Vacation! Vacation! Vacation!

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”-Rumi

I’ll be on vacation for nine days, starting tomorrow. The Chef and I are road-tripping it to Texas to visit some of my in-laws. Several posts are pre-scheduled, so the blog won’t be on radio silence whilst I am away. Answering comments might be a bit trickier, but I’ll do my best.

Beachy Clara Bow

Beachy Clara Bow

“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.”-Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows ❤

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August Round-Up: Eight Top Posts

Font and Frock: What’s in a Name?

Here’s a bit of info about my soon-to-officially-launch new blog!

Font and Frock

What are your favourite words?

I love serendipitous, melancholy, and fortuitous.

Adamantine, sliver, and succor.

And, oh, perhaps a hundred others. They inevitably change with the finesse or jolt of a passing mood.

Words are surprising things, the way that they latch hold of our imaginations.

Some visit but a moment; others stay for a lifetime.

At the top of my list?

FROCK.

Always.

Aside from its dictionary definition(s), and the fact that it is fun to say, the word conjures up, for me, a kaleidoscope of vivid images that have less to do with fact, and more to do with feeling.

Frock is bold, artistic, spirited, rebellious, chic, and imaginative. It is, in short, the heart of this endeavor.

What of the front half of the name?

 Font is the foundation upon which everything is built.

It embraces my love of language, of writing, of communication.

Font

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[R]evolving Incarnations: A Questionnaire for Passionate Readers-Elyssa Tappero of Only Fragments

[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. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section!

ELYSSA TAPPERO

Elyssa is the writer behind the fantastic blog, Only Fragments. Please stop by and say hello!

