Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Book Survey

gamesiplay wants me to do this quiz. She asked politely, so I will. But I will delete the stupid and irrelevant questions, such as "What's your name?"


1. Do you read a lot?
Compared to most people, yes. Compared to Susan, not at all.

2. What's your favorite genre?


3. Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction?
I don't much like either one, but I suppose I slightly prefer science fiction.

4. What's your favorite fantasy book/series?
I don't have one.

5. Who's your favorite fantasy author?
I don't have one.

6. What's your favorite science fiction book/series?
The Female Man by Joanna Russ.

7. Favorite sci-fi author?
I'm going to second gamesiplay and say Ursula K. Le Guin, who . . . well, gamesiplay said it so well, I'll just quote: "[She] is, regardless of genre, one of the flat-out best stylists I've read. 'The Stars Beneath' was one of the first short stories I ever read, and it really shaped how I think about metaphor as a storytelling strategy. For that alone I'd put Le Guin at the top of my list. Her gender/sexuality subversion is icing on the cake."

Susan hates Ursula K. Le Guin. I find it difficult to forgive her for this. I find it even more difficult to forgive her for her explanation of it. Susan is one of those people who believes overt political ideas like gender/sexuality subversion do not belong in books.


8. Which do you prefer: a puzzling mystery, or a terrifying thriller?
Neither. But I suppose I hate thrillers slightly less.

9. Do you have a favorite mystery novel?
I haven't ready any mystery novels since I was in elementary school reading Nancy Drew. Susan is the mystery reader around here.

10. A favorite horror novel?
I used to rather like Stephen King, until I read his story "Apt Pupil" and was sufficiently enraged by the misogyny in it that I've never read any Stephen King since. Therefore, I have no favorite horror novels.


11. Do you read romance novels?
No, my mother is the only person I know who reads those.

12. How about gay romance novels?

13. What's your favorite?


14. What's your favorite children's book?
I don't know.

15. Is it the same book that was your favorite when you were a kid?
My favorite book when I was too young to know how to read yet was The Spooky Old Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstein. And when I was not much older but did know how to read, I remember being fond of Amelia Bedelia. And a bit later than that, I was into Madeleine L'Engle.

16. What's your favorite YA book?
Do the Oz books count? Or the Little Women series? Or the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace? Oh, and I'm quite fond of the Adrian Mole books now, but I didn't read those until I was an adult.

17. Did you actually read it as a YA?
Yes, all of them except Adrian Mole, provided that you count elementary school as YA age. I also read a bunch of books by M.E. Kerr that were very overtly aimed at educating kids about sociopolitical issues like AIDS and homophobia. (This was when I was straight.) I can't count them as favorites of mine because the writing was really kind of awful and I knew that even then. But there was something inexplicably compelling about them all the same, and memorable enough that I feel a need to mention them.

18. In general, do you prefer children's books over grown-up books?
No. I prefer grown-up books.


19. What's your favorite classic novel?
Using gamesiplay's definition of "classic" as "pre-twentieth century," and fudging the definition of "novel" only slightly, I'm going to say: The Carnal Prayer-Mat by Li Yu. For its not altogether intentional humor value.

21. What's your favorite modern novel?
Just to make this easier, I'm going to interpret "modern" as synonymous with "modernist." Therefore, my favorite is Ida: A Novel by Gertrude Stein.

22. What's your favorite contemporary novel?
Again to make things easier, I'm interpreting this to mean novels published in the twenty-first century. My favorite is As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann.

23. What classic novel do you just *not* *get*?
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. Not published until 1936, so I guess I'm using a different definition of "classic" now, but this book absolutely has to be my answer to this question.

24. Do you have a favorite play or drama?
I don't think I'm suffficiently into drama to have decisive favorites. Like gamesiplay, I appreciate Tony Kushner, Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard, and of course, William Shakespeare. I also like Caryl Churchill, Michael Frayn, and Sam Shepard. I can't pick a favorite, though, unless it's William Shakespeare, and that seems . . . too predictable.

25. What do you think of Shakespeare?
He is fully worthy of his reputation as the #1 foundational writer in the English-language literary canon.


26. Could you pick a favorite poem?
I'm very fond of "A Woman Is Talking to Death" by Judy Grahn.

27. What about a favorite poetry collection?
I quite like Minnie Bruce Pratt's S/he, which could be considered a prose poetry collection. Naturally, Susan hated it.

