Questions About Reading, 14

  • What’s your least favorite book?

I actually have a shelf on Goodreads for books I have hated. I debated about its usefulness, since this is a very rare occurrence for me to read a book that I find utterly without any sort of merit whatsoever. However, sometimes there are books that I just consider are so horrible, “one-starring” them doesn’t do them justice.

This is how I look at books. I don’t tend to recommend them, because my tastes are so eclectic that I 1) don’t understand how other people’s tastes work, and 2) doubt someone else would like what I like. Therefore, my favorite books are kind of a private thing, books I love that love me back, and I don’t tend to share.

I feel far more strongly about bad books, as it turns out. After all, people like what they like, and there’s no accounting for taste, but bad books are bad books. Oscar Wilde said that books are either well written or poorly written, and the quality of writing has a great deal to do with what I consider a bad book. Check out this post, in which I cover the topic of horrible reading a little more in-depthly. The thing is that when I read a book I hate, I don’t want anyone else to experience it.

As you well know, my blog is the first place I run when a book has singed me. Here’s a review for a book I hated. And another. And another. And who could forget this one, especially since it was just a month ago? And don’t even get me started on Star Wars books I hated (hereherehere) . . . Anyway, let’s just say I use my hate, shall we?

But least favorite isn’t the same as hated. “Least favorite” implies a level of intimacy. So, deliciously avoiding redundancy, what shall I talk about instead of a book I hated? Shall I talk about a book I simply didn’t like? A book that I consider weak out of a series I love? Or take it in the direction of “out of my favorite books, this one is the least”? That at least must be a unique way of viewing the question.

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Wings and Bricks

Every day as I log my two hours of commute time, I think of all sorts of things–meaning really eloquent blog posts. For example, there’s one called “In Defense of the HIMYM Finale,” in which I defend the writers’ decision and trace its inevitable conclusion from the very first episode with an anecdote about how it was only two or three months ago I had the idlest that “the blue French horn is such a perfect symbol on this show; it’s too bad it never goes anywhere and can’t.”

Then I have one called “Fandoms, Neo-Introverts, and Other Things That Get My Goat,” complete with a picture of a masked ruffian making off with a goat. Actually it has very little about fandoms (apart from I can’t abide them) before I launch into an in depth study of what I call the “Neo-Introvert” movement (and my intense dislike of the word introvert itself, which to me conjures up the most hideous image of a navel-invading flatworm), and how it alienates and undermines true introverts like myself.

Today as I was driving and trying not to drowse off because, oh, my gosh, I hate driving so much, is there anything on this planet more tedious?, I was thinking about bricks and wings, and it went like this.

Window in an abandoned Dom Kulturi called Steklyashka, in Russia.

Window in an abandoned Dom Kulturi called Steklyashka, in Russia.

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Apply As Needed

Born is a human with a kung-fu spine,
Equipped with a detector of what’s on your mind.
You jive, you shuck, you bob, you weave,
And when you’re down, you’ve got something up your sleeve.

Smash Mouth, “Defeat You.”

Jon Rey doesn’t like music. I don’t know if it’s because nothing sounds like music to him, i.e. the music he grew up hearing, or if he’s just been through so much that he just can’t hear it. Is it impossibly trivial to him? Is it alien? Or was he just one of those people who never thought much of it to begin with?

Those are questions he’ll respond to with just the slightest lift of his brows and a doleful expression. No words–they’re not worth it. He appreciate silence to an extreme, but he does have a beautiful singing voice, a really clear high tenor, though only when he’s singing his own songs. Maybe music intrudes on his silence. Maybe it’s just stupid.

Whatever the reason, the man who used to be Радослав Андрéев would not appreciate me saying that this song off a 1998 pop album called Astro Lounge makes me think of him. He doesn’t have to appreciate it. The song describes him really well.

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Questions About Reading, 13

13. What’s your favorite book?

I know this is an innocent question that gets asked dozens of times a day to people just out of polite conversation. But I’ve answered it so many times. (Here. And here. And here. Also here. To a lesser extent, here. Exhaustively, here. More recently, here. Sort of here.) I just love books. I love them. And there are so many books I love to read and re-read, books I consider favorites, and while I can appreciate the need to update preferences every now and again, I just . . . I just talk about this so much! I have 102 books on my favorites shelf on Goodreads, and some 56 I cared enough about to pin on my Books & Reading board on Pinterest. So how, I ask you, am I supposed to answer a question like this?

