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The Literature Challenge
Member Name: calypte
Date: 13/11/03, updated on 13/04/05 (295 review reads)
Disadvantages: time :(
(I adore books. And I waffle. Sorry!)
What is your favourite genre?
Fantasy and sci-fi, beyond a doubt.
I do make the distinction between the two genres, even though a lot of books will blur that line. Fantasy I think of as Lord of the Rings, or David Gemmell or Katharine Kerr - elves and orcs and heroes... Now, I love the genre, but I do understand that it's not to everyone's taste and many will dismiss it as pure rubbish. I kind of get that. It's rarely deep or meaningful, but it's FUN! I read for escapism, and for instance the Shannara book I'm reading at the moment is my alternative to 'chick-lit' - I don't have to think too hard, but it's fun and occasionally you find a book that is Very Good Indeed. Chick-lit, on the other hand, bores me to tears - so I do understand when people find that working the other way round!
Sci-fi can equally fall into the mindless entertainment category, but is far more likely to manage to be thought-provoking. I don't just believe, I KNOW, that many actual scientific inventions and discoveries would not have happened if not for some boffin being given an idea by an imaginative author. Furthermore, by taking a fairly realistic grasp of science and asking 'what if?' I think we can both take a look at the human race at the moment and get an idea of where we might be heading. I mean - look back a hundred or even fifty years ago - PCs on every desk in every office? Mobile phones? Microwaves and cheap flights to Ibiza? Things change, and they change fast these days - imagine where we might be next!
Urm... and a necessary mention to a slight side category that includes Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt, among others.
Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century?
I feel that I'm 'supposed' to, so
I do try. Mainly, though, I've got so many newer books that I actually want to read that the effort of dragging myself through archaic language doesn't really appeal. I think shoving 'classic literature' down the throats of schoolchildren is entirely a bad approach, too - at an age where I was most interested in Stephen King, I was forced to read Great Expectations - now, I *know* it's a 'great' book, but I now hate it with a passion! Some of my more recent attempts have left me disappointed, too - I really thought Jane Eyre was a very poor story, all said and done (oops - I think slagging of a Bronte sister gets me kicked out of book guiding!) - mind you, I'm not into very girly things anyway so maybe that was the problem. One I did almost enjoy was The Picture of Dorian Gray - it really is a fantastic story, but again, the unnecessary amount of flowery language really frustrated me. I read for pleasure and escapism, so these things feel like too much of a slog. Sorry *hangs head in shame* :(
PS and having been watching certain TV programs involving books discussions lately, I can't help but feel that some of these 'experts' are more concerned with looking pretentious by raving about these books. When they turn round and declare their love for Bridget Jones, though, it kind of gives it away ;)
Are you interested in thrillers?
Urm... define thriller. There are a few on my 'to read' list that I suppose would fall under that category, yes. My dad's other half ('girlfriend' sounds so inappropriate at that age! Ahem... I'll die for that!) is a big fan of 'gory fiction' - Patricia Cornwell, Karin Slaughter (I mean, really!) etc. and since there are a lot of those kinds of books lying around, I do pick them up. Read Jeffrey Deaver's The Bone Collector recently, and I do enjoy the suspense, if not all the gore!
What about horror stories?
A large chunk of my past saw me as a HUGE Stephen King fan. Really gone off the genre since my late teens, though - my imagination is just far too active, and I got fed up of giving myself nightmares from a book that I didn't even find *that* scary. Also, I guess I kind of reached a point where real life - and very plausible events - were far more capable of scaring me ****less, and I wanted nothing to do with any of it.
Sort of half drifting back to it occasionally now, though, as I have bought the more recent James Herbert and King books at discount prices. Really, though - that Bone Collector was a lot more scary!
Do you read science fiction?
See question 1! Although I've been into fantasy fiction for quite some time now, it took me a little longer to get round to 'hard' sci-fi. Some of the best books I've read recently, though, are science-fiction: Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M Banks... it's a genre that takes a lot of knocks, but it can be both really terrible and really brilliant: a genuine great sci-fi book, in my opinion, isn't all spaceships and aliens and Star Trek, but can be an insight into where the human race might be heading - how can that not be fascinating?
How many Harry Potter books have you read?
Zilch. I'm not hugely into hype of any description, and I did kind of dismiss these as children's books. The films were enjoyable, but if they stick as true to the story as people say, then it's certainly not an original idea. However, Asda currently has the first few for just over £3, and I must admit I've been tempted to just pick up the first one to try. I do enjoy a bit of regression in my reading from time to time! Terry Pratchett's Amazing Maurice is sitting on my
shelf, and I have to say, His Dark Materials trilogy was pretty darn brilliant. That's a lot for this Potter to live up to.
