I was really worried that the projected end of the world would mean I would get to never finish The Anatomy of Melancholy, but then I woke up the next day to blue skies and sunshine so I think I’m safe for awhile. At least this wrong prediction was science based and didn’t involve a mythical supreme being in a fit of pique.
So this morning I was futzing on the internet, picked up a survey that must be going around (A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff), and unasked decided to pop it into my weblog and answer the questions as truthfully as possible. Here it is:
1. Best Book You Read In 2012:
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. No question.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
First, I look on books I haven’t read yet with guarded anticipation and can’t imagine why I might ever be “excited” by a book; nor do I ever hope to apply the term “love” to a book. But to provide an answer to the question: I read Spurious by Lars Iyer and was disappointed that it didn’t meet up with my expectations or the hype printed on the back cover.
3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?
I was surprised at the literary values exhibited in The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, but I don’t buy the myth that a fourteen year old girl wrote the whole thing without assistance, especially in editing.
4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?
I was amazed at the parallels that could be drawn between the struggle of socialism against the Iron Heel of capitalism with current events. Jack London is an uneven writer but the message of this book is very important today.
5. Best series you discovered in 2012?
When is a series all the books written by an author? I nominate Henry Roth as writing the best (not) series I have read in years. From Call It Sleep through Mercy of a Rude Stream and finishing with An American Type, Roth is a great American writer.
6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?
I have to stick with Henry Roth but since I already pointed to him as Best Series, I’ll add Ann Quin here. Quin only wrote four novels and then disappeared off Brighton Beach but the four novels demonstrate a less conforming approach to fiction that most other British writers at the time. Good stuff.
7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
This is a difficult question because my comfort zone when it comes to fiction is often other readers’ gag zone. But I suppose this means that a novel such as The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge was memorable because I successfully completed it without resorting to drugs or mayhem.
8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?
I read a couple of books at one sitting or close to it (I fell asleep) but I would hardly call them thrilling. In my world any book described as a page-turner is relegated to the fluff list and subsequently used to line the compost can. But to at least approximate an answer to this question, I select Rosemary’s Jungle Torture by Martin Hughes: porn should be read in one sitting (thrilling? I’m too old for that).
9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year
Sorry. Here I have no answer because if I was reading to stay in my comfort zone I would simply alternate Ulysses with Nympho Librarian; unless it’s for an academic reason, I very seldom chose to waste my reading time on something I already read … no matter how good it made me feel the previous time I read it.
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?
Ignoring the fact that the impressive covers are as likely to convince you to purchase a bad book, I do have a favorite cover but I didn’t read it this year (it’s the older cover of La Vie mode d’emploi by Georges Perec in the Livre de Poche edition). I also like the series books with a picture flowing across the spines for maximum decorating value and to aid in returning a volume to the correct slot on your bookshelf (I keep one edition of À la recherche du temps perdu on the mantel for just this reason). Since digital books are supplanting paper & ink books, I predict that this question is doomed.
11. Most memorable character in 2012?
Palafox, although he’s very hard to describe (you have to read Chevillard’s novel to understand this).
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?
I might say, Journey to the Center of Agnes Cuddlebottom by Mykle Hansen, since it it very much the opposite of beautiful writing, (unless you are enamored with the inside of a colon), but I will instead suggest a writer who is very skillful and imaginative in his prose: i never knew what time it was by David Antin. Beautifully written does NOT mean highly poetic and full of flowery imagery.
13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?
Definitely Absalom, Absalom! because it came at a time when I was slipping away from the power of William Faulkner and forgetting that there actually is some American literature that can compete with the rest of the world. Besides, Absalom Absalom! is a great novel no matter what pipe tobacco the author smoked.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?
Again, Absalom Absalom! by William Faulkner.
15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?
Ann Quin started her fist novel, Berg, with what I consider one of the strongest opening lines in literature: “A man called Berg, who changed his name to Greb, came to a seaside town intending to kill his father…”
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2012?
I have had some short novels take weeks to finish while some long novels just whip by, so this question is problematic in its asking. But the shortest work I read this year might be An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec. Sit down on a busy corner in Paris and write down everything you see over a couple of hours. Print it up in a quarter-size book (A7?) like a Little Big Book but with far fewer pages and smaller print. This one, despite my general aversion, is good to reread. It was an OULIPO experiment but I think it’s a good exercise for anyone that considers writing.
The longest book I read might not have more pages than other selections but it took me the longest and the most effort. I recommend it to all but with the caveat that it is a bit of a challenge: The Great Fire of London by Jacques Roubaud
17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?
I haven’t been set reeling from a scene in a book since I would sneak my Dad’s porno and read it under the covers at night with a Fleshlight. One book I read that I did want to discuss with someone was D’entre les Morts by Boileau and Narcejac. The reason for this is that the French book was the basis of Alfred Hitchcock’s excellent movie, Vertigo. Since my daughter, who teaches film at the university, wrote apart of his PhD thesis on Vertigo, I wanted to discuss the differences between the novel and the movie the next time we were together (which could have been problematic since we don’t even live in the same state).
18. Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
It’s Fiction! We don’t need these book-club questions (although I did relate to The Nonexistent Knight).
19. Favourite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously:
I’m not sure of the logic of this question but I’ll assume it wants me to select a novel by a writer I was already familiar with which is my favorite, not when compared to the author’s other work but when compared with the other books I read this year that were also written by an author I had already read (although what if I hadn’t read an author until this last year and then read several of the same author’s works … does that count?). No matter: I will offer Wonder Wonderful Life by Elfriede Jelinek. I read The Piano Teacher a couple of years back and could then see why the author was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. With Wonderful Wonderful Life I am even more impressed.
20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
This is a tough one because I don’t have too many books recommended to me that I would even consider reading. One, however, came to me in a list from a woman in Germany who suggested several titles of German Erzähnlung fiction, brütt, or The Sighing Gardens by Friederike Mayröcker. This is fascinating and challenging literature.
This questionnaire had a couple of other parts that related to the experiences of maintaining a weblog and what might be in store for the future. I will only say that I published a lengthy list of titles I had not read which showed up in a good many Top 100 lists. I hope to make some significant attacks on that list and I at the same time hope to empty a few more shelves in my bookshelves to make room for a new espresso machine in the library. Oh, it would be advantageous if I wrote a lot more.