In a few days, I'll be running off to the desert to housesit for some friends. Housesitting is always an interesting opportunity to devote yourself to projects that would otherwise take a back-burner to normal life. I'm working on a list of things to do - manuscripts to proof, books to read, Buffy to watch, that sort of thing. If you have any suggestions, let me know. We'll see how I do.


You ask, I answer.

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Golden Book of Fairy Tales (still a favorite)
2. What are you reading right now?
Joseph and His Brothers, and 2012 manuscripts

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. Though I requested so many books at my old library growing up, that I memorized my 13-digit library card number years before I knew my social security number.

4. Bad book habit?
Using coffee table art books as food and drink trays or laptop desks in bed. Sorry, Impressionism.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing. I know. The mighty have fallen...

6. Do you have an e-reader?
My iPhone does qualify as an e-reader. I have read a few paragraphs of free ebooks here and there, but that was about a year ago when it was a novelty. I have also used it for last minute Bible references, and on more than one occasion, have pulled up documents from my email. I am more likely to use my phone for emergency writing than reading. The notebook feature is cluttered with bizarre paragraphs from stories otherwise never written.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I prefer one book at a time, but we live in a broken world.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes, but I don't believe the change was influenced by the blog at all.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I'm gonna skip this one.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
I haven't read much this year apart from work. I think I've hit 27 work-related book reads since January, which is pretty awesome. My favorite non-work book is undoubtedly Divergent. It would probably be a favorite even if it wasn't one of only two options, the other being The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. And yes, read that book you should.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I am not sure what "out of my comfort zone" is. Horror, maybe? Romance? The Dummies Guide to Horoscopes? Short answer, I don't. Unless it's work related.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Literary fiction, teen fiction, science fiction and fantasy (more or less), Victorian, post-Victorian, pre-Victorian, 14th, 15th, and 16th century writing, stuff old enough that it's been translated from the Latin or Greek, epic poetry, poetry-poetry, spiritual philosophy (is that a recognized category?), and my blogroll.
13. Can you read on the bus?
I can read anywhere. Except in front of the television. Unless it's turned off.

14. Favorite place to read?
I can read anywhere. Except in front of the television. Unless it's turned off.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I lend books. I know I will never see them again. I also borrow books. I still have them all.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Hell no.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Hell yes.

18. Not even with text books?

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

20. What makes you love a book?

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? 
I do not recommend books because I like them. If I'm recommending something to you, it is because when I read it, I felt the book told me something about you. In some way, the book spoke your name. It was more yours than mine. 
(Either that, or you've been begging me for book recommendations. You know who you are.)

22. Favorite genre?
memoirs and spirituality writing (UPDATE: I have no idea why I wrote "memoirs" here, as I do not read memoirs, utterly ever. See "biography" below. Same thoughts apply. The real answer is that I do not have a favorite genre. Sorry.)

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
General literary fiction. Which is weird. You'd think it would be my go-to genre.

24. Favorite biography?
I am pretty sure the last biography I read was something about Beethoven in 7th grade. Unless that was just a general music history book... The only biographies I ever feel compelled to read are bios of Abraham Lincoln. Other biographies fill me with metaphoric yawn at the thought of them.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
No. I don't think so. Not that I recall.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Betty Crocker for the basics. The Olive and the Caper for awesome dinner parties of Greek wonder.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I've been reading some Thomas Merton. Does that count as inspirational? What does this mean, exactly?

28. Favorite reading snack?
Tea and shortbread!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo before the hype. I didn't get past the first chapter. Then there was hype and I felt guilty for not having finished it. So in a sense, hype ruined my I-decided-not-to-read-this experience.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I despise D. H. Lawrence. Certain "critics" put him on essential reading lists, lists of classics, required course reading catalogs, etc. I despise such critics.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I have become increasingly less inclined to give negative reviews on this blog since entering the book industry. Which is sort of a shame, since negative reviews are often way more fun than positive ones. Considering that attitude, I guess it's a good thing I don't do them anymore.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? 

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Greek was intimidating. So I guess the New Testament qualifies.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
These questions are intimidating. I am not nervous to begin any books I know of.

35. Favorite Poet?
Czeslaw Milosz. Still.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
None right now, but when I do check books out, it's usually a stack of about 7-12 titles.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
All the time.

38. Favorite fictional character?

39. Favorite fictional villain?

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Best book I brought on vacation was Wives and Daughters. It was so perfect for that trip. Most recently, I started Joseph and His Brothers when I went up to San Simeon with my mom. That was excellent. But the book I always bring on every vacation is my journal.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I don't know what this means.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
The one by D. H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers of Daughters of Ladies or whatever. I would burn that book without batting an eye. 
Also, American Gods. Though I wouldn't burn that one.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Other books.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I am a faithful follower of all BBC Victorian adaptations. North and South (not the Civil War epic) was amazing. But Little Dorrit is possibly one of the best adaptations of utterly ever.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Those Twilight things.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
No idea.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Only non-fiction, and rarely.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Another book.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. I used to re-organize my books by subject every year or so. Most of my books are now in boxes from lack of space, so I now organize them by color. My life is too visually cluttered not to make this absurd aesthetic concession on the bookshelves.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I keep them. You never know.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Should I mention D. H. Lawrence again? No? Okay, I successfully avoided the Da Vinci Code craze. I avoided Elizabeth Gilbert and The Last Lecture and The Shack. But the books I most viscerally avoid are Nicholas Sparks novels.

