March 08, 2015

By the Book

Kazuo Ishiguro Illustration by Jillian Tamaki for The New York Times

The New York Times has an ongoing feature in their Books section I always have a look at. It's called By The Book and today's feature was the best one yet. Here is the link as it's only a 5 minute read and to summarize they ask various people about their reading or writing habits and today featured Kazuo Ishiguro best known as the author of the Booker Prize winning The Remains of the Day also made into an interesting movie with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. I've never read that book or anything by Mr. Ishiguro but now I'm sure I will. He's quite an interesting fellow having written jazz songs and screenplays such as for the last James Ivory movie The White Countess with Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson that I also recommend.

The Den would like to ask our whipsmart readers three questions from this series with my answers below.


Who is your favorite author?

Leo Tolstoy and reading 'War and Peace' and 'Anna Karenina' (Constance Garnett translations) are easily the 2 best reading experiences of my life and read them back to back usually only 10-15 pages a night as I didn't want the stories to end and loved thinking them through.

What are you reading now?

The Autobiography of Mark Twain. I'm about 3/4 through Volumes I and II which total nearly 1500 pages and loving it although it has some dead spots.

What do you plan on reading next?

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

46 comments:

  1. My favourite book is "Gone With The Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. I chose this as my favourite as I've read it more times, than any other book. I love the fact that I can pick it up, opening it to any page, and enjoy reading it. The most moving book I've read is is the PENGUIN Books Translation (the ONLY translation in my opinion worth reading, if you can't read it in the original French language) of "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo . Although I place it second on my list, it's not second in my soul. This book affected me such that I felt it had a holiness; like a bible. It's hard for me to describe it in words.
    My third favourite, is a short story by Truman Capote; "A Christmas Memory". I read this every Christmas Eve. I always vow to get through it without being moved to tears. It hasn't happened yet, and I hope it never does.

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    1. Very interesting list Donna and thank you for sharing!

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    2. Donna, forgot to mention, you have mentioned Capote's 'A Christmas Memory' here before and this Xmas eve past I had the telly program locked and loaded on youtube and must have fallen asleep very early on as I couldn't remember anything past the first scene.

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    3. That's likely because the movie version with Geraldine Page is insipid, and practically unwatchable, save only for Truman Capote's narration.. I would much rather read the book aloud to my family; (as I did for many years) but they much prefer the discomfort of watching the movie, over the torture of my audible book rendition.

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    4. You're right Donna, I do remember Tru's voice starting in some old cabin and then must have dozed off...might have had a couple of cocktails too. Next year I'll do it your way and hope to maintain my tough guy self image.

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  2. Love that feature as Ishiguro is one of two Japanese favorite writers of mine, the other being Haruki Murakami. Both brilliant but very different, one restrained and the other writes dramatic plot twists. I love melodrama so my favorite is Balzac and his Comedie Humaine, Lost Illusions and Pere Goriot in particular. We will be in Italy this summer so currently juggling fictional biographies The Agony and Ecstasy and I, Claudius. Next in line is Basilica about the scandal surrounding the building of St. Peter's.

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    1. Hi Marie,
      I've never read Balzac but did love 'I, Claudius' and read it zipped inside a mosquito net on my cot in Haiti after the earthquake 5 years ago. Your next selection sounds interesting with the subtitle 'The Splendor and the Scandal' and sounds like a great candidate for my nightstand.

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  3. Darling G,

    We rather missing taking in a newspaper, something we have not done for many years now. The internet headlines are just not the same and your 'By the Book' section would be a definite hit with us.

    It is so so difficult to choose a favourite as there are so many plus and minus points from any author whom one chooses. But, we should both be agreed on E.M.Forster as a wonderful writer and we only wish that more had been written by him. The sense of place which he can conjure up and the development of character are great strengths.

    At the moment we are both reading property particulars and the mountain of paperwork attached to owning a house. We do not usually pay so much attention to the detail but, as we have yet to see said house, we feel that the least we can do is to read the documents. When this frenzy is over we shall no doubt return to our comfort zones of Ian Rankin and Elizabeth Taylor.

