The Literary Note Meme

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.

24) Play?

Journey’s End by R. C. Sherriff. And actually, I have a soft spot for Noel Coward.

25) Poem?

Duino Elegies by Rilke, and the Rue Traversière poems by Yves Bonnefoy.

26) Essay?

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.

21 thoughts on “The Literary Note Meme

  1. An insightful list, which suggests how (probably) we are created as readers, at least to an extent, by those authors we study and find to our taste, so that in a way we never leave them behind. I find myself going back to such writers more and more. I wonder if this is different for those who did not primarily study literature or foreign literature as you did. Perhaps other commentators might say here. By the way I think Toni Morrison already won the Nobel, and to show my ignorance I’ve never heard of Volodine. If you think he is so good I must look him up. I never got very far with Derrida Made Easy, let alone anything he really wrote!

  2. Very good answers, Litlove! I think I remember Julian from the Famous Five, too! and I’m so glad, so very happy I’m not the only one who can’t pick just one favourite book! I might have to do this meme myself, I enjoyed it so much 😀

  3. I love reading these–wonderful answers to all the questions, of course! I may have to snag this one from you sometime, soon. And I do have The Chateau on my pile by my bed. I Am going to read it this year. Maybe I’ll even start it this weekend (….am constantly contemplating starting ever more books despite having so many already started….but you already knew that). I hope you liked No Name. I want to read the Lovell and Martha Quest, too (Martha Quest is the only Doris Lessing book I own actually).

  4. I love these litmemes, and am suitably impressed by your unusual choice of favourite essayist. It’s interesting that the meme choice is Austen vs. Eliot … they’re such vastly different writers. It would make more sense to ask Austen vs. Thackeray, and Eliot vs. Dickens, perhaps … comparing time/outlook/agenda, rather than the fact that they were both female writers.

  5. Margaret – I agree with you, Proust is wonderful. I’m taking him to the island as he is one of the few authors I could bear to read over and over!

    Bookboxed – you are right! She won in 1993. So there. I can’t for the life of me think of anyone else to replace her with as a possible contender, though there must be lots of deserving authors! Volodine I don’t expect anyone to know – I’m not sure he’s even been translated yet, but I do like him a lot. So you are by no means ignorant. As for Monsieur Derrida, I do think he is the person to read when in a life slump. Only a few pages in and suddenly every other occupation looks enticing and wonderful. 🙂 But he had some very interesting ideas, which I have enjoyed in my time, so should not be mean to him.

    Susan – I would love to see your answers to the meme! And very glad someone else recalls Julian. Picking one favourite book was completely beyond me, and I welcome the solidarity! 🙂

    Danielle – I would love to see your answers, too! And oh I would love to know what you think of the Chateau. No Name was a delight, and I’ll review it shortly. And I’ve just begun Martha Quest and think it is also going to be fantastic. I’ve liked everything I’ve ever read by Lessing and I think I should read more.

    David – Acocella is just a little star – such clarity of thought in her prose, such elegant concision in her expression. I do love her, in a literary way. You make a very good point about Austen and Eliot – they ARE too different to compare, aren’t they?

    Care – lol! I find that happens to me all the time in the blogworld – some days it’s not safe to venture out at all without finding lots of irresistible new books to read!

  6. I would be first in line to see a film version of Crossing to Safety. It’s a marvelous book – now you’ve reminded me it’s about time for a re-read 🙂

  7. Love, love, love your answers. I’d love to see Crossing to Safety made into a movie, too. Lots of producers have wanted to, but it’s never gotten off the ground. Also, I have Martha Quest on my bedside table. Maybe if you start it, I will too!

  8. I must get my hands on a copy of The Chateau, I wrote this down last year I think and it got lost in the book stacks. Thanks for the reminder. And I loved reading your answers to this, Litlove!

  9. I loved the Martha Quest novels, adore Rilke, would pick both Austen and Eliot, and completely agree that “Peanuts” is quality lit. Beyond that, there’s a piece of paper covered in names & titles for the endless list…Enjoyed reading this, and as Grad wrote, there is much food for thought here. Thank you.

  10. Becca – I am saving myself up for a reread – I loved it SO the first time around! 🙂

    Lilian – thank you! I would love to know who some of your favourite authors are, if you ever felt like writing about them one day….?

    Gentle Reader – really? People have wanted to film it but not managed to yet? Wow, what an opportunity for the right director. I have just begun Martha Quest and so far, 80 pages in, I’m loving it! I can warmly recommend it and would love to know what you think of it.

    Verbivore – I would love to know what you think of The Chateau – particularly as you would be reading it with profound knowledge of both French and Americans!

    Stefanie – ooh yes, Atwood for the next Nobel Prize! Good call. I’m surprised that Peanuts never won it, either – what an injustice that was! 🙂

    Grad – Then I would love to see who makes it onto your list! Not that I don’t have a mountain for a TBR pile, but I am always game to add to it. 🙂

    ds – Yay! It’s always so nice when someone likes the writers you like. And I would love to see your answers to this meme, too, if you ever feel like it! 🙂

  11. For some reason I read your comment on Steppenwolf as referring to Siddhartha (also by Hesse I think). That must be because I really want to read Siddhartha again. Anyway, nice meme. Nothing obscure about those Shakespeares though, I think. And yes, The Chateau. Must read. Sigh.

  12. This is a fun meme — I may have to steal it one of these days or weeks. But I’m not sure about those questions that force you to choose between two authors. Sedaris or Eggers? They do two completely different things! Austen or Eliot? Why do I have to choose? Anyway, very interesting to think about!

  13. Pingback: A Literary Meme « So Many Books

  14. Pingback: book notes « Incurable Logophilia

  15. Pete – ooh you remind me I must reread Siddhartha, which I also loved. We should do a joint reading! 🙂

    Iliana – I would love to see your answers to this one, only I fear what will happen to the tbr pile in the process!

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