Day #2 of BBAW! Interview Swap Day!
I don’t know how I hadn’t found Laura from Musings before. How did this happen? I swear she is my blogging Doppelganger. (I wonder which one of us is the evil version? Probably me.) Seriously, go read my answers to her questions. We might share a brain.
Here’s a little about Laura from her blog:
I have been blogging about books and reading since 2007. I also host The Complete Booker, a perpetual challenge to read all winners of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. We read short- and long-listed works, too.
I live in southeastern Pennsylvania, near both Delaware and Maryland. I’m married with 2 daughters, and an assortment of dogs and cats. When I’m not reading, I tend my fruit & veg garden, and work to provide the best possible habitat for the wildlife living around my house and pond. I also enjoy knitting, especially socks.
We both started blogging in 2007. That’s a long time in internet years. What have you learned about blogging that you wish you knew back then?
Wow, that's a tough question! I started my blog more as a personal reading journal and didn't have any expectation that others would read it. So I sort of jumped in with no clear plan in mind. There were a lot of "nuts and bolts" things I learned along the way, about blog platforms and templates and all that techie stuff. But that's not all that important, really. The best part about blogging -- and it was totally unexpected -- has been the community of other bloggers. And the most important thing I've learned, and am still learning, is about how to build and sustain community. Early on I took part in a lot of reading challenges, which fostered community with other participants. After a while I started to feel over-programmed and I stopped taking on challenges. But then I lost my community, and had to find other avenues, new bloggers to follow, and different reading events. It's important to understand what you most enjoy about blogging and devote time and effort to keeping that flame alive, but be flexible and open to new ways of doing so.
Your blog focuses on books that not everyone has on their radar. Who is one author you wish everyone would read? Why should they?
I'd have to say Winifred Holtby. I'd never heard of her until I began collecting Virago Modern Classics. She died far too young at 37, and only published six novels. But she was a fascinating woman. She left university in 1918 to serve in France as a member of the Women's Auxiliary Corps. She later became a journalist and feminist pioneer in England. Her last novel, South Riding, is considered her masterpiece and is one of my all-time favorite books. It was published posthumously by her lifelong friend Vera Brittain (another fine author and activist, by the way), and portrays a slice of English society and the workings of local government, through the eyes of a strong, independent female protagonist.
If you could interview one character from any book, what character would it be and what is the one question you’d have to ask?
Another difficult question! My mind went immediately to some of the better-known characters in classic literature, like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. But I think if I actually met him I'd probably be struck dumb like a schoolgirl with a crush, and it wouldn't end well. I decided I'd better set my sights at a more reasonable level. For some reason, the first character that came to mind was Harriet Baxter in Jane Harris' creepy novel, Gillespie and I. This is a fictional memoir in which Harriet becomes embroiled in a family's tragedy. She's one of the most unreliable narrators I've ever read, and to this day I couldn't tell you what really happened. So my interview would involve locking Harriet in a room and not letting her out until we got to the bottom of it.
I see that you list Edith Wharton as one of your favorite authors. She’s one of mine too! I’m jealous that you got to visit The Mount. What is it about her writing that you like and what’s your favorite novel of hers?
My visit to The Mount was amazing, in no small part because I was there with bookish friends, some of whom I was meeting face-to-face for the first time. Funnily enough, I hadn't read much Wharton before visiting, and it really inspired me. I like her for having been a strong woman, ahead of her time in many ways. And while most of her books aren't exactly uplifting, I love her portrayal of "old money New York society," and how she often shows money can't buy you happiness. My favorite novel, The Custom of the Country, is a great example, and it has the most awful heroine-you-love-to-hate, Undine Spragg. Reading about her rise and fall is like watching a train wreck but I couldn't tear myself away!
I like how your rating system goes from Unforgettable to Bleah. What was an Unforgettable book did you read this year? How about a Bleah?
I've been lucky this year, with 5 "Unforgettables." The best of these was Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles, which won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction. I had a hard time moving on to my next read; nothing seemed to measure up. And it's actually rare to encounter a "Bleah." I'm really picky about what I read, and I get so many reliable recommendations from bloggers and LibraryThing. But I did have a "Bleah" a while back when I read V.S. Naipaul's In a Free State. I was on a quest to read all Booker Prize winners, and I made it, but that book did absolutely nothing for me.
When you aren’t reading or blogging, what’s something you like to do for fun?
Earlier this year I learned to knit, and I've become hooked on knitting socks. They can be a bit challenging, but (geek alert) the mathematical logic behind sock construction appeals to me. And handmade socks feel great on my feet too!
I totally agree with you about Undine, Laura. Custom of the Country is so underrated. I have a few more books to add to my To Be Read list now, like it isn’t big enough.
Thanks so much for answering my questions Laura! Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week!