  • What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t? Why? House of Leaves. I’ve heard good things about it, but was intimidated by its complexity. Now my carpal tunnel makes it hard for me to read physical books, especially large ones, so this one is definitely on the back burner.
  • What is your favourite line or passage from a book? I have to give you the whole passage or none at all: “The boys raced down the linen path in Egyptian darkness.
    “Watch for murder, boys, murder!”
    The pillars on both sides of the rushing boys flashed to life. Pictures shivered and moved.
    The golden Sun was on every pillar.
    But it was a Sun with arms and legs, bound tight with mummy wrappings.
    “Murder!”
    A dark creature struck the Sun one dreadful blow.
    The Sun died. Its fires went out.
    The boys ran blind in darkness.
    Yeah, thought Tom, running, sure, I mean, I think, every night, the Sun dies. Going to sleep, I wonder, will it come back? Tomorrow, will it still be dead?
    The boys ran. On new pillars dead-ahead, the Sun appeared again, burning out of eclipse.
    Swell! thought Tom. That’s it! Sunrise!
    But just as quickly, the Sun was murdered again. On each pillar they raced by, the Sun died in Autumn and was buried in cold Winter.
    Middle of December, thought Tom, I often think: the Sun’ll never come back! Winter will go on forever! This time the Sun is really dead!
    But as the boys slowed at the end of the long corridor, the Sun was reborn. Spring arrived with golden horns. Light filled the corridor with pure fire.
    The strange God stood burning on every wall, his face a grand fire of triumph, wrapped in golden ribbons.
    “Why, heck, I know who that is!” panted Henry-Hank. “Saw him in a movie once with terrible Egyptian mummies!”
    “Osiris!” said Tom.
    “Yesssssssss…” hissed Moundshroud’s voice from the deep tombs. “Lesson Number One on Halloween. Osiris, Son of the Earth and Sky, killed each night by his brother Darkness. Osiris slain by Autumn, murdered by his own night blood.
    So it goes in every country, boys. Each has its own death festival, having to do with seasons. Skulls and bones, boys, skeletons and ghosts. In Egypt, lads, see the Death of Osiris, King of the Dead. Gaze long.”
    The boys gazed.”
    The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury
  • Who do you think is the most underrated author? Kathe Koja. I know she has a very loyal following, but I think her work should be on best seller lists around the world. She has an extremely complex, poetic style not only to her prose itself but to the genres and themes to which she writes. Her work is dark, eerie, touching, heartbreaking, profound, lyrical… I could go on. Forever. (Plus, she is SUPER COOL and interacts with fans all the time online.)
  • What is your pick for the most underrated book? This is a tough one. I think there are books in every genre that are under-appreciated by fans of the genre. But if I had to pick one overall… Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. The book is often overshadowed by its film adaptation, but the book itself is very well researched, fast paced, entertaining and thrilling, and touches on a lot of issues still relevant (or even more relevant) today. It’s a book I think most people would enjoy, but might not even check out in the first place.
  • If you could make everyone in the world read one book, what would it be? A Ray Bradbury short story collection. Probably Long After Midnight or The October Country. Those collections contain some of his best short stories, in my opinion, and I think his short stories are overall more powerful than his novels. For example, the actual story Long After Midnight, which features the death of a transgender teenager, is so heartbreaking and poignant that I still feel like I’m haunted by the character – years after I first read the tale.
  • Is there a book you wish you had written? Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. The characters in those books are so striking and complex, I’m sincerely jealous they aren’t mine. If I didn’t love these two authors so much, I’d hate them.
  • What are you currently reading? Nothing at the moment, as I’m in between books. But my girlfriend has been reading The Princess Bride out loud to me in the evenings, and oh my gosh I forgot how incredibly wonderful that book is.
  • How many books do you have in rotation at any one time? Usually only one. I like to devote my full attention to a book.
  • What is the funniest book you’ve read? Probably Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology by Cory O’Brien. It’s not necessarily the cleverest book, but there is some seriously silly, weird shit in world mythology and O’Brien presents it in a very entertaining way.
  • What is the saddest book you’ve read? The Man with the Knives by Ellen Kushner. Or maybe By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear. Or The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Or… well, I read a lot of depressing books. Fantastic books, but depressing.
  • What is the last book you couldn’t put down? The Mercury Waltz by Kathe Koja, sequel to Under the Poppy. If Under the Poppy made me a total nervous wreck over whether my favorite characters would live or die, The Mercury Waltz increased that feeling tenfold. And when the third book in the trilogy comes out? I will have a heart attack.
  • 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? Depends – if I think my favorite character is relatively safe, then I read it in one fell swoop. But if I think my favorite character is going to die… well, let’s just say I put off finishing the last book in Mary Renault’s Alexander the Great trilogy for like six months. 
  • What book have you re-read the most? Possibly Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey. I first read it when I was in sixth grade and it has stuck with me ever since.
  • Who is your pick for sexiest character in fiction? Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park. No contest. At all.
  • Approximately how many books do you read in a year? The last two years I averaged around eighty. I won’t make it that high this year, but it’s about quality, not quantity. …right?
  • Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? I’m a fiction girl all the way. I like the freedom fiction offers the author to play with our own perceptions of normality and reality. Plus then there’s always the chance of talking cats. Or flying cats. Or magic cats. Or just cats in general.
