Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jim Crace on optimism

From an interview with Jim Crace, 2001:

I've said this so many times before, but I think that the Hollywood view of the world, and the Christian view of the world, which tells glorious stories about an afterlife and stories about this life in which virtue and good looks are one and the same, that we're going to live forever in a honey-soaked heaven, I think those are deeply cynical views of the world. For me, optimism is taken from the fact that when you look really closely into the dark corners of the world and know that death is final, when you accept that most of the people you know are blemished and you're blemished yourself, and nevertheless out of that find a reason to be optimistic, that for me is a triumph.

I think I'm the most optimistic writer that you could ever encounter, but many of my critics think I'm just impossible.


I just finished Crace's Quarantine, which my Facebook friend Amy Holman mentioned in her "note" titled "Literary Geeks." Question 9: If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be? Amy's answer was Quarantine, and when I looked it up it sounded fascinating. Amazon's blurb begins: "The story of Jesus's 40 days in the wilderness is surely among the most celebrated and widely diffused narratives in Western culture. Why, then, would Jim Crace choose to retell it in strictly naturalistic, non-miraculous terms? The obvious answer would be that the godless novelist is trying to debunk divinity--to take the entire New Testament down a notch."

I am fascinated by novels that take on biblical stories from different perspectives. This is a flawed novel, I think, but so thoroughly worth reading and living in.

I don't want to write a whole review of it. I mostly just wanted to post the quote. I love his words on optimism. I look forward to reading more of Crace's work--this was the first book I'd read by him.


I'm not going to post Amy's "Literary Geeks" list, but I will post my own, in case anyone is curious. It was fun to put together.


Literary Geeks
Friday, July 3, 2009

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Horatio Alger, Jr. After him, James Baldwin, August Wilson, and Lynda Barry all tie.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
The Little Prince (4)

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I don't know. The Virgin Mary? Leda?

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
The Little Prince, or Ragged Dick, or Tattered Tom? Or maybe Huck Finn. I've also read Harriet the Spy a lot of times, and Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Tattered Tom, or the Chronicles of Narnia? I also loved A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, by E.L. Konigsburg. Among a zillion others.

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
I read all these teen romance novels by Sharon Shinn. They weren't so good, but they were fun.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
maybe The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
besides The Little Prince? maybe Kindred, by Octavia Butler

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Alice Munro

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I don't usually like it when books are made into movies.

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I liked the movie for Coraline, so... miracles are possible.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I think I had some amazing Little House on the Prairie dreams when I was a kid, but beyond that...?

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
I read more lowbrow than highbrow. or at least more YA than adult. I guess those aren't the same thing. most lowbrow book for adults... maybe "Passing for Black," which was sort of urban fiction, which I guess makes it lowbrow?

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
W.G. Sebald keeps kicking my ass.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
I don't know what counts as most obscure... but I remember seeing Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V at the Guthrie. (http://www.guthrietheater.org/about_the_guthrie/explore_past_plays/garland_wright_1986_1994)

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Don't know either as well as I should.

18) Roth or Updike?
none of the above.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, but I don't know Milton at all, and I'm lazy about Chaucer.

21) Austen or Eliot?
Austen, I guess--I don't really know Eliot.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
there are so many books! maybe the Russians. I'm not really that embarrassed, though.

23) What is your favorite novel?
just one? The BFG, by Roald Dahl. today. tomorrow, maybe Giovanni's Room, by Baldwin. or The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

24) Play?
The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson. today. sometimes Under Milkwood, and sometimes Euripides translated by Anne Carson.

25) Poem?
poems about Leda (by Yeats and Clifton, mostly--curious if people know of others). that's a long standing passion. or interest. or something. sometimes "The Song of Solomon," sometimes other stuff.

26) Essay?
Baldwin's "A Talk to Teachers," and other Baldwin. Didion on place and history and America. C.S. Lewis on grief. Benjamin's "Unpacking My Library." So many.

27) Short story?
Why did I think I could answer these questions?
Maybe "Revelation," by Flannery O'Connor. I mean, "Revelation" for sure, plus lots of others.

28) Work of nonfiction?
Maybe Eva Hoffman's "Lost in Translation."

29) Who is your favorite writer?
Flannery O'Connor usually, consistently, for a long time.

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Dave Eggers.

31) What is your desert island book?
the Bible, probably.

32) And... what are you reading right now?
The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano. finally. [I gave up on it shortly after making this list.]

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