I registered this blog a while ago with the intention of writing about comics. Then my friends and I ended up starting Fantastic Fangirls in order to talk about comics. That ended up being a better idea, because it turned out we could have more content while (individually) (theoretically) doing less work. Plus, we motivate each other, and also, my friends are awesome.

I have held this address in reserve, though, if only so my twitter name will someday make sense (a ‘mad Marvel Girl’ is a Phoenix, see, and when they get fired up about something, it’s awesome and also kind of scary, which is a pseudo-pompous commentary on my own online arguing style and. . .yeah, never mind).

I never really came up with anything I particularly felt bothered to do with this blog before. But the other day my buddy Jeff of the Conditional Axe blog posted a meme about books and reading that I realized I wanted to answer, and this seemed as good a place as any to do it. Ironically, I hardly mention comics at all, and nothing Marvel-related except a ‘Cable & Deadpool’ reference and a Chuck Austen joke.

So this is a look at where my reading brain is when I’m not ranting about comic books — for my own reference and for anyone else interested.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
I’m tempted to say ‘Shakespeare doesn’t count’ but I own *so much Shakespeare*. Some of it’s a hangover from college, some from my teaching days. I recently made a rule that I’m not allowed to buy anymore Shakespeare editions, but they’re not the kind of thing you can get rid of either (and sometimes they’re just so cheap! or they have awesome backmatter!) Plus, lots of marginalia that are amusing only to myself.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
The organizational principle of my books is such that I have no intention of ever counting them, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s ‘King Lear.’ At one point it would have been ‘The Aeneid’ because I kept reading it for class but buying different translations. Then my sister and I made a vow to get rid of our excess classics, and I *probably* only have one each of the Aeneid, Iliad, Odyssey, and Metamorphoses at this point.

3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Like, secretly, as in I don’t admit to it? I’m pretty shameless, though I don’t spend a lot of time admitting that I dig a lot of the men in Graham Greene books. Bendrix in ‘End of the Affair,’ maybe. They’re generally horrible people but magnetic in that weird way Greene has.

4. What book have you read more than any other?
‘The Hobbit’. I haven’t reread it for years, either, I just read it so many times at one point that I doubt anything will ever catch up. I’m not a big re-reader of prose. Much moreso of comics (because I have a lousy visual memory and need to refresh) or plays/poems, but I’m excluding them from this answer. (If I didn’t, the answer would be ‘Lear’ again).

5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
‘Call of the Wild.’ I also reread this one a lot, but not nearly as much as ‘The Hobbit’.

6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
If I think a book is bad, I generally don’t get past page 10, and promptly forget about it. It’s a defense mechanism. The book I got far in enough to remember disliking was ‘Dead Until Dark’ and that’s because I have crazy point-of-view issues.

7. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
‘The White Tiger’ by Aravind Adiga. Compelling noir story with a great first-person voice, and a fascinating look at contemporary South Asian Culture.

8. If you could tell everyone reading this to read one book, what would it be?
‘Confederates in the Attic’ by Tony Horwitz. A nonfiction book about the legacy of the Civil War in the American South, blending personal narrative and history and journalism. I think everybody could learn something from this book — whether you know a little or a lot about the South and the War, whether you think you want to or not– and it’s a blast to read.

9. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
I don’t tend to think of books in terms of difficulty. Maybe ‘The Waste Land’ or Hart Crane’s ‘The Bridge,’ if long poems count. In terms of prose, I know I read a large chunk of Heidegger’s ‘Being and Time’ for a philosophy class in college, and I recall not understanding a sentence of it.

10. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
I like the French but I love the Russians. Also, a lot of Tolstoy technically *is* in French. (I have a Russian friend who hates ‘War & Peace’ for this reason — in most Russian versions, the French isn’t translated, while in English it all is.)

11. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Should be obvious by now that it’s Shakespeare, but I have to admit this is by default because I’ve read little of the others and retained less.

12. Austen or Eliot?
I recall a conversation with someone who said ‘I studied “Middlemarch” for semester in college. By the end I wanted to kill myself.’ I said, ‘Dude, if you’re going to kill yourself, spare some pain and do it before you have to read “Middlemarch”.’ So, ahem, Austen. (I’ve been told that if I went back to ‘Middlemarch’ as a grownup I’d like it more, but I’m taking that on faith at this point).