  • If you could swap places with your favourite fictional character, would you? Explain your choice. Probably not… All the fictional characters I like tend to lead tragic lives and then die even more tragically. At the very least none of them are happy for an extended period of time. Personally, I like being happy and alive.
  • What is your favourite literary food or meal? Oh gosh, this is a hard one. I actually tend to skip over food descriptions in books because they make me so hungry. However, I think my favorite literary use of food is at the end of The Halloween Tree when the main characters eat pieces of a sugar candy skull with their friend’s name on it to symbolize they will each sacrifice a year of their life to save his own. I love the idea that by ingesting death, we take away its power over us. Plus, in the Hanna-Barbera movie adaptation that sugar candy skull looks so tasty.
  • Where is your favourite place to read? The couch, I suppose. Somewhere comfy and quiet. With a cat.
  • What is your favourite bookstore? There’s a used bookstore in Port Townsend, WA called William James that I adore. They specialize in history books, especially maritime and military, so it was always a place I went with my dad. I have very fond memories of that bookstore.
  • Name six writers, living or dead, you would want as companions on a non-stop, cross-country road trip. Ellen Kushner and her partner Delia Sherman, Kathe Koja, Elizabeth Bear, and Sarah and Jessica Diemer. I’m partly going for compatibility here, because I feel like this would be a totally fun group. Also, these are people I wouldn’t be totally intimidated to talk to. (Though I still do a fangirl squeal every time Ellen Kushner or Kathe Koja responds to something I say on their Twitters or Facebook pages.)
  • Do you have a favourite and a least favourite genre? I tend more toward non-modern fantasy and soft sci-fi, preferably with queer characters. I avoid anything trying to be romance; I don’t usually mind mild romance IN my books (though really only if it’s queer) but romance novels themselves tend to be too formulaic and too sexual for my tastes. I’m also not a fan of mysteries/thrillers, though I adored The Silence of the Lambs and its prequel Red Dragon.
  • What is the longest period you have gone without reading a book? A few months at the most. Sometimes when I get down I lose the desire to read, but I usually try to push myself out of my funk by rereading a book I love. Last time this happened I turned to my favorite author, Ray Bradbury, and read in quick succession The October Country, The Martian Chronicles, and Long After Midnight.
  • Name three literary characters you would want as roommates. 1) Marion from J Tulos Hennig’s Greenwode and Shirewode; she’s a particularly strong, spiritual version of Maid Marion and I feel like she’d be the roommate who makes you soup when you’re sick. 2) Katherine from Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword; she’s another strong girl who would let you cry on her shoulder, then go win a duel against whomever hurt you. She’s a bit dramatic, but she grows out of that. 3) Bast from Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; she’s a cat most of the time so you wouldn’t even need an extra room for her, and, well, SHE’S BAST.
  • What was your favourite book as a child? • I loved The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. Alanna has always been a role-model of mine; I admired her bravery and strength, and that she challenged gender roles. Plus she had a talking cat. See a pattern here?
  • What is your favourite literary city? The city of Amber from Roger Zelazny’s The Chronicles of Amber. I love the idea that there can be one “true” city from which all other worlds are shadows; it reminds me of the way I write different versions of my characters. I also love that Amber’s reflection in the ocean is a mirror city unto itself (Rebma).
  • Name your favourite Brontë. I haven’t read them, to be honest. Not much of a Classics person unless it’s something dark or fantastical.
  • What is your favourite e-commerce site for books? I suppose Amazon is the one I frequent since I have a Kindle, but I’m a big proponent of e-books in general. For someone like me who has carpal tunnel syndrome, reading physical books often involves a lot of pain. My Kindle is much lighter and so easier on my hands – plus, I can change the font size so I can read on the bus without getting nauseous!
  • What is your favourite pen name? I don’t read many authors who use pen names, but when I was younger I had one for myself that I still like: Angelica Francesca Annabel-Lee Montgomery Walker. …too wordy?
  • What is your favourite closing line in a book? “Goodbye and hello, as always.” The main character, Corwin, says this at the end of the fifth book in Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series. We leave Corwin at the end of this book after following his harrowing journey for years and somehow this simple ending, almost a promise that he isn’t gone for good, just seems… perfect to me.
  • Do you prefer owls or elephants? Owls. Duh.
  • Do you have any reading rituals? Not really. I prefer silence and to be alone or otherwise away from distraction, so I usually read when I’m home alone and have a chunk of time to myself.
  • Who is your favourite literary couple? It’s a total tie between Richard St Vier/Alec from Swordspoint and Rupert/Istvan from Under the Poppy. Which tells you a lot about the kind of characters I’m drawn to, since neither of these couples is exactly happy and/or functional. And also super gay.
  • Who is your favourite poet? Shel Silverstein. I grew up on his books of poems and they still bring a smile to my face whenever I read them.
  • What is your favourite poem? Judson Stoddard from the Spoon River Anthology. Yes, the one you have to read in high school. I had to memorize a poem from the anthology for class and fell in love with this one because it relates concepts like art, writing, and philosophy to mountains rising to Heaven.
  • Do you have a favourite film adaptation? Holes. The movie is not only a very faithful adaptation of an already wonderful book, but stands firmly on its own as well. It has a ton of heart and humor, a great soundtrack, and a talented cast. I think it’s vastly underrated.
  • What book title would make a great band name? The Guns of Avalon (the second book in the Chronicles of Amber series.) Totally.
  • What is your favourite quote? “Make haste to live. Oh god, yes. Live, and write, with great haste.” – Ray Bradbury
  • What is your favourite book series? No no. Don’t make me pick. Stop that.
  • Finish this sentence. People who read books are…people I should probably be friends with.

