TPQ: What are you currently reading?
SO'M: I always juggle multiple books at the same time. I have a kind of Byzantine system: I have specific types of books I read before bed, specific books for my commute (must be lightweight, and not require too much concentration), as well as a long-standing "Must Read That Book Some Day" list, which I do my best to chip away at bit by bit. So, at the current moment, I am reading: Bruce Springsteen's memoir Born to Run, James Joyce's Dubliners, Conversations at the American Film Institute with the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation - fantastic interviews with directors/editors, etc, Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah - about the Iran hostage crisis.
TPQ: Best book you have ever read?
TPQ: A must-read before you die?
SO'M: I am slowing making my way through Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time as we speak. I'm 3/4s of the way through the first volume. I'm loving it. I have many other books on that list, entire eras I somehow missed (I didn't "go to school" for literature. I didn't study it in college. I've had to fill in a lot of blanks). So Proust's magnum opus was the main one, and so I've finally started it. It feels good. I love how funny it is. I wasn't expecting that!
TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?
SO'M: Mostly non-fiction. I'm very, very picky when it comes to fiction. It has to be written well, first of all. I read non-fiction of all kinds: true crime, history, biographies, war journals, the history of plagues, whatever. I love to learn new things.
TPQ: Favourite female author?
SO'M: I can't choose one, but the two main ones - at least among contemporary writers - are Annie Proulx and Katherine Dunn. From the olden days, I'm going with Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot.
TPQ: Favourite male author?
SO'M: James Joyce. But also Joseph Heller.
|A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.|
TPQ: First book you ever read?
SO'M: I don't know! Probably The Golden Book of Poetry, although more likely I just memorized it since my parents read it to me over and over again.
SO'M: Louise Fitzhugh.
TPQ: Any book you point blank refuse to read?
TPQ: Any author you point blank refuse to read?
TPQ: Pick a book to give to somebody so that they would more fully understand you.
SO'M: Harriet the Spy.
TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?
SO'M: I gave my nephew William, a burgeoning Red Sox fan, The 50 Greatest Players in Boston Red Sox History, by Robert Cohen. William inhaled it and can now regurgitate facts from memory. I'm a proud aunt.
TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?
SO'M: My most favorite books I would prefer Not to see as movies. Like Geek Love. It's perfection. It lives in my head, the characters haunt my dreams. Just leave it alone. I will say that I have been somewhat shocked that Elinor Lipman's novels have not been scooped up to be turned into movies. They're so good. Adaptations of her books could singlehandedly revive the failing romantic comedy tradition in movies, although her books are more comedies of manners than anything else. Similar to Jane Austen. I'd love to see Lipman's Then She Found Me, or The Way Men Act, or Isabel's Bed turned into movies.
➽ Sheila O'Malley is a New York writer who writes about film for http://Rogerebert.com, and has a regular column on Film Comment.