    Vile Bodies shows Evelyn Waugh at his most waspish. We have coined the term 'Bright Young Things' on many occasions for those twenty somethings who surround us and enrich our lives in Budapest

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    1. Darlings J & L,
      I was only yesterday lamenting the decline of actual newspaper reading with the double edged sword of the internet unfortunately gutting that industry yet also allowing us to meet and share an interesting selection such as today's post instantaneously all over the world.
      'Property Particulars' isn't a title I suspect that will ever adorn your bookshelves either in Budapest, Brighton, or the soon to enchant Norwich abode we are all eagerly awaiting the Hattattian treatment of but we do understand how that is occupying both your keen minds at the moment.
      Ian Rankin and the less married Elizabeth Taylor I know of only by fine reputation and a quick glance tells me that a recent reissue of 'Angel' had none other than Den Fav Hilary Mantel writing the introduction. In a respectful nod to our Beacons of Budapest, Den bookshelves will soon include works by Rankin and Taylor.

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  4. I've not read "Remains of the Day", although enjoyed the movie version.. but I've read his "Never let me Go".
    I don't think I have a favourite author - different authors for different genres perhaps? Currently reading "Gentry" which is a look at the English aristocracy - creation and continuation. It's pretty interesting. Next I've got "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher"…. I've not done a lot of reading in the past month - it's been too busy!

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    1. 'Gentry' does sound interesting and your time will be very well spent in the adept hands of HM for 'The Assassination' that was the subject of a recent Den post on 'Classy Dames'. You have been busy Heidi!

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  5. My favourite authors are Charkes Dickens and Jane Austen. I am reading james runcie's "the problem of evil" and Neil gaimen's stardust and next up is Russell brand's revolution.

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    1. Hard to argue with those two titans Dickens and Austen and love the comment Mr Ishiguro made in response to one of the questions that he wished there had been a 7th Austen novel having to do with love beyond the wedding day.
      Not familiar with Misters Runcie and Gaimen and I'm not sure what to make of this RB.
      Very interesting assorted Wendy and thanks for sharing!

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  6. I was just ordering "The Buried Giant" before checking my blogroll, what a coincidence!
    My favourite author is Colm Toibin. I think he is the best living writer, his newer book "Nora Webster" is stunning.
    I'm currently reading "The Inconvenient Indian" by Tom King, as well as that book Wild, (which I'm enjoying more than I imagined I would). Pretty odd for me to be focussing on non-fiction and I'm looking forward to reading Ishiguro's new book next. xo

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    1. Dani,
      That Colm Toibin seems like an interesting character and must check him out sometime and your Tom King I see is a neighbor...have you had him over for vermouth soaked tea-cakes???

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  7. Remains of the day was fabulous!!!! He's rather british and being if japanese descent it is a seamless move as those two cultures are alike. David Mitchell is a new writer I really enjoyed. He wrote amongst others thousand autumns of Jacob zoet which was so good I am inspired to visit dejima if I find the energy.

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    1. Naomi,
      I can see how a Brit of Japanese descent would feel at home yet retain an outsider's keen eye for observation and this is the first mention of David Mitchell I'll have to now keep an eye out for.

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  8. I must admit to being a genre hopper, too! From Austen to Hemingway with many in between. Hemingway is probably my favorite author! I loved all of the Daphne du Maurier books,especially Rebecca. If pressed,my favorite book would be To Kill A Mockingbird.
    I enjoyed Wild, both the book and the movie. Gradually working my way thru Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley and next up is The Girl On The Train.
    I will read the NYT book review section tonight as it is sitting on the bedside table for a Monday night read.
    G, while I adore Mark Twain and his writings, I could not make it thru his autobiography! I much prefer the Ken Burns documentary on PBS.

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    1. Interesting Trudye and while I greatly admire Hemingway in many ways and really liked The Old Man and The Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls, he isn't yet in my top rank as Austen is but will delve further.
      I forgot all about KB's Mark Twain doco so must find it after I'm done with the Auto' as my opinion of MT has soared.

