Things are heating up around here. No, not the weather. It’s the American northeast, so we’re finally getting some cooler weather, which is an absolute delight to me.
So what is heating up? My grading pen, for one thing. Papers having been swarming in at an alarming rate and I curse the person who assigned all this homework.
Oh yeah. That was me. I’m a fool, aren’t I?
I’ve also been doing my own homework for my second course in my paralegal program. I wrote my first brief for my Litigation class and this coming week, I have to “file” a complaint for a lawsuit that I’ve invented. I’m going with negligence for moldy carpets or false imprisonment due to mistaken identity. Which would you choose?
Writing, however, has been slow. Oh, the ideas swirl and essays even get outlined and researched, but nothing has been completed. I’m working on it, though. I’m slow, but I’m stubborn.
In the meantime, I’m going to borrow an idea. I was reading through my blog list last week and came to a post by Robert on 101 Books called 20 Questions: Round 2. He asks his readers 20 questions, mostly regarding books, but also about some miscellaneous things. He’s done this before but this time, he first answered his own questions and then invites readers to give their own answers in comments.
For some reason, I always enjoy these sorts of games. I always end up learning something about myself – something small but still unexpected. As I was writing my comment, I realized it was getting quite…well, unwieldy.
And so, I decided to answer the questions on my own blog, where it’s my party and I can be unwieldy if I want to!
Without further ado, I present the Q&A.
1. Will Dicaprio’s performance as Gatsby be better than Redford’s? I have no idea. I love Redford, but I concede that Dicaprio may be a superior actor.
2. Narnia or Middle Earth? Middle Earth, totally. I enjoyed The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and I think I did start to read the subsequent books, but I never really got involved in them. I was, however, completely entranced by J.R.R.Tolken’s famous Lord of the Rings. I read The Hobbit as a child and was hooked for life. Maybe it was the Elvish?
3. Hemingway or Joyce? Hemingway, no question. I haven’t seen a comparison yet that would make me choose another author over Hemingway. I gots it bad.
4. Favorite font? I don’t like sans serif fonts. It’s actually one of the reasons I stay with this WordPress theme. I just looked over fonts in Word and my favorites are Book Antiqua, Bookman Oldstyle, Palatino Linotype, Garamond, and Georgia (which is my default for now, but will probably change to Book Antiqua or Palatino after this!)
5. What’s your ideal book length for reading? 350-ish. Depends. Sometimes I like to sink into a book and live there for a while, so I’ll go for a good 600-ish page book.
6. You have to go a year without a book (all forms) or a week without food. Which one do you choose and why?Probably food. A year without any sort of book reading seems like an eternity. And hey, I’m always on a diet anyway. It’ll help me get rid of last Thanksgiving’s extra five pounds. I hear the hunger pains stop after a couple of days anyway.
7. Best concert you’ve ever been to? Hmm. It’s hard to choose just one because I’ve been to a wide range of concerts. Rush is one my favorite bands, so it was exciting to see them twice in the 90s. I also saw some great jazz concerts: Dave Brubeck and his sons when I was in college, and Modern Jazz Quartet in Pittsburgh. But the most memorable and thrilling concert experience was seeing Luciano Pavarotti in Central Park in 1993. I still get chills.
8. Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I am a big Trek fan as well, but Star Wars had my heart first.
9. Best compliment you ever received from a teacher/professor? Hmm. Tricky. This may sound odd, but the best compliment I’ve received was in the form of anger. When I took Sociolinguistics in grad school, we had to do a presentation about language conflict. I chose to write about the 1976 Soweto Uprising and got some research together. The day of the presentation, I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked, but I had gotten through much of my schooling by winging it, so I thought it would work for me once again.
It didn’t. I tanked.
My professor not only yelled at me during class, but she called me into her office later that day. She wanted to know why I could accept such a mediocre performance from myself when I was capable of so much more. It was a total shock to me. I’d had vague memories of teachers giving me the “live up to your potential” speech, but I never believed it was more than just standard educational platitudes. This felt different. For the first time, I felt that someone finally meant those words, that she saw potential in me, and she cared enough to be angry at me for not seeing it myself.
I knew I had done good work when she said, “That’s more like it.”
10. What’s your one piece of writing advice? (don’t be shy!) Don’t show off. Don’t use complicated constructions or obscure vocabulary just because you can. Use the words and the grammar that are the best match to what you want to say. Doing otherwise will at best annoy and at worst confuse and alienate. And really, if you’re alienating your readers, what’s the point?
11. Mountain reading or beach reading? To be honest, I don’t know what the difference is.
12. What’s one novel you think is awesome that everyone else thinks is bad? That one is hard. I’ll go by my latest experience at my book club. We had chosen to read Siddhartha for this past month. Most of the group didn’t like it at all. They thought it was boring. I enjoyed it. In fact, I’d read it years ago and enjoyed it, and I got a lot more out of it this second time around.
13. Conversely, what’s one novel you think is bad that everyone else thinks is awesome? The Help. Hated it. Oooooh, I hated it.
14. Amazon: Good or bad? I can see how it’s bad for smaller businesses, and given my love of used book stores, you’d think I would say Amazon is mostly bad. But I kinda sorta love me some Amazon.
