1. What's your name?
Gray. Or Grayswandir.
2. Do you read a lot?
...Not really, actually. I just read the kind of books that make people assume I must read a lot.
3. What's your favorite genre?
If we can call "classics" a genre, then I guess that's the one. My favorite books are the ones that transcend genre -- the kind of books people will still be reading, still enjoying, and still learning from in a hundred years. Or several hundred.
+++FANTASY AND SCI-FI+++
4. Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction?
In some cases, I can hardly tell the difference between them. Both fantasy and sci-fi put characters in incredible circumstances, and force them to make choices, take journeys, learn lessons, struggle, triumph, fail, and so on, in a symbolic manner which parallels real human experience. In fantasy your villain might be an evil wizard; in sci-fi, he might be a super-evolved alien being. Fantasy has magic; sci-fi has advanced technology. When you get down to it, the only major difference is that fantasy takes so many of its staples from mythology: dragons, elves, dwarves, sorcerors, demons. Sci-fi just represents the same ideas with different, more modern symbols.
Still, I have to choose fantasy, because while the two genres can be almost interchangeable, they usually aren't. In my experience, fantasy novels tend to focus more on the human element, and take more time for character and plot development. Sci-fi novels are often more concerned with facts and explanations for all their outlandish phenomena, and the characterization suffers from that.
Or maybe it's just that I've got a thing for mythology, and I'd generally rather read about wizards than aliens. ;)
5. What's your favorite fantasy book/series?
Lord of the Rings, hands down.
6. Who's your favorite fantasy author?
I'm tempted to say Zelazny, just because I don't want to leave him out of this section, and I do adore him, weird though he is. Gaiman and Pratchett also come to mind. But no... it's going to have to be Tolkien.
7. What's your favorite science fiction book/series?
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. ;)
8. Favorite sci-fi author?
Probably Philip K. Dick. He wrote some really great short stories, and The Man in the High Castle is wonderful. (I seem to remember really liking Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, too, but it's been years since I read it, and I hardly remember it now.)
+++MYSTERY, HORROR, AND THRILLERS+++
9. Which do you prefer: a puzzling mystery, or a terrifying thriller?
I don't read much in either genre, but I guess I'd probably find the mystery more engaging.
10. Do you have a favorite mystery novel?
The only mystery/detective books I've read are Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries. And a couple of stories from Chesterton's Club of Queer Trades. Sherlock Holmes is definitely my favorite. As for particular novels, I guess I'll go with The Hound of the Baskervilles.
11. A favorite horror novel?
The only horror novels I've read are Stephen King's. I do really like Stephen King; his style is captivating, and once I pick up one of his books I always have trouble putting it down -- even though I have never once found any of his conclusions satisfying. My favorite of King's horror novels is probably The Dark Half. I've never actually found King's stories very horrifying, though...
12. Do you read romance novels?
13. How about gay romance novels?
That sounds a little more tolerable, but still... no.
14. What's your favorite?
I think the closest thing to a romance novel I've ever read was Lolita. ;)
+++CHILDREN'S AND YA+++
15. What's your favorite children's book?
The Harry Potter series. If I have to choose a book, I'll go with Order of the Phoenix. (Prisoner of Azkaban is a close second.)
16. Is it the same book that was your favorite when you were a kid?
Heh, no. My favorite book as a kid was The Black Stallion.
17. What's your favorite YA book?
Honest to god, I still have no idea what even constitutes YA. I would have thought the Harry Potter books were YA, myself: they're about teenagers, right? Does YA mean books about teenagers? I don't even know!
I'm not sure I've ever read anything in the YA genre (except for one horrible teenage-vampire book I read in middle school). Maybe I can switch my answers, and list the Harry Potter books here, and The Devil's Storybook as my favorite little-kids'-book?
18. Did you actually read it as a YA?
N/A, I think.
