Bailey Alexander answers 13 questions in a Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading? 

BA: I’m currently listening to Gore Vidal. I’m a huge fan of audible. I have all his books but I just downloaded a book of Vidal’s essays, chosen by Gore from 40 yrs of work, containing a majority of what he published in various magazines and journals. It’s called United States: Essays 1952-1992. It is, in a word, extraordinary.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

BA: Gore Vidal and Dawn Powell sit at the very top but when I was a teenager I really hooked into those Harlequin Novels. Not that they were bad, but they made me do something very bad. I was imbibing them so quickly I started stealing a couple from our local library. I’d never been a klepto before or since, but it must have become a sick, albeit temporary, addiction. Gratefully, for me and our local library, it only lasted for one summer. It was probably my hormones. We can always blame our teenage hormones, or, blame it on the moon, as the Italians like to do.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

BA: Gone with the Wind, in 7th grade. I read it in two days and took it to school and read it during French class where Madame Epstein finally had to take it away. But gave it back. As a teacher, I suppose she literally, couldn’t begrudge me of this passion. Like I said, it only lasted two days but I kept reading my favorite bits over and over again. And because of my age, I had a crush on both Scarlett and Rhett; it was an intoxicating and heady time in my young life.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

BA:  I don’t know who my favorite author was, I don’t think I had one. We had a small library in our house where I grew up. Stuffed with everything from the Happy Hollisters and Nancy Drew to Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. It was eclectic, with five kids and two parents with divergent interests. I read the Exorcist in 7th grade, probably right before GWTW, and that really made an impact. At 13 it was a strange time to read that book. I think I knew at that young age it was about faith. The author wasn’t key, but the subject was. Later on I shared this with a neurotic friend when I was living in Paris. He became agitated and said, “Did your mother know what you were reading?” So I called my mother later that day and asked, and she answered, “Of course I knew what you were reading, but you were reading everything else in that library so I wasn’t fussed.” With five kids, parents rarely were, especially back in the 70’s, our last decade of deep curiosity.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

BA: Gone with the Wind,

TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

BA: Gore Vidal and Dawn Powell. That one was easy.

A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

BA: Fact.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

BA: There’s so many and I used to love them; library is full of them. But the one, actually, there are two, are written by women, both of whom knew Hitler. Leni Riefenstahl. Because she set the stage for editing in both Triumph of the Will and the Olympics, because she was so deeply controversial, and spoke to a certain time. Not to mention she used to scale dangerous mountains barefoot, in a skirt. Absolutely independent spirit, and, well, deeply controversial and interesting. The second is Diana Mitford’s bio. Everyone thought Nancy was the witty writer, but Diana was so fiercely independent and fascinating (like every single one of the delightfully eccentric Mitford sisters) and, she was a gifted writer. She remained highly controversial and there’s little doubt her second husband was a cad, and an asshole, but I remain captivated by her. As her younger sister said, Diana was a Beauty with a capital B and yet it was her unique and complicated mindset that drove her every action.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

BA: Oh no. But I have to say Christopher Hitchens probably hasn’t aged as well as we’d like to think. He was too clever with the word gymnastics and inconsistent in his arguments. There was a reason Gore Vidal cut him off, and Hitchens cried about this fact. Gore Vidal’s four favorite words were, “I told you so.”. 

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

BA: Dawn Powell’s A Time to be Born. She is what many of writer's aim for but will never achieve. Probably because we don’t read as deeply as they did back then. I think people would be very surprised as to how much Dawn Powell and Gore Vidal read; constantly, and deeply. I certainly don’t. Like everyone else I’m too distracted with social media and Netflix.

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

BA: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. Now that’s what we used to call, “fierce”. And it rattled my friend in the same way it rattled me. Oates ability to channel Marilyn Monroe is like nothing I’ve ever read. You actually feel like you are Marilyn or that you are with her, and it’s very unsettling. You are transformed to another place, which is why we read, I guess.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

BA: Any of Dawn Powell’s books. Her powerful intellect truly defined a specific time, in New York, in the 30’s and early 40’s. It’s so specifically American and funny, and more importantly, she treated women in the same way she wrote about men. And she thought the middle class was funny. Both items were a no no to the literary class back then. Long live Dawn Powell.

TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?

BA: This is going to sound so pretentious, but it’s so true. I’ve started Proust a dozen times, but can never get past book # 2; I hope I can correct this before I die. Of course, everything I’ve answered today, is really about time, isn’t it; making more of it, going back in it, recapturing it, studying and wondering what it must have been like…

Bailey Alexander formerly a nomadic adventurous, now a writer and gardener living happily in Piedmont, Italy, with her two papillons Gigi and Gaston. She is the author of A European Odyssey: How a boxer's daughter found grace, available on Amazon.

Booker's Dozen @ Bailey Alexander

Bailey Alexander answers 13 questions in a Booker's Dozen.

TPQ: What are you currently reading? 

BA: I’m currently listening to Gore Vidal. I’m a huge fan of audible. I have all his books but I just downloaded a book of Vidal’s essays, chosen by Gore from 40 yrs of work, containing a majority of what he published in various magazines and journals. It’s called United States: Essays 1952-1992. It is, in a word, extraordinary.

TPQ: Best and worst books you have ever read?

BA: Gore Vidal and Dawn Powell sit at the very top but when I was a teenager I really hooked into those Harlequin Novels. Not that they were bad, but they made me do something very bad. I was imbibing them so quickly I started stealing a couple from our local library. I’d never been a klepto before or since, but it must have become a sick, albeit temporary, addiction. Gratefully, for me and our local library, it only lasted for one summer. It was probably my hormones. We can always blame our teenage hormones, or, blame it on the moon, as the Italians like to do.

TPQ: Book most cherished as a child?

BA: Gone with the Wind, in 7th grade. I read it in two days and took it to school and read it during French class where Madame Epstein finally had to take it away. But gave it back. As a teacher, I suppose she literally, couldn’t begrudge me of this passion. Like I said, it only lasted two days but I kept reading my favorite bits over and over again. And because of my age, I had a crush on both Scarlett and Rhett; it was an intoxicating and heady time in my young life.

TPQ: Favourite Childhood author?

BA:  I don’t know who my favorite author was, I don’t think I had one. We had a small library in our house where I grew up. Stuffed with everything from the Happy Hollisters and Nancy Drew to Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask. It was eclectic, with five kids and two parents with divergent interests. I read the Exorcist in 7th grade, probably right before GWTW, and that really made an impact. At 13 it was a strange time to read that book. I think I knew at that young age it was about faith. The author wasn’t key, but the subject was. Later on I shared this with a neurotic friend when I was living in Paris. He became agitated and said, “Did your mother know what you were reading?” So I called my mother later that day and asked, and she answered, “Of course I knew what you were reading, but you were reading everything else in that library so I wasn’t fussed.” With five kids, parents rarely were, especially back in the 70’s, our last decade of deep curiosity.

TPQ: First book to really own you?

BA: Gone with the Wind,

TPQ: Favourite male and female author?

BA: Gore Vidal and Dawn Powell. That one was easy.

A Berlin Book Tower in memory of the Nazi book burning.

TPQ: A preference for fact or fiction?

BA: Fact.

TPQ: Biography, autobiography or memoir that most impressed you?

BA: There’s so many and I used to love them; library is full of them. But the one, actually, there are two, are written by women, both of whom knew Hitler. Leni Riefenstahl. Because she set the stage for editing in both Triumph of the Will and the Olympics, because she was so deeply controversial, and spoke to a certain time. Not to mention she used to scale dangerous mountains barefoot, in a skirt. Absolutely independent spirit, and, well, deeply controversial and interesting. The second is Diana Mitford’s bio. Everyone thought Nancy was the witty writer, but Diana was so fiercely independent and fascinating (like every single one of the delightfully eccentric Mitford sisters) and, she was a gifted writer. She remained highly controversial and there’s little doubt her second husband was a cad, and an asshole, but I remain captivated by her. As her younger sister said, Diana was a Beauty with a capital B and yet it was her unique and complicated mindset that drove her every action.

