So Many Books, So Little Time


Rose Main Reading Room, N.Y. Public Library

I’ve just finished reading an UNFORGETABLE collection of stories (What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank)

…and I am, presently, BY DAY, reading another great collection (a delight, stories about working musicians), Power Ballads (Will Boast)

…and, BY NIGHT, I’m reading  The Schmetterling Effect (Ivan Cotter), an engagingly farcical political thriller/satire, which has me chuckling throughout…

Given that Schmetterling is an eBook I downloaded onto my iPad (using a FREE Kindle app from Amazon) — and given that the iPad is a device a bit too large to read on the subway, one-handedly (and too purloin-able) — I’m reading this eBook at home.

I’ve worked it out so I’m never without a book, no matter what. Reading is such a delight/obsession for me, I should start a business to contract myself out as a person WHO WAITS ON LINE FOR OTHERS.

As long as I have a book, I will wait forever. In fact, I am hoping I get called for jury duty — just for the opportunity to squeeze in more reading.

Needless to say, with all this reading, I was much in the mood for a Lit meme. So I googled around and found this popular one!

1. What author do you own the most books by?  

Paul Theroux — so much more than a “travel writer” – I love his wit and curmudgeonly attitude and ability to delve deeply into an experience. He is able to capture the very essence of a place and its people. He pointedly avoids tourist attractions. He walks or uses public transportation to go everywhere.  Not just a non-fiction writer, I have enjoyed reading many of his novels.

Elizabeth Strout — I own all of her books. Hands down, one of my favorite authors. I hope she’s writing another or putting together a collection of her short stories.

Raymond Carver — I love his spare writing style and magnificent stories;

Paul Auster — I “get” his obsessive relationship to the world;

Carl Jung — because he fascinates me.

2. What book do you own the most copies of? 

The I Ching – Book of Changes; also, the Dictionary.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions? 

I love vernacular.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with? 

Tyler Caskey from Abide With Me; Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird.

N.B. There’s a wonderful new documentary out on Harper Lee (available on “instant download” on Netflix) called “Hey, Boo – Harper Lee and To Kill A Mockingbird”:

5. What book(s) have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children, i.e. Goodnight Moon does not count)?  

The Snow Leopard (Peter Matthiessen). I’m so glad I kept my copy because I’ve discovered, regrettably, unbelievably, it’s out of print.

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old? 

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson).

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?  

The absolute worst: The Hilleker Curse (James Ellroy);

Not the worst novel, but in terms of succumbing to all the hype, reading it and just not liking it at all — one of those books with a great first chapter and then going downhill from there, and scattered throughout with the beginnings of  story lines that go absolutely nowhere… (and I read all the way through, because I was hoping for some kind of payoff) — A Visit from the Goon Squad (Jennifer Egan). To my astonishment, it won the Pulitzer Prize.

8. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Nathan Englander).

9. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature? 

Nathan Englander.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie? 

Caribou Island (David Vann); Brooklyn (Colm Toibin); Abide With Me (Elizabeth Strout); The Lay of the Land (Richard Ford); The Signal (Ron Carlson).

11. What book would you least like to see made into a movie? 

The Hilleker Curse (it would also make a rotten movie) — and it pains me to write this about Ellroy. His My Dark Places is a masterpiece.

12. What are your favorite opening lines from the novel?  I have a bunch:

  • Related to question #11, one of my favorite first lines (talk about in medias res) comes from My Dark Places (a memoir of the investigation of his mother’s murder when he was 10 years old):

“Some kids found her.”

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

  • Yet another, from Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov):

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

  • From 1984 (George Orwell):

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

  • From Jazz (Toni Morrison) – more than one line, granted, but oh so necessarily so:

“Sth, I know that woman. She used to live with a flock of birds on Lenox Avenue. Know her husband, too. He fell for an eighteen-year-old girl with one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy he shot her just to keep the feeling going.”

“It was a pleasure to burn.”

“In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together.”

Heartfelt thanks to all all the amazing authors who bring such pleasure to my life!

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