Seven things

Posted on 15 November 2012

What do you think of literary prizes? Good idea or bad?

Definitely good. There are gazillions of books out there and it would be quite impossible to choose were it not for a lot of help by other readers, including the readers who judge these awards who read tons of current books each year. I do understand there are so many more brilliant books outside of the nominees and the winners but then they do help point out authors worthy of a try. Even if I didn’t connect with every author I’ve tried, I still have discovered many of my favourites this way. (My love affair with these lists began with James Kelman’s How Late it Was, How Late, the 1994 Booker Prize winner.) Life is too short to wade through hundreds of books just to get at a good one, which is why I’m ever indebted to these literary prizes for doing much of the hard work. I understand it can seem limiting to some, but to me they’re useful for as long as I continue to be adventurous and conscientious in seeking out other works, other authors.

If you could write any sort of book, what would you write?

Hm. If I could write. At first epics come to mind, of the sort Moby-Dick and One Hundred Years of Solitude are made of. Or something really brilliant like Life a User’s Manual or The Name of the Rose. But on second thought, I believe I’d like to write a kind of book that’s simpler and that’s centered on life as art. The best depiction of which is Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. Yes, that would probably be it. Not a memoir of my life, as it isn’t as colourful as hers, but fiction that exudes the atmosphere and gentility and beauty of her prose. You can tell by reading her that she lives and breathes art. In music, mostly, but in all other forms as well.

Although, if we were to talk nonfiction, my dream would really be to write a scholarly yet accessible and helpful book on eschatology. The Bible and the end times, apocalypse, that stuff. I know, it sounds weird coming from me, but that is my not-so-secret obsession apart from literature which I rarely ever talk about here.

Describe your ideal home library.

Three walls of books, with a huge, low window somewhere. The fourth wall, red bricks, a fireplace, cramped with artwork in different embellished frames. A comfy but very pretty vintage couch or two. A vintage armchair or two. An ottoman or two. A chandelier. Vintage lamps. A gorgeous rug. A desk, a tree. Yes, a tree! Colours would be greys and blues and creamy whites, peppered with rich jewel tones, in blues and purples and greens and yellows and reds. I am getting so carried away now. But yes, that is my dream library, thank you. Add to that a scenic view outside of the window, tall pine trees and foggy skies. Heavenly.

Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices.

While I mostly read either old or dead writers, whose works have stood the test of time, I do have a few young and modern favourites. On top of the list are Jonathan Safran Foer and Nicole Krauss, aptly husband and wife. They’re both very current and their writings perfectly evoke the energy of our world today. They’re both so very talented and so brilliant. Their voices are young and their styles experimental, yet their words are polished and mature. Their writing doesn’t exude smugness, despite the genius. Rather, genteel. But also: passionate and exuberant. So many things at the same time, and only the wonderful things. They both write with humour, in perfect touches, and at the same time they write with such feeling and heart. They both make me laugh and cry. The perfect balance in affecting the reader both ways. I believe they’re here to last.

Which books do you hope to get for Christmas?

My wish list is overflowing but if I had to choose the ones I really want to read soon: Lust, Caution by Eileen Chang. The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco. A whole bunch of Javier Mariases. Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy. A collection of haiku by Basho. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. Collected stories of Gogol. Collected stories of Chekhov. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata. Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton. Some Alice Munro. Lucky if I even get one of these, no one ever thinks to give me books anymore. Except my kids, who understand. And they don’t have the means.

What’s the last book you did not finish and why?

Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie because the protagonist was awful and I didn’t care about him nor his story at all. I was just disgusted by him. A shame because Dai Sijie’s writing wasn’t bad at all.

Would you accept 20 books that were absolutely perfect for you and dependably brilliant reads if they were also the last 20 books you could ever acquire?

No, never! Because who can live with only 20 books more? That’s like telling us to stop thinking or eating or breathing. I’d like to believe that for every 20 perfect books for me, there are a hundred more.

Thanks to Bellezza for tagging me with The Liebster Award. Now my turn to tag seven people. This award, after all, is for letting others discover other blogs. So tagging Mee, BIP, Nicola, ds, Vasilly, Lu, and Isabella. I’d love to hear your answers in a post of your own or here in the comments, only if you feel like it. Anyone else reading this, I’d love to hear your answers as well. Here are my questions:

1. What propelled your love affair with books—any particular title or a moment?
2. Which fictional character would you like to be friends with and why?
3. Do you write your name on your books or use bookplates?
4. What was your favourite book read this year?
5. If you could read in another language, which language would you choose?
6. Name a book that made you both laugh and cry.
7. Share with us your favourite poem?