19. In general, do you prefer children's books over grown-up books?
No. In general, I don't care for children's books. They tend to be all action and no introspection, and where there is introspection it's usually rather simplistic and moralizing. I prefer a bit more subtlety.
+++CLASSICS AND GENERAL FICTION+++
20. What's your favorite classic novel?
Heh. Need I repeat? Well, it's still Notre-Dame de Paris. Priests and poets and gypsies and scholars and soldiers and hunchbacks and little white goats, and faith and sin and alchemy and fatality. <3
21. What about general fiction?
Like, just... er... books that don't fit into a genre, but aren't old enough yet to be labeled classics? I have trouble knowing where to draw the line. Is Slaughterhouse Five a classic now? Nineteen-Eighty-Four? A Clockwork Orange? Probably classics, huh?
...What about Fight Club? That one should work.
22. What classic novel do you just *not* *get*?
Hm. Well, usually if I hate a novel that much, I give it up within a few chapters. The only one that springs to mind, that I actually finished, is Jude the Obscure. I didn't hate it, I just... cannot figure out what so many people find so revolutionary about it. I didn't feel like I gained anything by reading it.
23. Do you have a favorite play or drama?
I'm going to say Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. Hamlet and Macbeth and Julius Caesar should probably come first, really -- but the next question is about Shakespeare, so I'll give this one to Stoppard.
24. What do you think of Shakespeare?
I've always been wary of jumping on the "Shakespeare is the greatest English writer EVER!" bandwagon, but -- to date, I've not yet read anyone who can match him. Joyce, almost. Milton, I'm told, but personally I don't see it. I've read no other author who is so consistently penetrating and universal -- such a master of language, of wit, of symbol, of the range of human thought and emotion... I just can't find another author to compare. He's not my favorite, but I've got to give credit where it's due. He is amazing.
25. Could you pick a favorite poem?
I always say "Kubla Khan," by Coleridge, but I'm not sure that's true. It might be "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Or Pope's "Essay on Criticism," except that it's just so damned long.
26. What about a favorite poetry collection?
I think the only poetry collection I've ever read straight through, front to back, is The Collected Poems of Stephen Crane. That's partly because I love Stephen Crane, but also partly because his poems are really short.
I've also read most of The Selected Works of William Blake and The Works of Alexander Pope, and quite a bit of The Works of John Donne. I don't know that I can pick a favorite. Hell. I'll just go with Blake.
27. Who's your favorite poet?
Gah! Why is this so hard? Look... I'm just going to say Gerard Manley Hopkins and move on, okay? Because I cannot choose.
+++COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS+++
28. Do you read comics or graphic novels?
29. Do you have a favorite series?
Definitely The Sandman. (I love Batman as a canon, but there are too damn many crappy Batman comics for the series as a whole to be my favorite.)
30. A favorite book?
You know, I actually think Watchmen might be the one, in spite of everything I said about it initially. But if not Watchmen, then Season of Mists.
+++SHORT STORIES AND NOVELLAS+++
31. Do you prefer short stories (or short novels) over full-length novels?
No, I almost always prefer full-length novels. There's just not enough space for plot or character development in a short story; I usually feel like something is missing.
32. What's your favorite short story?
If Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground counts (I think of it more as a novella than a short story), then definitely that. Otherwise, Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Or, if that's also too long, maybe Chekhov's "The Bet."
33. Favorite short story collection?
Well, I usually just flip short-story books open to random stories, rather than reading whole collections together. But of the ones I've read straight through, I'd pick one of the Sherlock Holmes collections -- maybe The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
34. Do you have a favorite short story author?
Philip K. Dick, I'd say. Dostoevsky, also. Doyle... Authors whose last names begin with D, apparently?
35. What kind of nonfiction do you usually read?
I rarely read nonfiction. But in numbers of books, I've read more philosophy than any other type of nonfiction, I think.
36. Do you have a favorite nonfiction book?
Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil.
