The Well-Readheads Tell All
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RJS: So chicken, last week we decided to open our kimonos and take readers’ questions. Ready to answer some?
LH: I don’t know about that kimono thing, but fire away.
RJS: Just give me a minute to get Pat Benatar out of my head! Okay. Okay. Here we go. Nichole Bernier suggested a “novel cross-dressing day” and wants to know what novels we’d be curious to see done by other writers. Her example was State of Wonder by Junot Diaz, which is awesome like whoa. Go ‘head, girl.
LH: I GOT THIS. This is the first answer that popped into my head, and now I can’t stop thinking about it: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Katherine Dunn. EPIC NERDPURR. I mean, in many ways, her novel Geek Love is a modern-day Werther: it’s about unrequited love, not fitting into society, and sacrificing yourself for the ones you love. MIND = BLOWN. And you?
RJS: Swamplandia! by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Karen Russell has so many great seeds of weirdness and magic realism in the novel, and I just really want to see what Marquez would do with the winged man (who HAD to be a call-out to Marquez’s “Very Old Man With Enormous Wings,” right?) and how he would have fixed the few parts of the book I thought were broken. Also? I want Margaret Atwood’s take on The Sparrow. Who better to take on faith and sex and God?
LH: That would rule. I’d also like Nick Harkaway to take on The Westing Game – that would be ah-may-zing. What’s the next question?
RJS: It’s a good ‘un! Nikki Steele wants to know what books were so good, we couldn’t put them down to walk or eat or communicate with the outside world. I already mentioned The Sparrow once in this post, and it’s one of mine (on a verrrry long list). Et tu, Liberté?
LH: Well, geesh, so many of them. Now that I am a ‘grown-up,’ I can spend my time however I want, so I spend most evenings eating a book or two. Some of those are amazing, others are not. My point: almost every book I read is without interruption. So I will tell you about the books that I faked being sick for when I was young, so I could stay home from school and read: The Plague Dogs, Gone with the Wind and A Prayer for Owen Meany. These have stayed with me all these years – I love them just as much now as I did then. And the last book I read that made me want to claw at my own eyes in happiness was The Dog Stars.
RJS: I tend to read in hour-long bites, so really notice when a book keeps me glued to the butt-shaped rut on my end of the couch. Let’ see. I ignored my in-laws for most of a Thanksgiving visit when I was reading The Secret History a few years ago. I ignored the husband, the hound, and pretty much all of my responsibilities with The Passage. And lately, I’ve been carrying This Is How You Lose Her around with me everywhere. I don’t want to stop reading it, but I don’t want it to end, so I’m creating distractions for myself to make it last longer. Think we could get Junot Diaz to come over and whisper some sweet Spanglish nothings to me?
LH: After what I just read in This is How You Lose Her, I have no doubt.
RJS: Ay, Mami. I hope you’re right. Next question! Megan asked about separating books from authors and wants to know, if you are reading a book by someone you think is a jerk in real life, how do you make the distinction?
LH: I’m not really interested in what people do – I’m more interested in their art. I know Norman Mailer was an ass, but I think The Executioner’s Song is one of the greatest novels ever. I think how an author behaves reflects badly on them, not on their work.
RJS: Ditto. If you write great books, I sorta don’t care if you’re an asshat. In fact, I’ll give you license to be one. I mean, where did we get this idea that writers aren’t supposed to be a little bit insane? I’m all for crazy, if crazy results in crazyawesome reading. The exception for me is if an author is rude to readers–I will continue to read their work if I like it, but I won’t give my time or my online platform to discussing a writer who mistreats the people who pay their bills.
Last question, love nugget! Jess wants to know about guilty pleasures. Any books you’re ashamed to admit you read?
LH: Hrmmm. I think I have have guilty pleasures in other areas of my life, but I can’t think of any as far as reading goes. I will read anything if it comes highly recommended by someone I trust. I have read a lot of books, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, because I work at a bookstore, and I think it’s important for at least one person on the staff to be able to talk about a wildly popular book, even if it’s something I wouldn’t normally read. I don’t mind taking the hit for the team.
RJS: I’m stealing Ira Glass’ words about this, because they are perfect: “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I only believe in pleasures.” Sometimes I read junk. Sometimes I need brain candy, or I want to know what all the the hype is about. But it’s still reading, and it still makes me think *something* and I refuse to feel guilty about it. Now about these other guilty pleasures you have…
LH: If you want to know, it’s $4.99 for the first minute, 99¢ each additional minute. But I’ll give you the special ginger discount.