Which, I guess, just goes to show that you shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what people want to say, at least not without a more in-depth conversation. On the other hand, maybe she was just trying to spare my feelings.
What touches you most about a literary work?
Honesty. Emotional honesty, in particular. Certainly, an author (more or less by definition) not only takes liberties with reality, he deliberately manipulates the feelings and thoughts of the reader. Yet an emotion that doesn’t ring true will kill a book for me.
Do you prefer books that touch you emotionally or intellectually?
I kind of think that a Well the book should do both. Even the lightest of escape fictions must have an intrinsic sense of structure, self-awareness, and intelligence. On the other hand, I totally consider laughter to be an important emotion.
What genres do you particularly like to read? And what do you avoid?
Honestly, I will read anything including the label on the Tabasco bottle if there is nothing else. Do you know what’s in Tabasco? Peppers (mashed, presumably), vinegar, and water. So simple, but do people make theirs at home? No, so why not? And who are these McIlhennys and how did they start this thing? (I posted a Thanksgiving photo last year – with our placemat for 10, with clean empty dishes (because everyone stayed home, isolating themselves during the pandemic) – but with a glimpse of the kitchen counter, on which was a bottle of Tabasco. Some alert soul noticed it, and the company quickly sent me a nice Tabasco basket, with six different shapes of sauce. urged to put a bottle of Krug on the counter this year and see what happens.)
That said, I avoid books in which terrible things happen to children (not to mention autobiographies of people who have survived terrible things that happened to them when they did. were children; these are fascinating) – and there is a very small group of authors whose books I don’t read because the spirit I feel behind them bothers me. (In all fairness, mine bothers a few people as well.)
How do you organize your books?
What is that strange term, “organize”…? Basically, it’s management by piles. The TBR stack (well, one of them) is out there, and contains everything from sci-fi and history to hard-core crime and memoir – not to mention “Love Drunk Cowboy,” from Carolyn Brown, that I’m taking me to Europe on Thursday. In the office bathroom there is a stack of (mostly) historical reference books, including the one from the Firefox books that I find useful right now, as well as my brand new (used) copy of “L ‘World Almanac of the American Revolution’ (my original shattered into several pieces, having been used throughout the writing of the last four or five novels), and an intriguing thing called “How to Read Water” (a great skill to have), plus a huge, exquisitely illustrated book called “Lichens”. At the bottom of the girls’ wing (all of our kids have been grown up for a long time, but they come back for visits) is a small shelf that’s stacked up (the shelves are full of games like Monopoly and something in a black box with a vulgar name that I don’t have time to look at right now) with mostly popular fiction – chicks, fantasy, murder mysteries, biographies, etc. – that someone in the house has already read but didn’t want to throw away or donate to the library, so here it is for anyone who might be interested. And… uh… well, several more of the same. Batteries, I mean.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
I’m pretty sure people who read my books (not to mention those who actually know me) wouldn’t even be slightly surprised if I had titles like “Medieval Punishments: An Illustrated History of Torture” or “The sex life of the Foot and Shoe”, not to mention “Blood and Guts” or “Carmina Gadelica”, “The Mask of Command” (that’s military history / commentary, not BDSM (that’s on another shelf …)), and three different books on symbology, plus a few dozen slang dictionaries.