Aug 27 2013
What was the last truly great book you read?
Wow. This is a tough question to start with. I’m in Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA in Fiction program, so I’ve been reading a lot of wonderful books by authors that I’ve neglected for a long time. I’ve read my first Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises, Woolf: The Waves, Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night, and Rushdie: Shalimar the Clown. Despite these and others, I have to say that my favorite book of the past year has been Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue, a book of loosely woven short stories that follows the owners of a Dutch master painting. My favorite author of the year has been Anton Chekov, whose short stories are astonishingly good. It’s been a brilliant year of reading for me.
What’s your favorite literary genre?
I was originally a pop science fiction and fantasy fan, but I’m finding myself more interested in historical fiction and speculative fiction the older I get. My writing is driving me more towards material with well researched settings that accompany heavy depth of character and carefully crafted prose.
What type of fiction or nonfiction do you absolutely refuse to read?
I really hate horror of most all stripes in the fiction vein. I loved Stoker’s Dracula, when I read it a long time ago, but I think that it’s likely the extent of my foray into dark, horror pieces. As far as nonfiction, I’m starting to expand, but I’ve still never read a lot of biographies or memoir, they just don’t do it for me, usually, regardless of what I try.
Name your all-time favorite book.
Hmm. Again, difficult, but if I go with my first response, I can’t deny the effect that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings had on me as a young reader. I haven’t read the books in a decade and a half, but they still resonate with me.
Name a highly respected book, fiction or nonfiction, you found overrated and unsatisfying.
I know that Kafka is well loved and brilliant, but I read The Trial this year and hated my life for the days that I was reading it. To be fair, it was unfinished and I may have had a bad translation, but I can’t envision it being a satisfying read however it might be doctored.
What’s your opinion of e-books?
I think that e-books are a good thing for literature and the industry, as they will keep people reading in a world of easy technology, comfort, and convenience. I also love the idea of being able to carry multiple books in a single device that I can stand to stare at for more than a couple of hours. All of this said, I haven’t stopped purchasing and reading conventional books. There’s something about the tactile nature of holding the texts and turning the pages that connects me to the material more than the digital format. I’m sure the effect is the same when considering the mass change from spoken word to written word storytelling however many centuries ago throughout various cultures. Something is gained, something is lost.
Who’s your favorite writer?
I couldn’t say for sure, but Virginia Woolf is quite literally intoxicating to me. Her prose, as dense and complex as it can be on the page, makes my brain happy and I love devouring her descriptions and narrative responses to the actions and words of the characters. It’s beautiful. I plan to write my term paper next semester on her work; purely an excuse to read as much of her work as I dare.
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be?
As far as living authors, I suppose I’d like to meet Salmon Rushdie. His freedom, breadth, whimsy, and boldness in writing is inspiring to me. As far as dead authors, it would probably be Virginia Woolf. I’m sure I’d waste all of my questioning time trying to convince her to spare her own life.
Who is your favorite fictional character?
I don’t have a character that I love over every other that comes to mind. However, of things I’ve read recently, Remedios the Beauty in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude is a great example of whimsy, dark humor, and just plain quirky writing. She is one of the characters that make the heavier parts of the book palatable. The aspects of her life, from her enlightened and simplistic perspective on life to her supernatural beauty, to her nudism, the fatal effects of her scent on the men in her town and her Biblical ascension into the sky, all of these make her quite memorable. If I cheat and step out of strict literature, I’ll choose Hamlet every time.