Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview Swap: Evening All Afternoon

This is my second BBAW, and I think that the one thing I've participated in this year that has made my BBAW better than last year is the interview swap! I was lucky enough to have two different interview partners, and I think they are both great! I look forward to reading more from both of them!

First is Emily from Evening All Afternoon! Emily reads quite different books than I do, but we found that we have knitting and the tendency to be wordy in common! I asked Emily a few questions(in bold), and her answers follow! My responses to her are in italics.

What got you into book blogging? What do you like most about it?

I got into it by kind of a long and circuitous route, so prepare yourself! A few years ago, my partner David and I were keeping a joint blog: on Mondays he would post a haiku, then on Tuesdays I would post a book review, on Wednesdays he would post a photograph, on Thursdays I would post about my knitting, and so on. Gradually he started focusing on other interests (specifically web design), and so I was keeping a knitting-and-reading blog. Then I started the Family Trunk Project, which is my big knitting-design art project-cum-business in which I design a garment based on each member of my family tree, and self-publish the patterns. So then I had a place specifically for my knitting-related blogging, and I wanted a designated place for my book-blogging too - a place where I could get as bookish as I wanted, and not worry that I was boring all the knitters who just wanted to talk about lace socks or whatever. So David designed the Evening All Afternoon site, and the rest is history.

As for what I like most about it, there are so many things! I love the conversations and shared reading projects that it engenders, and I also love being challenged to think more deeply about my experience with a book. I find that I get a lot more out of my reading now that I'm writing a little essay about each book I finish. Hearing other peoples' diverse opinions on the same book often makes me think. And, to cap it all off, blogging is a regular writing practice, which makes me a better writer. It's a win-win-win!

I love the shared conversations, too! This interview swap has been so interesting for me, and one of the best things about being a blogger, in my opinion.

What is the first book you can remember reading as a kid?

It's funny, because the first book I remember reading, isn't a book I remember! Right after I started reading myself (rather than being read to every night by my parents), my dad bet me that by the end of the week I would be reading a certain book without help. At the time it seemed so overwhelming - there were lots of words on every page, along with the pictures. But he was right; by the end of the week I could read it. That memory is so clear to me, but I don't remember the specific book. The only things I seem to recall are that one of the characters was a purple cat, and that it had a white, hardback cover and was longer side-to-side than up-and-down.

But as far as the first books I remember really loving, I was a huge fan of the Emily of New Moon and Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery (and everything else she wrote). I'd still love to visit Prince Edward Island one of these days.

I love the way you describe the book that you remember reading! It's very cool that you had parents who challenged you in that way. My dad used to read to me, but I don't remember the first book I read by myself. I wish I had a distinct memory of that first book.

I see that you're a knitter! I am, too! How long have you been knitting? Do you think you spend more time at your book blog or your knitting blog?

Awesome! Always good to meet another knitter. I learned when I was ten, but didn't do anything with it back then. I picked it back up and taught myself everything beyond the basics after I graduated from college (2004). Then I started designing about three years ago. My first published design was in the Spring 2006 Knitty, and things kind of took off from there.

I definitely spend more time working on knitting- and design-related stuff than book-related stuff, since garment design is what I'm trying to do for my living at the moment. But I spend more time on my actual entries for my book blog than the entries for my knitting blog. Generally speaking, they take a lot more thought. Knit-blogging is more about pretty pictures, process-related checkups, and debating with myself about ways to deal with setbacks, whereas my bookish entries are more about analyzing my reactions to literature, pinning down how different effects were achieved, and so on.

I love Knitty! I'm working on one of the projects there right now. Please send me a link so I can check out your project! I love that you tell your family's stories on the website along with your creations. Your designs are beautiful! I think it's awesome that you take stories in exchange for your patterns as well! I love the idea, and I think I might send you a story or two just because!

I'm very impressed by your proficiency in French! How long have you been studying? It's really awesome that you're working on reading literature in the original language! Would you advocate reading a novel in the original language, or do you like translations as well?

Thanks! My progress is slow now that I'm no longer in school, but the occasional French novel helps. I took it up in my second year of college, after reading Proust in English and completely falling in love with In Search of Lost Time. It's one of my life goals to read him in the original one day, with good understanding. Right now I do okay with modern French novels, which tend to be more colloquial. But old-fashioned, proper French has about a million obscure verb tenses, and I can never keep them straight. My friend Marie Christine says that most young French folks don't even know how to use them anymore, so maybe I shouldn't feel bad!

As far as the original versus translation, I read a TON of books in translation. I love it, especially if you can find the work you're looking for in an excellent translation. I started paying attention to translators back in high school when I discovered that I mysteriously hated Constance Garnett's translation of The Brothers Karamazov, but loved Andrew McAndrews's translation of the same book. (This was before the beautiful Pevear/Volokhonsky translations of Dostoevsky started coming out.) So I'm all about reading in translation, but I think if you can read a little bit in the original language it's really good, too, if only because it gives you a sense of what a difficult job translators have, and how much is changed and lost when something is translated. Even trying to translate a few lines of the novel I just finished really brought that home to me. I have so much respect for people like Natasha Wimmer, who did the AMAZING English translation of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.

