From no less an authority than the Bible, we learn that in the beginning was the word. Its music delights us, it changes and transports us. But most important — and my inner Mephistopheles will have the final say — it irritates us. From Faulkner, as is the case for Megan, whom you’ll meet shortly, to the sliver in my side, Joyce, that accursed Irishman, the word is a scratch on our spiritual epidermis. Without it, the growth we so rightly desire is quite impossible. So next time you’re irritated by your Faulkner or your Joyce, struggle a little longer, because the pages that infuriate you now might be your beloved later.
Who are you?
A feminist, mother, former academic and teacher, hobby photographer, West-Coaster, Democrat, reader extraordinaire. Not necessarily in that order.
What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?
I admit, I read a mish-mash of stuff: mysteries, memoirs, short stories, and obviously novels. The last book I would like to say I’ve read for this interview is The Gift of Rain, by Tan Twan Eng. A painfully gorgeous book that moved and educated me in so many ways. In truth, however, I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett the other night. Not fluff, per se, and a very good read, but not Shakespeare either.
If you could meet a character on the halodeck, who would it be? And what would you do?
Thursday Next, from Jasper Fforde’s series of literary….hmmm…I’m not quite sure how to describe these books. Thursday Next is a Literary Detective in the world of fiction, an alternate universe where the characters of all the books ever written live parallel lives. I would adore joining her in the world of books as she solves the latest literary crime (like when someone mysteriously changes the ending to Jane Eyre).
Who is your idol writer? Why?
Toni Morrison. I remember trying to read Beloved in college (for pleasure) and putting it down because it didn’t grab me instantly. It became my favorite book, one that I’ve not only read numerous times, but taught as well. The line “You your best thing” at the end of the novel gets me every time. Morrison explores the toughest issues, yet creates poetry, fantasy and realism all at the same time. My favorite literature moves me and gets me thinking at the same time. I don’t enjoy Faulkner, for example, because he doesn’t do those things for me. Strange, since Morrison is so influenced by Faulkner, but there you go.
Is there a defect in a novel that you‘d give your right arm to correct?
Really, any kind of typos in published books drive me crazy. Even if it’s a library book, I feel compelled to correct them in pen. I also have problems with outdated gender stereotypes, even though I realize that’s ridiculous. I was reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier earlier this summer, and I just wanted to shoot the silly husband — he was such a boor.
What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from reading?
That reading can shape your inner and outer worlds. I can’t imagine not reading everyday: I read the paper with breakfast, and I often cook dinner with a book on the counter. I’ve always valued an insight by Locke, and it seems appropriate to close with it here: “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”