You know what I’m going to do? I realize I have never talked about The Great Gatsby, and I have an amazing and wonderful paper about Gatsby that I can give you and not spend a lot of time on this today ’cause I have other things on my mind. Plus I was recently defending the latest (excellent) film version. So I now present to you, the best paper I have ever written. (This was a 2,000-word-minimum midterm paper worth 15% of my final grade or something like that.)

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Top HIMYM Episodes

Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story. This story is about how I met How I Met Your Mother. No, I lie, but today is the day. Finale. Here it is, the end of a show that has meant so much to me. I haven’t been watching HIMYM since it first aired. I haven’t even been watching it since my first semester in grad school. No, I started watching in 2011, but in those four short years, I’ve watched the entire series four times. What can I say? This show is perfect. It’s always there for me.

How I Met Your Meme

How I Met Your Meme

And just like I may be the only person alive who loves Firefly and is glad it was only one season (look, Whedon has a track record of burying alive things he’s allowed to keep going — as far as I’m concerned, the movie Serenity proves my point that a multi-season Firefly would’ve gone down in flames), I may be the only person tonight pleased that it’s the last episode, no matter how much I love this show.

That’s because I like knowing how things end. I don’t like things carrying on indefinitely. I’m not really sorry there won’t be any more new episodes; in fact, I’m kind of excited to go back and watch the entire series now that it’s complete. I’m raving excited to buy the complete series on DVD, at last! I love this show, I love everything about it with the possible exception that I can’t watch it with my own mother, but it’s time.

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Questions About Reading, 10

10. Has any book ever influenced you greatly?

Let me just get out of the way that this is a stupid question and not one that actually inspires discussion. Because it is impossible to answer “no” because no one exists who has never been greatly influenced by a book. You could phrase it, “has any book you’ve read influenced you greatly,” which I suppose you might argue was the questioner’s purpose in the first place, but then all you’d have to say was “yes” and go home. The question ought to be “what book has had a great influence on you?” That I can work with.

But of course, most books have an influence on me one way or another. So that means I have to restrict it to “great” influence. What makes up great influence? Well, I suppose I could do lots of things with this, but actually what I’m going to do, given a variety of recent factors including that recent post on this challenge, the latest news, and the reawakening of my obsession in general . . . I’m going to talk about the book responsible for the single greatest obsession and/or preoccupation in my life.

And no, I’m not talking about Star Wars.

You heard me!

You heard me!

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Old Pictures and DNA

Inspired by a recent comment on my blog, I’ve decided to roll out the genealogy bug again and give some information that I hope will be useful to some and interesting to others. This all started when I posted a picture of my 2nd great grandfather, James Albert Todd. James Albert was the father of my great-grandmother Mabel, an extraordinary woman who died three months before I was born; I changed my middle name to Grace to reflect my mother’s wishes at the time of my birth, to honor Grandma Mabel whose middle name was also Grace. (I’ve always thought Mabel was a beautiful name, but it was already on the decline when she was born in 1904. It means loveable, related to the Latin name Amabilus.) I also share mitochondrial DNA with Grandma Mabel, which makes her maternal line one of my chief interests in genealogy. (The other would be the ascendency of my last name — IOW, am I related to Samuel Johnson or not? It’s possible, however improbable!)

So if names and dates and old pictures don’t get you going, give this post a skip. Because now it’s time for me to roll out my hobby I haven’t had any time for in years — maternal genealogy!

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Questions About Reading, 9

9. Do you wish to be a writer?

While we’re at it, I hate that hipsters have appropriated my favorite thing ever.

In this day and age, everyone who isn’t already a writer is either calling themselves one or aspiring to it. As a result, I find the whole thing completely cheapened. WordPress especially is overwhelmingly populated with people who only want to spam likes to sell their little self-published crap. At work, I spent eight hours a day cataloging absolute garbage that still get called “books” even though they have everything wrong with them — from “broken images” to misspellings inexcusable in the age of spellcheck to everything else in between. Every Harlequin series on the planet, from shapeshifter erotica to homosexual romance, cheap cheesy scifi, blindingly idiotic YA, and the shallowest kids’ nonfiction you can imagine — and every single one of them that offers an “about the author” page begins the same way, with “La-de-da has been an avid reader all her life,” “illiterate nincompoop has always been fiendishly devoted to books,” “stupidly obvious pen name can’t remember a time when he didn’t love books.” And they all conclude with a note about “when not writing, X enjoys some blase hobby and lives in (place) with (husband / partner / dog / 12 cats).”

