[R]evolving Incarnations: A Questionnaire For Passionate Readers is an interview series done in classic Q&A format. Each entry features one intrepid writer/blogger/artist/creative mastermind as they take on the same 40 reading-themed questions and scenarios. This is the second entry (you can read the first here). Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section!
Cassie of Books & Bowel Movements is a North Carolina based blogger. I discovered her blog shortly after joining WordPress, and it remains one of my favourite reads. Her writing is funny, beautiful, and moving. Be sure to check out her site!
- What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t? Why? I’ve never read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith. My mom is going to kill me for this if she sees this Q&A. She’s been recommending that book to me since sixth grade. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it. It’s just one of those books that sits on my shelf and I know I’m going to read it one day and hopefully that will be the day that I was meant to read it. There will be some lesson that I need to learn at that moment in my life. I haven’t read enough Larry Levis, Leonard Cohen, Anne Carson, Jack Gilbert or Edna St. Vincent Millay, Amy Hempel, either. And Raymond Carver, but I think I’d need a whiskey sour and a deep cigar in order to crack him open for an evening.
- What is your favourite line or passage from a book? Oh, dear God. How do I choose one? I’ll give you one or two from each of my favorite book notebooks. Notebook #1: titled “Summer 2011-Fall 2011: Chautaqua, Merwin, Phase 10”
- “You know everything at 8, but it is hidden from you, sealed up, in a way you have to cut yourself open to find.” – The Gathering by Anne Enright
- “Do not listen to the lies of old men/who fear your power/who preach that you were “born in sin.” A flower is moral by its own flowering.” –Circling the Daughter by Ethridge Knight
Notebook #2: titled “Bad Experiments: Miss Blue Pleated Skirt”
- “But ultimately, it all remained unreadable for him, though reading, he felt, was not a natural thing and should not be done to people. In general, people were not road maps. People were not hieroglyphs or books. They were not stories. A person was a collection of accidents. A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath. In general, when you felt a longing for love, you took a woman and possessed her gingerly and not too hopefully until you finally let go, slept, woke up, and she eluded you once more. Then you started over. Or not.” – Lorrie Moore
- “But it was more than that. It was womanhood they were entering. The deep forest of it and no matter how many women and men too are saying these days that there is little difference between us, the truth is that men find their way into that forest only on clearly marked trails, while women move about it like birds.” – Andre Dubus
- “Virginia imagines someone else, yes, someone strong of body but frail-minded; someone with a touch of genius, of poetry, ground under by the wheels of the world, by war and government, by doctors; a someone who is, technically speaking, insane, because that person sees meaning everywhere, knows that trees are sentient beings and sparrows sing in Greek.” – The Hours, Michael Cunningham
Notebook #3: titled “End of the Image”
- “When I want to see the furthest into my soul, I will write a sentence by hand and then write another sentence over it, followed by another. An entire paragraph will live in one line, and no one else can read it. That is the point. On occasions, in a café, I can fill an entire paper place mat on both sides. On a plane, the paper bag for airsickness is my canvas. Anything will do: the backs of business cards, receipts, and napkins, any scrap of paper. A friend of mine calls it my disease, I call it my confessional.” – When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams
And every other word written by that woman.
- Who do you think is the most underrated author? Jayne Anne Phillips, hands down. She has the most beautiful language I’ve ever read in “Lark & Termite.” She’s the only writer who can write a dream sequence without making the reader have to fall asleep to experience it. She’s a daydreamer, a woman of words on her skin. They just melt off, they bubble, and she’s unbelievable. I would like to live inside of her for a few days just to experience the world as she does, or as Lark does, or even Termite.
- What is your pick for the most underrated book? Oh man…let’s see…Poetry? Poetry in general is underrated. It is the essence of English language, the mist that keeps us from becoming the voices of text messages and emails. It keeps our hearts speaking. For instance, “Forth a Raven”, can they start selling that in grocery stores so that the “average Joe” can read it? I’d like it between Cosmopolitan and James Patterson please.
