I am continuing the Big Clean Up and have unearthed all number of treasures from my past so, I may have blog fodder for some time but I do have a few more questions to answer. Let’s get to them! I’ll do my best to be concise.
1. How many books have you read that you absolutely hated and detested?
Billy Budd by Herman Melville rises to the top of the list. I had to read this in middle school. My mother insisted. She forced me to read that one and Pilgrim’s Progress which was annoying for other reasons. I hated every word of Billy Budd. And to make matters worse, it is an incomplete novella. So, there wasn’t even the payoff of a real ending after all that. Plus, it was one of those ship-adventure stories I don’t particularly like. I’d read it again but, to quote one of Melville’s better stories, I would prefer not to.
Other books I’ve hated so much I actually threw them across the room, unfinished: White Noise by Don DeLilo and something or other by Patricia Cornwell. Man, she’s a terrible writer. The DeLilo book I attempted back in the ’90’s and I didn’t even know what I was reading. Words swam, unformed and reformed into meaninglessness. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Life is too short to spend time reading books you don’t like. I pitched it across the room in disgust and never looked back.
In preparation for this post, I checked my “gave up” Goodreads list – books I started but just couldn’t finish. There are 17 on that list. I really do try to give every book a fighting chance. I want them all to be good or, if they aren’t at first, I at least want to give them a chance to redeem themselves. Some just can’t. And as a person who has written three bad novels, I know how hard it is to write something adequate, much less good. So, I want them to receive at least a bit of attention. Sometimes, I just can’t struggle any longer and they must be closed and gotten rid of. Here are a few I tried to read by authors I otherwise love:
– The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.
I love Nesbo and I particularly love his Harry Hole character but this one started slow and got more confusing rather than less and then it was due at the library so I sadly turned it back in unfinished.
– The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears. I really like his books but this one was tedious. I listened to it in the car and continuously lost the thread. My mind wandered. I gave up.
– The Women by T.C. Boyle. When Boyle’s good, he’s very good. This book….is not really very good.
– The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel. Her two memoirs were just astonishingly wonderful. This first novel was such a disappointment. I couldn’t keep reading it. It made me sad. As a reader and a writer.
2. Who is your hero (real or fictional)?
It’s a tie between Cassandra Mortmain (I Captured The Castle) and Flora Poste (Cold Comfort Farm). I like a strong, female go-getter. Flora might edge out Cassandra by sheer force of her will. Everyone needs a little Flora in their lives.
3. Where would you go if you got a free trip anywhere in the world (alone or with your kids, good childcare provided if they don’t go along) and had to take the trip during June 2014?
I would go almost anywhere if it was free. If we’re talking a week’s vacation, I’d love to go to a secluded beach. Any beach with a lovely comfortable beachfront house with lots of food and adult beverages. Kids allowed but perhaps the cabana boy can take them off at certain times of the day so that I could sit on the deck and close my eyes and not have to pour milk in anyone’s cereal or apply sunblock to their skin.
If we’re talking a month or longer, I’d love to travel to Europe – England, Scotland, France – or Australia. I’ve never been outside of the US and don’t own a passport. I’d like to change that. And of course I’d take my kids with me. They love adventures and I like to provide them for them.
4. Why did you get into your profession, and what do you still like most about what you do for a living?
I had planned to be an elementary school teacher because I didn’t know what else to do with an English degree all by itself. So, I tacked on a Masters of Teaching. Why the hell not? Well, I sucked at it. Really, really sucked.
Meanwhile, my student work study job was in the university’s fund raising office. In the research department. I got to be a little Nancy Drew and figure out which donors had given big bucks to other organizations and who owned big fancy houses. I got to file stuff and organize it. It was fun. It fed my natural nosiness and curiosity. I loved using my research skills for interesting things beyond essays and papers for professors. This was all before the internet existed. You had to search for information the hard way.
So, after graduation I was hired as a researcher (their first ever) at the local chapter of the Red Cross. Twenty five years later, I’m still poking my nose in other people’s business at a college. All for a good cause, of course.