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Xalala's verdict on the literature challenge
Member Name: xalala
Date: 06/04/04, updated on 08/02/05 (62 review reads)
Advantages: So many books...
Disadvantages: So little time!
I can’t possibly miss the chance to witter on endlessly about books I have known and loved. And some I haven’t enjoyed quite so much. It does appear to have turned into quite a mammoth op, sorry about that!
“A house without books is like a room without windows.” – Horace Mann.
I’ve always read books. Sometimes not even books – in desperation I’ve even resorted to the back of the cornflakes packet. Just ask me what the ingredients are. ;o) I was lucky growing up – my parents house was always full of books to read, and the school and local library were there for the taking.
Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado:
THE LITERATURE CHALLENGE...
Question: What is your favourite genre?
There are so many to choose from. I think my problem is that I’m not remotely picky or proud when it comes to reading. I generally find something to enjoy or learn from in every book I read – yes, even the Mills and Boon, pure escapism – fairy tales for adults.
Overall, I’d say my favourite genre is SF/Fantasy – this is purely based on the number of books that I reread on a regular basis that fall into this category.
Q: Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century?
Yes. But why limit oneself to defining classics as merely great authors of the 18th and 19th century? There were authors in the 17th century and earlier that I think are worth reading, and many more from the 20th that I would consider “classics”. What about Chaucer, Aphra Behn, Sheridan’s School for Scandal, Rabelais’ Garga
ntua and Pantagruel? Shakespeare’s early works? Classics don't necessarily come in novel form.
I’ve read and enjoyed (most of) Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters (although I hate Wuthering Heights, both song and book), George Eliot (hated Middlemarch, enjoyed Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner etc). Some of Dickens I have enjoyed – Great Expectations, Hard Times, Bleak House, David Copperfield and several others. For some reason, A Tale of Two Cities is doing nothing for me, I’ve been reading it for about a year and have stopped making progress. Should I continue – views anyone? I can’t stand Thomas Hardy, I find his style impenetrable and his prose pedestrian.
Some of the above I read as part of my degree (it’s in English and French – literature and language). Some of it I got a taste for and read “on my own time”, as it were.
Q: Are you interested in thrillers?
Hrm, how do you define a thriller? I enjoy reading Michael Crichton’s books and am currently rereading Timeline. I like Robert Harris – Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, and am looking forward to reading Pompeii when I get my hands on it.
I’ve enjoyed Tom Clancy books, although I think they’ve gone off the boil in more recent years. Michael Cordy’s Miracle Strain was intriguing, and Robin Cook’s medical thrillers are usually a good yarn. I have a soft spot for Jack Higgins, and only recently read The Eagle Has Landed. See, I told you I wasn’t picky!
Q: What about horror stories?
I’ve read Frank
enstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but they didn’t do a huge amount for me. It’s a genre I will read, but probably not in preference to other genres available at the time.
Q: Do you read science fiction?
Yes, probably far too much for my own good. I love Terry Pratchett books, and have just finished his latest, Monstrous Regiment – good but very different to the average Discworld romp. I read Anne McCaffery regularly, particularly the Brainships and Pern novels.
Other authors include David (and Leigh) Eddings, Orson Scott Card, Robin Hobb, Douglas Adams (the trilogy in five parts), Raymond E Feist, Tom Holt and Tad Williams. Recently, I have added Garth Nix (Sabriel, Lirael) and Philip Pullman to the list too. I seem to have an inbuilt weakness for chivalry, high romance and quests. And then, of course, there’s J K Rowling. Speaking of which…
Q: How many Harry Potter books have you read?
All of them. I picked up the first book in paperback at Birmingham New Street station when I was at university. Read it, loved it, and have bought the rest of them in hardback as soon as they’re out. In fact, book 5 involved a trip to Tesco at just gone midnight. The queue was huge!
This does mean that I have first editions of books 2, 4 and 5, and a second imprint (I think) of book 3. However all have been read and reread many times by various members of the family, so aren’t in great condition and probably not worth much! Ah well.
Q: Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies?
Yes, although I often think that “enjoyed”
; is the wrong word when it comes to biographies. Wild Swans is a fantastic book, but I sat reading it in tears much of the time. Same goes for Dave Pelzer’s books – A Child Called It etc. Maybe I’m just soppy. I’ve also read things like Fermat’s Last Theorem, Nathanial’s Nutmeg, and The Map that Changed the World which I’m not sure are strictly biographies, but do fill many of the criteria.
The first autobiography I read was probably Roald Dahl’s Boy, followed by Going Solo. The most recent was (I think) Stephen Fry’s Moab Is My Washpot.