15. Most famous author you’ve ever met? I saw a Q&A with Dave Barry a few months ago after a showing of This is Spinal Tap, and we all got signed copies of his latest book, but I didn’t actually talk to him, so I don’t know if that counts. Other than that, in grad school, I had the absolute pleasure to not only meet but to have dinner with Dr. William Stokoe, the “father” of sign language linguistics. He was kind, gracious, fascinating, and supportive. At the end of the evening, I nervously asked him to sign my copy of a book of essays in his honor. He smiled, took the book, and wrote “Lovely to know you, and don’t let the linguists wear you down. Bill Stokoe.” The book remains one of my most treasured possessions.
16. What percentage of books on your bookshelf have you actually read (estimate)? Okay, I have a lot of books on my shelves. Part of the issue is my access to free books. A friend of mine takes overflow donations to the local library and redistributes them to various charities so that they don’t go to waste. Every month, I get 10-15 bags of books to bring to the college to put on a free book cart my friend had established when she still worked with me. Every month, I go through the bags to see if there’s anything I’m interested in. Two new bookshelves later, I’d say I’ve read about 40% of all the books in my collection.
17. Favorite reading beverage? Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, wine or scotch in the evening, and herbal tea for bedtime reading.
18. A hypothetical: Print and digital books are no more and audio books are the only form of literature remaining. One catch: All the audio books are read by Gilbert Gottfried (who has indeed recorded an audio version of 50 Shades of Grey). Are you done with literature? That’s a strange one. While I do think Gilbert Gottfried is entertaining, I can only take him in small doses. So maybe I’d listen to a funny book once in a while. But I also generally dislike audio books, so the idea of having only audio books, regardless of whose voice is featured, is really quite depressing to me.
19. One novel every teenager must read? Oh gee, how should I know? I’d probably choose a classic, but then there would be complaints about how it’s not relevant to today’s youth, or it’s too difficult for today’s lowered standards, or yadda yadda, it sucked. I don’t feel that literature has to be current to be relevant. In fact, I think the better the literature, the better it transcends time. So, I’m going to opt out of this question in terms of naming a specific book, but I really believe that everyone, no matter what age, should keep reading until they find the book that truly speaks to them, that helps them find their truth in life. Then go live that truth.
20. Who inspired you to become an avid reader? I honestly don’t know. My mother always encouraged reading, but I don’t know if this was the reason I am a reader or if it was in reaction to my desire to read. I can’t remember a time when I could not read. My mother tells me that she never taught me – I wanted her to read to me and then after a while, I just read on my own.
Now, I’d love to hear your own answers in comments! (No need to be as long-winded as I was!)
I enjoyed reading your answers, but my own will likely only come if I need a writing prompt. (These are words I am almost certain to eat later! Heh.)
Always good to keep a few tricks in the bag! :)
OK. I’ll play.
1.Will Dicaprio’s performance as Gatsby be better than Redford’s? Maybe. But no performance compares with the one in my head when I read the book.
2.Narnia or Middle Earth? Definitely Middle Earth.
3.Hemingway or Joyce? Hemingway. No contest. I hated reading Joyce.
4.Favorite font? Used to be Garamond. But now I’m partial to Baskerville.
5.What’s your ideal book length for reading? The longer, the better. I go through a good book like candy.
6.You have to go a year without a book (all forms) or a week without food. I couldn’t do either.
7.Best concert you’ve ever been to? Hmmmm. The Grateful Dead in 1976.
8.Star Wars or Star Trek? I can’t choose. Love them both.
9.Best compliment you ever received from a teacher/professor? I have two. (1) When studying linguistics and writing in grad school, I had to take one literary theory course. (Ugh!) I was one of only two students in the class who weren’t required to rewrite our first assignment. (2) “You should publish this.”
10.What’s your one piece of writing advice? (don’t be shy!) Find a mentor and do what he/she says.
11.Mountain reading or beach reading? Depends on the season!
12.What’s one novel you think is awesome that everyone else thinks is bad? Maybe The Fountainhead?
13.Conversely, what’s one novel you think is bad that everyone else thinks is awesome? A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Or Moby Dick.
14.Amazon: Good or bad? I’ve been an Amazon shopper forever.
15.Most famous author you’ve ever met? Can’t think of anyone.
16.What percentage of books on your bookshelf have you actually read (estimate)? 90%
17.Favorite reading beverage? Red wine.
18.A hypothetical: Print and digital books are no more and audio books are the only form of literature remaining. One catch: All the audio books are read by Gilbert Gottfried (who has indeed recorded an audio version of 50 Shades of Grey). Are you done with literature? Yes — unless I can pay someone to transcribe the audio books for me.
19.One novel every teenager must read? The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
20.Who inspired you to become an avid reader? It was in my DNA. My mom got so tired of meeting my demands for her to read to me she bought a reel-to-reel tape-recorder!
Now I need to get back to work ;-)
Yay! Thanks for playing! I see a lot of our answers are the same.