I've encountered the same issue with reading translations. Some I love, some I hate! I think I would probably have to start with Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" if I were ever to try reading something in the original.

This is your first year participating in BBAW, right? What are you most looking forward to?

Yes, it's my first year! I just think it's such a cool idea to have a community-driven celebration like this; so much of the time we don't take time to recognize all the meaningful, hard work we put into the not-for-profit things we do. Book blogging doesn't make me any money, but (cliché though it sounds) it enriches my life in so many ways, and so do the book blogs I read and the bloggers behind them. I applaud My Friend Amy for seeing the need to take some time out and acknowledge that, and I'm just looking forward to being along for the ride! And maybe discovering some great new blogging friends.

It seems like you mostly read classics and more serious novels. (As opposed to me--I read mostly fluff!) What books are your guilty pleasures, the books that you read in the bathtub?

Oh, if only I still had a bathtub! Seriously, going without one was the sad compromise my partner and I made when we bought our current (otherwise awesome) place. Someday...

Back on topic, though, I have a penchant for Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, and other mass-produced girls' serial fiction from the 1930s-50s. I'm so fascinated by how blatantly formulaic they are - the Stratemeyer Syndicate (which produced the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels) had super-strict guidelines about what should be happening in each chapter and almost on each PAGE of the books, and the ghost-writers just churned them out to specification. And there were all these specific rules - like, Nancy could only be knocked unconscious once per book, she had to be chaperoned while doing certain things though not others, there was supposed to be a plug for her previous book in Chapter 2 and a description of her appearance in the first five pages...they were controlled to a really bizarre extent. I'm repelled, and yet strangely attracted, by this idea of a kind of fiction factory - it's so 1984. And I also love the cheese factor in the books - the endless descriptions of lovely clothes and hearty meals that obsessed kids' authors of the 50s, and how Nancy possesses every skill and piece of esoteric knowledge known to mankind, which she whips out in service of the latest case. Totally hilarious! I also get a kick out of Mabel Maney's satires of those books (The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse, The Case of the Good-For-Nothing Girlfriend), featuring lesbian heroines Nancy Clue and Cherry Aimless. Maney nails the tone, spot-on.

Wow! I never knew that about Nancy Drew novels. I'm really not surprised, though. I read Nancy Drew as a kid, too. My favorites were the Trixie Belden books because her name was Beatrice. I was always so jealous that she got a cool nickname and I didn't!

I love the title of your blog from Wallace Stevens' Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird! Would you say that he is your favorite poet, and is this your favorite poem?

I don't think it's my absolute favorite poem, but I do really love it. I find almost every line to be so evocative and beautiful. When I was looking through my favorite poetry for blog titles, I realized that a lot of my most favorite poetry (Theodore Roethke's The Lost Son, H.D.'s Other Sea Cities) is longer, and kind of builds on itself, so there aren't as many single lines that pack as much punch. A lot of my favorite poetry is also pretty dark. Brilliantly evocative of a certain mood or character, but not a mood or character that I particularly want to associate with my blog, you know? I'm wild about "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," but I hope I'm not very similar to its speaker!

Ooh, I love T.S. Eliot! I thought for the longest that my dad was joking when I said something wasn't fair, and he said "T.S. Eliot!" I'll have to look up the other two that you mentioned. I love poetry, but don't read anywhere near enough of it, in my opinion.

Since you love reading and look for a well-turned phrase, are you also a writer? If so, what do you primarily write?

Blogging is pretty much my writing practice at the moment, but I do have sort of a writerly bent about it. I try to structure my entries like conversational essays - tie the ends together, use words in a conscious way, craft lively, readable prose that flows easily. I'm not sure right now if it's practice for something bigger, or just an end in itself.

I do also write essays as part of the Family Trunk Project - family history, based either on research, oral history or my own memories. I think my favorite piece so far in that project is the one about my paternal grandmother, Betty Jean McNeil.

I've already mentioned that I really love your stories about your family members! My mom would love your site because she's into genealogy. I bet she would be inspired by it! I think I am as well. *Heads off to start writing about family*

What are your wishes for the future of your blog?

More of the same, really! I hope I can continue connecting with kindred spirits in the wide world of book-bloggers, having interesting conversations and reflecting on my own experiences reading books. Recently I went back and looked through some of the first literary blog posts I wrote, and they brought back elements of those books I had completely forgotten. I think that's so cool! I love having a record of my thoughts about reading as time goes by.

Great point! I like being able to look back on my thoughts, see what was going on at the time, too. Good luck on having more of the same! It was such a pleasure interviewing you!


gautami tripathy said...

She is new to me blogger. I will check her out. Wonderful interview!

BBAW: Interviewing myself

TexasRed said...

Great interview. I never knew that about the Nancy Drew books, either (also a big fan as a kid).

Adventures in Mother Venture said...

Oh wow! That was a long post. I can see your passion for writing (and reading too).