Tom is the creator, author, curator, and genius responsible for Wuthering Expectations, one of the best book blogs going. This is almost all I know of him. Wait, I also know this: He’s such a damned good writer that even when he writes about books I would loathe, or have already read and loathed, I still read all his posts with complete satisfaction. He could write about anything at all–vacuum cleaners or bottle cap collections, why not?–and I would still be a committed reader of his writings.
There is also what he writes of himself on WE: “Not a professional – not in publishing, not a literature professor. Just a reader.” Just a reader! No, Tom, no. Not just a reader. A READER. Tom reads more widely and deeply than almost anyone I’ve come across; indeed, not being in either publishing or literary studies is likely the source of his super-powers, for the boundaries that tend to hold those of us with training in either of these endeavours don’t dare show their stupid faces around him; nay, they know he will not engage, that he will transcend. Tom is my ideal of a real reader–brave, open-minded, thorough, committed. My hero on teh interwebs.
Even his eyebrow(s) look heroic, or so I imagine.
What is the one book you love so much that you can’t be objective about other people not loving it as well? Have disagreements ever come to blows?
Hi there! I am going to answer some questions from a list Colleen sent me. This is really more of a Proust questionnaire than an interview. My answers will not be as good as those of John Malkovich. Please, do not click yet – one of my answers will be borrowed from Malkovich. See if you can guess which one!
As for my answer to this question, I would not complain if the “love” rhetoric disappeared completely.
What is your favourite either unknown or underappreciated book?
I like, and suffer for, all unknown and underappreciated books equally.
Favourite childhood book?
Have you read Go Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman? It builds to a surreal, sublime climax. The dogs are having a party in a tree! Dogs don’t climb trees!
Do God. Do! is a pretty good title. Someone should use it.
Who is your literary boyfriend or girlfriend? (They need not still be living, or they can be a character in a book.)
I am a happily married man.
What’s the strangest/most interesting/creepiest/most amazing thing you’ve ever found inside a book?
It may be useful to note here that I do not actually look so much like Sam the Eagle, a pompous, rigid blowhard, perhaps the least popular of the Muppets. Less popular than the rats. That was Colleen’s idea.* Thanks a lot.
Do you have any reading superstitions?
Oh, so many. I have mentioned several times how great it would be if someone had an early modern book blog – Dante, Ariosto, Rabelais, Cervantes, Shakespeare. Years of great reading there. Or an Eastern European project – or maybe something more like “Kafka and his descendants.” Of course, I have done my own little projects with Yiddish, Scottish, Portuguese, and now Austrian literature, so please browse through those for sug-
Sorry? Superstitions. I thought that said suggestions. Who has reading superstitions? The Enlightenment was 300 years ago already.
What book would a prospective lover/marriage partner/friend have to say they loved for you to end your relationship with them immediately?
My wife suggested the DSM-II, which is a good joke. Her answers to most of these questions would be better than mine.**
Stranded on a desert island, you have two books in your possession. What are they?
Montaigne – The Complete Essays.
And another copy of Montaigne’s The Complete Essays.
What about a dessert book, a book you could read and then eat?
See Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:3. “[O]pen thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked, behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein.” The book “was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.” Dee-lish!
Favourite literary description of food?
“In lieu of plates, that honest man cut two triangular pieces from the thick crust of the pie, and laid them, inside uppermost, upon the table: the one before himself, and the other before his guest. Upon these platters he placed two goodly portions of the contents of the pie, thus imparting the unusual interest to the entertainment that each partaker scooped out the inside of his plate, and consumed it with his other fare, besides having the sport of pursuing the clots of congealed gravy over the plain of the table, and successfully taking them into his mouth at last from the blade of his knife, in case of their not first sliding off it.” – from Our Mutual Friend, Ch. 57 or so.
Reading and eating simultaneously, yes or no?
Can’t read while eating. Too busy chasing the globules of gravy with my knife.
Your favourite author writes a book about your favourite food/dish just for you: Title? Genre? Summary of contents?
My favorite authors have done all right as is, so I will not make any commissions. Follow your muse, as they say.
Here is my question – are we in a Golden Age of food writing? The range and quality of food writing seems extraordinary, from the practical, the recipes (see Cook’s Illustrated), to the academic (see Gastronomica), to a range of amateur and pro-am food blogs that cover, as far as I can tell, everything. Does anyone have a blog that is just about food writing?*** It could be so interesting.
*Tom sent me a photo of his be-masked pinky finger but I decided, in the interests of anonymity, not to post if for fear of anyone on the internet finding out his true identity. In the digital era, superheroes have to be extra-cautious. A simple pair of spectacles and the costume of a working stiff just won’t cut it these days!
**Dear Tom, please ask your wife on my behalf if she would like to do a Brain/Food interview.
***I couldn’t find any–and I looked because that is a brilliant idea–but I know who I want to write such a blog.
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God’s honest truth – I have that eagle puppets eyebrows.
I can’t tell you how happy knowing this makes me.
Gravy in pies, see, not only edible but entertaining.
Especially here in Toronto, where we have a crackhead mayor going on about stopping the gravy train at City Hall.
We made this masterpiece, a Moravian chicken pie with gravy, recently. It was devoured well before the gravy got to the globule stage.
The horrifying part of the two big pie scenes in Our Mutual Friend – there is another – is that the meat pies are simply placed on a shelf and brought down when company comes. The congealed gravy is a delight compared to the – the unmentionable biological activity. Perhaps England had no flies.at the time.
I also felt nervous about those shelved pies in Our Mutual Friend. Maybe if you bake the everliving shit out of a pie, little beasties lose interest?
Didn’t St. Patrick run all the flies out of England? Maybe it was St. Bede.
Oh Tom, I so much enjoyed your answers!
I can’t stop looking at that eagle.
Stefanie, you ought to volunteer for one of these. Your answers will likely be less gravy-obsessed.
The issue with the flies is serious. Europeans wonder why Americans put those ugly screens on all their windows. There is a reason, is there ever.
Doesn’t Europe have flies? Flies are something I miss. Las Vegas doesn’t have flies. Flies are a summertime sound to me; here the weather gets quieter and hotter until people start passing out more than usual and that’s summer.
I will only speak for certain parts of France and Germany, but it was once shocking – I am no longer shocked, but I once was – how few critters would make their way into a room with completely open windows. Even at night! Not no insects, not no flies, but few, delightfully few.
Imagine the results of the experiment in Maine, imagine the swarms. Millers, mosquitoes, moths, and the kind of flies that bite.
Here in Ontario, it’s not the biting insects but the raccoons and squirrels who would take advantage of those open windows. Or not open windows: I once walked into my living room to find a raccoon methodically tearing a hole in the screen–in the middle of the day.
St. Bede, St. Patrick–saints of the scourge on all foraging beasties–they’ve left us to our own special hell here in North America.