- If you could make everyone in the world read one book, what would it be? Wow, these just get harder. I feel like I’ve become President and my (not yet existent) husband is running an “Everybody Read” campaign. I can’t answer this actually. If I could make people read a book, I would make them go to a library or bookstore, make them bring a snack and park them in a section that they have tons or very little interest. I would tell them to sit on the floor. Take out their snack from the plastic bag and pull books one at a time from their bus seat on the shelf and read pg. 36 until they find a book that makes them start at page one and sit there for a few hours of their life, giving a chunk of themselves to the white spaces of each page. Wait, just kidding…I could answer every single one of these questions with God Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo.
- Is there a book you wish you had written? “Intrusions” by Ursula Hegi. In fact, I think I was the muse.
- What are you currently reading? I am reading “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obreht and “Swamplandia” by Karen Russel. I usually never read bestsellers so this is an odd answer for me. I don’t need a great plot as long as the writing is beautiful. Obreht is handing herself over, Russel is like the gators that her character’s wrestle. I just can’t get into the gut of the swamp.
- How many books do you have in rotation at any one time? Usually I read one book at a time because I can’t conversate with that many characters. That would be quite a rude dinner party. If I’ve been reading a book for a long while (“Swamplandia”) it could be in my rotation for months while I read other books around it.
- What is the funniest book you’ve read? David Sedaris. Pick one.
- What is the saddest book you’ve read? “Of Mice and Men.” I cried for literally two hours. In fact, somewhere on my blog is a picture of my crying face after finishing that book. A close second is, “The True Story of Hansel and Gretel.”
- What is the last book you couldn’t put down? “Cloud Atlas”, partly because it was so long and I couldn’t put it down because I wouldn’t finish it. Also, “Broetry” by Brian McGackin. I just wanted to discover more about the “bros” of this world. Plus, it was hilarious.
- When you are reading a great book, do you read it all of the way through as fast as possible or hoard it for as long as you can? I’m totally a hoarder. I will purposely not finish a book if I don’t want it to end. I’ve also been known to tweet and/or write the author if I want a sequel or just another book. Point in fact: Miranda July. Can that woman PLEASE write another book.
- What book have you re-read the most? “Alice in Wonderland.” I think I was Alice in another life. No really, I would wear petticoats every single day and headbands if society let those kinds of things happen. Who doesn’t want to make smoke circles with a caterpillar?
- Who is your pick for sexiest character in fiction? Atticus Finch. I expect no arguments here.
- Approximately how many books do you read in a year? Last year I read 120. However, I am now a full-time 9th grade teacher and so my number is dwindling. I average about 5-8 books a month probably at this point.
- Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? You’re not a true reader if you don’t read it all, baby. Yeaaaa, baby. Sorry, Austin Powers.
- If you could swap places with your favourite fictional character, would you? Explain your choice. It’s probably not fair for me to say Alice since I already was her. Maybe any woman in an Alice Hoffman novel because they all have secret magic, or the main character in “Memoirs of a Geisha.”
- What is your favourite literary food or meal? Tea. “Arctic Fire” from Adore Tea in Australia.
- Where is your favourite place to read? Under a hood. I don’t care where I am as long as I have a hood on my head and can zone into the book.
- What is your favourite bookstore? Two Sisters Bookery in Wilmington, NC. The woman who owns this is a gypsy and she ALWAYS has just the right book that I need. (http://www.twosistersbookery.com/)
- Name six writers, living or dead, you would want as companions on a non-stop, cross-country road trip. Jack Gilbert, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote (in the hopes he would make out with Oscar Wilde), Grimm brothers (they come as a pair), Nikki Gemmell.
- Do you have a favourite and a least favourite genre? Literary Fiction. I have a great fear that it’s dying though. Please, please, please people, buy yourself some literary fiction.
- What is the longest period you have gone without reading a book? I stopped reading in high school, entirely.
- Name three literary characters you would want as roommates. In order to keep myself safe, I’m going to steer away from the urge to invite Holden Caulfield. So, Elly’s mother in “Bee Season” by Myla Goldberg, Constance in “We Have Always Lived in A Castle” by Shirley Jackson, and Jane Eyre.
- What was your favourite book as a child? “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch or “Strega Nona” by Tomie dePaola.
- What is your favourite literary city? I think Seattle, but I’ve never been there, so….Sydney, Australia.