THANKS SO MUCH, ELYSSA!

If you’d like to participate, please email us at: onetrackmuse@gmail.com.

Go here to check out previous entries in the series.

[R]evolving Incarnations: A Questionnaire for Passionate Readers-Claire McAlpine of Word by Word

[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. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section!

CLAIRE MCALPINE

Claire McAlpine is the creator of the amazing blog, Word by Word. Please stop by and say hello!

  • What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t? Why? The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
    Until 2012 I had not read him (I read The Pearl last year and LOVED it). I had no notion of Steinbeck and the physical book didn’t look appealing, maybe also because the blurb talked too much about his success and not enough about the book. The hype I guess.
  • What is your favourite line or passage from a book? Without hesitation, this passage from Martin Booth’s The Industry of Souls. I love it.
    Upon the cow was piled a half-made cheese of pomace, alternate layers of straw and mashed fruit. Yellow and black striped wasps hovered lazily in the air around it, drunk on a surfeit of apple flesh. I followed one as it flew unsteadily up to the rafters to become entangled in a spider’s web.
    Komarov, seeing my eyes tracing the wasp, said, ‘Watch now what happens.’
    The wasp started to struggle to free itself. The more it endeavoured to free itself, the more enmeshed it became. Suddenly, the owner of the web appeared on the scene. It was a big, dark grey spider with a leg span of at least eight centimetres. Pausing at the edge of its web, it placed its two forelegs upon crucial strands.
    ‘He’s testing the tension,’ Lomarov observed, ‘judging the size of his captive.’
    With a sudden rush, the spider crossed the web to within a centimetre or two of the wasp. It paused again.
    ‘Now he knows,’ Komarove declared. ‘Watch what he does, Shurik.’
    The spider, far from leaping on the wasp and sinking its poisoned fangs into it, stepped back one arachnidian pace and began to snip the threads of its own web. The wasp was loosened but was still ensnared. The spider moved around, still cutting the net of its web. Finally, the wasp dangled at the end of a single strand. The spider reached it and severed it. The wasp fell to the ground, still threshing about to get free of its bindings.
    ‘So much for the grey wolf of my rafters,’ Komorov stated, ‘and the striped tiger of the forests.’ He stamped his foot down. ‘Even when they are soporific, the spider knows better than to take on a wasp.’
  • Who do you think is the most underrated author? Many of the authors read and reviewed by freelance writer Ann Morgan on her blog A Year of Reading The World where she reads one work from 196 countries. Her project is being turned into a book Reading the World: Postcards from my Bookshelf due for publication in 2014.
  • What is your pick for the most underrated book? Foreign fiction! I am very interested in authors’ voices worldwide and not just those that can speak and write in the English language. I admit to mild envy each week when one of my French students shows me yet another great book she is reading in French that has been translated from Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Swedish.
    That said, I am grateful for the few that are available (only 5% of fiction available in English is translated) and love following the blog Winston’s Dad, a consummate reader of translated fiction and a great reviewer.
  • If you could make everyone in the world read one book, what would it be? Ancient Wisdom, Modern World – Ethics for a New Millennium by H.H. the Dalai Lama.
    This man exudes wisdom and nearly everything he says resonates deeply with me. This book is full of common sense and kindness, explains suffering and how to alleviate it. It is very accessible, not religious, full of a gentle wisdom that is lacking in too many aspects of society today.
  • Is there a book you wish you had written? Not one book, but many, many paragraphs within them, usually those I highlight when I write my thoughts on a book, hoping somehow the words will inspire me. In the days before blogging and writing reviews, when I wrote old fashioned letters, I remember that one paragraph above from Martin Booth’s Industry of Souls that I was so enamoured by, I rewrote it and sent it to numerous book loving friends, because I couldn’t let it pass without sharing it. Even if they never read the book, they just had to read this paragraph. Thankfully today it is so much easier to highlight and share these gems!
  • What are you currently reading? Shadows & Wings by Niki Tulk, a thought-provoking and compelling novel about two boys growing up in Germany before the war and a grand-daughter’s search to learn more.
  • How many books do you have in rotation at any one time? Often three or four, but not of the same genre. Fiction, non-fiction, a biography, the latest Mslexia or Sun Magazine or Granta, always something to hand by Pema Chodron or the Dalai Lama, the vitamin equivalent and of course my Kindle!
  • What is the funniest book you’ve read? Lost Cat by Caroline Paul, laugh out loud hilarious, short, light hearted, well-illustrated and delightfully comic.