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Questions About Reading, 7-8

7. What was the last bad book you read?
8. What made you dislike it?

In short: The Last Days of the Romanovs. I brushed on it when I discussed the books read for my alphabetical challenge last year, but I neglected to do a full review, which I shall commence here.

Please use the following pictures for reference, as they will have significance:

Romanovs1914

The Imperial family Romanov in 1914 at their favored residence at the palace in Livadia.

In 1914 (one hundred years ago exactly!) Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov, Emperor of Russia, was 46. His wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna (formerly Alix of Hesse) was 42. Their children were the Grand Duchesses Olga Nikolaevna (19), Tatiana Nikolaevna (17), Maria Nikolaevna (15), and Anastasia Nikolaevna (13), and Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (10). Nicholas II had been tsar for 20 years; finally, if you enjoy depression, they had four years left to live at the time this picture was taken, less than a lustra.

rothschild

Made in 1902

Second. This is the Rothschild Fabergé egg, courtesy of Mieks. This egg is an Imperial-quality example of the genius and skill of Carl Fabergé and his crew, but it was completely unknown until 2007. (The book I’m about to lambaste came out in 2008.) The egg was commissioned by a woman who had nothing to do with the royal family as a gift for her future sister-in-law, on the event of her engagement to her brother. None of these people had anything to do with the royal family or the Russian court. This egg does closely resemble the Imperial Cockerel egg of 1900 and the 1904 Kelch Chanticleer egg, but, and I cannot stress this enough, had nothing to do with the Romanovs.

Why am I harping so much on an egg clock that has nothing to do with the Romanovs? Especially when I’m supposed to be writing a review of the last bad book that I read? Well, my dear, it’s all part of answering the question “what made you dislike it” — though frankly I think it’d be better to ask me “why was the book so bad.” I’ll answer that now.

In long:

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Questions About Reading, 6

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6. Do you like to read?

What a silly question to ask sixth. Shouldn’t this have been #1? I mean, if I’m doing a series on books and reading, isn’t it implied that I at least enjoy this activity?

Heart and soul

Okay, nitpicking aside, I’ll answer the question. I think I’ve said it before, but actually — I do tend to love books more than I love reading, and it kind of leaves me outside the realm of readers and book-lovers. Like, according to this classification chart that’s been making the rounds of the internet, “book lovers” treat their books with kid gloves and would never dog-ear a page or write in the margins, or read in the bath — but I love books, would never dog-ear a page, and still read in the bath and believe margin-writing is vital to the reading process! That chart sorted readers into “genus” and “family” and said you could hybridize, but I was so far outside every category that the whole thing just put me off — and now I can’t find it to share with you anyway.

Add to that — recently, I was on Tumblr and I found a post about “pretentious reader comments translated,” or something like that. Among “pretentious” remarks were things like “I never dog-ear pages or bend spines,” which meant “I overestimate how much anyone wants my books when I die”; “I only read classics” and “adults should read grown-up books and not this YA crap.” I do think that adults are going over on reading simplistic YA crap, and I’m tired of more adults reading that dreck than teens — but, shoot, I’m  fed up with teens reading dreck, too! I have actual spasams when someone dog-ears pages or cracks spines, but that’s for the book’s sake and it has nothing to do with giving my collection to someone when I die! The point is, I just don’t seem to fall into the groups that readers self-identify with. And while I want to be very careful with the following declaration, I think it’s true:

I love books more than I love reading — and I love reading a lot.

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Questions About Reading, 5

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5. How often do you read?

Oh, is it book o'clock already?

Oh, is it book o’clock already?

Short answer, it varies. It depends on what year it is and what my mood is, all sorts of external phenomena. I love books all the time, but sometimes I love reading more than other times. When I was a kid, I could not be kept from reading, even spending fifteen minutes together reading greeting cards in the store. I was always squirreling off and devouring books and reading and re-reading at all hours of the day, staying up late at night using my closet light, a flashlight, even my light-up watch to read by. This makes sense to me because I was never unhappy as a kid, and happiness translates, for me, into insatiable desire to read. I have and will emphasize this all the time because this epiphany becomes clearer and clearer to me all the time.