- Name your favourite Brontë. AH! Charlotte.
- What is your favourite e-commerce site for books? Better World Books (free shipping anywhere in the world, and they give a book to a child in need every time you buy one).
- What is your favourite pen name? My own? Cassandra.
- What is your favourite closing line in a book? (Not answered.)
- Do you prefer owls or elephants? Elephants, they remember everything. Plus, I collect them.
- Do you have any reading rituals? I usually have to sit Indian style if I’m really into a book, and I have to have a hood on.
- Who is your favourite literary couple? Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar (they’re real, but still literary).
- Who is your favourite poet? (Ed. See below.)
- What is your favourite poem? “As Children Together” by Carolyn Forche. This was the easiest answer for me.
- Do you have a favourite film adaptation? None. My students always say, “that movie was way better than the book,” and I say, “said no one ever.”
- What book title would make a great band name? “Beasts of No Nation” by Uzodinma Iweala
- What is your favourite quote? (Not answered.)
- What is your favourite book series? “Babysitter’s Club” or “Sweet Valley High.”
- Finish this sentence. People who read books are…Rare and loud as thunderstorms, but after the sidewalks are wet and the trees drooping, they yellow like a photograph stuck in the plastic page of an album.
THANK YOU SO MUCH, CASSIE!
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Eeeeeeeee! I am so excited for this. I read the first one you posted and adored all of her answers (as other readers probably do). It’s almost like a one-sided conversation. I’m sitting here saying, “yes, yes, yes, everything she’s saying is so true.” Love that your turning things on their head and featuring readers and not writers. You’re wonderful, this is wonderful, I am so honored to be a part of it. : )
Aw, thank you! I’ve always been fascinated by what other people read and why, how they perceive things, how they are affected by the written word, what about reading is essential to them, etc. I thought that maybe some of my blog readers might feel the same way. When I first decided to do a blog version of the Q&A (I’d done something similar for a paper I was the Literary Editor for), two names came to mind: Cassie and Jennifer! I am thrilled and honored that you both agreed to participate.
The way I see it, writing and reading are two sides of the same coin. I mean, readers and writers are in it together. Without the one, there cannot be the other. Why not celebrate both parts of the collaboration?
Outstanding interview. Congratulations, Cassie.
Her answers are brilliant, aren’t they?
Love these interviews – I have either read the books or write notes to read them. And what is really wonderful for this woman of a certain age is that there are young people who live for books. It seems so rare.
I am glad you enjoy the series, Judy! I have fun putting it together. Let me know if you feel like participating. I think you need not worry just yet-there are plenty of younger passionate readers out there!
Thanks, maedez. The people you interview really seem to have it together; I would be the weak link.
Come now, Judy! You do not give yourself or the feature enough credit. Anyone who loves reading cannot be a weak link. It is about celebrating book culture through the lenses of as many different readers as possible. Every reader brings their own set of interests, values, tastes, and opinions to the table. The only perquisite is a passion for reading. I hope to spotlight as many disparate voices as possible. Otherwise, I’d have just filled out the Q&A myself and left it at that. 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your 40 questions interview, especially since Cassie is my daughter. Yes, I gave her the book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, and hope she finds the day that the book calls out to her. Your idea is a brilliant one, interviewing the readers, and I look forward to reading more answers. I do hope your reader from the comments above volunteers, because she is the voice of another generation.
Thank you, Cassie’s Mother! I am happy that Cassie agreed to participate, and her answers are lovely and evocative. I hope that Judy participates, too, as I want as many different voices as possible represented. Hopefully, she will get over her shyness and take the plunge.
I am sure Cassie will read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when the time is right. Hopefully it will be worth the wait for her, and she will learn exactly what she needs to learn from the book. 🙂
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Thanks Cassie for alerting me to this, love it! Would be happy to take part if you’ll have me 🙂 Love your Parisian background, makes me feel right at home!
Of course I am happy to have you. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the questionnaire. Thank you so much for agreeing to participate. I look forward to reading your answers. 🙂
Enjoyed! Laughed out loud and nodded my head a lot. 🙂
I am so glad that you two were the first to take the plunge. You got the series off to the perfect start.
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