Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interview with Marmee

My mom has been visiting us this week. She likes to come and stay and go shopping and mother us a little bit. She makes all our favorite meals (how nice is it to come home from work and not have to cook?!) and buys us stuff. Sweet!

And as she's the one who first inspired my obsession with love of books, I made her answer some bookish questions to post:

We'll start off easy--what book are you reading now and how's it going?

Marmee: For pleasure, Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow. (Spoiler alert) Classic tale of young orphan engaged to handsome wealthy young lawyer/Revolutionary soldier who gets taken out by that nasty Tarleton. She then marries the far more spicy and attractive son of the woman who rescued her from a sewing shop in Charleston. For all the tragedy, it's just about the most optimistic book I've ever read.
I've only read it about ten times now, since I first read it as a teenager. It's an old friend.
For work, I'm delving deep into various characters associated with the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, plus trying to understand underwater archeology. It's a stretch, because it's not something I know a lot about, but it's got great dramatic potential. [Anyone who happens to be in Hampton Roads, Virginia should check out the Mariner's Museum in Newport News. Fab museum.]

J: You're a great re-reader of books. How many times have you read that Susan Howatch book? Why do you reread?

M: Well, the first time I read a book is always so stressful. Am I wasting my time? Will I like how this turns out? I do try to stick with a book through the first 50 pages -- and then I'll usually go ahead and read the ending. Then I'm not so stressed trying to anticipate the plot AND I don't get pissed off if there's some unexpected plot turn that takes out a character I'm investing in.

Suspense is just not my thing.

On the other hand, character development is something I really get into -- and you see so much more of that on the second or third or fourth re-reading. You also can admire the way the plot unfolds when you're not worrying about what happens next.

I like my relationships close and intimate. I have a very few close friends -- and not a lot of acquaintances. It's like that with books too -- which is why I am so grateful to have a daughter who reads widely and shares her books with me (even though I sometimes leave them open face downward or use the dust jacket as a bookmark.) [She's murder on books. Spines cracked, jackets ripped. Poor little babies. But that's okay, I love her anyway.]

I've been fond of Susan Howatch for a long time, though I probably like her historical novels better than the later ecclesiastical stuff. And I have really mixed feelings about her latest trilogy -- loved the first, weirded out by the second, and wasn't real comfortable with the third. But maybe when re-read they will work better for me.

J: What do look for in a great book? Characters? Plot?

M: Characters and the way they interact, more than plot.
There has to be plot, of course, but it should seem organic not forced. Like you can sort of see it coming and you're not blind-sided.
And it has to be long enough to get into.

J: Where did you come by your love of reading?

M: My dad was a great reader. He always had more than one book going (plus a huge Hershey's almond bar, hidden in the tuck between the back and seat of his favorite upholstered rocker). His mom was an English teacher, and the one sure way to get out of chores was to be reading a book.
He was famous for his library fines -- and I inherited it. So mostly I just buy books. Cheaper in the long run.

J: Favorite type of hero? (Don't worry I won't tell Daddy.)

M: Oh, I'd go for Rhett over Ashley. I loved Davy in Cruisie's Faking It. Lord Peter Wimsey. Marcus Didius Falco. Scaramouche. Horatio Hornblower.
They have to be bright and interesting -- sensitive is always good -- and able to triumph over the bad guys. Wit, charm, with just a wee spice of mischief.

J: Now for the hard question: Top 5 books of all time. (Only 5!)

M: Ooh, this is tough.
Captain Horatio Hornblower -- which is a trilogy of the first three C.S. Forester novels. One of literature's few introverted heroes.

Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch. The wars of the Roses, set in England over the Victorian, Edwardian, Great War and World War II time periods. Told by a series of characters.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. Love them all, but somehow this one stands out. Her protagonist is always the same person, and I always identify with her.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers. Harriet Vane struggles with her independence while solving a mystery at her alma mater -- then, at long last, gives way and falls into Lord Peter's (exceptionally patient) arms.

The Dark Rose (which was published as And No Quarter in the British Isles). Maurice Walsh tells the story of two young men from Ireland in Montrose's Scottish army in 1641, as the Royalists fought over incredible odds in an attempt to save the neck of Charles I. Probably one of the most lyrically written novels of all time, full of Irish turns of phrase, and so sad and beautiful. Great heroines. Great heroes.

J: Best book that you've read on my recommendation?

M: Crusie's Faking It. Davy and Tilda forever!

J: Snape--good or evil?

M: Evil. If he's good, it's going to be a miracle, and I think miracles are cheesy. Too many years in Catholic school, and too much experience of how apples don't fall far from trees.

J: Who's the golden child? Come on, you can tell the truth.

M: I have no metallic children, just three of the best and brightest kids ever.
Talented. Witty. Charming. And they love me back, which is the most amazing of gifts.

Aww, isn't she nice? Thanks, Mama!


Rosario said...

I'm going to write down your mom's answer to the "why reread?" question. That's exactly how I feel, but I've never been able to articulate it as well as she does!

Marg said...

I don't reread often, maybe because my TBR list is so long that I don't think I will ever make it through!!

Great interview!

Kristie (J) said...

That was cute! I liked that interview. And I used to love Susan Howatch too although I haven't read her in forever. And aha!!! another spine breaker just like my sister. And I was quite encouraged that you too refer to books as babies. When my sister *wince* cracks their spine, I tell her she is HURTING them, they can feel it!!!

CindyS said...

I love her retort that she has no metallic children!

I re-read to revisit the characters and their story.


Jennie said...

Rosario--I liked her answer to that too. I love to reread, and that's exactly why.

Marg--I like making headway through my TBR, but every once in a while I have to revisit an old friend. It's comfort reading.

Kristie--My books are my babies! And I have trained Mom to be more careful when she's borrowing something of mine. Or else I lay a big guilt trip on her. :)

Cindy--She just never will admit that I'm her favorite. ;)

Amarjaa said...

Awww...your mom seems like a really interesting person! ;) I love her response to the 'What do you look for in a great book? Characters? Plot?' question. That's exactly how I feel, but I've never been able to say it so well.

ames said...

Good interview Jennie!! Love that last question. LOL

Dylan said...

Awwww, how cute is your Mom? I loved reading this! Thanks for sharing!