  • What is the saddest book you’ve read? Most recently In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. Although it is fiction, it is based on her own family’s experience in Cambodia, not many survived, but she has created a beautiful novel and remembers those now gone in a loving tribute.
  • What is the last book you couldn’t put down? The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal.
  • 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 don’t have one way of reading a book, each finds their own pace and it might take me anything from a day to two weeks. Speed reading I only indulge in when researching some lengthy tome and I’m looking for something specific, never for pleasure reading.
  • What book have you re-read the most? Dr. Seuss – Green Eggs and Ham.
    I’ve stopped reading it to my children, but I still read it with my French students who are learning English, it’s brilliant. Sam-I-Am!
  • Who is your pick for sexiest character in fiction? It’s been a long time since I read that genre!
  • Approximately how many books do you read in a year? I try to read a book a week and 2012 was the first time I kept count on Goodreads out of interest to see how many I do read. I actually read 62 books and I’m comfortable with that. I plan on reading the same this year, a book a week.
  • Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? I like to read both, though I refer the more creative non-fiction to the dry, academic type. I prefer to write fiction though, I love the sense of the unknown, looking forward, not knowing what might happen next to looking back.
  • If you could swap places with your favourite fictional character, would you? Explain your choice. Absolutely not, I prefer my characters between the pages of books, my favourite fictional characters rest in my imagination, so I can go there whenever I wish without giving up being me.
  • What is your favourite literary food or meal? I don’t really understand the question, but it makes me think of Anthony Capella’s The Food of Love and Isabelle Allende’s Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses.
  • Where is your favourite place to read? Travelling 1st class on the 300km/hr TGV, a rare event but one I won’t forget (the ticket price was cheaper than travelling in 2nd class).
  • What is your favourite bookstore? Daunt Books in Marylebone High St, London – bliss!
  • Name six writers, living or dead, you would want as companions on a non-stop, cross-country road trip. George Sand, Gustave Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Jackie Kay, James George, Grace Paley.
  • Do you have a favourite and a least favourite genre? My favourite is cross cultural literary fiction and least favourite paranormal.
  • What is the longest period you have gone without reading a book? Probably a few months, when I was at university (obviously not studying literature).
  • Name three literary characters you would want as roommates. Think I prefer A Room Of My Own, I’m long past desiring to have roommates.
  • What was your favourite book as a child? Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel.
  • What is your favourite literary city? The one I haven’t been to, but is next up on my agenda, Istanbul!
  • Name your favourite Brontë. Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre.
  • What is your favourite e-commerce site for books? The Guardian Bookshop, they only charge once for postage or it’s free within the UK.
  • What is your favourite pen name? Red Bird Flies.
  • What is your favourite closing line in a book? “I wonder, as the last door handle rattles and the last hinge squeaks, and I step through into the anteroom between this second and the next, and the next, if she will be waiting for me in those castles of stone in the air, those fantasy towers standing on the bleak shore of a mountainous land somewhere in the northern hemisphere, her finger running down the life-line on my palm, drawn not this time in Indian ink but in the diluted blood of an ancient man who has seen it all, kept his counsel and come through.” Islands of Silence, Martin Booth.
  • Do you prefer owls or elephants? Elephants.
  • Do you have any reading rituals? Even if it’s only one page, I always read before sleeping. Impossible not to!
  • Who is your favourite literary couple? Kitty & Levin in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
  • Who is your favourite poet? Currently Katie Metcalfe.
  • What is your favourite poem? Love after Love by Derek Walcott.
  • Do you have a favourite film adaptation? Joe Wright’s theatrical and brilliant adaptation of Anna Karenina, that Russian waltz was magical.
  • What book title would make a great band name? Cuttlefish Bones by Eugenio Montale.
  • What is your favourite quote? “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” – George Bernard Shaw.
  • What is your favourite book series? The Josephine Bonaparte Trilogy by Sandra Gulland.
  • Finish this sentence. People who read books are…like friends we’ve yet to meet, with whom we already share something in common and know that even if we are generally not talkative, we could converse all evening non-stop.

