Haven't done a meme for a long time; where did they all go? (n.b. I know I've asked this before, and it does seem as though what appeared, in 2005, to be a constitutive feature of blogging was actually a passing fad [or perhaps that should be a sub-fad, since blogs are clearly highly faddish themselves] but I miss them and I wish people would send me good ones.) I got this meme from Rohan whose excellent blog, I have reason to believe, would be enjoyed by a number of people who read here.
Rohan did hers on the weekend but I am doing mine instead of marking essays.
What was the last book you bought?
It was The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester ($1.99 at Savers) who writes very good articles in the LRB. When I had a good look at it I was a little bit intimidated by the superlatively excellent comments from critics plastered thickly on front and back covers and on the first four pages. But when I read a few pages it seemed to be a sort of Pale Fire about food writing. I wonder if Zoe's read it.
Name a book you have read MORE than once.
Let's make that 'name a book you have read MORE than ten times': Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Brideshead Revisited, Billy Budd, Sailor, Lucky Jim, Little Women, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, Heart of Darkness, Possession, Wuthering Heights, White Noise, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Washington Square.
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Not any one single book. I think that reading Jane Austen has fundamentally shaped the way I think about life and what I think people are. And I think that Mary McCarthy has taught me a great deal about the absolute necessity (and simultaneous impossibility) of being ruthlessly and disinterestedly honest with yourself, about yourself.
How do you choose a book? e.g. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?
Recommendations for fiction; scholarly and nonfiction usually by reviews; if it's Mansfield Park I am really only interested in the book design.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Oh, fiction, without a doubt.
What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
If that is a real question, then gripping plot. Ugly writing is perfectly fine with me. 'Beautiful' writing sometimes covers a multitude, as they say.
Most loved/memorable character?
Anne Elliot and Roland Michell. Always the quiet ones.
Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
The abovementioned Lanchester; The Steele Diaries by Wendy James; The Great Feminist Denial by Monica Dux & Zora Simic; a seed catalogue.
What was the last book you read?
The Dux & Simic one, which Zoe sent me, complete with terse marginalia. I am still trying to figure out what the title actually means, and what the book is about.
Have you ever given up on a book halfway in?
I wander in and out of books sometimes but that's not quite the same thing as giving up. Unfortunately if a book is really hurting me I don't like to let it win. Reverse psychology, I know. I was recently defeated by a novel called None But You which is a retelling of Persuasion from Wentworth's point of view. It took several frustrated attempts to get all the way through Pierre, or The Ambiguities, doubly frustrating because I found I couldn't pick it up where I left off but instead had to start again from the beginning each time.