TPQ: Any author or book you point blank refuse to read?

BA: Oh no. But I have to say Christopher Hitchens probably hasn’t aged as well as we’d like to think. He was too clever with the word gymnastics and inconsistent in his arguments. There was a reason Gore Vidal cut him off, and Hitchens cried about this fact. Gore Vidal’s four favorite words were, “I told you so.”. 

TPQ: A book to share with somebody so that they would more fully understand you?

BA: Dawn Powell’s A Time to be Born. She is what many of writer's aim for but will never achieve. Probably because we don’t read as deeply as they did back then. I think people would be very surprised as to how much Dawn Powell and Gore Vidal read; constantly, and deeply. I certainly don’t. Like everyone else I’m too distracted with social media and Netflix.

TPQ: Last book you gave as a present?

BA: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. Now that’s what we used to call, “fierce”. And it rattled my friend in the same way it rattled me. Oates ability to channel Marilyn Monroe is like nothing I’ve ever read. You actually feel like you are Marilyn or that you are with her, and it’s very unsettling. You are transformed to another place, which is why we read, I guess.

TPQ: Book you would most like to see turned into a movie?

BA: Any of Dawn Powell’s books. Her powerful intellect truly defined a specific time, in New York, in the 30’s and early 40’s. It’s so specifically American and funny, and more importantly, she treated women in the same way she wrote about men. And she thought the middle class was funny. Both items were a no no to the literary class back then. Long live Dawn Powell.

TPQ: A "must read" you intend getting to before you die?

BA: This is going to sound so pretentious, but it’s so true. I’ve started Proust a dozen times, but can never get past book # 2; I hope I can correct this before I die. Of course, everything I’ve answered today, is really about time, isn’t it; making more of it, going back in it, recapturing it, studying and wondering what it must have been like…

Bailey Alexander formerly a nomadic adventurous, now a writer and gardener living happily in Piedmont, Italy, with her two papillons Gigi and Gaston. She is the author of A European Odyssey: How a boxer's daughter found grace, available on Amazon.

3 comments:

  1. Bailey - thanks for doing this for us. I thought for a while I was never going to fuse with you on something or someone we had both read. It conjured up a vision of the immense landscape of literature I have not explored. It might as well be China - some place I have never set foot in. Then Hitchens came up. But we are on opposite sides of the barricade on that one. I loved his stuff, his wit, his polemic, his irreligiosity.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sean Mallory comments

    I haven't come across Powell but will keep an eye out for her the next time I am perusing a book store.....as for Proust...reminds me of Joyce...too heavy a tome for me.....never read anything by Hitchens either or Dawkins for that matter but I know that they were and are both quite learned fellows! Did Hitchens not support Bush in the Iraq war or something along those lines? I think that the reason for never reading their books is that I was apprehensive about not being able to grasp or understand them so I didn't have the confidence...I suppose the only way to have found this out was to read them and see!!!! Yuval Noah Harari is right up there with them but not all on the same level mind you, and I really enjoyed reading him....I would love to go to a talk by Dawkins

    ReplyDelete
  3. Reposting my last comment as I said Dawkins when I should have said Hitchens supported the war.

    That's right about Hitchens - he did support the war. I think he viewed it through a secular lens and saw it as a war against theocratic fascism. He completely lost the run of himself from what I remember. Still, his writing is brilliant.
    I met Dawkins at the World Atheist Convention in Dublin about 9 years ago. I had my daughter with me on one of the afternoons and he chatted to her. Which was kind of nice, I thought.
    I have a Yuval Noah Harari book to read but like every other book I have promised to read, I might get to the finishing line before I get to finish it!

    ReplyDelete