Pete Hornberger facing temptation, 30 Rock, Season 1, Episode 12, “Black Tie” (2007)
Looks like all my blogging friends are playing this game of tag, and it’s my turn to be IT.
Ola G at Re-enchantment of the World, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Chris at Calmgrove, and I-can’t-remember-who-else (sorry, blogger buddies, but if I take the time to find all those fascinating posts, I’ll never write this one!) — well, you get the point. Everyone likes themed book lists, especially ones with limited slots — Who made the cut? Who got snubbed? And what does the list reveal about the reader who created it? So it’s no surprise that this game is working its way across the land of blogs.
I’m IT, so let’s see how my answers turn out.* I give you advance warning, however, that my Virtues list features just 2 authors. See if you can figure out whose books I couldn’t live without.
THE SEVEN BOOKISH VIRTUES
Chastity: Which book or author am I saving for the perfect moment?*
This would be Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which first came to my attention at least 20 years ago, and I’ve had a copy on my TBR shelf for perhaps 18 years. Why am I waiting? I don’t know, but each time I reach for it something else catches my eye. But I think 2020 is my year for Bulgakov.
Temperance: Which book or series did I find so good that I didn’t want to read it all at once, so I read it in doses just to make the pleasure last longer?
Are you kidding me? Who does that? Sign me up as a charter member of Over-readers Anonymous, because if I like a book, I devour it. Always have, always will. Never come between me and my book. I bite!
Charity: Which book, series or author do I tirelessly push to others, telling them about it or even giving away spare copies bought for that reason?
Eric Kraft’s The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy, always and forever. I love authors who can make me laugh out loud, even while commuting on the NYC subway, and Kraft is one of those. Peter Leroy writes his autobiography, starting before his birth, and explains as he goes along what he’s changed to strengthen each episode’s plot (life is absolutely NOT like a novel). Kraft is playing with story, memory (he’s a big fan of Proust), and how we build ourselves up in our own minds, but he also gives us one view of life in a small Long Island bayside town in the mid- to late-20th century, with a wide cast of characters. Over the course of the series, Peter ages into his sixties, accompanied by Albertine, the love of his life. Perfect.
Diligence: Which series or author do I follow no matter what happens and how long I have to wait?
Eric Kraft. But I have to say that discovering this author after he’d published about 8 of the books in this unending series made the wait easier. By the time I’d acquired and read the first 8, 2 more had been published. A bit like Zeno’s Achilles paradox — if Kraft keeps writing as I read, how will I ever pass him? Ok, reality check, I have passed Kraft’s last book and must now satisfy my craving by jumping into the black hole of his website, not to mention rereading the series (to date, 23 novels/novellas) innumerable times.
Patience: Is there an author, book or series I’ve read that improved with time, starting out unpromising but ultimately proving rewarding?
Kindness: Which fictitious character would I consider my role model in the hassle of everyday life?
Eric Kraft’s Peter Leroy, no contest. He’s observant, clever, brave, loyal, curious, honest, and so so so funny. Plus he taught me the concept of cumulative error (look it up). I blame cumulative error for the fine mess we’re all in right now.
Humility: Which book, series or author do I find most under-rated?
Drumroll … build the suspense … wait for it … : Eric Kraft’s The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences and Observations of Peter Leroy. By now, you should know why.
That takes care of the Virtues. Next up:
THE SEVEN BOOKISH SINS
Lust: Which new book can I barely wait to get my hands on?*
This would be the next book in Pullman’s new Lyra Bellacqua series, The Secret Commonwealth, recently released. I’m 81st in line for 11 copies on the NYPL e-book reservation list. I should get it in less than 6 months — as if! I may have to actually fork over the dough for a copy, which means I might as well buy The Book of Dust while I’m at it. And I’m trying not to spend money on books! Ack!
Gluttony: What are the books I can’t stop reading and reading .. and reading?
Kraft (see the Virtues above), but also E F Benson’s Lucia series, Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, Tolkien, Jane Austen, Middlemarch, Swallows and Amazons, Neil Gaiman.
Greed: What are the most and least expensive books I own?
I have a few valuable old books variously acquired over the years, but the book I paid the most for is a 1925 original edition of Hendrik Van Loon’s The Story of Wilbur the Hat. The least expensive books are ones I grabbed from my local Little Free Library (George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo is one) — and before you yell at me, I placed other books into the LFL in exchange.
Sloth: What books am I too lazy to read?*
Conrad’s Lord Jim, a copy of which I’ve had for at least 50 years. It’s on my desk now, because I was hoping to finally get to it as part of my Reading the Sea project for Melville’s 200th anniversary. There’s still time, but I have a feeling life will be easier if I pretend I never saw it.
Wrath: Which books make me angry, and for what reasons?*
Most non-fiction these days, and only because they’re just too damn depressing. Either they’re full of lies, or they make me feel like the world is coming to an end. In both cases, I always want to toss these books into the gutter, which is a waste of good paper, so I offer them to my local Little Free Library (see above, under Greed).
Envy: Which books do I wish I’d written?*
Just about every book I have ever read.
Pride: What book or books do I bring up when I want to sound like an intellectual reader?
Oooh, thanks for giving me yet ANOTHER opportunity to show off! Moby-Dick, Proust, Roland Huntford’s The Last Place on Earth (about the 1910-11 race to the South Pole, the TV series based on the book is on YouTube), Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire, and lots more, but no need to knock you out.
7 virtues, 7 sins. I hope I’ve kept you entertained, inspired you to check out Eric Kraft’s website, and not given away too many of my secrets. And if you remember nothing else of this post, I hope you hold on to the concept of cumulative error. It explains a lot.
Happy reading to all!
*I’ve replaced a few of the questions with new ones I was happier answering. These are marked with an asterisk.