30 responses to Seven things

  • Bellezza says:

    Love all your answers, all the time (why do our libraries sound so similar? :) but I’m especially taken with your seven questions. They are so exciting I wish I could do it all over again, and really, I should have come up with seven questions of my own. If only I wasn’t asking questions to nine year olds all day long…

    • claire says:

      B, I would love for you to answer these questions! Seriously. I can only imagine the questions you ask and get (!) from your nine year olds everyday. Must be exhausting and hilarious both. :)

      Funny about our libraries.. maybe because old-fashioned libraries appear warmer and cozier. Modern libraries devoid of any old-fashioned touches tend to feel cold and a bit hostile, don’t you think?

  • mee says:

    Oooh I didn’t expect to be tagged but there I can see Mee! :) I love love your ideal library. I’m keeping it in mind for my own future library. Also want a lot of the books you want for Christmas: Lust, Caution, Prague Cemetery, Sea of Fertility, Gormenghast, Joseph Anton. Actually I will post something about Rushdie and Joseph Anton in a few days, so stay tune for that :D. I’m already thinking about the answers to your questions and will post something about that too! Thanks for tagging me.

    ps: I don’t know why I haven’t read Safran Foer yet :(

    • claire says:

      Hi Di! Looking forward to your answers! And your Joseph Anton post. Would you like to read one of those books together next year? I miss reading with you. You really should read Safran Foer, his books are exactly like The History of Love, you’ll love them.

      • mee says:

        Spring Snow by Mishima is very high on my list! I’m not sure if I’m gonna read all tetralogy, but I’d definitely like to read the first one. Maybe we could read it in conjunction with Tony’s Japan in January? :)

        • claire says:

          Di, I was initially thinking of reading The Tale of Genji for all of January and as it’s too long I wasn’t sure if I’ll ever be able to fit anything else in, but then.. hey, nothing’s impossible! I’ll surely try to fit Spring Snow in if you’re up to it. :)

        • claire says:

          On second thought: Spring Snow would probably do well for July (Japanese Lit Challenge 7) as I’d like to continue the rest immediately after. Would you consider reading something or someone else instead for January? I’d like to do another Mishima that isn’t part of the tetralogy, or Kawabata or Soseki? Any other suggestion?

          • mee says:

            Yes, let’s do Mishima in July! :) I just checked that Spring Snow is 400 pages, and I don’t think I can finish that in January (I’ll come back home from a trip on the 2nd week). In January I may just read one of Yoko Ogawa (I haven’t read any) or Murakami (playing safe). You should do Tale of Genji and tell us all about it! :)

          • claire says:

            Spring Snow in July it is then! I’ll mark it in my book so won’t forget. :)

  • litlove says:

    I’ve so enjoyed reading your answers! I’ve been going round collecting the suggestions for writers who’ll last the test of time and adding new names to my must-read-soon list. I have to admit I’ve read neither Nicole Krauss nor Jonathan Safran Foer (and didn’t know they were married! awww!) so they go straight on it, and I’m looking forward to trying them out. So far, no one has said yes to having 20 perfect books – and I quite understand. I’d say no, too!

    • claire says:

      Hi Victoria, thank you for providing these questions, I truly enjoyed answering them. Please do read Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love, it’s wonderful. Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close are equally excellent so any one of these is a good start.

  • I really enjoyed reading your answers, and would like to spend hours and hours in your ideal home library reading The Name of the Rose!

  • tuesday says:

    Love your dream library! I would’ve said the tree thing was crazy if I hadn’t discovered this one cafe in Beijing last year – two stories high, with a tree right through the middle of it. It was gorgeous, and had fairy lights and lanterns strung through it! :) Would love to have one in my own home!

    • claire says:

      Ohh yes, I love crazy things because of my gypsy mama. No, my mom isn’t really a gypsy but we all call her that because of her eccentricity. But I would love to go to that cafe in Beijing. Will you tell me about it? One day, one day we will go to China. The only place I’ve been to was Shen Zhen but would like to visit my grandfather’s and grandmother’s villages in the future. Before my grandfather passed away, my cousins and I were all set to visit his village with him all together. And then it was too late.

  • Vasilly says:

    I love your answers! I totally agree with you on book awards. I also love “best of” lists. Thanks for tagging me. I’ll post my answers this week.

    • claire says:

      Looking forward to your answers, Vasilly! I know right, ‘best of’ lists are super fun! Especially when making our own list of things to read, crossing off the ones we have read, &tc.. :)

  • Isabella says:

    You’ll have to open your library to the public. What’s not to love about it?! Thanks for the tag — I’ll be posting my responses this evening.

  • Stefanie says:

    I would very much like to come visit your library sometime :) I hope you get a Basho collection for Christmas, I have a small one and love it so. I hope you get all your other wished for books too. I’d like both the Eco and Rushdie. Better put up a big stocking! :)

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