28. Who's your favorite poet?
In terms of objective literary skill, e.e. cummings and Sylvia Plath probably impress me the most, but Emily Dickinson has that extra something that lets me relate better to her as a person, rather than just appreciating her skill. So Emily Dickinson is probably my favorite.


29. Do you read comics or graphic novels?
Only when they're by Marjane Satrapi.

30. Do you have a favorite series?
See above.

31. A favorite book?
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.


32. Do you prefer short stories (or short novels) over full-length novels?
No. I tend to prefer novels, which can vary widely in length, and many different lengths have been known to impress me.

33. What's your favorite novella?
I'm going to interpret When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten as a novella. At 192 pages, it's a bit on the long side for a novella, but the plot structure is definitely very much more characteristic of a novella than of a novel. So that's my favorite novella.

34. What's your favorite short story?
This is an impossible question. I pass.

35. Favorite short story collection?
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom.

36. Do you have a favorite short story author?
Probably Amy Bloom, followed by Mary Gaitskill.


37. What kind of nonfiction do you usually read?
As gamesiplay said, "My reading is overwhelmingly fiction, and I'm not at all embarrassed by that." When I do read nonfiction, it's usually queer studies, other leftist sociopolitical stuff, or anything written by an author who has also written my favorite fiction. Sometimes it's about art or California native plants or anything that Susan felt like giving me.

38. Do you have a favorite nonfiction book?
Exploding the Gene Myth: How Genetic Information Is Produced and Manipulated by Scientists, Physicians, Employers, Insurance Companies, Educators, and Law Enforcers by Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald.

39. Read any interesting biographies?
Like gamesiplay, I tend to prefer autobiographies to biographies. Furthermore, many of my very favorite autobiographies blur the lines between fact and fiction, including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde, Red Azalea by Anchee Min, If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home by Tim O'Brien, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.

However, if you insist on a biography rather than an autobiography, I pick The Empress is a Man: Stories from the Life of José Sarria by Michael Gorman.

40. History books?
Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany: The Youth Movement, the Gay Movement, and Male Bonding Before Hitler’s Rise: Original Transcripts from Der Eigene, the First Gay Journal in the World, edited by Harry Oosterhuis and Hubert Kennedy. Which would probably be my favorite nonfiction book overall, except that there was a separate place to put it and there wasn't a separate place to put the other one. Oh, and this one deserves an honorable mention in the "history" category: Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, edited by Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, Jr.

41. Politics?
Define "politics." Most of the nonfiction books I read relate to political issues, but I don't think I've ever read a book about specific political candidates.

42. Religious texts?
Uh, no. All the self-proclaimed "leaders" of the atheism movement come across to me as arrogant assholes who've mistaken the word "atheism" for "worship of them." I avoid reading them.

43. How about books on mythology, fairy-tales, or other cultural stories?
Can't think of any particular favorites.


44. What's the most important element of a novel? Plot? Characterization? Style? Themes? Happy ending?
The ability for me as a reader to understand what the author was trying to achieve, appreciate why the author wanted to achieve it, and admire the author's successes at acheiving it.

45. What kind of plot interests you the most?
I don't like books with excessive suspense. I want to feel free to put the book down whenever I need to do something else, and pick it back up again when I have time for it. When a book makes me feel unable to put it down, I feel attacked and inconvenienced by it.

46. What kind of characters usually appeal to you?
My reading is usually much more focused on relating to the author than on relating to the characters. But any character who the author seems deeply invested in - not necessarily a character the author currently agrees with, but perhaps a character who the author relates to by virtue of having previously resembled at some earlier stage in life - would probably be especially likely to hold my attention.

47. What is your favorite book overall?
I guess it would be one of these:
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, because it's the book I'd most like to imitate.
Ida: A Novel by Gertrude Stein, because it's a book I would most like to imitate if any effort to imitate it weren't doomed to be hopelessly obviously derivative.
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, because it's the other book I would most like to imitate if any effort to imitate it weren't, for entirely different reasons than above, equally doomed to be hopelessly obviously derivative.
Native Son by Richard Wright, because it terrified me as no other book has done before or since. It's so entirely different from my style that it wouldn't make sense for me to try to imitate it, which just makes it all the more impressive that the book managed to rip my heart out so effectively.

+++PASS IT ON+++

48. What's the last book you read?
Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff.

49. What are you reading now?
Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford.

50. What are you going to read next?
Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford.
Tags: books, surveys
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