THANKS SO MUCH, CLAIRE!

If you’d like to participate, please email us at: onetrackmuse@gmail.com.

[R]evolving Incarnations: A Questionnaire for Passionate Readers-Featuring Susan Conley of Bright & Beautyfull

[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. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section!

SUSAN CONLEY

Susan Conley is a writer and beauty blogger based in Dublin. Please visit her lovely blog, Bright & Beautyfull.

  • What book have you always wanted to read, but haven’t? Why?
    I have tried and tried, over the course of at least the last fourteen years, to read the entirety of Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, which: cliché, I know, but it torments me at least twice a year. I can read anything and I haven’t managed to perfect confluence of environment, timelessness and (possibly) psychological fitness for the full monty.
    Swann in Love is superb, and I remember managing that when I lived in Manhattan and worked as a publications designer. I was freelancing at New York Magazine, and there was one late night a week in which we had to hang around in case something had to be redesigned at midnight (no lie.) I always passed the time reading, and I made my way through Swann in Love under those circs.
  • What is your favourite line or passage from a book?
    ‘I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.’
    Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
  • Who do you think is the most underrated author? I don’t know if he’s underrated, but I like Neal Stephenson a lot, and have yet to find someone who likes his stuff the way I do? No one has listened to me as regards The Baroque Cycle.
  • What is your pick for the most underrated book?
    The Waves, by Virginia Woolf. I did finally ‘get’ To The Lighthouse — the combination of a hangover, a cold drizzling rain as only Ireland can produce, and an hour-long wait for the next train home allowed me to shut out everything else in life, and finally comprehend what all the fuss is about. It is pure genius, but you can only know that for yourself.
    The Waves is never cited as a great book, and I think it is. I received it as a gift from a dear friend, and started reading it, and went off to see my parents for the weekend, and didn’t bring the book — and couldn’t stop thinking about it the entire time.
  •  If you could make everyone in the world read one book, what would it be? I would not only make the world read Ulysses, I would make them read it in Ireland. I don’t know how many times I tried to read that poxy book, but I was determined, to the point of bringing the great paving slab of the thing with me on my very first visit here, in the late 90s. It suddenly made sense — or, perhaps, I suddenly made sense as a reader of it.
  • Is there a book you wish you had written?
    Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley. She does such an amazing job of presenting the whole horsey world, on all its levels, with her usual intelligence and humour. I read it twice in a row when I first picked it up. I hadn’t started horseriding then (see my other blog, www.flyingchanges.wordpress.com, which is about taking up horseriding as an adult) but I totally comprehended it.
  • What are you currently reading?
    I’m reading some of my own writing over and over at the moment, which is a guarantee that I am going to put in more typos than I’ve taken out. Hate that.
    I finished Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and have mixed feelings. I was so utterly hypnotized by 1Q84 that I was bracing myself for a let down — then I opened the cover and saw the stickers! A sheet of stickers, stuck in the book! My experience went on from there, up and down, up when Murakami put abstract emotional concepts into words with astonishing ease; down through the reams of stilted dialogue.
  • How many books do you have in rotation at any one time? At the very least: three. At the most: seven.
  • What is the funniest book you’ve read? OH MY GOD: I can’t even believe I remember this. When I was a child, I read, and reread, and read funny bits aloud from, a book called In One Era And Out The Other, by Sam Levenson. It’s a memoir of his youth, growing up Jewish in Brooklyn, and I can’t relate a single anecdote from it, but holy wow, it had me in stitches every time. I am laughing right now, even remembering it as imperfectly as I do, but damn, that was one funny book. I drove my mother demented, reading passages aloud from that book.
  • What is the saddest book you’ve read? 
    Ah, just one here, as well? Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro… oh, Gilead by Marilyn Robinson. In both cases, I exploded in tears. Like, in the literary sense: burst into tears. Both brought on that catharsis so slowly and gently, I never saw it coming. Particularly in the latter: the story kept going over and over the same fragments, so when I got to the part that set me off, I had no idea the degree to which the simplicity was creating the space for my gloriously complex reaction.
  •  What is the last book you couldn’t put down? Books, as in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Which I had avoided, even though I do love a good ‘world’, because the ‘RR’ in his name bugged me something fierce. Totally lame, I know…
