Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Book Geek Quiz

For those of you not on Facebook, and because I get tired of all the stuff associated with Facebook apps, here's a quiz that Kaye Barley posted on her Meanderings and Muses. I'm fried from a day of census enumerator training preceded by a tense night wondering what upset-tummy Rusty might deposit on the carpet (he is getting better and with late-night and early-morning walks by each of his people, did no damage last night) and this is about all I can manage. Feel free to copy and do your own or respond in comments.

What author do you own the most books by?
Probably Charles Dickens, since we bought a nearly-whole matched set of the Oxford Illustrated and filled in with paperbacks of Bleak House and Edwin Drood. However, for authors purchased book-by-book, I bet it's Patrick O'Brian, because I have the complete Aubrey-Maturin series.
What book do you own the most copies of?
Um. The Bible. Lots of different translations and editions. I'm a little bit of a Bible study geek as well.
Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
That rule is a piece of arrant nonsense up with which I shall not put, as I believe Winston Churchill once said.
What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Richard Sharpe from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels.
What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children)?
Probably A Christmas Carol.
What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
I'd say of books I finished, it would be Peregrine by William Bayer, an Edgar winning best novel. I just hated it.
What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Like Kaye, I find it hard to choose. I thought maybe I could pick one fiction and one non-fiction, but even then.... For non-fiction, I really liked, was moved by, and highly recommend Take This Bread by Sara Miles and Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup. For fiction, An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear and City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin. These are all from my 2008 reads.
If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver. Or maybe Deep Economy by Bill McKibben.
Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Terry Pratchett. What a hope. Wouldn't it be cool, though? Imagine the acceptance speech!
What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
A Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif.
What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Same one I picked as "Worst Book" -- for the same reasons.
Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I usually can only recall my dreams for a few minutes after awakening. And they usually involve people I know in odd situations rather than anyone I don't know.
What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
I read plenty of "lowbrow" books but I'm not going to mention any names, not because I'm ashamed of reading them, but because the authors' feelings might be hurt.
What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
I'm still reading it, and probably will be all year: The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross. New Yorker music critic views twentieth-century serious music and history together. I know little of this music and not much about music theory at all, so it's slow going, but intriguing.
What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Well, I've watched the video of the BBC's Titus Andronicus.
Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The Russians I guess, since I know so little of the French beyond The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo!
Roth or Updike?
Updike I guess, but I sure haven't kept up with either.
David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, but Chaucer a close second.
Austen or Eliot?
Austen, no contest.
What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I've read only very short things by Henry James and William Faulkner.
What is your favorite novel?
Pride and Prejudice, a sentimental favorite because it was the first Austen for me, although I love the others too.
The Importance of Being Earnest.
Very hard to choose just one. Right now I'm thinking of Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Tomorrow it might be different. And then there are the ones that come unbidden into my head, like Animal Crackers and Cocoa to Drink by Christopher Morley, or many of Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses.
An Affix for Birds by St. Clair McKelway, from A Subtreasury of American Humor ed. by Katherine Angell and E. B. White. At least I think it's an essay.
And... what are you reading right now?
The Winter Widow by Charlene Weir, The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, White Protestant Nation by Allan Lichtman, and Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett.
What's the best title for a book ever (you don't have to like the book).
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Haven't read it yet though.
Kaye put a lot of nice pictures in her blog, but I just don't have the gumption this evening.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Can't Resist a List: Help Me Make a Midwestern List!

In my exploration of "Top 100" and even "Top 1000" lists, I found several regional lists from the U.S. For my home state of Maine, I found a book, The Mirror of Maine, which was actually a catalog of an exhibit. The Agee Films website has a list of 125 Great Southern Books (of which I've read 32 -- I like me some Southern writin'!) And the San Francisco Chronicle invited readers to submit selections for a couple of Western 100s -- one for fiction and one for non-fiction. At least one of the Chronicle selections caused me to wonder whether anyone had actually read the book -- for whatever the title may suggest, Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac is about Wisconsin.

