If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
Shakespeare’s wife, of course. So I could settle this whole thing once and for all.
If you could meet any character from literature, who would it be?
I’d like to go for a long walk on the Hampstead Heath with George Smiley. It would be drizzling. We would end up having a tepid cup of tea somewhere, with slightly stale biscuits. I would ask him lots of questions about Control, and he would evade them, gracefully.
What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed not to have read?
I have never read any Tolstoy. I felt badly about this until I read a Bill Simmons column where he confessed that he’d never seen “The Big Lebowski.” Simmons, it should be pointed out, has seen everything. He said that everyone needs to have skipped at least one great cultural touchstone.
I’ll play along. You do too. Here are my answers:
1. Dante Alighieri. I would want to walk with him around Florence and talk to him about love, wonder, and God. Runner-up: A.J. Liebling. I would meet him in a town in Burgundy with a good restaurant, and talk to him about France and eating and the joy of being alive to eat in France.
2. Gandalf from The Lord Of The Rings, of course. We would meet in a back room at the Prancing Pony. There would be ale, endless steins of it, and cheese and bread and sausages. Runner-up: Elder Zosima from The Brothers Karamazov.
3. I suppose the one book I’ve always meant to read but never have is Proust’s Remembrance Of Things Past. I’ve tried, and have never been able to stick with it. Same with the Russians. I started Anna Karenina, but couldn’t stick; same with Dostoevsky (I read enough of The Brothers K to become entranced by the Elder Zosima) and Tolstoy (got a third of the way through Anna Karenina and collapsed). I consider this a moral failing on my part. I really do! But I never imagined I would read The Odyssey and The Iliad, or the Divine Comedy, yet I have, in just the past year (well, I’m halfway through the Commedia, but definitely going to finish it). Thank you, classical homeschooling. This winter, I’m going to give Brothers K. another go.
OK, readers, your turn.