Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bookish Meme

A friend tagged me with this on Facebook, but I'm more a blogger than the Facebooker, and so I've changed venues.

1) What author do you own the most books by? J.R.R. Tolkien -- mostly thanks to having inherited a lot of the books put out by Christopher Tolkien of stuff not published during his father's lifetime.

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I have at least nine copies (not counting children's adaptations) of the Bible in thee languages.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? In a degenerate world, one learns to ignore these things.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? I think that may be a girl thing... Though if I could pick a character I secretly wanted to be it might be Lord Peter Wimsey.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)? I know that I've read The Lord of the Rings, Brideshead Revisited and The Secret History more than six times each, but I don't know which I've read the most.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? Probably the Planet Builders juvie SF series, or perhaps one of Heinlein's juvies.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year? I haven't read any stinkers in quite a while -- one just doesn't have the time for bad books. Though I read the first 70 pages of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man last year some time, and that was spectacularly bad. Now I think about it, Berlinsky's A Tour of the Calculus as pretty bad -- purplest prose I've read in a long time. I didn't finish that either.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year? Hmmmm. Probably The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? I've gone off the idea that everyone is capable of appreciating the same books.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature? The obvious choice would be Obama, but since he's actually written books the committee might feel like that would be showing the peace prize committee up...

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie? The Great Siege: Malta 1565, an outstanding short history which would make an out-of-this-world historical action epic. I'd also really like to see movies of Tim Powers' novels Declare and Last Call, but I could much more easily see these being messed up.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie? Where the Wild Things Are

14) What is the most low-brow book you've read as an adult? I have the vague and guilty feeling of having read some pretty bad genre stuff back in my college and just out of college days, and the fact that titles are escaping me probably underlines that they were pretty forgettable.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read? The answers that immediately occur to me are all things that I tried to read far too quickly because of college reading assignments: Aristotle's Metaphysics, Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Hobbes' Leviathan, John Paul II's Memory and Identity. I really should try reading these again at a reasonable pace and see how I see them now.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen? What's the one where the guy says he won't sleep with his wife until she bears a child who's wearing his ring...?

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians? Russians.

18) Roth or Updike? Haven't read either.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers? Haven't read either.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer? That's a hard call... I very much like all three, but if actions speak loudest, I've read/heard Shakespeare far more often than Milton or Chaucer.

21) Austen or Eliot? Austen.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading? Modern greats, I haven't ready any novels by: Hemingway, Nabokov, DH Lawrence, Virginia Wolfe, Henry James or Joseph Conrad

23) What is your favorite novel? Brideshead Revisited

24) Play? Lion in Winter

25) Poem? If I'm allowed to pick an epic, I'd be torn between the Iliad and the Divine Comedy. But if we're talking shorter works I'd probably name Milton's "L'Allegro".

26) Essay? This may be cheating, but: An Essay on Brewing, Vintage and Distillation, Together With Selected Remedies for Hangover Melancholia: Or, How to Make Booze

27) Short story? "Victims of War" by Giovanni Guareschi Or, perhaps "Smith of Wooten Major" by Tolkien, though that's more novella length.

28) Work of non-fiction? A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube and Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates

29) Who is your favorite writer? If I can restrict it to living writers, I think I might pick Tim Powers as a favorite -- I don't think he's the best writer alive now, but I think he'd be my favorite.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today? Howard Zinn

31) What is your desert island book? I don't intend to be caught on an island, but if I was to be stuck with one book for a very long time it'd have to be something long and varied such as Dance To The Music of Time or the complete Rambler or Anatomy of Melancholy. Indeed, these are all long and varied enough that I would probably need to be on a desert island in order to actually give them sufficient attention rather than having them as perpetual back-burner reads.

32) And... what are you reading right now? I have the bad habit of keeping a lot of books going at once, but limiting to the in progress reads that I've actually dipped into in the last couple weeks: Absalom, Absalom!, From Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own Wine, The Civil War: A Narrative--Fort Sumter to Perryville, Vol. 1, Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome


Kate said...

Why is it so satisfying to see our favorites on someone else's list? If someday we meet in person we'll have to compare notes on what makes Brideshead so great - I really believe it may be the most perfect novel I've ever read. Certainly my favorite. That you've read LOTR multiple times is also satisfying, and it is fantastic that you are familiar with Giovanni Guareschi. But I do think hollywood would just mess up any of Power's novels. Too much internal consistency, which is not the forte of the silver screen.

On the other hand, to have a good conversation on the wine and beer side of things, I'd have to introduce you to my father. :-D

Benjamin I. Espen said...

Howard Zinn died recently, but I have to agree with you that he was overrated.

Jim Janknegt said...

What is "The Secret History" and who is the author?

Paul Zummo said...

Speaking of Brideshead (which we're reading this month for my KofC book club) I just read a review in the Washington Times of this book: Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead. Looked pretty interesting.

Darwin said...


Indeed -- I'm always a sucker for these sorts of lists because I love to see other people's. Though it's always unsettling when someone you like hated a book you loved.


Opps. Most over-rated was one of the questions I had the hardest time answering, and it seems I still blew it. Somehow picking an author who simply sells a lot (say, Dan Brown) but who is lousy didn't seem a sufficient pick, it had to be someone who was highly regarded but not actually worth much. Oh well...


The Secret History was a novel (first novel, actually) by Donna Tartt. It centers around a group of classics students at a elite private liberal arts college in Vermont -- a sort of backwards murder mystery in that it opens with a murder, and spend the rest of the movel examining why it was committed and what the results will be.

It's very well written, and I strongly recommend it, though it probably had an overly strong impact on me in that I read it just as I was heading off to college, and so a dark and brooding book about Greek and Latin and the nature of sin had a particular grasp on my imagination just then.

Darwin said...

Though, of course, there's also Procopius's Secret History in which he levels some of the most impressive (and physically unlikely) charges of perversion imaginable against the Empress Theodora. That's a blast, but I wouldn't list it as a favorite book, and I only read the exciting bits... :-)

JMB said...

Funny, I just read "A Secret History" with my book group. It was interesting, although personally, I thought it meandered way too long in the middle. I'm surprised this wasn't made into a film.

Please check out David Sedaris. He can be dicey, but I have never laughed harder in public while reading a book. I particularly liked "Dress your family in corduroy & denim".

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth - Darwin consistently posts the LONGEST "quick takes" in Catholic Blogdom. Crescat should come up with a special award just for this feat. :)