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    2. Good grief,how coud I have forgotten Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen and Gabriel Garcia Marquez? So many to love!

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    3. I know what you mean T as whenever I answer a 'favorite' query, I almost feel like having betrayed those other worthies not having been at the front of my mind at that moment...am far more skillful at bet-hedging re past squeezes...

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  9. Jane Austen, of course, and Steinbeck (though GWTW and TKAM are distinctly greatest SOUTHERN novels, my take is that East of Eden is THE AMERICAN novel). Miss Welty and Daniel Woodrell (his imagery and gift for words simply flow off the page---you can feel the chill of Ree Dolley's bloody fingers as she cleans two squirrels to feed her young siblings, and smell the crisp bitter tang of the guts steaming in the Winter air. I'm simply in awe of his grace and style). Agnes Sligh Turnbull was my childhood favorite, with Dickens a Winter read, as Faulkner is for Summer. You need to sleeve the sweat off your lip to get the real feel of Faulkner.

    Right now, I'm hip-hopping via NOOK between the incongruous pair Jack Reacher and Father Tim, and finding them both heroes I'd like to have on my side, any time, with the angles and toughness and the sweet and sentimental each tempered by the other.

    Next: Bitch in a Bonnet, Volumes I and II, awaiting also on my NOOK. This guy has a way with translating/ relating/explaining/ parodying Austen in an elegant, charming, cutting way which is absolutely addictive. Check his blog for a sample---the snide send-up of Sir Walter Eliot is worth the price of the books. .

    Hope you're staying well and warm, Sweetpea!

    rachel

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  10. What an interesting, far reaching, and well written submission this is Dear Rachel. My only experience with Steinbeck is reading The Winter of Our Discontent and Mice and Men and the superb film adaptation with fellow Chicagoans and Steppenwolf theatre founders, Gary Sinize and John Malkovich.
    I need to come to terms with my aversion to Southern writers, literature, Faulkner, etc. as I was a Connecticut boy who grew up in North Carolina and it seemed there was an idea of the South that Faulkner and those other Southern Gothic writers created for the 'New Yorker' crowd and Ivy League English Departments much the same way a Mayberry was constructed in Hollywood's Desilu Studios by Yankees and Californians and even Southerners lap it up like pork-chop gravy. This whole Harper Lee Mockingbird circus stinks to the high heavens as the publisher had no direct contact and dealt only thru her lawyer. GSL may have to don a pair of coveralls, Cat Diesel Power lid, sleeve the sweat off his brow, open up a king can of whoop-ass, and blow that flim-flam operation out of the rancid creek water it's floating in....pardon my twang.
    Did you say 'Bitch in a Bonnet'? I've got a charming little gal the Den would like to introduce him to although she's off getting gussied up for a conjugal visit just now.
    The author of those Jack Reacher novels, Lee Child, told The Guardian the Den's official watering hole, The Red Lion, is his tavern of preference too although we have yet to cross paths.
    I'm off to that blog you reference and many thanks for your wonderful contributions Dearest Rachel !

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    1. Dear GSL I'm not just getting 'gussied up' I'm perusing your favourite book - 'Sex for Dummies'. It's been well-thumbed, and I see you've been busy with the high-lighter. I can only hope that any conjugal activities won't be held up by your insistence on reading your nightly quota of 10-15 pages of War & Peace. What a thrill-fest that sounds! The sheets will be on fire, I'm sure. Claire

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    2. I was hoping I could flush you out with something salacious as I suspected the literary tone wouldn't much excite you since it wasn't accompanied by a syllabus, directed study, and much needed third party affirmation.
      Now really Claire 'Sex for Dummies' and 'highlight pens' is clever suburban sports bar banter for that crowd you're used to roughing up but GSL will soon have you performing at a much higher level which in turn will have me performing at a level you'll want to experience much more of....It's time you realized you're only in 3rd gear which has always been good enough but that's not where you belong.