I have yet to read A Portrait of a Young Artist or Moby Dick, but they’re on the list. I have read The Fountainhead, though. Actually, I’ve read most of Ayn Rand’s fiction works. I don’t know if I can manage her nonfiction. She’s a bit too…bludgeony. My favorite work of hers is Anthem and I usually teach it when I’m assigned an intro to lit class.
I love that your mother bought a tape recorder! I don’t think mine would have thought of that, but I’m sure she was glad when I could read on my own. Except when she had to keep waking up to make sure I wasn’t hidden under my blankets with a book and a flashlight in the wee hours of the morning ;)
I like the 20 questions, too, Leonore. It is like a bit of mint or parsley after a meal, cleansing the palate and getting one ready for the next course. Or not. :)
Great analogy! I should have titled this “Lime Sherbet” :)
Mmm, now I want dessert.
These are fun questions. Is it okay if I only have time for a few of them tonight?
9) The best, or at least most useful, comment I ever received from a teacher came in 12th grade. We were asked to write a new “lost” chapter of Alice in Wonderland. I whipped up something and congratulated myself on my own brilliance, but when I got the paper back, the teacher had written only one word: “clever(ish).” Trying to get from “clever(ish)” to “clever” is a lifelong challenge for a writer, but thank goodness for the people who show us there’s a distinction in the first place.
12) What’s one novel you think is awesome that everyone else thinks is bad?
It’s not a novel, but: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot. Maybe people don’t think it’s “bad,” but it sure doesn’t have many fans in 2012.
13) Conversely, what’s one novel you think is bad that everyone else thinks is awesome?
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Jeff, I think you’ve managed to make it to ‘clever’! :)
(Folks reading the comments: go check out his newest book! http://www.amazon.com/Looking-Up-National-Cathedral-Gargoyles/dp/110590315X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351517281&sr=8-1&keywords=Jeff+Sypeck)
I’ve never read either of those works that you mentioned. I’ve heard mixed reviews of Zen. Not sure if I’m interested enough to even pick the book up. I know the premise and I’ve read a shorter piece by the same author, but it’s never really grabbed my attention.
I love me some T.S. Eliot, though.
Thanks for playing!
Narnia over Middle Earth. I grew up in a conservative Christian home and much of Christian media, especially in the 90s, was corny. C.S. Lewis has always been a hero of mine because he writes brilliant literature that communicates Christian worldview without being corny or using a bunch of “Christianese.”
Favorite font is Bleeding Cowboy. I work in a marketing company and am surrounded by graphic designers all day. They literally have hundreds of different fonts at their disposable, but Bleeding Cowboy is the best.
Best piece of writing advice is some I received at a writer’s conference last year. Don’t edit yourself while you’re writing, or worse, before you start. Just write what comes to your head, what you think might work, and then edit later.
For me, beach reading and writing is the best. I’ve lived by the beach my whole life, and nothing takes away stress and spurs creativity like the ocean.
I did really enjoy the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I was fairly young when I read it and I honestly didn’t pick up on any Christian undertones or overtones – no tones at all, really – and I vaguely remember reading the second book. Maybe the third? I honestly can’t remember because I found myself losing interest. If I remember correctly, the focus shifted from the original characters to different ones – some of the same but not all. I think I liked the four children in the first book so much that I sort of resented when they weren’t all together. A quick look at Wikipedia suggests that this shift took place after the 2nd book, so maybe I made it to at least the third and then stopped reading.
Bleeding Cowboy is a fantastic name. Are there any examples of it on the Web?
Ah, perhaps reading by the beach or in the mountains is what was meant by that question. I don’t know why I had such a hard time figuring that one out. I guess for me, I’d choose mountain reading. I like reading on the beach, but I find it hard to concentrate because being on a beach makes my brain shut down. Maybe that’s why there’s so much pulp fiction billed as ‘a good summer read’!
Love the advice you gave. Dead on.
Ya, the focus of Chronicles of Narnia shifts to quite a few different characters. But once I read all seven I saw how they were all connected. Even though I like them all, I agree with you that the ones with the four siblings are the best.
Here’s a link to Bleeding Cowboy http://www.dafont.com/bleeding-cowboys.font. It’s one of those fonts that’s almost too artistic for its own good. It looks awesome but I can’t think of any situation where it would actually be a good idea to use it. It is fun, though.
And since your a Star Wars fan I have to ask…how do you feel about Disney buying LucasFilms and planning to make more movies?
That’s a beautiful font! You’re right – not something you’d write a 5-paragraph essay in, but great for graphic projects. It makes me want to find an old table at a flea market, paint and distress it, and burn something into the wood using that font :)
*sigh* I just heard about Disney buying LucasFilms. I’m quite afraid of what they’ll come out with, although I have to say, the new films that were produced by LucasFilms were pretty horrible (I’m a purist – the original three are the only ones that count – cheesy dialogue notwithstanding) so I suppose I’m already resigned to the possibility of more suckage no matter who produces them. Disney, though…I predict even more watered down character development, hyper-focus on special effects, and more female skin (like the swat of the monster tail that ripped Natalie Portman’s clothes to strategically reveal her abs) in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. They won’t make films – they’ll try for blockbusters. Different animal.