  • 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 do read much more slowly when I am reading a great book. I thought Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian was a great book — so great that I was traveling back to the States on holiday, and brought the hardcover with me. Unheard of! And then proceeded to sit on the couch in my friend’s apartment to read until I finished it. Unsociable!
    This was okay with them, as they had both read it, and they sat and watched me read it to the end, so that they could enjoy watching me read that sentence, the sentence that made me say, ‘I DON’T BELIEVE IT!’ aloud, and loudly; it allowed them the experience of the shock and freshness of that action, in the only way they could now, since they had already been there themselves.
  • What book have you re-read the most? Wow, okay: The Education of an American Soccer Player, by Shep Messing. I became a serious footie fanatic when I was a teenager, which was not a thing in the States, really, despite Pele and Franz Beckenbauer and The North American Soccer League. Messing was a goalie from Long Island who played with the Cosmos during the wonder years, and I blame him for my ongoing fascination with Bad Boys. Not really. Okay, a little.
  • Who is your pick for sexiest character in fiction? Nora Roberts, writing as J.D. Robb, does a good line in futuristic/romantic suspense/police procedural with her in Death series; the male lead, Roarke, is very much the ridiest ride in fiction. I get annoyed when many of the Irish details are wrong, but he’s gorgeous, rich, nurturing — as only an alpha male in fantasy romance fiction can be — and has the accent.
  • Approximately how many books do you read in a year? I have gone through periods where I have read a book a day… I could easily read 200 books a year.
  • Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Fiction!
  • If you could swap places with your favourite fictional character, would you? Explain your choice.
    Nope, wouldn’t even if I could, because I perceive this as meaning I wouldn’t be able to keep reading. Is that weird? That by being that character, I wouldn’t be able to get lost in other stories. Or I’d only be able to read the books that they would read? Which wouldn’t matter because I would be them… No, no! Do not want!
    Also: I feel that I would have to have the same experiences/adventures over and over. Which I expect, if we looked at my life, I am doing anyway, but still.
  • What is your favourite literary food or meal?
    Alllll the food in Harry Potter*. Mainly because I know that J.K. Rowling wrote those meals in Hogwarts out of longing, when she was on the dole.
    *Except that grapefruit when Dudley is on the diet. And Hagrid’s rock buns.
  • Where is your favourite place to read? On my couch, or on your couch, on a couch in the lobby of the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire — all stretched out, with a blanket for my lap as necessary. I could read on a couch in the middle of Harrods, on the last Saturday before Christmas, and not even notice the crowds. Couch + book = heaven.
  • What is your favourite bookstore? RIP Coliseum Books, 57th and Broadway in Manhattan. I would plan excursions from Brooklyn, and go for a wander through their idiosyncratically stocked shelves, looking at books that never seemed to live anywhere else. I would buy six or seven at a time, and then wander further uptown into Central Park, park myself beneath a tree or by the Belvedere Fountain, and peek into all of them, one by one.
  • Name six writers, living or dead, you would want as companions on a non-stop, cross-country road trip. Ray Bradbury, Flannery O’Connor, Henry Miller, Haruki Murakami, Jilly Cooper and Ngaio Marsh.
  • Do you have a favourite and a least favourite genre?
    I love romance, not gonna lie. I love it, and I love how it sneaks into all the other genres, and I love it, it is great.
    I loooooooathe the memoir genre that has to do with horrible childhoods. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but they have sprung up like mushrooms here in Ireland. Noxious, odious mushrooms. Ugh.
  • What is the longest period you have gone without reading a book? I’ve done The Artist’s Way a couple of times, and when I got to the part where Julia Cameron said, ‘No reading,’ I just about had a heart attack. I think it was for a month? Or one week that felt like a month? Nightmare territory. It was awful.
  • Name three literary characters you would want as roommates.
    >Brienne of Tarth — for general spider-catching and light bulb replacement. And loyalty.
    >Ginny Weasley — because she would not take any nonsense from noisy neighbours or scabby landlords.
    >Charles Bingley — I can’t imagine a more agreeable flatmate. Charles never gets a look-in, because he is so agreeable. I am a stage in my life where agreeable/available trumps broody/difficult.
  • What was your favourite book as a child? I loved The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, with illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Oh, dammit: also, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, by E.L. Koningsburg. In both cases, the children — Milo, and Claudia and Jamie, respectively — went out on adventures on their own, adventures that had physical hardships but were mainly cerebral. Hmm. That explains everything. I wonder can I get a refund on all that therapy?
  • What is your favourite literary city? As represented in books? Paris. I could read about Paris every day. For living in, I couldn’t be in a better place than Dublin. It is a city, in a country, which on the whole has a great respect for its writers.
  • Name your favourite Brontë.
