Add This

Monday, December 05, 2005

15 Things About Books

Jill tagged me and Lori is already on it, so here’s my list.

15. Reading is my drug. It takes me to places outside of myself and introduces me to people I want to meet. I’ve been mesmerized for as long as I can remember. My mother was always frustrated by my singular focus on reading. My husband’s suffering is much the same and he is forever saying, “You’ve got your nose buried in a book again.” Most days I fret that my life will slip away before I can read all that interests me.

14. When my sister and I were visiting a Georgetown bookstore in 1998, she found a shirt with the illustration of a woman with very big hair surrounded by books. It said “Book Woman.” Jen was laughing hysterically and said, “Oh my God, this is you, Wen!” It showed up as a Christmas gift for me later that year. I wear it proudly as a nightshirt.

13. I thought I knew good fiction until I was introduced to the grand dame, Edith Wharton. My dad brought me the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of her after visiting her home at The Mount I couldn’t put the book down and instantly fell in love with her as a woman and a writer. She wrote about complicated relationship in which there are no happy endings. And her writing touched my soul. Someone (and you know who you are) still has one of my Edith books in their possession.

12. In 1997, I spent six hours at Faulkner House Books in the French Quarter. The entire time was spent talking about literature with the owner Joe DeSalvo and one of his best patrons, a surgeon from Baton Rouge. It was such a memorable day that when my husband visited a few months later, Joe remembered me. He sent Danny home with some fabulous reads – great southern fiction, which is a great favorite of mine. As Frances Mayes said, the south embraces and celebrates its eccentrics.

11. I decorate my house with books. And I have a rule that I don’t decorate with them unless I’ve first read them. The only exception is that I’ve not read all of “Herodotus.” Every time I watch Ralph Feinnes in “The English Patient,” I read another section of “Herodotus.” (As an aside, that is one HOT movie. Another favorite, based on a book is Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Age of Innocence." Phew!)

10. I own one first edition: Edith Wharton’s “The Children,” published in 1928.

9. “Anna Karenina,” “Portrait of a Lady” and “A Farewell to Arms,” made me weep for several days after I finished reading them.

8. “The Sun Also Rises” is one of my most favorite books of all time. Others include, “The House of Mirth,” “Possession,” “Little Women,” “Jane Eyre,” “The Red Tent,” “Cold Mountain,” “Memoirs of Geisha,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Alchemist,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “A Lost Lady.”

7. The first Faulkner book I read was “The Sound and Fury.” I don’t get the entire story, but I liked it and would love to discuss with someone who better understands the story.

6. The summer before my senior year in college I was working as a receptionist at a construction company and I read oodles of books to kill time. My favorite from that time and one I’ve read three times since is “Lady of Hay,” by Barbara Erskine. It’s about a skeptical British magazine journalist who gets hypnotized through past-life regression and learns she was a 13th-century noblewoman living in Wales. Not sure what that says about me.

5. Best novel to screenplay adaptation: “Pride and Prejudice” The BBC version broadcast on A&E in the mid-’90s was a nearly word-for-word script. And yes, I had my book in hand one of the several times I’ve watched that mini-series to compare. I’m sorry, but Jennifer Ehle is the quintessential Elizabeth Bennett and Colin Firth the sexiest of all Mr. Darcys. I’m reluctant to see the new film version for just that reason. Though I’ll make a concession to see what happens cinematically to “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

4. I’m known for doing some pretty great voices when I read to the kids (and in their classes). “James and Giant Peach” is one of my best. Before the movies came out I did some wicked-good Harry Potter voices.

3. Just finished reading “The Other Boleyn Girl,” which was an amazing book. It’s 600+ pages, but a great read. Also top-notch this year was “The Kite Runner.”

2. I read an average of two books per week – one is usually a review book, the other for pleasure. Usually my pleasure reading is reserved for just before bed.

1. Currently on my “to read” stack are:

“The Year of Magical Thinking,” by Joan Didion
“The Fourth Hand,” by John Irving
“Ernest Hemingway: The Short Stories”
“Dr. Zhivago,” by Boris Pasternak
“Engaging with Merton: A Year in Tom’s Hermitage,” by M. Basil Pennington
“Opus Dei,” by John Allen (review book)


Jill said...

Lovely list and memories, Wendy. About #11 and Ralph Fiennes and books: I've lost count of how many times I've read Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. I think I've seen the movie two or three times. Hmm, time to rent it again me thinks.

Wendy Hoke said...

Thanks, Jill. Graham Greene is another favorite. This summer I read "The Heart of the Matter." Wow! And I've seen "The End of the Affair" several times. That whole lovemaking scene during the bombing raid is pretty hot.

Now the real trouble is in limiting this to just 15 things. Lord knows I could easily add to the list. For example:

1. I like reading about writing. "Writing About Your Life," by William Zinsser is a treasured gift.

2. I've been known to lose hours scouring my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations for that perfect quote to express a mood or feeling.

3. My hidden desire is to chuck all this journalism and write a novel, something that touches across time.

4. I enjoy poetry when someone else reads it to me. My favorite is a W.B. Yeats poem, "When You Are Old."

5. Russian literature makes sense to me, even through all the propaganda sprinkled about a Dostoyevsky novel. Must be the Cossack blood in me.

6. When I was 12, my mom gave me "Are You There God It's Me, Margaret?" and I read it in a day, sprawled atop our picnic table in the backyard. Later that summer, I snuck Judy Blume's "Forever" out of my mom's dresser drawer, crouched in her walk-in closet and read it like a drug.

7. I think Shakespeare was downright hilarious. "Much Ado About Nothing" is my favorite. I took a class on Shakespeare my freshman year in college. As a parting gift, my professor gave me a 5 x7 glossy of Laurence Olivier as "Hamlet."

8. I've read Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" several times and each time I find myself having difficulty reconciling the strong woman in that piece with the one who took her own life.

9. I tend to read a lot about writers I really like. I have biographies of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bronte (Charlotte), Woolf, Wharton, James. After finishing Jodi Piccoult's "My Sister's Keeper" I had to visit her Web site. Turns out she's my age with three kids near in age to mine and has been churning out novels at a rate of two per year. Wow!

10. If there's one period in literature that I like best, I'd say early 20th century American (and British) fiction.

I could go on and on...

Wendy Hoke said...

And I really like biographies of great women in history. Elizbeth I and Catherine the Great (Catherine was one of my girl names. I would call her Cate.) are two that come to mind.

Jill said...

That comment looks like a carnival entry to me. ;)

Wendy Hoke said...

Sure. But I don't really know anything about the carnival. I'm sorry, I've not had time to follow. :(