52. Name a book that made you angry. 
Graceling. Because it was a good book, but not very self-aware.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I don't read books if I don't expect to like them. I have too many books I do expect to like waiting in the wings to waste my time on the off-chance that I'll be wrong.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I can't remember...

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Like I'd tell you that.


Hardly Dauntless

Everyone who has read Divergent has loved it, and for good reason. (If you are one of the nonexistent who disagree, just keep quiet.) Usually when I finish the first book in a good series, I can't wait for the second. Divergent is the kind of good that makes you get to the end and want to read it again.

Most people in the Veronica Roth fandom are asking each other which faction they'd be in - or if they, too, are Divergent. This is an obvious question to arise from the book, as it explores a society split into four factions with essentially unique characteristics. But an equally obvious question would be about our fears.

In the novel, Tris joins a faction bent on overcoming their fears to become - as their faction's name claims - dauntless. At one point, Tris undergoes a test in which she has to face each one of her fears in order to overcome them. In comparison with her other Dauntless friend, she has surprisingly few fears to combat - though that doesn't make the ordeal any less harrowing. One character in particular is known for carrying the record for fewest fears in the entire faction. He is named for his record, and we trembling readers are unquestionably in awe of him. His name is Four.

I was thinking about Four this morning while I sat listening to a sermon about the Israelites and the Egyptians - that ancient narrative of the supreme God proving his faithfulness to a people so fearful he had to take them the long way through the desert just so they wouldn't see the warmongering Philistines and run back to their Egyptian slavery. I was thinking about Four and how he could name his fears on one hand. I was thinking about Tris and the test she took, and what it would be like to distill your fears into individual experiences, to face them head on, to know their names.

I doubt anyone's going to let a "name your fears" test go viral on Facebook in honor of Divergent. It's just as relevant a question as "what faction are you in," but a lot more personal. It's also harder to answer. It would take a great deal of self-awareness to be able to count your own fears, let alone the bravery it would require to face them all.

It's a testament to how good the book is that I'm still thinking about these things months after having read it. If you haven't yet, feel free to borrow my copy. Though be sure to return it. I'll be rereading it before long.


Eyeing November

November is a month and a half away, but I'm already thinking about National Novel Writing Month and whether or not I will participate. I am thinking that maybe this will be the year I do it. Not that I remotely have time, but the whole point is to make a goal regardless of your commitments and find the time in the cracks and crannies of the usual crazy world. It helps, of course, if you know what you want to write about beforehand, and there are some significant things you can do to help yourself prepare without officially jumping the gun.

For example, an outline, drafting character sketches, writing sample dialogues, reading similar works, collecting first and last names so you don't leave a bunch of these ___ scattered through the manuscript... that sort of thing. Figuring out the very mechanics of how you will write the thing (pen and paper? trusty laptop? occasional twitter posts?) may seem overly specific, but may be just the sort of initial decision-making that will set you up for success.

Though it's worth it to note that success is not necessarily the completion of a novel. It may be that the best preparation is deciding what you really want to take away from the project. A stronger grasp on grammar, the sensation of having completed something from start to finish, or the exploration of a certain subject to the exclusion of all else for thirty solid days. It could be any number of things. The choice is yours.


The other day as I was driving down the freeway, thinking about my perception of all the cars around me and the noise of their engines, I was struck by the similarity of light and sound in that they are both waves. Or rather, I was struck by their dissimilarity, because light and sound seem thoroughly disassociated from one another in our perception of them. And yet, atomically, or subatomically, they are these shivering waves coming at our senses. Bumping our neurons and sending the dendrites shuddering toward the brain.

It seemed like such a phenomenal revelation, this wave business. It took my mind in a hundred different directions all at once, and I found myself rattling off these wonders of nature and perception that were all somehow tangentially related to the fact of the sensory wave, from modern art to the temptation in the Garden of Eden.

It occurred to me that I was just as thrilled by these different ideas and their connections as I was by the fact of thinking of them at all. I had earlier, for a number of semi-legitimate reasons which I won't bother recounting, been thinking about things that thrill people, especially in relation to vampires. In the sense that vampires seem to require (at least in most traditional lore) rather extreme and inappropriate sources of pleasure, namely the whole blood-and-fang business. And in the sense that the vampire narrative represents the corruption of human desires. I imagined myself, at the vast edge of my wonder, standing next to meta-vampire as he laid claim to the epitome of human experience. I imagined myself looking askance at meta-vampire and saying quietly but superiorly, "I know something more. I know epiphany."


Eye candy

This is going to be one of those posts that reflects just how much I wish Pinterest had a blog feature. Not that that's remotely a good idea, as I wouldn't honestly be too interested in reading other Pinterest blogs, but... whatever. Here are some pictures for you:

From the Boca Raton Museum of Art exhibit "The Magic of Realism," by Robert Vickrey

You never know when you might need a flickr collage of ancient maps and such.

The Bucephalus living sculpture by Robert Cannon.

Just follow the link to the other "accidental mysteries" featured here.

Tapping into my inner melodrama for this one. I really do love it, and no less with the knowledge that it will probably grace the cover of a teen paranormal romance novel some day.

Found somewhere on the blog Blue Velvet Chair. Click through at your peril.

From a collection of incredible book paintings by Mike Stilkey.

There was an error in this gadget