37. Read any interesting biographies?
The only biography I can recall reading was a giant-sized, 500-page, full-color illustrated book on Napoleon, the text of which consisted entirely of journal entries and letters written by his secretary (Claude-François de Méneval) and his valet (Louis Constant Wairy). I wound up adoring Napoleon in what was probably an entirely inappropriate way, but I also liked Méneval so much that I went on eBay and bought a 1910 printing of his memoirs... which I've been meaning to read for like eight years now...
38. History books?
Er. To my shame, no -- I don't think I've ever read an entire history book.
No. I flipped through one of Bill Maher's books one time...
40. Religious texts?
Fewer than I should have. I've read almost all of the Old Testament (I keep meaning to finish it, but the trouble is that I have to take notes when I do, which is kind of a pain in the ass), most of the New Testament, about a third of the Qur'an, two translations of the Tao te Ching... a few chapters of the Satanic Bible... I don't know if Dante's Inferno or Paradise Lost (and Regained) count for this section...
41. How about books on mythology, fairy-tales, or other cultural stories?
Several mythology books -- mostly Sumerian/Babylonian and Graeco-Roman stuff. As for the fairy tales, etc... not all that many, alas. I've read some individual fairy tales, but not whole books of them.
+++ELEMENTS OF FICTION+++
42. What's the most important element of a novel? Plot? Characterization? Style? Themes? Happy ending?
First, I'm going to hark back to Pope: "In every work regard the writer's end, / Since none can compass more than they intend." Depending on the book's purpose, a bulletproof plot might be essential, or it might not be. Powerful characterization might be essential, or it might not. I think mainly an author needs to know which one to focus on, in the context of his particular story.
I personally tend to go for the interesting themes, all else being equal. A book with good characters and plot and so forth will be a good book, in all probability -- but it won't be a great book unless it implies something beyond itself.
43. What kind of plot interests you the most?
Er. One that centers around a theme, without being pretentious or unsubtle about it, I suppose...
44. What kind of characters usually appeal to you?
Oddly, I'm rarely interested in the hero. I generally prefer the supporting cast -- the Teacher/Sage (Gandalf, Dumbledore), the Grim, Silent, Unsympathetic But Powerful Guy (Morpheus, Strider!Aragorn, Batman, Vetinari), the Jester/Trickster/Wit (Lord Henry, Mephistopheles), and whatever the hell Faust/Frollo/Satan is -- Conflicted-Between-Good-and Evil-Guy?
45. What is your favorite book overall?
Still Notre-Dame de Paris. ;)
+++PASS IT ON+++
46. What's the last book you read?
I just finished reading two books: Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise and H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds. I'm going to need some time to think over both of them. Fitzgerald impressed me beyond words at first, but toward the end of the book I was getting a rather pretentious, self-congratulating vibe from him, and that sort of turned me off. Wells completely bored me for the first 200 pages or so, and then turned around and delivered an interesting and thought-provoking conclusion. So... ambivalence on both fronts, for the moment.
47. What are you reading now?
Nothing yet. I just finished Wells.
48. What are you going to read next?
I'm not sure. I'm supposed to be reading a whole list of things recommended by various people on my friends-list, but none of them particularly appeal to me at the moment. Fitzgerald went on and on about Tolstoy, and how he and Nietzsche were practically the only great authors ever, so I guess I should get on with War and Peace. But egad, it's so huge. o_O
49. Is there a book you would recommend to everyone on your friends list?
I've found that my friends-list does not tend to all like any of the same books. I'd love it if everyone would read The Chronicles of Amber, though. ;)
50. Tag five people to fill out this meme:
Not tagging -- but I'd certainly be curious to hear from hamsterwoman, agguss, subcutis, likethesun2, zinniazayda -- well, and pretty much everyone else, really. ;) I love book memes.
EDIT: Okay, maybe BOOKS > RL is not a perfect equation, because sometimes RL has BABY CHICKENS:
OMFG LOOK AT THIS CHICKEN.
That is all.
Also, if you haven't given me your address already: DO IT so I can send you a card. :D