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Questions About Reading, 1-4

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  1. What was the last book you read?
  2. Was it a good one?
  3. What made it good?
  4. Would you recommend it to other people?

A classic western

I just finished The Bounty Hunters today. And in a sad twist of fate, I was about 300 words into this post when I lost it and WP didn’t save it. Thus the delay in posting because my creativity always gets sapped when I lose stuff.

So, yes, literally the last book I read was a 1953 western by Elmore Leonard, a name generally associated with crime thrillers, as it turns out. The Bounty Hunters has a relatively high rating on Goodreads, and I think it was deserved. But before I go into that, I’m going to stale my reason for reading westerns–

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New Book Challenge!

A nice peaceful read

A nice peaceful read

Fifty Questions about books. I like it! I was clicking through Tumblr, after clicking through my blog and thinking I wish I felt like posting more. And then I saw a survey about books. I still love surveys, but more than anything, I like talking books. This should be fairly obvious to you by now. Then one of my more recent follows on Tumblr — my dash is almost 80% MST3k, 15% books, and 5% miscellany, not just because of who I follow but also because Misties are proficient Tumblrs — posted this list of questions about books. And I went, challenge!

At this point in my life, I’m thinking, I’m going to make this a weekly thing — I declare Challenge Saturdays to go with SWL’s Challenge Thursdays! That’s close to a year of posts, and maybe I’ll change my mind later and make it more frequent. But as it is, every Saturday, I’m going to answer one of these questions about books.

Now onto a random post about update stuff! Urbana University has been closing nigh-on constantly due to the cold weather, and we had a big storm this week, so I didn’t work at UU two nights and stayed home from OCLC a day, and I was going to use that time to update in here. But Tuesday night was the Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate, which I watched with my sister and brother-in-law while eating pizza, good time. Then Wednesday, I was so dead after chipping my car out of the ice. Nothing seems important when I’m cold.

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Finally 5.3 (and the end)

Actus Quartus.
(fulltext here)

"They say she's mad."

“They say she’s mad.”

4.1. Volumnia enters crying, which seems to irritate Coriolanus: “Come, leave your tears.” He is conciliatory, even cheerful until Virgilia cannot contain herself and sobs, “O blessed heavens!” His features fall and he goes to embrace her, but Volumnia cuts off his attempt to soothe his wife with an enraged outburst. As must have happened countless times, he is forced to leave his wife to fend for herself as he tends to his mother. He holds Volumnia in his arms, rubbing her back, shushing her while she sobs and Virgilia must hold herself aloof.

He bursts with impatience at the suggestion Cominius come with him and attempts to fob him off as diplomatically as possible. Menenius guides the ladies out, leaving Coriolanus onstage alone with his general. He and Cominius share a long look before the banished man says, “Give me thy hand.” They clasp arms like soldiers and exit on Coriolanus’ “Come.”

There is a brief bit here where Coriolanus stands alone on a semi-darkened stage, a grim expression on his face as the sounds of a crowd jeering and hissing fill the theater. He is pelted with fruits and vegetables, wincing and shutting his eyes as the missiles fall, but he remains speechless. The lights darken.

INTERMISSION

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Coriolanus Returns

Act II.
(fulltext here)

Virgilia, wife of Martius

Virgilia, wife of Martius

2.1. A public place in Rome, where Menenius sits with a pleasant smile reading a folded paper. Sicinia and Brutus sit close together a little distance away, conferring quietly until the wry senator decides to have some fun. He calls over, without looking up, flicking the paper, “The Augurer tells me we shall have news.” Good news for Martius, which means bad news for the people — whom Sicinia defends by observing that “nature teaches beasts to know their friends.” I hadn’t noticed until seeing this that here the Tribunes betray they think as little of the commoners as Martius himself does! The people are “beasts” to everybody except each other.

Menenius’ “humorous patrician” speech is always good for a laugh, and then Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria come galloping through for the capitol, “Martius coming home!” When Menenius asks if the hero is wounded, Virgilia is quick to say he isn’t—but Volumnia brandishes her letter to prove he is. The wife of Coriolanus retires to one side, looking seasick as she scours her letter for the omitted injury. This adorable bit shows Martius’ respect of his wife’s tender sensibilities —contrasted with the gleeful Volumnia and Menenius tallying up his wounds and scars.

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