Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Book meme

I'm not back five minutes, and I've been tagged already. OK, here goes...

1) Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Well, I'm a bit of a snob about language, and I'd always rather read stuff in the original than in translation - which means that I'd probably irrationally cringe away from reading anything that's been translated into English. I just think it always loses some nuances in translation, and ends up not quite how the author intended. The irrationality of this is that there's only one other language that I actually can read fluently in, so I'm shutting myself off from most of the world. Having said that, I'll make exceptions for books that I really really want to read...

2) If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Hmmmm. I'm going to cheat a bit here, as all three of these are real characters - two the subjects of autobiographical works, the other the subject of various biographies I've read. I think it would be fascinating to take Emperor Pu Yi, Chairman Mao and Jan Wong together and see their reactions both to what they were seeing and to each other as they wandered round a modern Chinese city.

3) (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for a while, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy. OK, probably partly at least because of my peculiar hatred of translations. But I've started that book about 18 times, and never got past page 2. And it's got a looooooot more than two pages...

4) Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

I own lots of books that I haven't read yet - one of the hazards of 'buy two, get one free' offers when you're too busy to read more than one at a time. I don't think I've ever pretended that I've read any particular one of them, although their presence on my shelves probably suggests that I may have done more than glance at the cover and think, "This'll do for my 'get one free' book".

5) You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP).

OK, the VIP is someone who's coming to visit England or is about to have regular contact with English people. I'd tell them to read 'Watching the English' by Kate Fox. It's hilarious in places, insightful in others, and it's perfect for someone who doesn't read much, because you can dip into it and just find that you keep flicking through and finding more interesting sections, so that in the end you can't help but read the whole thing. And if you've ever spent more than five minutes in England, you'll find yourself nodding your head and thinking, "It never occurred to me, but that is a peculiarly British thing, and it's totally, absolutely true". For Brits, too, it's an eye-opener - of the "you mean the rest of the world doesn't do that too?" variety.

6) A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

Only one? But I want to be able to read EVERYTHING in the original...! I suppose, since I'm only semi-literate now and it's frustrating not to be able to read better, it would have to be Chinese. I even have a pile of Chinese novels sitting at home just asking to be read.

7) A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

'When We Were Very Young' by A A Milne. OK, not only is it a children's book, but it's a book of poems, and I can recite most of them by heart anyway, but I love it, and could read it out loud to my numerous nephews, nieces and godchildren (and their descendants, I suppose, if it's for the rest of my life). And because it's short, I'd still have plenty of time left to read new stuff too.

If I had to choose a proper grown-up book, I suppose it would be 'London: The Novel' by Edward Rutherfurd - a great doorstopper of a book, which I have always found absolutely fascinating. The highest praise I can think of for this book is that several years ago I gave a copy to a friend. Last year, she gave me a copy of the same book, with a note saying, "Someone gave me a copy of this years ago, and I loved it so much I was sure you would too".

8) I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

Well, if we're talking about book blogging... I've discovered that there are all sorts of people out there who have the same sort of fragmented memories as I do of books that they've enjoyed, and I enjoy visiting the abebooks forum from time to time to see the number of vague questions to which someone has managed to find an answer, often after years of looking. I have asked a couple myself, and been reintroduced to gems of childhood that I thought were lost forever (Bernice Reubens, Catherine Storr, Elizabeth Gorell, Mary Gehr...)

9) That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

It's a huge room, lined with good, strong shelves. The shelves are well filled, but there's always room for a few more books when I've gone mad at the bookshop. There are windows at each end, to catch both the morning and the evening sun, and a comfy chair by each window. There's a sofa pulled up to an open fireplace for the winter, a cosy rug on the floor, a ticking clock with Westminster chimes on the mantelpiece, and a radio discreetly in one corner. The books vary - some trashy paperbacks, some well-thumbed favourites, plenty of reference books, and all organised by subject and by author (not, as New Man prefers, by size and colour!). And all the books are catalogued, so that I can instantly put my hand on whichever one I'm looking for.

I've just realised that, apart from the cataloguing and the size of the room, I'm pretty close to having all of that in the room I'm in at the moment. My cup runneth over...

And now it's time to tag someone. Well, not many people have yet stumbled across the fact that I've started this blog up again. If you're here and you're interested, fill your boots.


Mac McLernon said...

Great answers Newhouse... I knew it'd be worth tagging you!

newhousenewjob said...

Thanks Mac :¬)

gemoftheocean said...

I loved your answers, and Watching the English sounds like a fun read.


newhousenewjob said...

Thanks Karen. I think you'd enjoy it...