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Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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october 1, 2012
There's a survey making the rounds on the Internet right now, 55 questions about people's reading habits. I first became aware of the survey on Pete Tennant's blog Trumpetville, which I heartily recommend. Enjoyed his answers, and decided I'd give it a try.
1. Favourite childhood book?
I loved all the Hardy Boy books. Once I collected my paperboy money each Friday I'd walk into town, make the rounds of all the local thrift shops (where you could buy a used hardback for a quarter.) I'd always get excited swinging open the front cover of a newly discovered book in the series. Let's solve a mystery! And investigate the long-abandoned water tower north of town. They were a lot of fun. And science fiction, although these were paperbacks. I stopped going to church when I was about ten. I'd get dressed and go out the front door telling my mom I was going to church, but I'd have a science fiction paperback jammed in the back pocket of my trousers. Once I got near the church (St. Mary's on Greenwich Avenue), I'd veer down a side street, pull out my book, and stumble along the sidewalks for an hour, visiting another planet, sometimes another galaxy. My mother eventually found out about my deception - a friend told her she had spotted me walking, reading, when I was supposed to be at mass. I explained to my mother I didn't want to attend church anymore, and she accepted that. If it made her sad, she never showed me. She was actually an incredibly good mother, which I realize more and more as I age.
As I got a little older, probably still pre-teen, I read and loved Charles G. Finney's The Circus of Dr. Lao, and Terry Southern's The Magic Christian. A short while after that I read Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and those three novels probably influenced me the most.
2. What are you reading right now?
I'm not reading any books at present. Just magazine and Internet articles. Before that, I reread James Harriot's All Creatures Great and Small during a power outage.
3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I haven't been in a library in years. I don't even know if I would be allowed in a library anymore. I have a bad reputation, library-wise, of returning books late.
4. Bad book habit?
Mary and I have over a thousand books in our home, all of them loved, but I don't dust them enough. Especially their top edges. So that would be my worse book habit, not dusting my books as often as they deserve.
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
I hope nothing, because as I've said, it's been years since I've been inside a library, and I don't want to even imagine what the accumulated fines would be at this point.
6. Do you have an e-reader?
No. Nothing against them, their benefits are obvious, they're the shot in the arm publishing needs right now, but I'm more of a hold it in your hands, smell the spine type guy.
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I prefer reading one book at a time, because I think it's unfair to authors to mix up two or more worlds.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not since starting a blog. But since entering the Internet, I find I do read more stories and articles online. Which I enjoy. I've never had an issue with eyestrain. But I do wish there were more personal blogs on the Internet. People talking about their day to day lives.
9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)?
Nothing comes to mind.
10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Probably Where Are We Going?, edited by Allen Ashley, published by Eibonvale Press.
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I don't really have a comfort zone. I'm an uncomfortable guy. I'll read anything that interests me. Most of what I read now are biographies, autobiographies, letters, critical analysis.
12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Don't have one.
13. Can you read on the bus?
I haven't been on a bus in thirty years. The few times Mary and I have been without a car, we've used taxicabs, or rental cars. As a child I suffered from car sickness when I read, so I suspect if I were on a bus, and I started reading, I'd get motion sickness.
14. Favourite place to read?
Just about anywhere. Reading isn't about where you're sitting. It's about where you're going.
15. What is your policy on book lending?
I don't lend, whether it's books or money. If I'm so inclined, I'll give someone a book or money, but I won't lend it. Too many hard feelings when you don't get it back. And the truth is, you never get it back.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I put a piece of paper where I left off. I love books too much to inflict even the mildest pain on them.
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
18. Not even with text books?
19. What is your favourite language to read in?
English. I studied French, Latin, Spanish and German growing up, in school, but that was too ambitious, at least for me. I should have stuck with only one, and mastered it.
20. What makes you love a book?
As I start to read a book I form an opinion of the author. Are they creative? Honest? Truly talented? The degree to which they are or aren't plays a big part in how much I like a book. But even more than that, I guess it's a question of how interested I become in the world the author is creating. With the best books, once you read about that world, you can go back into it, in your imagination, and go on your own voyages.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
If I think someone would really enjoy it, based on what I know about them. It's a bit like setting someone up on a blind date, only without any danger of a sexually transmitted disease.
22. Favourite genre?
I don't really think in terms of genre. Either a story is great, or it isn't.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Well, I rarely read a certain type of contemporary "literary" fiction, where the writing is very casual, almost to the point of sloppiness, most of the story is too enthralled with its own quirkiness, and you get sentences that have been created just to celebrate their own cleverness. I love sentences--they can be sizzling steaks, ready to be eaten--but some of the sentences I read nowadays in the current school of literary fiction are too artificial. Too deliberately outrageous. Drag queeny.
24. Favourite biography?
Oh my God. What a question. Maybe Lawrence Sutin's Divine Invasions, A Biography of Philip K. Dick. Fascinating life, conscientious biographer. And I also really enjoyed Brian Boyd's two-volume biography of Nabokov, and Tim Hilton's two-volume biography of John Ruskin.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Many, many. The self-help books for technical issues about software, gardening, electrical wiring sometimes help solve a problem, though not as often as you would think. The "how to be a better person" ones obviously haven't worked.