    I have no favourite Brontë. *Gasp!* I recently went back to Wuthering Heights and consider it to be a codependency primer. Hated it.
    EDIT: This is probably sacrilege, but I am all about Jane Eyre after having seen the film adaptation with Fassbender. (With Fassbender in it, not actually having seen it with him. More’s the pity.)‘I must respect myself’ — ! Teach this in high school, teachers.
  • What is your favourite e-commerce site for books? Amazon. Sorry, anti-monolith people. Everything I need is there.
  • What is your favourite pen name? (Not answered.)
  • What is your favourite closing line in a book?
    This feels unoriginal, given my chosen country of habitation, but:
    ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly throughout the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.’
    James Joyce, The Dead
    Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. I would like every sexy Irish man in the world to record this sentence, and I’d play it on a loop at least once a week.
    It’s all about regret and grace, forgiveness, resignation, and also, too, about perpetuating the denial, softly softly, but perpetuating it nevertheless. Gabriel can’t un-know that story now; all suspicions are confirmed; it’s done, and yet it so gently done.
    And I happened to be on Usher’s Quay the other day, looking up at the house itself. On a scale of things in life that are excellent, that is pretty good.
  • Do you prefer owls or elephants? Elephants! We have new baby elephants at the Dublin Zoo and they are 100% squee.
  • Do you have any reading rituals? Nope, just need a couch. Oh, and throw pillows. And a blanket option. I miss smoking cigarettes when I’m really stuck into something I am loving reading.
  • Who is your favourite literary couple? (Not answered.)
  • Who is your favourite poet? William Carlos Williams, mainly because 1) he is great; 2) he is from New Jersey, where I grew up; 3) I discovered him as an adult, having never heard of him. How can we have not been taught WCW in NJ schools?!? and 4) because I was out in the West of Ireland with friends, one of those unforgettable trips in a lifetime, and we came a across a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens > FOR. REAL. Actual wheelbarrow, actually red, rain water, white chickens, all of it. It was my Irish pal Oonagh who quoted that, and I am disgusted that it wasn’t me. That should have been my birthright.
  • What is your favourite poem?
    Emily Dickinson — 254
    “Hope” is the thing with feathers—
    That perches in the soul—
    And sings the tune without the words—
    And never stops—at all—
    And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
    And sore must be the storm—
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm—
    I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
    And on the strangest Sea—
    Yet, never, in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb—of Me.
    Those em-dashes used to drive me completely insane with annoyance — and the degree to which I use them myself is, of course, ironic — but I adore this beyond measure.
  • Do you have a favourite film adaptation?
    To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): it is utterly perfect. When Boo Radley comes out of the shadows — gahhhh. Floods of tears.
     Also: Sense and Sensibility (1995): when Edward comes back and tells Elinor that he’s not married to what’s-er-name and she erupts in sobs of relief. And so do I, every single time.
    Clearly: I like crying!
  • What book title would make a great band name? Can’t think of one, but I recently passed a new Indian place in Moore St, Dublin 1, called ‘Delhi O’Deli’. Welcome to the new melting pot!
  • What is your favourite quote?
    ‘There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.’
    Francis Bacon, via The House of Rumour by Jake Arnott — which I had started reading and had been parcelling out to myself, trying not to rush, and then I lost the thread of it and am having trouble finishing. I may actually start over because it’s a clever read, a big mash up of Nazis and science fiction and UFOs and transvestites. Or maybe just one transvestite.
  • What is your favourite book series? Oh, just shoot me.
  • Finish this sentence. People who read books are…
    Are exactly the sort of people who are bound to be my friends.
    {Bound: LOL}

THANKS SO MUCH, SUSAN!

Oh, Spambots! You’re So Funny!

A Small Press Life is being hit hard by spambots this week (99% of which is caught by the spam filter, fortunately). These are my 3 faves from today, and my responses to them:

  1. Hello,My name is Job and I’m a professional fraenelce writer with 3 years of experience. ( (Nice to meet you, Job. Perhaps you could give me some tips on fraenelcing?)
  2. Boom shlakaaka boom boom, problem solved. (Boom boom, indeed.)
  3. I much prefer inrfamotive articles like this to that high brow literature. (I think you are on the wrong site, dude. 90% of what I write about is high brow literature, although I try to be as inrfamotive as possible).
Titta Ruffo

Is that you, Spambot? (It’s actually opera singer Titta Ruffo, dressed up as a clown. Circa 1913.)

One of My Pieces is Featured on Words for the Weekend: The Beauty of Air-Vol. 5

[Intermezzo] It is Finally Autumn. Ecstatic Autumn! is featured on Words for the Weekend’s The Beauty of Air-Vol. 5. I love both the concept and the execution of this blog, and am chuffed to be included-and amongst such fine company, no less.