Tuesday 27 May 2008

The Reading Lamp: a balanced reading diet

It's crazy, but this interview makes me want to read Plato. Weird, innit? Seriously, for sheer variety I think Darren takes the cake (yes, the kind of cake known as tiramisu) amongst all my reading friends.

Your name: Darren

What are you reading now? Native Son by Richard Wright

Where are you reading it?
Usually in bed, though sometimes on the couch, or in one of the Ikea chairs I specifically purchased for reading.

What do you think of it so far?
I’m only a few chapters in, and I wouldn’t call it gripping, but I’m not bored with it, so I’ll probably continue with it through to the end. Apparently this is one of those books forced upon schoolchildren here in the States. In Canada, I had Can-Lit shoved down my throat for five years of high school, and as a result never want to read another novel that takes place in the prairies. I haven’t been burdened with the same sort of cultural baggage with Native Son, and I like that I’m coming at it with a fresh perspective.

What would your ideal desert island book be?
There are three books I’d want to bring to a desert island – my Riverside Shakespeare, The Collected Works of Plato, and the Bible. I never run out of new things to find in these, or new ways to interpret them. Granted, that’s about 20 pounds of literature to haul around, so I’d probably have to forego food.

What about a dessert book, a book you could read and then eat?
Almost anything by Nick Bantock, who created the Griffin & Sabine and Morning Star trilogies, as well as The Venetian’s Wife, The Museum at Purgatory, and my personal favourite, The Forgetting Room. A couple of friends of mine independently introduced me to Bantock’s works years ago, and I find reading them so rich an experience, I have to ration myself. I savour every word and image filling the pages, wanting to get the fullest possible experience of them—not unlike my experience with tiramisu.

Favourite childhood book?
When I was a kid, I must’ve borrowed Dr. Seuss’s Wacky Wednesday a dozen times from the local children’s library. I loved that book, and have no idea why I don’t own a copy of it now. In the world of non-fiction, I also loved the two-volume Mammals books and Our Universe, both published by National Geographic. I still have the former (and refer to it regularly for some of my graphic art projects), but sadly I read the latter to tatters long ago.

Favourite book-related website (besides www.bookphilia.com, of course)?
www.abebooks.com—hands down, the best used-book shop I’ve ever found. It doesn’t matter how obscure the book, I can find a copy here. When I was researching the relation between art and mathematics, I found Structural Patterns and Proportions in Vergil’s Aeneid: A Study in Mathematical Composition by George E. Duckworth—published in 1962 and long out of print—and Joseph Schillinger’s The Mathematical Basis of the Arts (this one exceedingly rare, and cost me $90 with a tattered dust jacket, but I couldn’t find it anywhere else). Also, if you want a first edition of Dracula ($75,000) or Great Expectations ($50,000), or just a soft-cover edition of either (each just $1), AbeBooks.com will have it.

How do you decide what to read next?
I have a wide variety of reading interests, and I need a balanced diet. But I’m greedy. I vacillate between “literature,” junk novels, graphic novels, non-fiction, and short stories, and so if I’ve just finished one of one sort, I crave one of the others. I usually have several books on the go at any one time to cover my appetites, and my bed-side table has a stack of them. In addition to Native Son, I’ve got a collection of Lovecraft stories, a bunch of graphic novels, and The Orange Man (a collection of non-fiction medical stories à la House) by Berton Roueché currently on the go.

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