Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A Book Meme

I'm so new to this blogging game that I haven't actually decided what I think about memes as a whole, but Helen has tagged me for one of the most interesting ones doing the rounds, so I am delighted to respond.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why? It used to be paperbacks all the way, because they were cheap and I could shove the current one in my bag and take to school or campus or work. Hardbacks were hugely expensive and not terribly well designed a few years ago.

I still think of myself as a buyer of paperbacks, but the evidence suggests it's not now the case. Partly this is having more spare money; partly impatience, the desire to read a new novel now, not in a year's time. Hardback novels also seem to be cheaper these days: they're usually about £15 at full retail price, and practically never sold for that. They're definitely more attractive than they used to be - the hardback of Sarah Waters' 'The Night Watch' is a thing of beauty, with fake ageing and an imitation 'Book Production Economy Standards' badge, for example. On the other hand, nothing compares to an old Penguin (the new imitation ones just aren't the same, somehow).

2. If I were to own a bookshop, I would call it ...something totally boring like The [insert place-name as appropriate] Bookshop. Or Upton's. Because all the best bookshops I've known are either named for their owner or their location. Except the Dormouse Bookshop in Norwich, but half the time that just gets called "the bookshop on Elm Hill" anyway. I wouldn't want to waste time thinking of a name when I could be selecting stock, and auditioning elderly dogs for the role of sleeper in a distant corner.

3. My favourite quote from a book (mention the title) is ... apart from the fact that I mostly seem to quote television programmes and films at the moment, I need two. One because it makes me laugh like a drain every time I think of it (in much the same way as the phrase 'Captain Jack Harkness Poseable Action Figure' does, and with as little rational explanation) , and the second because it actually makes some difference to how I live my life and what I'm trying to do with my time (and sums up why I'm not going for a PhD, which is also the exact decision being made by the character being spoken to).

Ok, number one is from 'Tales of the City', by Armistead Maupin: "In this town, he thought, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name almost never shuts up".

Number two is longer, and is from 'Angels and Men' by Catherine Fox (which ought not to be out of print, but is): "'You don't think irrational sadism is an odd quality for the Divine Being to possess?' She looked blank. 'Listen. God creates a woman and gives her the ability to draw like an angel. He fixes it so that there is nothing in the world she would rather do than draw, then he damns her in perpetuity if she picks up a pencil.'" I don't draw. Well, not often, and not well. I do, however, have trouble believing that just possibly the things I enjoy doing are the things I should be doing.

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be ... the late Dorothy Dunnett, so that I could bring a list of questions as to what exactly is going on in the Niccolo and Lymond novels. Jane Austen, because I suspect she was the sort of person who provides a wicked running commentary on the other occupants of the room (so a crowded restaurant would be good). Or, if I was buying lunch, Terry Pratchett, to say thank you for writing so many plain girls who get on and do stuff, and for being scathing about pretty and incapable girls who swoon dramatically (without ever hitting any furniture on the way down, which is a very neat trick, and one which I have only managed once. Instead, the dog stood on my head while I was on the floor coming round).

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except for the SAS survival guide, it would be ... probably the Odyssey, because if the SAS Guide failed me, it has instructions on how to build a ship to escape from an island. I would also like to have an edition with Greek and English on facing pages, because the term when I had to study one book in Greek was enormous fun, owing to a lecturer who was passionate about his subject, and I regret hugely the fact that my Greek is now practically non-existent.

6. I would love to invent a bookish gadget that ... gave me more hours in the day, simple as that. I would also like to be able to knit and read at the same time, but that doesn't require a gadget, just the right height of table and a little more space.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of ... revision in the Stacks at Exeter, and getting distracted by a 1938 Army and Navy Stores catalogue I found down there, and the novels of Q. Alternatively, there is a particular era of paperback when the publishers were using cheap acidic paper (and glue that dried and cracked so the pages fly out). This paper crumbles and covers the fingers with dust, which smells like urine. Sorry.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be ... Jane Eyre. Not because she gets her man, but because she gets him on her terms and her terms alone, and claims full equality with him along the way.

9. The most overestimated book of all times is ... I'm tempted to say "anything by Henry James", because although I have read several novels by him, I cannot think why I bothered. However, until a couple of months ago I would have said the same about anything by Virginia Woolf, but recently I read 'Mrs Dalloway' and enjoyed it immensely. I think the problem was that I tried to read Woolf as an intellectual teenager, because all intellectual teenagers think that they ought to read her, and I was far too young, and far too obsessed by knowing what was going on. I was much the same age when I read James, so perhaps I ought to try again, although not too hard. Life will be far too short to read all the books I would enjoy; there is certainly no time to read books I'm not enjoying.

10. I hate it when a book ... is inconsistent. I get on far better with Middle Earth than Narnia, because Tolkein is consistent. Mrs Beaver's sewing machine gets me every time - it's a pre-industrial society, beavers don't wear clothes, but she has a sewing machine. Even as a child, it rang false. Books should have the courage of their convictions.

Answering questions was the easy part. I cannot think who to tag, and there can't be many meme-completing bloggers left who haven't done this, so I shall leave this for anyone who cares to pick it up.


Anonymous said...

Will you forgive me if I suggest that I always had probems reconciling the distinctly Victorian/Edwardian sounding Hobbiton with the Miffic History of Gondor and Rohan?


Vivienne said...

A good and valid point. Which I shall completely ignore.

Actually (putting on tin hat and ducking), I don't think Tolkein is perfect. Not be a very long way. But it's still better than Narnia.