Incidentally, I would kind of love to read this as “Chuck Austen or T.S. Eliot” at which point I say “T.S.!” Don’t actually make me choose between Jane and T.S., please.

13. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Embarrassing in whose eyes? In terms of what I feel like I should have read, see above re: Milton and Chaucer. In a larger sense, probably my tendency not to finish books I start (even books I really like) and furthermore not to actually remember if I’ve finished something or not.

14. What is your favorite novel?
‘Pride & Prejudice’. At one point I would have said All the King’s Men but Austen holds up better on repeated re-reads, and I think that’s a qualification for ‘favorite’.

15. Play?
‘King Lear’ as a whole, though my favorite scenes from any play are in ‘As You Like It’. I like lots of plays by other people, as well. But, you know, Shakespeare is Shakespeare.

16. Poem?
I’m married to Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ (me and J. Michael Straczynski, apparently — that’s funny if you watched ‘Babylon 5’, I promise), but I hook up with Housman’s Terence whenever I’m drunk enough.

17. Essay?
Charles Dickens by George Orwell. My favorite bit is actually about a Thackeray novel I’ve never read, because it’s the smartest observation about writing character that I’ve ever encountered: Major Pendennis is a shallow old snob, and Rawdon Crawley is a thick-headed ruffian who sees nothing wrong in living for years by swindling tradesmen; but what Thackery realizes is that according to their tortuous code they are neither of them bad men. Major Pendennis would not sign a dud cheque, for instance; Rawdon certainly would, but on the other hand he would not desert a friend in a tight corner.

Every writer who ever has to deal with ‘bad guys’ should have that passage memorized. I say that despite the fact that I have no bloody idea who Major Pendennis is.

18. Short Story?
‘The Kiss’ by Anton Chekhov. Beautifully structured, and so heartbreaking and wise.

19. Non Fiction
Since I already mentioned ‘Confederates in the Attic’, how about Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’? Okay, I already mentioned Orwell, but he’s Orwell.

20. Graphic Novel?
If I have to pick a single book, rather than a comics series or franchise, I’ll be boring and say ‘Watchmen’.

21. Science Fiction?
Confession: I don’t really know from science fiction in prose. I liked A.C. Crispin’s ‘Starbridge’ books when I was a kid.

22. Who is your favorite writer?
Shakespeare.

23. Who is the most over rated writer alive today?
I don’t subscribe to the concept of ‘over rated.’ There are writers who I suspect are ‘over rated’ by virtue of getting any attention at all, but they’re writers I haven’t read enough of to make any kind of judgment. And really, if people enjoy or praise something I’m not paying attention to anyway, why would I care?

24. What are you reading right now?
I tend to be in the middle of a lot of things at once. So, according to Good Reads, I’m currently reading ‘Shakespeare and Modern Culture’ by Marjorie Garber (and it’s right next to me at the moment so it’s the one I’m most likely to open again soon). Also, Tom Stoppard’s play ‘The Coast of Utopia’, the short story collection ‘Pretty Monsters’ by Kelly Link (both currently on my night table), ‘Cable & Deadpool Vol 3: The Human Race’ (by my computer at home, part of a full-series reread I’m doing), ‘Transmetropolitan Vol 2’, ‘Comic Book Tattoo’, and ‘Master & Commander’ by Patrick O’Brian (all things that are somewhere in my apartment, probably, and that I do intend to finish reading sometime in the vague near future). [N.B. — Between the time I wrote this up and the time I’m posting it, I stopped at Starbucks and read a ‘Green Lantern’ trade paperback, so that shows how reliable my ‘currently reading’ is.]

25. Best Memoir?
‘Confederates in the Attic’ and ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ probably both count as memoirs, but since this is a fresh new question, I’ll say ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ by Azar Nafisi.

26. Best History?
Here I’ll just say ‘Confederates in the Attic’ again. I don’t actually read all that much nonfiction history. I tend to absorb it sideways through novels or essays. Or (when I studied history in college) straight on through primary sources.

27. Best Mystery or Noir?
You know, I love mysteries and noir, and I’ve really barely touched on them in this answer. I’ll say Dennis Lehane’s ‘Gone Baby Gone’, though I could really do a whole meme just in this category.

And those are my book-related thoughts for the day. My GoodReads profile is here.

Now that I’ve got this blog started, I might use it more often. Maybe even to talk about comics.

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