
23) What is your favorite novel?
Too hard! I did a blog post a while back where I narrowed it down to 50.
Journey’s End by R. C. Sherriff. And actually, I have a soft spot for Noel Coward.
Duino Elegies by Rilke, and the Rue Traversière poems by Yves Bonnefoy.
Anything by (Saint) Joan (of) Acocella.
27) Short story?
Goodness me, couldn’t possibly choose one. But there’s a chap called Eric Faye who writes French tales of the fantastic and supernatural who is extraordinarily good. And I also like Helen Simpson.
28) Work of nonfiction?
So far, The Hidden Woman, by Janet Malcolm.
29) Who is your favourite writer?
Again, too many really. Everyone I’ve mentioned so far, along with Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus, Frantz Kafka, Gabriel Josipovici….
30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Too mean – every author has some devoted fan somewhere, even if it’s just their mother.
31) What is your desert island book?
Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
32) And… what are you reading right now?
I have just finished Wilkie Collins’ No Name, so must hurry on to Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher for the book club meeting on Wednesday. Waiting patiently in the wings, half read, are Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and The Mitford Sisters by Mary Lovell. And I’m trying hard not to start Doris Lessing’s Martha Quest.