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Questions About Reading, 49

49. Which books do you think should be taught in every school? (via)

The most controversial book that has ever been written is also the most important book to ever exist. It is hugely neglected in schools and as close to illegal as any book can be, I think. The most ancient text, supernaturally preserved and transmitted from the dawn of time until the end of it — the book is, of course, Genesis.

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A sampling of classics

Questions About Reading, 48

48. Which books do you consider “classics”? (via)

You would not believe how often I’m talking about classics, and usually in a fairly defensive way because it’s just not the in thing to dig classic literature anymore.

Of course, I really hate that classic is treated as a genre when it simply isn’t. So let’s start with definitions, eh? The beginning of wisdom and all that? Apparently the word classic comes from the Latin meaning “belonging to the highest class of citizens.” Now, according to the Wikipedia, classic refers to ancient Greek and Roman literature, and this is not the vernacular sense of the question, obviously. But I like that “highest class” business; I’m going to use that.

“A classic is something that is a perfect example of a particular style, something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality.”

Lasting worth and timeless quality are my buzzwords here, because the point I want to get across is that, far from being a genre in itself, the idea of a classic work should convey something worthwhile that has stood the test of time. “Worthwhile” may be subjective, and I’ll dwell on that more, but timeless should be obvious — either something has been carried on its own popularity for more than one generation, or it hasn’t. And anything that hasn’t been around long enough to be considered tested, well, obviously isn’t up for classical status. But let’s look at the concept of worthwhile.

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oldyeller_frontispiece

Questions About Reading, 47

47. What book have you reread the most? (via)

Okay, this is hilarious because I was just talking about Holling C. Holling; this is a diary entry from July 5, 1995: “read Paddle-to-theSea watched Kari play computer, listened to records and colored wached old yeller.” I was actually hoping to find another diary entry about this book, but one doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.

I guess I can get right to the point here. While the most technically correct answer to this question is either Coriolanus or the Bible, I’m not really going to count either of those. First of all, I don’t count the Bible as literature and therefore it falls outside of any realm of calculating the number of times I’ve read it, putting it on Goodreads, or  anything like that. Every time I’ve read Coriolanus, it was for work, so that doesn’t really count either, even though it’s something like 80 times.

I actually did go through my Goodreads list in order to calculate a reasonable answer to this question; it lets you sort books based on how many times you’ve read them, if you happen to know. Star Wars books were all predictably at the top of the list. But I still think that answering Old Yeller by Frank Gipson is completely honest. I probably have reread this book more than any other.

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brontewritign

Questions About Reading, 46

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with? (via)

This should not come as any too much of a surprise; I told a coworker this week that my blog is basically the Jane Eyre Hour. A few years ago, the Morgan Library & Museum did this online exhibit about diaries and it includes Charlotte Brontë’s, a sample of miniscule writing on a scrap of paper where she blends her thoughts and feelings with escapist fiction. Myself, I’ve never really read to escape — but boy, do I ever write to escape.

Anyway, the following post kind of expands on my very brief sketch for a challenge back in 2011: here.

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Shakespeare_folio

Questions About Reading, 45

45. Which author would you most want to interview? (via)

He’s a playwright, not an author, and I’m usually very strict on differentiating the two, but I just have too much I need to ask William Shakespeare.

As you should well know after even a short time on this blog, I’ve spent about ten years working on Shakespeare as an editorial assistant. I started in December 2004, knowing next to nothing about Shakespeare except what I’d gleaned from watching The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), reading Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, and whatever brief thing the high school curriculum touched on. Oh, and we went to see Midsummer Night’s Dream at the outdoor amphitheater for my 16th birthday and also one time saw The Comedy of Errors. What impressed Dr. George into giving me the job — apart from the fact that I was the only taker and came on recommendation of his wife — was that I said I’d heard of Coriolanus. Of course, I’d only heard of this because he’d asked me three months before to assemble a bulletin board for him and I read everything on it as I pinned the sheets up, and it was all about Cor. Anyway, I digress.

I went from a young freshman with next to no knowledge to being second only to Dr. George in the county when it comes to Shakespeare, and I think I could safely claim 2nd most expert on Coriolanus in the state.

