Friday, January 15, 2016

By the Book with Belle

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This morning I read a New York Times interview with one of my favorite authors Bill Bryson. The Q&A was in the newspaper's By The Book feature (here). As you might imagine the interviewees answer questions about what they are reading, what authors have influenced them, and other bookish inquiries. Past authors have included Sue Grafton, Simon Winchester, and David McCullough plus many many more. (Where have I been that I am just now discovering this column?)

Anyway, as I have no book to report on at this minute, I thought I would interview myself based on the Bryson interview. (I hope that I am not breaking any copyright laws by doing so!)

What books are currently on your nightstand?

I am reading on my Kindle Losing Ground by Catherine Aird and I have a paperback edition of The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald that is gathering dust as it has been there for so long. 

What's the last great book you read?

Carolina Writers at Home is tremendous. A collection of essays by many authors I was not familiar with. And it has these wonderful brooding, sepia-toned photographs.

Which writers, poets, journalists working today do you admire most?

Alexander McCall Smith, Bill Bryson, Mary Oliver, Billy Collins,
Anne Fadiman, Alain de Botton, Michael Dirda, Annie Dillard.

Who are your favorite travel writers and what is your favorite travel book?

Bill Bryson certainly comes to mind. I am sure I would get along with Patrick Leigh Fermor although I have yet to get my hands on any of his books. 

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?

Mystery, vintage children's books (because my own childhood reading was somehow neglected), the humor of Dave Barry and James Thurber. Books about books.

Which do you avoid?

Anything too violent, romance novels, science fiction, pretentious literary fiction.

What was the last book that made you cry?

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith. Not that it was sad, but his characters are so touching.

The last book that made you laugh?

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. He always makes me laugh.

The last book that made you furious?

Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion by David Brinkley. A lesson in how American political shenanigans never change.

Favorite poems?

"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver. "Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins. Together these two poems could save the world.

Your favorite movie adaption of a book?

To Kill a Mockingbird. I am also very fond of the television productions of Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford.

Who is your favorite fictional heroine or hero?
I must say that I adore Mma Precious Ramostwe and I hope that somewhere in the world there lives a woman just like her. And of course Nancy Drew set me off to a lifetime of reading mysteries. And I mustn't leave out brave Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Your favorite anti-hero or villian?

Well, I wouldn't call him a favorite, but I sure wouldn't want to meet Oliver Twist's bully Bill Sikes in a dark alley.

What kind of reader were you as a child? 

I was slow to enter the world of books. My second grade teacher sent home a note to my parents that I needed to read more for enjoyment. She would be so proud now!

What childhood books or authors stick with you most? 

The Nancy Drew mysteries and the tales of Mary Stewart and Daphne duMaurier. Also, Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. As an adult I discovered Ms. Brink's The Pink Motel and was swept away by it.

If you had to name one book that made you what you are today, what would it be?

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I read it when I was a junior in high school and it made me want to become a writer. And I did.

What author, living or dead, would you most like to meet?

I can't pick just one: E.B. White for his words, Agatha Christie for her plots, and P.G. Wodehouse for his characters.

What was the last book you put down without finishing?

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and Little Face by Sophie Hannah. The titles both showed up recently on a list of mysteries to read but I couldn't get into either one. 

Of the books you've written, which is your favorite?

Well, unlike Mr. Bryson, I haven't written any books but as for my over 800 blog posts I would have to choose the ones about my literary adventures (The Grand Southern Literary Tours, One and Two) and my accounts of meeting various authors. 

Whom would you like to write your life story?

Bill Bryson. He would be able to take the jumble of my journals and turn them into a humorous tale.


  1. Not surprisingly, your answers to several of the questions are the same as mine would have been. Except I did start reading early - so I could read Nancy Drew all by myself and not have to wait for my older sister to read them to me!
    I can't remember if you've read Gladys Taber's books. Last night I finished her novel, Mrs. Daffodil. I hadn't realized she'd written fiction. It's a charming, transparently autobiographical book. If you read and like The Egg and I, or the Miss Buncle books, I think you'd like Mrs. Daffodil. My library, surprisingly, has a copy, otherwise, I think it will be hard to find. Sorry.

    1. Hi, Joan. To my chagrin, I have not been able to get my hands on 'Mrs. Daffodil'. My library has a couple of Ms. Taber's books, but not that one. And I see that a used copy is selling for $85 which is a bit much. Maybe I can apply for a library card to your library?? I read either 'Still Cove Journal' or 'The Stillmeadow Road' by her but can't remember now which one. I do remember that she is a delight.

      I read 'Egg and I' many, many years ago and then searched out a used copy which has languished at my bedside for years now. I remember my mom and I laughing at the adventures with the chicken ranch.

      I have not read Miss Buncle. I just downloaded the first one from the library! Oh, joy. I won't have to go out in the cold to get a copy. Thanks for the tip!

  2. You always were my smartest friend. This column reveals your secret.

    1. Ha! I just found your comment! Thanks for visiting Belle, Book, and Candle.

  3. Wonderful! Simply wonderful! I think I would choose Bill Bryson as well.

    1. Thanks, Penny. Mr. B has a new book out, 'The Road to Little Dribbling'. I have it reserved at the library but who knows how long that will take! I wish Mr. B would eventually make his way here to Louisville. I could die happy!