And that brings me to the project I want your help with -- a Midwestern booklist, since I couldn't find one on the Internet. This idea had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, and came to the fore when Onkel Hankie Pants inquired whether the Guardian's list of 1000 Novels included Ole Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth. No, said I. Humph, said he. And I agree, it should be in there. But even more so, it deserves to be on a list of books to read for a sense of the Midwest and its literary riches.

I could make a pretty good list off the top of my head, but some states might get short shrift. I could do a little better by trolling the Library of Congress subject headings. But I think a better list would come from a variety of people, so I'm asking my blogreaders and other friends to weigh in. Please send me, in comments or, if you just can't figure out comments, by email, your list of Great Midwestern Books. Here are a few rules:

1. The Midwest shall be deemed to consist of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. No arguments please. This list is attested both by Midwest Living magazine and by Joel Mabus, whose song is at the top of the page. States on the edges do partake somewhat of their neighboring regions, but they're still "hopelessly Midwestern".

2. The works submitted should actually take place in/be about the Midwest, no matter where the author was born. For example, take Ernest Hemingway, born in Oak Park, Illinois. A Farewell to Arms? Nope. "Big Two-Hearted River"? Ya sure, you betcha.

3. Any type of "bound printed material" qualifies -- novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction. (Poetry should be specific -- for example Sandburg's poem about Chicago, or Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology, not just "the poems of X"). We're leaving out songs and screenplays and movies this time, OK? But I guess stage plays are OK too.

4. Please include a brief annotation, with the state with which the work is identified and a little about why you'd include it.

5. Submit as many as you want. I don't have a preconceived idea of how long the list will be. Don't worry about duplications -- votes will be counted.

Just to get you started, here's an example of what I want:

SOUTH DAKOTA: Wilder, Laura Ingalls. The Long Winter. My favorite of the "Little House" books describes the trials of the Ingalls family and their neighbors in De Smet during an exceptionally hard winter. Lots of ups and downs, from the abject misery of twisting sticks of hay to burn in the stove to the joy when the train finally gets through and the missionary barrel of Christmas gifts is opened, give a realistic picture of the life of the homesteader.

Let the list begin!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Five: Time Out Edition

Sally in the UK, writing for RevGalBlogPals, reminds us:

Holy Week is almost upon us, I suspect that ordained or not, other revgal/pals calendars look a bit like mine, FULL, FULL, FULL.....

Jesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maundy Thursday he withdrew; John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...

So faced with a busy week:

1. What restores you physically?
Sleep. I have to remind myself to get enough, which really means going to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleeping in just doesn't work for me. Naps can be useful, but in a busy week, they normally can't happen.
2. What strengthens you emotionally/ mentally?
Reading breaks! My busy week will be coming after Easter, when Onkel Hankie Pants and I will be training for census work. It will be my first 40-hour work week in several years. I also expect it will be fun and interesting, but you know I will have a paperback in my purse to read at lunchtime!
3. What encourages you spiritually?
Thinking about the RevGalBlogPals who are actually "RevGals" and all they do.
4. Share a favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week.

Well, this is the one that has to be sung on Maundy Thursday. Another time I posted the Johnny Cash and the Carter Family version; here's another quite different, an 8,000 voice Welsh male choir. I sure do love those Welsh choirs!

But I couldn't resist adding another one; this is an instrumental version of a song I sang in my only choir experience, at the Sunday school in the fire station back in 1958.

5.There may be many services for you to attend/ lead over the next week; which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favourite day in Holy week? If so which one is it?

Actually there are just three, and I only have to attend them, no other responsibilities. Of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Easter, each has its special moments, but over the past many years my favorite has been Maundy Thursday. Last year I attended that service for the first time since I moved and joined a new church. It was different from what I was used to; a fairly small attendance, and a more meditative feel, less traditional. But I liked it. My problem with Easter at this new-to-me, much larger church, is that even with two services instead of the usual one, it's very, very crowded with C&E attenders, and I can expect all seven (!!!) musical groups to perform; it's one of the days when I feel more like a spectator than a worshiper. The Maundy Thursday service is just the opposite.