Saturday, April 16, 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about me, but were afraid to ask

Because Rachel wanted to know and wasn't afraid to ask:

1) What's the first "adult" book you ever read, and how old were you? (you may define "adult" however you wish)

Anais Nin's Delta of Venus, when I was 19 and discovering a world of earthly delights.

This is a very interesting question actually, in terms of "grown-up" books. I was reading a lot of Agatha Christie at 9 or 10. In grade 7 we read The Martian Chronicles (around the time the miniseries was aired) and I, Robot, Animal Farm, also Hamlet. Are they grown-up books? They certainly were not written as children's books, but they are accessible to young adults and open up new worlds.

As far as books not on the school curriculum: The Gormenghast Trilogy (which may also be considered a "crossover" work and an introduction to the fantasy genre).

At 14 I stumbled across (I don't know how) Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun, and it scarred me. I don't think anyone is ever prepared to read that (I wonder what affect it would have on me now).

2) Whom would you rather date, Miguel de Cervantes or Fyodor Dostoyevsky? (substitutions allowed)

Dostoevsky, hands down. In fact, I think I did date him: a tormented writer — there was much vodka consumption, I generally paid his way. Late nights talking about the natures of Man and God, usually "privileged" to sit among the men. Lots of Polish jokes. But good parties and interesting social circles.

That said, though I still don't know Cervantes all that well, I rather suspect he's someone I'd consider settling down and living happily ever after with, in a mildly adventurous, self-delusional kind of way.

3) What is the most uniquely Montreal thing about living in Montreal?

In an obvious and superficial way:
The staircases, architecturally unique and almost stupid in a city that sees so much snow. Quaint, but positively treacherous in winter.
The general disregard for traffic lights.
The "bilingualism" in such utterances as "I have to stop at the guichet before we get to the dep," how the constant exposure affects your vocabulary and syntax. (Here's a fun list of similar Montreal peculiarities.)

But most striking to me:
Good lighting, by which I mean the restaurants, caf├ęs, etc are darker than in other cities and thus more conducive to intimacy, whether among friends or lovers. It imbues conversations with the sense that they are more meaningful, even if they're about shopping.

4) What were your career aspirations at age 11, and do they make you laugh or cringe?

I do not have a clear recollection of ever wanting to be anything specific when I grew up (damn that lack of direction!), although at about that time I was somewhat enthralled with the idea, the romance, of being a writer or editor, but it's not as if I ever really wrote anything other than crappy angst-ridden teenage poetry. When I was 12, my teacher suggested I pursue philosophy — I was really hung up on the problem of colour perception, how do we know we're all seeing the same colour (and I maintain that we don't, and this explains why we have different tastes in art, fashion, home-decorating, etc).

When I did get my first editing job, someone asked, "Didn't you always want to be an editor when you grew up? What a cool job!" and I said, "Come to think of it, yeah, kind of."

5) If you ever did get around to writing a book, what kind of book would it be?

Mostly fiction. Which is maybe not such a good choice considering I have no imagination. Give me a seed and I can grow it, but I just can't make something out nothing.

I have for a very long time wanted to write a fictionalized account of my mother's experience of wartime — how the family left Poland in 1939, travelled through Russia and the Middle East, and eventually found refuge in India (of all places). But a decade after the idea first occurred to me, I feel as if this type of memoir has been done to death. Also, I suspect my family would be more of a hindrance than a source or a support — which makes it just too big a project to take on, emotionally. For the time-being anyway.

Meanwhile, interestingly, for the last few months, for the first time ever, I feel as if I might have a wholly original novel in me after all. It goes almost without saying that it should be bleak and dystopian, and I'd like to explore the relationship and the disconnect individuals experiences between real life and their online personas. I'm not sure I want to say anything more though, because then I'd feel committed to seeing it through, and I don't need that kind of pressure weighing on my lazy-ass self.

My questions for others I want to know more about will be posted in the days to come.


Diana said...

You made me go back through my archives to find this post where I was tripping over the same question of color perception:

Suzanne said...

Sometimes I do think that editors are born, not made.

The seed of your novel sounds fascinating. No pressure from me, of course, because I am all too familiar with laziness and pressure, and who needs it, really. However, if you do decide to pursue it, I'd love to read it someday!

Anonymous said...

The "adult" book question was actually intended, in my mind, as "what's the first book that drew you out of the children's section of the library (or bookstore)". But I decided it was a good question however it was interpreted.

Something interesting to me, is that a lot of the "classics" which first lured me to the other side -- Dickens, Austen, Dumas -- are found just as often in the children's section anymore. Maybe that was true then too, and I didn't notice. But I do kind of wonder about that.

Kimberly said...

Paul and I have had some interesting discussions about where the "line" is between blue and purple, and orange and yellow. Of course there are infinite gradations, not lines of demarcation, but if we're describing things just in terms of primary and secondary colors, we often disagree. He will allow that I have a more discriminating color sense than he does, but will still maintain that something I know to be purple is actually blue.