The Little Professor posted this meme, and I thought I’d play along:
1. Favorite childhood book? Charlotte’s Web (and I still love it).
2. What are you reading right now? David E. Kyvig’s Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940.
3. What books do you have on request at the library? I gave up using libraries years ago. It’s far easier and quicker to order a used book from Amazon than it is for me to visit any of Manhattan’s public libraries. If I lived elsewhere, though, I’d probably do things differently.
4. Bad book habit? I’m a compulsive dog-earer.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? See #3.
6. Do you have an e-reader? No–I ought to buy one, but simply haven’t gotten around to it.
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? It’s rarely a matter of preference. Because of the nature of my work, I tend to be reading two or three books at any given time.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? No.
9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)? I stop reading a book as soon as I’m sure that I don’t like it–life’s too short to finish reading a bad book–so I don’t have a good answer to this question. I’m about to review a biography that I disliked, but I can’t say what it is until the piece appears.
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year? John Williams’ Stoner, with Wesley Stace’s Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer running it a close second. (Both of these books, incidentally, were suggested to me by the same person.)
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I don’t think I have a “comfort zone.” I read whatever interests me, and my tastes wander in all directions.
12. What is your reading comfort zone? See above.
13. Can you read on the bus? I could read on a roller coaster, so long as I wasn’t simultaneously being shot at.
14. Favorite place to read? In bed.
15. What is your policy on book lending? I lend books to good friends. If they don’t return them, I stop lending to them.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Reflexively.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? I’ve never written in or highlighted a book in my life. For some inexplicable reason, the very thought of doing so makes me cringe–it borders on a phobia. And yes, I realize that this is irreconcilable with my dog-earing habit. Go figure.
18. Not even with text books? No, never.
19. What is your favorite language to read in? Alas, I’m a monoglot.
20. What makes you love a book? I want it to tell me things I didn’t already know, and to do so in a way that I find irresistibly seductive.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? The fact that I liked it, so long as I think that the recommendee would be interested in its subject matter.
22. Favorite genre? I don’t have one. I suppose biography comes closest, but that’s mainly because I write biographies.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? I’ve never been able to get into science fiction, and I suspect I’m missing something as a result.
24. Favorite biography? W. Jackson Bate’s Samuel Johnson. Runner-up: David Cairns’ Berlioz.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book? I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living as a boy. (It was on the living-room bookshelf.) Nothing since then, so far as I can recall.
26. Favorite cookbook? I can’t cook, but I do love M.F.K. Fisher.
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? I don’t read “inspirational” books. Stories of heroism, broadly defined, inspire me, and on occasion certain books inspire me to try to write better.
28. Favorite reading snack? I rarely snack while reading, though I usually read when dining alone.
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. It’s never happened. As Marlene Dietrich says in Touch of Evil, “What does it matter what you say about people?”
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? I don’t keep track.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose? French. I very much wish I could read Proust in the original.
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? I don’t find books intimidating (or much else, truth to tell).
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? See above.
35. Favorite poet? I don’t have a favorite poet. I like Yeats, Frost, Hardy, and Larkin, and lately I’ve gotten interested in Kay Ryan and Samuel Menashe.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? See #3.
37. How often have you returned a book to the library unread? Back in my student days, not infrequently.
38. Favorite fictional character? I’d have trouble choosing between Vicky Haven in Dawn Powell’s A Time to Be Born and Amanda Turck in James Gould Cozzens’ Guard of Honor. In addition, I confess–somewhat reluctantly–to identifying with Charles Gray in John P. Marquand’s Point of No Return.
39. Favorite fictional villain? Richard Stark’s Parker (if you can call him a villain–it’s a slippery proposition). Runners-up: Augustus Melmotte in Trollope’s The Way We Live Now and Widmerpool in Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time.
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? Whatever I’m reading at the moment.
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading. I went without reading for a couple of days the last time I was in the hospital.
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Velvet Claws.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? Nothing.
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place. I suspect, however, that this question is meant to elicit films made from novels that are distinguished in their own right, in which case I’d single out Stephen Fry’s Bright Young Things and Paul Mazursky’s Enemies: A Love Story.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation? Otto Preminger’s Advise and Consent.
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? Probably a couple of hundred dollars, but I rarely go to brick-and-mortar bookstores anymore.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? Almost never, unless I’m consulting it for purely professional reasons.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through? If it bores me, I’ll stop after ten pages.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized? Yes, though I’m not excessively finicky about it.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Living as I do in a New York apartment, I dispose of superfluous books ruthlessly.
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? No.
52. Name a book that made you angry. That is one long list, baby.
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? James Gould Cozzens’ By Love Possessed. Dwight Macdonald’s famous takedown fails altogether to convey its actual quality.
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Colette’s The Pure and the Impure. I didn’t hate it, but I expected to like it a lot more than I did.
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? Unless money is changing hands, I always read for pleasure, and I don’t do book-related guilt.