26. Favourite cookbook?
Has to be Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, his first cookbook, which introduced Cajun and Creole cooking to the world. Mary and I have found more dependable recipes in that book than any other cookbook we've ever read. We almost met him, once. Mary met one of his cousins on a different occasion, and the cousin had a lot of illuminating things to say about Paul. I love his passion for cooking, and the amount of thought he puts into the cooking process. He's constantly coming up with new techniques.
27. Most inspirational book you've read this year?
I get inspired all the time, but it's hard to think of a specific book I read this year that I would consider to be a great source of inspiration.
28. Favourite reading snack?
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
A lot of books that get hyped as "brilliant" are to me, once I read them, not that good. I wish they were. I want everyone to succeed.
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
It wholly depends on the critic.
31. How do you feel about giving bad or negative reviews?
I very rarely write reviews, so it really isn't an issue for me. But if a book is bad, it's bad. Nothing's going to change that.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, what language would you choose?
Latin. Because there's such a wealth of great ideas in the classics, and of course a lot of the nuance is muffled in translation. I wish we had more translations from Latin that were like Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.
33. Most intimidating book you ever read?
The most challenging book I've ever read has to be Finnegan's Wake. I appreciate the concept, but it clearly would require an enormous amount of time to fully understand, and I suspect the effort would not be worth it.
34. Most intimidating book you're too nervous to begin?
I don't know that there's any book that intimidates me. It's not like a book is going to punch me in the face. I'll give any book a try, and if it's not for me, I'll either reshelf it or take it out in the backyard, douse it with holy water, and burn it.
35. Favourite poet?
Is it possible to have a single favorite poet? Why can't you just have poets you really enjoy? In terms of modern poets, it's probably Auden, James Merrill and Ogden Nash.
36. How many books do you have checked out of the library at any given time?
Wow, there's a lot of library-related questions in this survey! Is the survey sponsored by a library? When I used to check books out of the library, as many as they'd allow. I'd show up at the front desk balancing a stack as tall as a Dagwood sandwich.
37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
Not that often, actually.
38. Favourite fictional character?
Humbert Humbert. He really shows, better than any other book, what you can do with a first person narrative.
39. Favourite fictional villain?
Humbert Humbert. Especially since so many readers fall into the trap of finding him likeable.
40. Books you're most likely to bring on vacation?
Guides to where we're visiting. We don't read when we go on vacation. We visit the sites at that location. Isn't that the point to going on vacation? I can read when we get back home.
41. The longest I've gone without reading?
The amount of time I spend sleeping, which varies quite a bit.
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish?
Any book written by a "new atheist." I was an atheist for several decades, although no longer, so I'm not unsympathetic, but Jesus Christ, somebody please pat these guys on their head and tell them you think you hear their mother calling them. That degree of intolerant, absolute certainty in one's own beliefs never leads to anything good (judging from history.) We need more doubt in the world.
43. What distracts you when you're reading?
Ninjas breaking feet first through the glass of my skylight; the living dead pounding on my back door, screaming for me to come out; Mary's smile; a new noise coming from somewhere downstairs.
44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
I thought Polanski's Rosemary's Baby was really well done. A very faithful adaptation, even to the dialog, except for the ending.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
I have no idea. If I've read the book and then see the film adaptation, I expect to be disappointed. Doesn't everyone?
46. The most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
Probably a hundred bucks. Money well spent.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
All the time. I read the opening paragraphs, then peek within the depths, to gauge the writing style.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
I realize I don't care about the characters.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I have fiction upstairs in my study, shelved by author's name in floor to ceiling bookcases that fill all the study's walls. In various other sections of the house we have film and TV studies, art books, science books, true crime, cook books, gardening books. Excess books are stored in the garage, along one long wall.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you've read them?
I keep them. I'm selfish that way. I like seeing them on their shelves.
51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
I've never crossed the street to avoid running into a book.
52. Name a book that made you angry?
There are many social encounters in life that can make you angry, but I've never been made angry by a book. Thank God. I don't need that extra anger.
53. A book you didn't expect to like, but did?
I wouldn't read a book I didn't expect to like. Who would do that?
54. A book that you expected to like but didn't?
I thought Nabokov's Look At The Harlequins was a bit too self-indulgent.
55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?
I was born into a Catholic family, so I feel guilty about everything. But if we're talking about stories I get a lot of pleasure in reading, it'd be genre stories. Especially horror and crime noir.
Mary and I were in the supermarket the other day. I picked up a package of Italian sweet sausages to add to the cart, and as I always do, checked the "sell by" date (the date by which you should consume the product.)
The sell by date for the sausages was December 21, 2012.
"Look at this," I said to Mary. "The sell by date is the date the world is supposed to end."
Then I wondered, what if, in the weeks to come, all the products in the supermarket had a sell by date that stopped on December 21, 2012; even products bought December 20, 2012?
My short story "Daddy's Glad Hands" has just been published in the anthology Writings on the Wall, put out by Seven Archons Press.
My short story "Hinky" will be appearing in late October in the "Best Of" Title Goes Here anthology.
My short story "We Don't Keep in Touch Anymore" will be appearing in the November issue of Shadows & Tall Trees.
My short story "The One Who Always Gets to Sit in a Chair" has been sold to the anthology Postscripts to Darkness III. It should come out early next year.