What was the last book you bought?
The Vakhtangov School of Stage Art by Nicolai Gorchakov. Yevgeny Vakhtangov was a pupil of Stanislavski, the great Moscow Art Theatre acting teacher. A separate studio of the theatre was created for him where he created still lengendary productions of Turandot (pictured left) and The Dybbuk. His application of Stanislavski's method was unique in its imagination. I furtively xeroxed a xerox copy of this book when I worked in advertising in Chicago many years ago. I finally felt I had found someone who thought like I did about theatre. I discovered this copy on line at a used bookshop in England and bought it a couple of weeks ago.
Name a book you have read MORE than once
For Kings and Planets by Ethan Canin. I feel like a broken record but this is a writer worth repeating myself for and this is a book worth a repeat readings. Despite the sadness in the story, it is somehow a feel-good read for me.
Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok - it gave me the sense that my feelings around being an outsider were not all bad. That I could be very different from those around me and still find expression for myself and have the respect of others for what I made with that vision.
How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews
How it looks, how it feels as an object (that's one reason I like to go to an actual bookstore that is itself a positive aesthetic experience). The feel of the room, the presentation of the books, whether the employees are readers (I especially love shelves with the recommendations of employees). I like to walk around and collect a big pile of books, more than I could ever actually walk away with, and then sit somewhere comfortable and dip in. Even if I only buy a book or two and note others for cheaper on-line purchase later, I still love the bookstore experience and will always give my favorites some of my business. I choose a book less by summary - I'd rather know what the read is like than what it is about if I'm actually going to read it myself. But the biggest influence is what other readers I trust have said about it. Witness the last few books I have read Eclipse was a recommendation of Verbivore, Tanglewreck of Shiela, The Dead Fish Museum of Mark Sarvas, and the novels of Bernard MacLaverty of John Self. You know not just whether these fine readers liked it but their thoughts are given context by the prodigious extent of their other reading (and their writing). Consummate recommenders all.
Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Fiction hands down.
What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Only in a novel? They should feel nearly inseperable in any good book.
Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
Joseph Knecht the Magister Ludi of Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. I'm also pretty fond of Zooey Glass from J. D. Salinger and Wilbur from Charlotte's Web.
Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
My in-progress pile is so big it doesn't fit on my nightstand, but the top third of the current pile contains (as you can see on my sidebar) Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel, The Neuroscience of Cognitive Development, The Solitudes by John Crowley, Eclipse by John Banville, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Attachment, Play and Authenticity by Steven Tuber, and then right below them are Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy Darkmans by Nicole Barker, and Among the Russians by Colin Thubron.
What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
Honestly, where have you been? (This is a silly question for a book blogger, what else would I have been writing about?) Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson. See my sidebar for my rantings and ravings on this tangled wreck of a story.
Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Are you kidding me? Of course. Life is too short to read books I don't enjoy. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, any Tolkein I have ever tried, and I'm thinking that The Solitudes by John Crowley is going to make its way to this category, it has a sense of self-importance I am finding obnoxious, this on a book where the series title is mispelled on the cover!