Brook Nymark is just some guy I met in Halifax, years ago. I don’t know much about him except that he likes books, food, running, has a gigantic head, and looks like a dock worker.
Who is your literary boyfriend or girlfriend? (They need not still be living, or they can be a character in a book.)
When I was 14, I wanted to be Red Sonja’s witty sidekick. Puberty may have been a factor.
What’s the strangest/most interesting/creepiest/most amazing thing you’ve ever found inside a book?
I was at a university library reading through a history book as research for a paper (really, I was just looking for quotables to pad my bibliography), and found that someone had struck out the “male” bits in all words like “history,” “human,” “manufacturing,” etc. Occasionally, they were accompanied by an asterisk and “*sexist” in the margin. This was a cultural studies reader on the industrial revolution that referenced Carlyle, Mill, Engels, and Marx – needless to say, there were lots of offending words so this initial commentary was significant.
But that wasn’t nearly the half of it. At some point, early in the first chapter, “why the hell are you doing that” was written in the margin, with a different pen, and arrows to several of the strike-outs. Another pen appeared to respond with “sexist bullshit is the product of male history.” A new pen simply added, “Gaskel, Brontë, Eliot?” with a red-pen underlining to make it Brontë.
The first reference to Engels comprised circles with a hard line drawn to the bottom of the page, in all caps, “WHAT? NO COMMENT HERE? SEXISM IS BAD BUT IRISH-HATING HOMOPHOBIA IS OKAY?” with “huh?” and “see Lumpenproletariat” following.
An ex once sent me her personally annotated copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but this was much, much better. It was fascinating/hilarious, but I had to stop reading because after four hours I’d barely read 40 pages. Nowadays, this is called trolling, and occurs primarily on teh internets, so is usually less exciting upon discovery.
Do you have any reading superstitions?
Only read back-cover copy after you’ve read the book. That way you won’t hate the publishing company for what they give away (and yes, I’m still pissed at the publishers of The Gone-Away World); also, crappy back cover copy is common, and is rarely ever written by the author anyway. Skip all that and read page 40 if you want a sense of things. This also applies to gifts you don’t intend on reading yourself.
What book would a prospective lover/marriage partner/friend have to say they loved for you to end your relationship with them immediately?
On the face of it, Death by Honeymoon, Death by Divorce, and Death by Marriage seem prime suspects. Oddly though, this trilogy seems to be in reverse order, with Marriage coming after both Honeymoon and Divorce, but hey, why quibble when death is at stake? Any book with Celestine in the title is also likely to foretell the doom of our relationship.
But then again, why be so hard on people? I mean, there might be lots to love there, and sometimes folks are still just looking for themselves out there in the great wide world and who are we to criticize that search? I mean seriously, isn’t it time we looked past petty differences like Middlemarch versus the The Girl with Da Vinci’s Pi Tattoo?
That said The Watch That Ends the Night was codsbollocks.
What would your ideal desert island book be?
Probably something on surviving in the wilderness or on a desert island. I mean seriously, why do people insist on taking books like Leaves of Grass or some sort of prayer book? That shit is not going to get you through more than 2-3 days before you are totally dead (totally). You need a book that teaches you how to find water and live like a cave-man eating grubs and wild basil. Stuff like that.
That said, Saga of the Swamp Thing, was pretty good (despite not being applicable to the desert), and as a teenager I did read a Conan the Barbarian comic that had cool tips on how to find water in the desert. (I believe you need to dig a hole that a monkey can reach into, but can’t get his hand out if it is in a fist. Then you put some food there. The monkey tries to get it, but can’t, so keeps trying until it gets thirstier than it is hungry. It lets go and you follow it to a water source – problem solved. Not sure what I’d do if there weren’t any desert monkeys, but the principle still applies.)
What about a dessert book, a book you could read and then eat?
Wishing I had eaten my copies of Red Sonja (due to embarrassment) likely doesn’t count here.
Has a book ever made you physically ill? If yes, which book was it and why did it affect you this way?
Crime and Punishment affected my heart-rate. For the most part, I read it in 20-minute bursts, crammed on the Seoul subway with hundreds of other commuters. This was in the days before e-readers, so the heft of the thing added to the craziness. From the messy, lengthy, entirely realistic “crime” to the inevitable finale, I was totally caught in Raskolinikov’s psyche. I took me an hour to come down from it each time.
Amazing (in either a good or bad way) literary collaboration that hasn’t happened yet?
Anthony Bourdain and Cormac McCarthy, but only if Henry Miller was the editor and it was a coffee table book on edible flowers. One imagines a title like The Stamen.
Favourite literary description of food?
First, from two lovely blue eyes, whose bright orbs flashed lightning at their discharge, flew forth two pointed ogles; but, happily for our heroe, hit only a vast piece of beef which he was then conveying into his plate, and harmless spent their force. The fair warrior perceived their miscarriage, and immediately from her fair bosom drew forth a deadly sigh. A sigh which none could have heard unmoved, and which was sufficient at once to have swept off a dozen beaus; so soft, so sweet, so tender, that the insinuating air must have found its subtle way to the heart of our heroe, had it not luckily been driven from his ears by the coarse bubbling of some bottled ale, which at that time he was pouring forth. Many other weapons did she assay; but the god of eating (if there be any such deity, for I do not confidently assert it) preserved his votary; or perhaps it may not be dignus vindice nodus, and the present security of Jones may be accounted for by natural means; for as love frequently preserves from the attacks of hunger, so may hunger possibly, in some cases, defend us against love.
Also, I’ve always liked Joe Fiorito’s Comfort Me with Apples.
Describe what for you would be the bookish equivalent of an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day? How about a steaming hot chocolate on a freezing January night during a snowpocalypse?
Lemonade: Anything by Joe Abercrombie.
Chocolate: Anything (other than Big U and Zodiac) by Neal Stephenson.
If you could replace those little Gideon Bibles in hotel room nightstands with any book at all, what would it be? What would you have left on guests’ pillows to replace the ubiquitous mint?
The Bourdain/McCarthy book would be fun for the laughs/outrage.