I know that you are all craving for more of these meme thingies from me, and I figured, Why not do two in a row? Especially, since this is a completely different type of meme, dealing with my literary tastes. I picked it up a few days back at Jason’s, my usual source.
- What was the last book you bought?
- Name a book you have read MORE than once.
- Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
- How do you choose a book? (E.g. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews?)
- Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
- What’s more important in a novel, beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
- Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
- Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
- What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
- Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. Normally not my type of book fare, I picked up a library copy that our visiting friends brought with them to our summer holidays. There wasn’t enough time for me to go through more than a half of it by the time the book departed back to the States, so when I saw it at a bookstore some time ago, I decided that I needed to acquire and finish it.
Hundreds of them. To pick just one, I’ll mention Spartacus by Raffaello Giovagnoli, which was one of my top favorites in my early teens.
I can’t say that one has. Some books that I read in my late teens that had not been previously published in the Soviet Union (for instance, Жизнь и Судьба) helped me re-evaluate my notions of the socialist society, but I suppose I’ve been properly conditioned for that since my childhood anyway. But that’s about it. I think I’ve always been reading first for entertainment and only then for enlightenment. A bit shallow, I know.
Mostly by either a recommendation or an existing affinity for the author. I’ve had occasions of picking up a book at a store based on its cover, then reading through the summary and deciding on giving it a go, but those are rare and far in between.
Fiction. I don’t exactly know why, but non-fiction usually quickly bores me. I have little interest in the minutiae of real-event recounts; I find biographical lionizations and auto-biographical self-aggrandizements quite tiresome; and I rarely truly need the depth of the subject-matter works. After all, you can have it all summarized for you by Wikipedia; and we all know that it must be true when it’s on the internets.
That being said, Этюды об Учёных (not sure if it was ever translated in English, but I suppose the name would be Essays on Scientists) Ярослава Голованова – one of my most favorite books ever.
It would be silly to point out that the best books should possess both, wouldn’t it? I’m certainly not going to be able to slog through a boring book no matter how beautiful the writing is, but I lately find myself especially drawn to superior quality of writing.
I don’t know if I can explain it properly. I am not an aspiring writer and I think of myself as having very little talent in the field, but I am able to write. When I read a book full of decidedly un-masterly turns of phrase, I can’t help but think that it could conceivably be my own clumsy efforts that I’m reading. And why would I want to read something that does not impress me as being superior to my own skill?
Does that make any sense?
The Razor’s Edge is a great illustration. I picked it up and found myself enchanted by the skill of the writer. I have never before read Maugham, and it was a revelation. As I progressed into the book, I got increasingly disinterested in the subject and the characters. But I remained captivated by the quality of writing. So much so, that upon finishing what on balance was a disappointing read, I moved on to other works by the same author.
D’Artagnan, Captain Blood, Sherlock Holmes, Alain Quartermain, Paganel, Leatherstocking (whom I most loved as the Deerslayer), Aragorn, Long John Silver, Maigret, Ijon Tichy, Остап Бендер, Жеглов, Штирлиц, Фандорин, I could keep going for a long time. I doubt that I could select just one who is the most loved – I’ve read too many books for that.
Short Stories Vol. 1 by Somerset Maugham. And two more by him afterwards, all given to Becky for her birthday by the aforementioned friends, Ilia and family, all likely to be read by me first.
The Razor’s Edge, which I finished a couple of weeks ago.
I don’t think so. If I’m still reading on page 100, chances are I’ll finish the book. There have been occasions, though, when I realized by page 20 that the book was not meant for me.
Although, to be honest with you, I am not sure if I ever actually finished Crime and Punishment, or simply convinced myself that I had.
I love to read, and this is a good meme and a great post. Now I know what I’ll do for my Saturday blog post.
Happy to be of service, Vince! I always felt that Nathan, with his “meminator” attitude, is terribly misguided 🙂
C&P was the only book I ever resorted to Cliff Notes for in High School. 100 pages in, all of the long, Russian names sounded exactly the same to me (no intention to offend here, remember – I was 16), and I had no idea what was going on. When I caved in and bought the Cliff Notes, it went on and on about the importance of the prositute character. I didn’t even know there was a prostitute character.
I’d always assumed it was better in the original Russian, but now your post leads me to believe it’s just an all around bad book, ill-deserving of the iconic status it has achieved.
Yeah, that’s the ticket…
I always subscribed to a notion that only literary scholars can like Dostoyevsky. I have no affinity for his works. Nonetheless, in high school, when C&P was part of the curriculum, we had a mock court to judge Raskolnikov. I was assigned the duty of prosecuting him. I’m pretty sure that I got his conviction – and more importantly a top grade, which I suppose indicates that I at least knew everything there was to be known of the plot and characters.
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