Rachel - Rachel - has tagged me in a long sequence of book-related tags which I have been watching make its slow progress through the blogs of my acquaintance. Without further ado - because I am far too tired to prevaricate - One More Book-Related Tag.
Is there a book you really want to read, but haven't, because you know it will make you cry? You are asking the girl whose go-to author of choice in her childhood was Rosemary Sutcliff. I cannot at present think of any book I am actively avoiding because it will make me cry. I don't mind crying: generally that means the author has done his job well. If the sad aspect of the book is badly done, I just get angry and I read something else. After I have fixated moodily on the annoyance for awhile. In a healthy fashion. Because obviously the author did it just to irritate me.
Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre. Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners. It wasn't the nature of essays which I was introduced to (I've been reading those sorts of things for years), but the whole culture of Southern literature. I'm a native to the South, but my parents are from the North, and looking along the line of my bookshelves, I see British - British - British - British - British - oh my lands, British. The most American my library gets is Lew Wallace and Ben-Hur. Even the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (which I just finished and enjoyed) belongs to my sister. It was Flannery O'Connor who introduced me to the fact that not all Southern literature is cast adrift in an esoteric milieu of Reconstructionist poverty, but may actually offer some precious gems through the unique lens of Southern experience.
Find a book you want to reread. Given the desperate, haphazard nature of my library, squeezed onto my meagre shelving like a Christmas jellyroll into a whalebone bodice, "find" is the appropriate word. ...Just at this present moment, it would make for a toss-up between Beowulf and Watership Down. Because those two are so markedly similar. I don't currently have time to read either, but both are so rich and enjoyable, I could stand to read them again.
Is there a book series you read, but wish you hadn't? Yes, Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. At the time I read them, they were fun and exciting, but after awhile I realized they were totally unbiblical, took more liberties than made me comfortable, and in general the writing is shallow. It makes me sad. Once upon a time we produced Ben-Hur, and now we get books like This Present Darkness.darlings, i think the coffee is finally catching up
If your house was burning down, and all your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save? Well, assuming for the moment that my library had been previously divested of all titles which do not actually belong to me, I would be torn between my copies of The Divine Comedy (with its engravings by Gustave Doré), Augustine's Confessions, and my copy of Simon by Rosemary Sutcliff. All other books can be replaced (if I actually remember what all I have in my library), but those particular copies are beautiful and/or expensive, and replacing them would be costly for me.
Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories? With all respect due to the ease and portability of the e-reader, I must maintain that a physical book wraps itself in so many layers of glamour, a marker both for the story within its cover and for the time of life and spacial situation in which it was read, which e-readers do not grasp. A few of my books elicit unpleasant memories - the bitter taste of regretful circumstances in which they were read - but many of them are the happy milestones of a casually scholarly life. With Ben-Hur, I am slung in a chair in a local airport, waiting for my flight on a clear day. With The Eagle of the Ninth, I remember the era of spontaneous and extreme nosebleeds which would attack my sister, leaving behind a telltale mark on the front cover which I have never bothered to wipe off for the sheer humour of it. The Scarlet Pimpernel - curled up on the couch at my old house, reading through the dark of an evening without any intention of stopping. I am seated tailor-fashion on the sidewalk before my old mailbox garden, reading aloud while my husband works, when I turn over the binding of The Discarded Image, and when I pick up The Grand Sophy, I am curled up at my husband's feet while he reads aloud to me.
Find a book that inspired you most. The Worm Ouroboros - "Dost think we are here in dreamland?"
Do you have any autographed books? Yes, my copy of Fly Away Home was autographed and addressed to me!
Find the book that you have owned the longest. My coffee is not working that well. I cannot tell you which book I have owned the longest, but my earliest memory of receiving a book is my gorgeous hardback copy of Black Beauty, given to me by my parents on the Christmas of '99. I would defy Gustave Doré to compose better line-art for the interior, and any of the Glasgow Boys to paint a better portrait for the cover. A fitting casement for a story which, in my opinion, is as enduring, steady, and foundational as our own Ben-Hur.
Is there a book by an author you never thought you would read or enjoy? "I was surprised by our conversation. She has some first-rate qualities." Honestly, I was not at all sure I would enjoy Nine Coaches Waiting. I have a memory of toying feebly with the opening pages of Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart - an ill-fated kind of name), and I remember my sister being handed a floral copy of some romance-type novel by Stewart, which, let's face it, put me off merely by the cover. I admit that the copy of Nine Coaches Waiting which I read was not the most promising either, and I can't really tell you how I managed to get sucked into those first few pages - perched in a chair with my heels kicked up on the hood of the Audi, I think, while my husband worked in the garage... At any rate, there I went, and I didn't look back. Nine Coaches Waiting remains a favourite of the year.
undoubtedly, books are odd creatures