(Incidentally, it irritated me greatly that people - *especially* children - were saying HP was so much better than Lord of the Rings. Can we say, genre-invention versus derivative rehashing?) ;)
Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies?
If people do interesting things in their lives we tend to hear about them anyway. I do think some people might have absolutely fascinating autobiographies, but I can't be bothered searching for them - I'm more concerned with trying to get my own life together, frankly. And even if someone *has* done really amazing and inspiring things with their life - it's surely only going to depress me when I compare it to how little I've accomplished myself! And, please - don't get me started on this new fad of every very-slightly-famous-for-five-minutes sort writing an autobiography at the ripe old age of 15 or whatever!
One the other hand, my one close call with the genre is a book called The Agony and The Ecstasy by Irving Stone - an account of the life of Michaelangelo. I read it before visiting Florence, and it really appealed to me - a lot of true stuff, but enough 'story' to make it entertaining, too.
Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child?
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - even if it had to be read to me first time round! Enid Blyton featured highly in there, I'm sure. Urm... I'm really bad for remembering *so* much about the plot, but not having a clue about the title or author, to be honest! For instance, although I now know it was the first of The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamara Pierce, I spent years being able to name the characters, describe the pl
ot to a tee
- and didn't have a clue! It was hugely irritating, as I fell in love with the first book as a child, and was never able to find the continuation of the story. I rather imagine it's too late now and I might find them dull. There was one about a girl whose parents owned a hotel, and the annex (I remember learning that word from this book!) they take over was 'haunted' - well, a cupboard door wouldn't stay shut, and a stain on the floor wouldn't wash away. The girl somehow ends up in a deserted glade or somesuch, where a horse whisks her back to the past where she can see what happened in her home. See? Weird memory I have!
Others include The Snow Spider, The Little White Horse (can't remember the authors, sorry!), and one that I'm convinced was called The Black Horn (despite having no mention on any website I can find!), about a boy and girl who find a black unicorn's horn that leads them to a cavern under a large black stone on a hillside, in which is the last unicorn encased in a block of ice. The villain of the piece was called Pettigrew and always wore sunglasses - we discover at the end he has no eyelids!
I remember a set of teenie little picture books called The Magic Wishing Well, and every Sunday I'd stay in bed eating brown sauce sandwiches for breakfast colouring in the little pictures at the bottom of each page of story. Did anyone else ever read those?
And finally, how could I forget the Narnia books? :)
Have you reread these books as a grown-up?
I can't even remember half of them! Urm, no - I'm afraid of losing happy memories and being totally disillusioned by childhood fantasies that don't live up to adult thinking. For a start, I remember finding out that Narnia was a huge Christian allegory - I really don't want to have to read an old favourite with that knowledge in my brain! Oh, the exception wo
uld be Tolkien's work - it's 'aged' very well.
Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you?
Gosh, this has to be the hardest question! I'm trying to think of the ways in which a book might have influenced me. Well, I always had an above-average vocabulary for my age at school, and an innate grasp of grammar, just from constantly having my nose in a book.
I did (do!) want to be a writer for a long time - goodness knows, I might even try it again sometime! At the moment, writing economic reports at work puts me 'write' off, and I haven't even managed a proper review for here in a while...
Anyway. I remember I used to love Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers and St. Claire's books, and tried to write a school story. Then I was a huge Stephen King fan, and used to try writing horror. Then I fell in love with the more imaginative genres and would like nothing better than to be able to think of an even slightly novel approach to a fantasy story!
Influences are easier to pick up as a child, I think. I remember wanting to go to boarding school, and wanting to be a witch - don't laugh, I was little! I think that in the end cooking was enough of a 'fix' - close enough to mixing potions, at any rate! When you get older, it's perhaps easier to be influenced by non-fiction - I read a strange book recently called Health Wars by Philip Day, and I must admit it gave me a lot to think about in terms of nutrition, etc. However, I'm much too cynical to accept that my view of life should be very much changed by one other person's views.
Which are your favourite authors?
Totally depends. As I've said, past favourites include Stephen King, who I really don't care too much for on the whole now (although - Wolves of the Calla, out now, waiting for my
copy to arrive!).
So... right now, and in no particular order: Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F Hamilton, JRR Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Robin Hobb, Dan Simmons, Katharine Kerr *draws breath* ohh, and probably a dozen more than I'll remember in a minute!
Which book would you take with you on a desert island?
