Literary Maven Meme!

I found this meme over at Writing the Renaissance, and since Julianne said anyone could play, here I am! Feel free to join in yourself–I had fun with this one.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
Jean Plaidy. I just started reading historical fiction a few years ago, and since then, I’ve acquired what looks to be at least two dozen of her books. My first Plaidy, though not her best, was Follies of the King, and since it’s about Edward II, it’s a sentimental favorite of mine.

It’s amazing where Plaidys crop up. My late mother-in-law had no interest in Jean Plaidy or historical fiction, except for books with Western themes, but she bought a lot of used books with the intention of reselling them, and my husband found a copy of Beyond the Blue Mountains in one stack.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Bleak House. I have various illustrated versions of it, and I have scholarly editions of it with different introductions, and I have the first bound edition–but not the original monthly numbers. I wish!

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with a preposition?
Sad to say, I didn’t notice until you pointed it out! By the way, there’s a joke about this:

Southerner to snooty lady from up north: “Where are you from?”
Snooty lady: “Here in the north we do not end sentences with prepositions.”
Southerner: “OK. Where are you from, bitch?”

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend. Such a handsome, charming wastrel.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding children’s picture books)?
Difficult to say once we get past childhood. I seldom re-read books from beginning to end, but I do re-read passages of my favorites.

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
I probably didn’t have a favorite book, but I loved a lot of series–probably then I was reading a lot of Trixie Belden books. I also admit to reading all of the Bobbsey Twins books, and another favorite was a series called the Happy Hollisters.

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
A few pop into my mind instantly, but I’m zipping my mouth.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?
I though Manhunt, a nonfiction book by James Swanson about the capture of John Wilkes Booth, was great. It’s the sort of book one wishes students were assigned in school–it makes history comes alive.

9. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, on the theory that most people end up hating books they are forced to read, and this was a book I detested and think deserves to be detested by others.

10. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
Well, if I were handing them out, Anne Tyler would get it.

11. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I’d love to see Our Mutual Friend or Bleak House made into a movie–they’ve been made into TV mini-series, but it’s be fun to see them on the big screen.

12. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I can’t really think of one.

13. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I vaguely remember a childhood dream where some of my favorite fictional characters appeared and hung out with me at a train station, but I can’t think of anything more recent.

14. What is the most lowbrow book you read as an adult?
One of Virginia Henley’s historical romances, because it was set during the reign of Edward II.

15. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Probably The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne. With all of the wordplay and all of the contemporary references, it was a slow read. I’ve never tackled James Joyce’s Ulysses, and unless I get very bored someday, I probably never will.

16. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve ever seen?

17. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I haven’t read a good selection of either, but of the ones I have read, probably the Russians.

18. Roth or Updike?
Updike. I love the Rabbit novels and Gertrude and Claudius. I did enjoy Goodbye, Columbus by Roth, but I never had the urge to read any of his other books–too much male writer middle-aged angst, I guess. Of course, the Rabbit novels have a lot of that too, but at least Rabbit isn’t a writer.

19. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
I’ve never read either.

20. Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare. I love seeing his plays in performance.

21. Austen or Eliot?
Austen. The last paragraph in Middlemarch is one that always brings tears to my eyes, but I much prefer Austen’s wit to Eliot’s rather somber world.

22. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I haven’t read very many modern novels written outside of the US or the UK, which means that I’ve missed out on a lot of Nobel Prize winners.

23. What is your favorite novel?
It’s a tie between Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House.

24. Favorite play?
Romeo and Juliet, until Mercutio dies. After that I’m ready to leave. Then it would be Richard III, Hamlet, or King Lear.

25. Favorite poem?
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

26. Favorite Essay?
I’m drawing a blank.

27. Favorite short story?
I can’t single out one, but I love Flannery O’Connor’s and Dorothy Parker’s short stories.

28. Favorite work of nonfiction?
I’ve found so many works of nonfiction useful, it’s difficult to assign a favorite.

29. Favorite writers?
Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anne Tyler, Barbara Pym, P.D. James. In historical fiction, my favorites are Sharon Penman, Margaret Campbell Barnes, Jean Plaidy, and Brenda Honeyman/Brenda Clarke.

30. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Getting out the lip-zipper again.

I do find, however, that a lot of literary fiction is overrated. So much of it sounds as if it came out of a can (add a cup of angst, a cup of alienation, a dash of substance addiction, a sprinkle of adultery, mix in a bleak suburb . . .)

31. What is your desert island book?
How to Get off of a Desert Island.

32. What are you reading now?
Robert Hutchison, The House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty (nonfiction). I’m looking for a novel to read, and the house is full of them, but I’m having a hard time settling down to anything.

6 thoughts on “Literary Maven Meme!”

  1. I love this! I think I might join in too in a future post – it’ll take me that long to decide on some of the answers!

  2. Really enjoyed your Q & A session. I loved Jean Plaidy from the age of about 11 – my first was 'Murder Most Royal' – I still love it! Plus, I just got 'The House of Treason' last week! Will tackle it after 'The Sisters who would be Queen'.

  3. Thank you for this — I enjoyed it and posted my own!

    I was a Trixie Belden fan, too. I read one of the books recently and it wasn’t bad. Lots of interesting plot.

  4. Susan Higginbotham

    Thanks, all. Marie, the lip zipping is tough–but sometimes it’s best left zipped, I’ve found!

    I think some of my friends had a mild crush on Jim in the Trixie Belden books. He was rather studly, as I recall.

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