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  11. Gosh, with all the pots I have my fingers in, it has been a long while since I had the luxury of time to absorb myself in a good book (outside of picture books that is). Favorite authors: Waugh, Austen, Dickens and Wodehouse to be sure, but I'm sure you already knew that.

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    1. Dearest CD,
      Your exquisite taste is wonderfully predictable...only the best will do. Perhaps when the spring planting is done and those nimble CDian fingers clear themselves of those elegant black basalt pots a time for absorption may present itself.

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  12. I am with the lovely CD. I have not had the time to fall into a good book since the bairns were small. I did read charming Billy as you know and I agree with a lot of what you said about it. I have a stack of books by my bed that I will choose between as I fall asleep, but since sleep comes so quickly I can only manage a couple of pages. The stack has to be varied and currently contains: The Seven Ages Of Paris by Alistair Horne, Father Brown, Madame Bovary, Lord Peter Views the Body, Arguably (by Hitchens), Poirots Casebook, and a stack of Smithsonian magazines. I Love Dorothy Sayers, Wodehouse, Christie, Hemingway,Waugh, Mitford (obv) and more. Ive read every book in the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series at least three times. Ive just preordered Meet Me In Atlantis by Mark Adams
    And I do not read books on kindles. I like paper and ink, I like flipping pages and making notes in margins and tapping my finger against the hard corner of the binding.

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    1. Bebe,
      I am also apt to bounce around between genres and fiction/non-fiction and my c-c is certainly a kindred with Alice McDermott's wonderful Charming Billy and Hitch's Essay Collection Arguably. One of these days I'll have you get me properly introduced to Dorothy Sayers as I know she is near and dear to you. I also like the tactile connection with a book although I do a good bit of audiobooks which are a real treat with the right narrator.

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  13. Try A Handful of Dust, as well as Vile Bodies : )

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    1. I will Curator and had remembered you telling me previously. I always pay heed to you clever gals.

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  14. I really liked 'The Remains of the Day' so I would love to hear what you think if you read it. My favorite author is F. Scott Fitzgerald. Those sentence structures and his yearning just slay me every time. Yesterday I finished reading a terrible biography of Wallis Simpson by Anne Sebba. It was so obvious that she did not like her--why bother spending years of your life researching and writing about someone you don't care for? I don't get it. I'm reading 'The Royal Jewels' by Suzy Menkes, especially the section on Wallis's jewelry. Suzy is a great writer, much more objective than Ms. Sebba, and I'm enjoying her work tremendously. XO, Jill

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  15. I love FSF too Jill and have 1st edition replicas of Gatsby and Tender is the Night. It's a shame they haven't made a decent Gatsby movie. The author of the Wallis Simpson bio is likely my mother's generation. My mother has never said a bad word about any non-political public figure except WS and she and my grandmother always referred to her as "that awful woman",
    I think I'd have found her interesting...far more so than the Duke.