How long am I going to be stuck there? I read fast, you know - and although I do enjoy re-reading books, I like a bit of a gap! Urm... I'm due a re-read of the nice and thick Lord of the Rings, after I see Return of the King (I don't want the story too fresh in my mind going in to the cinema). I've also got two very nice copies of The Illium and The Odyssey that I keep meaning to actually get round to!
Actually, if you'll let me take all my boxes of books, I'll go quite happily and sit on that island for a year or so! :)
What is your attitude towards translations?
Mixed. Seeing as I have little ability in any foreign language (je suis nulle en francais, and a couple of rude things in German and Spanish!), anything that puts the unreadable into an understandable form (urm... are there translations of Shakespeare, perchance?!) should be classed as a good thing. The horror of having to read books in French at school... it totally sucks the soul out of them when you don't really 'get' the language, so if someone can do a decent translation then that is a wonderful thing - we shouldn't be deprived of a good story just because of where we live.
Saying that, the most recent translation I read was one of Christian Jacque's Ramses books, and it was awful. It was really stilted, so I'm not sure if that was the fault of the translation.
Do you buy your books/
get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them?
I steal all my books. Okay, not really, but it would make a huge difference to my bank balance!
Was big on libraries when I had no money, but then moved miles away from any. Discovered that I couldn't remember the books I borrowed and enjoyed in case I wanted to read them again, so at least if I buy them I know I can find them again! Started my journey into the fantasy fiction realm with a lot of borrowing from friends, but got my own now! Joined a book club years ago and still have a backlog - I adore buying books, I love shiny new books - all I can say is, at least I've never paid full price for one!
I seem to have come full circle again, though - if someone handy has a bookshelf full of books I wouldn't mind reading - why not? (As long as they don't mind, natch) - which is why I'm now reading things like the Bone Collector. It's a good way of broadening my genres without spending even more money. And - moving to a city, planning on joining the library. If nothing else, I really want to get my hands on their collection of art books to inspire myself to start painting :)
When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books?
Two issues: price and size. And waiting - okay three issues! Have you ever tried reading a hardback in the bath? Those things are heavy! I'm split on this one: hardbacks are out quicker, last longer and look nice - paperbacks can get really tatty quite quickly. They cost too much, though! Sometimes I just don't have the patience to wait, or occasionally I know that the paperback will just be too thick or split in two (and therefore even more expensive). I go through phases of totally preferring paperbacks, just 'cos they're more 'comfortable', if that makes sense. And finally, even though they
're not mentioned
- soft covers. What a waste of time - still pricey (about £11, usually), every bit as big and cumbersome to hold as hardbacks, but with a cover that'll "tattify" as quick as a paperback! ;)
Oh, and I like sets. So if, for example, I have the first nine books of the Drenai series in paperback, no matter how much I want to read the newest one, I'm not buying it in hardback! ;)
Have you ever tried Audio Books?
Nope. They cost a bomb, you know! Really, I prefer being able to go at my own pace. Reading seems a lot less passive that just listening to a tape, and I'm not sure I could sit still and concentrate in that case. Maybe one day I'll borrow something from the library and have a go? Actually, the local cheap bookshop (Banana books, if proxam or other Livingston-local readers are present ;)) have a 3-for-£10 offer on at the moment, which I believe is quite good. They have two Iain Banks ones, but I still don't think I'm that tempted.
And... (this challenge is like Chinese whispers, with odd questions showing up at the end for no apparent reason ;) )
Last book you bought/read?
A: Rarely the same thing in my case - I think I have a few books on my groaning shelves (or rather, packed in boxes at the moment waiting for the move!) that I bought urm... more than two years ago (*shame*) and still haven't got 'round to. Not that I don't want to read them - I just keep buying them faster than I can keep up with myself!
Last book I finished reading was Space by Stephen Baxter (urm... four stars!), and currently have both The Sword of Shannara (Terry Brooks) and The Coffin Dancer (Jeffrey Deaver) on the go - don't like reading the latter before bed, you see - and equally get a little embarrassed being seen with the former at work! ;)
Bought: well, still
waiting for the delivery, but I had to have the new Dark Tower book - Wolves of the Calla - by Stephen King! Unfortunately it's £25 (!!) but Amazon's half price was much nicer! For the free postage (spend £25 or more) I got two others - Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet (as so many people go on about it!) and The Windsingers by Megan Lindholm (aka Robin Hobb) 'cos I have the rest of the series already.
And - next book I plan to buy is Robin Hobb's Fool's Fate - saw how thick the hardback was and decided it was worth the tenner Amazon are charging! :)
And finally a word from our sponsor:
"This challenge was originally set by MALU, please join in, read other people's entries and pass the challenge on to another bookworm!
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