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Somewhere in the American west

Questions About Reading, 44

44. Who is your favorite children’s book author? (via)

As usual, or “as per ush,” if I could figure out a properly expressive way to spell that, I went through a lot of effort to narrow down the most accurate answer to this question possible. You know I have a hard time picking out favorite authors; I needed someone whose works I had not only read a majority of,  but liked a majority of. I didn’t want to pick an early reader type author, and I also wanted to choose something that I still consider lovable and readable. I thought about the American Girl series, but it just didn’t seem to fit; I didn’t read those because of who the author was, and I think that’s an important element in the favorite author question: reading things just because of who wrote them.

And then I remembered  this writer. It’s not really a series; I still love them and loved them at the time, and it’s definitely something I can tell a story about — a story about riding in the back seat as we covered thousands of miles all over this great land while doing our homework in holodomes and hotel rooms. A story about a man with an astonishingly bizarre name that nevertheless worked for him . . .

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To breathe, to live

Questions About Reading, 43

43. When did you start to read chapter books? (via)

This question feels like a repeat and boring. I suppose because to me, there’s no differentiation between learning to read and reading chapter books. But I do have a bit of a story about the latter. I remember feeling an intense panic when Mom said, first of all, it was time for the dreaded lying-down-in-the-afternoon, and to add to that cruel and unusual punishment, I was going to have to read out loud. (I hate reading out loud. I loathe it. I always did.) And . . . I was going to have to read a book out loud that was a 120 page CHAPTER BOOK! <dun dun dun>

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Just give me another 45 minutes . . .

Questions About Reading, 42

42. What book is next on your list to read? (via)

Well, this is a surprisingly good time for this question! As you are no doubt aware, this week was July 2. What’s July 2? The middle of the year! So what happens on July 2? I adjust all my reading challenges so as to be exactly in the middle! So this is as good a time as any for a good old fashioned challenge update.

Okay, to review, the 2014 Alphabetical Challenge is to read 26 books, one starting with each letter of the alphabet. To mix it up this year, I have decided that each book 1) must be fiction, 2) must be one I haven’t read before, 3) must be decided spontaneously, 4) must not repeat authors. Got that? I debated on allowing short story collections to count but finally decided as long as they were by a single author, it’s all good.

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The left hand of omg am I finished yet

The Left Hand of Disappointment

It is not often that I read a book in which absolutely, literally, nothing happens. This is such a rare occurrence that I was still halfway through the book expecting things to happen, and I think it’s my sense of betrayal that has led me to go ahead and write a review. See, I don’t naturally think in terms of reviewing or recommending books that I read, and for me to go through the (what is for me) discomfort of writing a review, the book must have surprised me — either it surprised me by being so much better than I ever expected, or it surprised me by being absolutely horrible. Even when a book surprises me by being good, I don’t often feel the urge to review it. But when it’s bad, I want to try to spare others the pain if I can. Especially when, as in this case, my surprise in the book’s being bad feels like a betrayal. I was invested in it being something other than what I found it to be, and my disgust will not rest until I have at least tried to make sure others know so they can avoid it. I’m talking about The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin. I chose this book for L in my reading challenge, but just couldn’t wait until December to spill my thoughts on it. So here goes.

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essentialbooks

Questions About Reading, 41

41. Who gave you your love for reading? (via)

This question initially annoys me because it seems to ignore nature in total favor of nurture. I’m sure this is not the intent of the question, but when it comes to ye old “nature vs. nurture” debate, I’m very keen on the “nature” end of things. This is because I feel like it gets ignored, usually in favor of sparing somebody some form of responsibility. “This poor sot isn’t responsible for his actions because his parents were mean to him,” that kind of thing. And so many people are keen on excusing and justifying villains with the tragic back story that I just want to have someone who is evil just because they’re bloody evil. Some houses are born bad, etc.

And now somehow I’ve gone from talking about reading to villainy. It’s okay. My point, obscure as it may have been, was that some people simply love reading because it’s part of the core of their being. Why assume that it had to be given to me by anyone at all? I suppose in that sense you could answer “God,” which quite easily would have been the response of a man like Abraham Lincoln who taught himself to read surrounded by those who were more indifferent. But these objections of mine are silly because I have an answer; it’s just I get bored with the foregone conclusion, all right? And anyway my answer gets complicated. No surprise there.

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