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  16. Would be hard to pick one favourite. Like Heidi and others I'm a genre reader too. But if really pressed to take one book to a desert island would have to choose "War and Peace". I read it about every ten years (from when I was a teenager) and every time find things I missed earlier. Originally it was Natasha's romances that intrigued but as I travel t different life stages other things draw me in. I don't think Heidi has forgiven me for telling her this - as on my recommendation she tried so hard to read it and had to put it aside because of her v busy life with children and house renovation and construction.
    Some of the genres that appeal are:
    Books that amuse, eg those by Nancy Mitford - particularly "Love in a Cold Climate" series. Of these, the one most people miss is "Don't Tell Alfred" - hilarious. Fanny has grown-up, married - a man who proves to be dreadfully unsatisfactory, but successful career wise as he's posted as British Ambassador to Paris. Her adult and teenage children (including Linda's son) and her niece are all a hilarious challenge in their own ways. The story of her life, family and struggles in Paris, v funny. Can be seen as a roman a clef, eg her predecessor as ambassadress is a woman who can't bear to leave and lingers on during Fanny's time, is modelled on Lady Diana Cooper. Most favourite characters from earlier books return too. Also love Evelyn Waugh, in particular "Descent and Fall" and "Scoop" and his brilliant acerbic and anarchic humour. Of course, Jane Austen, any book. And almost forgot - the remarkable biographical series by Clive James beginning with "Unreliable Memoirs".
    Biographies, autobiographies and volumes of letters. Paddy Leigh Fermor, including his letters to Debo. The whole Mitford family. Many others by or about writers, artists, Queen Victoria's family and descendants.
    Great literary works, including by: FSF (especially Gatsby); EM Forster; Faulkner (specially "The
    Sound and the Fury"), Halldor Laxness's "Independent People" (the only Nobel Literature Prize Winner from Iceland); Rohinton Mistry's devastatingly tragic "A Fine Balance"; Giuseppi di Lampedusa's "The Leopard" (also the film); Gabriel M Marquez; Mockingbird of course (and the movie). Really too many to list.
    .
    Just finished reading Barnaby Martin's "Hanging man - the Arrest of Ai Weiwei". Fascinating and illuminating book on China today, the life and struggles of a dissident artist, against the background of Mao and the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen. Currently reading Isabel Allende's "My Invented Country" funny, sad, horrifying, reflective book about her life and Chile, her original homeland and Riotta's "Prince of the Clouds" - a tale about a patrician Italian who is an expert on military tactics and historic battles - but who has never personally seen combat. Not a subject I would have expected to be interested in but bought because it's set in Palermo - and I love Sicily. So far so good. Best wishes and happy reading! Pammie

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    1. Ooops - that should be "Decline and Fall". Pammie

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  17. Very interesting Pammie and I love a well read woman. You'd make a wonderful lunch companion. The whole Mitford, Duff Cooper, Lady Diana crowd is one that fascinates me and I'll be diving into a Duff Cooper bio to begin my extensive research and will start in on the Mitford canon as well.

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    1. "Old Men Forget" is fascinating, including his role in Parliament on the brink of WWII. Also Diana's autobiography - her story really brought home to me the terrible losses of almost a whole generation of young men in WWI. So many of her young admirers died. She shares the survivor relief and guilt with Duff and draws us in. Pammie

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    2. Prior to my Mitford research, I'll seek your guidance on angle of attack.

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  18. Ladies, Just so you know that chivalry is not dead, the following is from our very own and beloved Jody Brettkelly of About Last Weekend who apparently is on holiday, someplace glam no doubt, and had smartphone difficulties likely on account of freshly manicured nails and an umbrella drink of considerable octane.

    Jody wanted to highly recommend David Mitchell and his Black Swan Green (Naomi had also raved on DM above) and she concurred with her new message boy (and aspiring 'lobby boy') regarding Hilary Mantel and 'The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher'

    Thank you Jody and Cheers!

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    1. Jody,
      I remember where you are! Not in the sunny Caribbean but in Utah with that peculiar bar with odd drink restrictions as I recall. Bottoms up girls and raise a glass (w/o staff assistance) for your GSL!

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  19. Jeepers! I can't believe I forgot to mention,Bringing HomeThe Birkin,by Michael Tonello, and Mornings With Mailer, by Dwayne Raymond; especially since they're friends, and the only authors I actually know personally.

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    1. I know Donna; as soon as we make a declaration a sense of betrayal seeps in over who we omitted....you keep interesting company; are these your Hollywood Dog Track buddies?

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    2. I know Donna; as soon as we make a declaration a sense of betrayal seeps in over who we omitted....you keep interesting company; are these your Hollywood Dog Track buddies?

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  20. I'm playing catch up on my blog reading! I just finished Gods and Kings, the gossipy bio of alexander McQueen and John Galliano and loved it.

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    1. Between Book signings/interviews and HuffPo deadlines, and couture fittings for Serena we'll consider ourselves lucky anytime you can squeeze in a Den appearance.

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  21. That is an extremely smart written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your useful information. Thank you for the post. I will certainly return.

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