Q: Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child?
Not only do I remember them, I still own most of them. I read and reread things like Enid Blyton (Mallory Towers, St Clares, Mr Galliano’s Circus), Noel Streatfield (Ballet Shoes, Tennis Shoes, Curtain Up), the Chalet School series, Agatha Christie books and many, many more. I Am David made a huge impression on me.
I was never restricted on what I could read as a kid – I remember reading MASH at the age of 10 or 11. I didn’t understand much of the humour, but still enjoyed it. Danielle Steele was another author I read around the same age, although I haven’t read anything by her for years now. My mum introduced me to Jean Auel books shortly afterwards, which kept me going for a couple of weeks.
Q: Have you re-read these books as a grown-up?
I’ve reread I Am David (and it still has a similar effect on me now), a couple of the Chalet School ones and the Noe
l Streatfield ones when on holiday. The Malory Towers and St Clares books are packed away in my parents loft, and I live about 200 miles away, and the Agatha Christie books are still on the shelves in my old bedroom there.
Q: Is there a book of which you can say it has
Books have influenced me in many ways. When I read a book, it expands or challenges my view of the world; I change as a result of reading the book. I don’t think there’s one I could choose over all others here.
Q: Which are your favourite authors?
Terry Pratchett would probably be top of the list. So would Shakespeare, for his stamina in remaining a top-selling author so many years down the line. I rate Roald Dahl pretty highly, and I think that J K Rowling deserves to be there or there abouts, since she has almost single-handedly got many more children reading again.
Q: Which book would you take with you on a desert island?
Complete Works of Shakespeare (Oxford Edition). Is that cheating? Am I allowed The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company as a companion volume?
Q: What is your attitude towards translations?
I have mixed feelings about translations. I don’t like the fact that many of them are abridged, but don’t make that fact clear on the cover. I have read fine translations, done sensitively and with a respect for the original material, and I have read atrocious translations, when referring back to the source material highlights the lack of understanding of the content.
I prefer translations with a light touch, that do not translate things like place names, character names etc unless there is a
specific reason (for example, they are a pun or inherent to a joke or point the author is making that would otherwise be missed). I’m not sure about changing references to be more relevant to the target audience – I think that is a step too far in interfering with the original, but again, there may be other reasons for it.
I think that much depends on how closely involved the author is with the translator, and whether the translator can approach them for clarification and so on. Which is, obviously, more difficult if they’re dead!
Q: Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them?
All of the above! Well, possibly apart from the stealing. I tend to buy books, or borrow them from friends and family. I use the library particularly when trying out a new author, or when I need a book for reference or to read for a book club discussion.
Q: When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books?
Depends on the author. Terry Pratchett books I get as soon as they are released in hardback, a couple of other authors get the same treatment. I guess that makes them my favourite authors? Others, I am happy enough to wait for paperbacks or go to the library.
Q: Have you ever tried Audio Books?
I haven’t, but I wouldn’t be averse to trying them. The problem is that I rarely have the time or opportunity to listen to audio books when I couldn’t be reading instead. I don’t drive to work (I get the bus, and I can read a book on that!), and rarely drive the car long distances (so again, if I’m sat in the passenger seat I can read).
I think that one problem I might have with them is that all the characters in my favourite books already have voices/charact
ers that I have imagined while reading. Any audio recording is going to have to work hard to make me believe that the voices I hear are correct for the characters.
Q: This challenge didn't originally ask you to name your favourite books, but I think, for the sake of completeness, I should add this!
Favourite books, in no particular order are (I’ve limited myself to one book per author):
Nightwatch, by Terry Pratchett
I Am David, by Anne Holm
His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman (OK, OK, it’s a trilogy, I know…)
Domesday Book, by Connie Willis (read thanks to KarenUK’s review of it)
Timeline, by Michael Crichton
PastWatch, by Orson Scott Card
The Miracle Strain, by Michael Cordy
Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe
The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot
The Book of the Duchess*, by Geoffrey Chaucer
La Peste (Plague), by Albert Camus
Huis Clos* (In Camera), by Jean-Paul Sartre
Beckett*, by Jean Anouilh
1984, by George Orwell
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof*, by Tennessee Williams
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
Catch 22, by Joseph Heller
and that’s just the one’s that spring to mind…
*Not novels, but still included here – it’s the literature challenge, after all.
PS This challenge was originally set by MALU. Please join in, read other people’s entries and pa
ss the challenge on to another bookworm!
“Miss a meal if you have to, but don't miss a book.”
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