Thursday, October 18, 2012

By the Book: Sara

This interview is part of my By the Book series, in which I interview interesting people about their reading. Any readers out there interested in being featured here? If so, email me:

And now, meet Sara who blogs at Wordy Evidence of the Fact, and has far more book authority than me because she's a English teacher!!! (Leave it to me to get excited/impressed by that job!)

So, here’s what you need to know about me: after 5 years with the same brick of a cell phone, I am considering an iPhone.  For years now, I have railed against the rhetoric that claims Apple is the guardian of cool.  I have thrown my phone, dropped it, gotten it wet, and refused to charge it for days on end, and through all that, it has persevered.  I assumed we’d be together forever.  So, why am I being so fickle?  Why am I being wooed by the iPhone?  Twitter.  That’s right.  I have finally gotten on board the ship of tweets, and it is so decidedly a mobile technology that I feel crippled without a smartphone.  Talk me out of this insanity, please.  You can find me there @wordyevidence.

When I’m not worrying about my cellular relationship, I teach courses in Rhetoric and Composition, Western Humanities, and American Fiction at UTC (Univ. of TN at Chattanooga).  I love my work but secretly dream of being a children’s librarian.  Or a professional Pinterest-user.  Or a house-flipper.  Really, I just dream of keeping my own house clean and growing and making good food and occasionally crafting beautiful things with my own two hands and writing and reading and running whenever I feel like it.  Too much to ask?

What book is on your night stand now?
John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley (2 copies, actually), Mark Haddon’s The Red House, the Bible, and my husband’s kindle, which I have been borrowing to read The Aeneid.

What was the last truly great book you read?
Though I’ve read some good books this year, 2012 has been rather a low point in my reading life.  Not a lot of standouts yet, but there’s still time, right?. Though I read it for the first time last year, the best of the most recent has to be rereading The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis.  It is just so tremendous.

Any literary genre you simply can’t be bothered with?
Mystery and Romance.  I like my fiction to have elements of realism, things I can chew on.  I don’t like the formulaic or the ridiculous, even though I do like solid science fiction.

A young, aspiring teacher wants your advice on what to read. What books do you suggest?
What?  How could I possibly suggest what an English teacher should read?  Uh….the Western canon?  Uh….all the amazing international authors?  Uh………ALL.  THE.  THINGS.

What’s your favorite Shakespeare?
I think I’ll have to go with King Lear.  Or maybe A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  Although I think we teach it and Romeo and Juliet too young for students to appreciate it fully.  It’s been awhile, though, for all of these.  I’m about to read Henry V for the first time, so maybe I should do a reread on another while I’m at it.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?  
Really, I just wish I could require every president to read one book a year.  As Yann Martel has expressed much better than I (and as I’ve posted on a few times at the blog), a reading president has the ability to understand the “other” so much more, an invaluable skill in a representative democracy.  If I had to choose, I think the president should read the National Book Award winners each year.  They may not always be my choice for the best books of our country, but once chosen, the president should read them.

What was the last book that made you cry?  
I don’t cry easily.  In fact, my family says I’m dead inside.  But I did cry reading The Book Thief.  And I have John Green’s The Fault in our Stars at my elbow, and my tear ducts know a threat when they see one.

The last book that made you laugh?
I laughed out loud a few times while reading Lewis’ The Horse and his Boy and Prince Caspian with my kids (we’re reading through The Chronicles of Narnia).  Some really funny lines in there.

The last book that made you furious?
I get furious on a semi-daily basis reading the news.  I think I know myself enough, however, to not choose books that are going to make me furious, so it’s not often.   But last year, I did just about lose my mind reading Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish.
I’m really – really – bad at abandoning books.   I am making progress, though, and the Mark Haddon book on my nightstand is likely to fall.  I’m about 100 pages in, and it’s not badly written.  In fact, there are frequently beautiful and intriguing lines.  I’m just not jiving with the characters, and, well, life is too short, right?

What were your favorite books as a child? Did you have a favorite character or hero?  
No nontraditional heroes here.  Anne of Green Gables, Jo March, and A Little Princess Sara Crewe were dear favorites of mine.  I can’t imagine why I would like these spunky, literate, independent, and fiery young women.

What’s the best book your mother ever gave you to read?  
My mother gave me just about all the books I read as a child, so how could I choose?  I can say this: my mother gave me the unmatched gift of weekly visits to the library, something that fed my reading addiction as a child and my undying appreciation for those places as an adult.  The titles don’t linger, but the habit certainly does.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?  
I’ve met a few of my literary heroes, but after seeing Salman Rushdie on The Daily Show the other day, he’s topping my wishlist right now.  He was funny, erudite, and engaging.  Also, I know I’m not alone in wanting to hang with John Green and his brother, Hank.  Those guys are just too smart, too fun, and too hilarious.  What I would want to know?  That makes me laugh…I mean, I would want to know them, the people.  It would be rude, wouldn’t it, to be like “Hi, Mr. Rushdie, uh, what did you mean by making the men so weak in The Moor’s Last Sigh?”  “Oh, was that it?  Ok, bye!”

Have you ever written to an author? Did he or she write back?
Definitely.  Having the blog has given me some boldness about talking to authors, so I’ve corresponded with several of my favorites, Jess Walter and Ann Pancake most notable among them.  Both were warm, considerate, and thoughtful. [Editor's note: Ann Pancake might be the best name ever.]

You’re organizing a literary dinner party and inviting three writers. Who’s on the list?
Didn’t I already answer this question? Rushdie and the Green brothers!  Oh, you want me to invite three more?  Okay, how about Jill McCorkle (because she is a fabulously witty), and Mo Willems (because he seems cool and funny), AAAND Barack Obama (duh). [Editor's note: What the what? Good call!]

What’s the best movie based on a book you’ve seen recently? 
I actually thought they did The Hunger Games pretty well.  But the only movie adaptation I’ve ever been fully pleased with is the Harry Potter movies.  I LOVE them beyond all reason.

What are you going to read next?
Well, most immediately next, I’m going to read the 75 Western Humanities papers in front of me.  But after that, I’ll start The Lemon Grove by Ali Hosseini, an Iranian writer I found in the library last week.

Thanks for playing Sara -- I'm going to follow up on some of your recommendations! Everyone should definitely check out her blog, Wordy Evidence of the Fact.