Today I’m pleased to post an interview with Brian, who blogs at Babbling Books. He loves the classics, Shakespeare in particular, and what I love about his reviews is that they reflect not only his opinion, but a desire to go beyond the words and into the heart of the writing itself.
First, I am a person who is all about relationships with people in my life. My wife, my family and my friends mean everything to me. They come before everything else.
Second, I am about morality and ethics. Trying to do what is right and absolutely essential to who I am. I do not look to a divine power for guidance here, instead it is based upon my own reason and feeling.
Next, I am a conscious being who strives to understand the Universe and humanity’s place in it. This means I am always curious and always learning about science, especially the “big questions”, as well as history, art, literature, philosophy and lots of other stuff.
All of the above sounds very serious. I am also a person who likes to enjoy life, including some of life’s material aspects. I really like having fun!
2. Why do you blog and what is your blog about?
I started a blog because I wanted to be heard. I love to share my ideas. As reading is my primary life’s hobby, and because I can relate reading to just about all my three interests, I choose book blogging. Of course it is not all about me; the interactions with others relating to my blog, and to reading, are an essential reason for my blogging. I do this via my comments section, through email, twitter, etc. This communication with others is so valuable and rewarding, it alone would make blogging worth it.
3. Who are your 3 favorite authors?
My favorite authors are:
William Shakespeare who is incomparably great. His characters, themes, language and humanity are so rich and unequaled by anyone else.
Hermann Hesse is admittedly a flawed writer who probably does not belong in an objective list of all time great authors. Yet his explorations of the human personality as they relate to history, art and human existence are right up my alley. He pushes all the right buttons for me. Thus for personal reasons he is among my favorites.
Albert Camus depicts a secular and gloomy view of existence that is infused with compassion and caring for other humans. This odd mix just does it for me.
Honorable mention to Anthony Trollope – I am tempted to add him as a fourth name. I find that his depictions of people and their interactions may be the most realistic out of all the authors that I have ever read. I really need to read more of his books before I actually put him on the list.
4. Kindle or paper book?
This is an enormously controversial subject! Though this confession may vex some of my friends, I must sheepishly admit that I love e-readers. When using one, I take a lot of notes and highlight text. I would never do this with a real book, as this would damage the tome. In addition the cutting and pasting feature is invaluable when including quotes in blog posts. Of course being able to order or download a book whenever I want it is so very advantageous.
Folks often mention that they lose the aesthetic feel of a book when using an e-reader. I confess that I find it difficult to appreciate the aesthetics of a paperback or even a low cost hardcover. I do appreciate aesthetics of higher quality hardcovers. However I really cannot afford to collect those anyway.
Though I know that sales of old fashioned books have stabilized, I am not sure that low cost physical books will survive indefinitely in the digital age. I do foresee a possible future where people mostly read digital books but where some people maintain collections of high quality hard bound books. I am thinking of something similar to the way that some folks have gone back to collecting vinyl records with high quality packaging.
5. Best book to take with you on a desert island.
I tried to come up with something intellectually rich and comprehensive. Obviously I would want my choice to be long so I choose “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare”.
6. Best book to use as a doorstop.
Though I think that there are a lot of bad books out there, I would contend that the worst books champion ideas that are detrimental to people and society. I must first note that I am not in favor of censorship or the suppression of ideas. I am in favor of criticizing certain ideas however.
I choose two Ayn Rand Novels as doorstops. They are “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead”. In certain quarters, particularly in the United States, these books, as well as Rand’s ideology, exemplified by these novels, are all the rage. The books simplistically categorize all group efforts, particularly efforts initiated by the government, as “collectivism”. Furthermore such group efforts are depicted as harmful to human well-being. Furthermore the books espouse an extremely narcissistic and cold form of individuality, over all other human values. Rand goes even further and tends to demonize characters – those who do not adhere to her dogma. These days this ideology is having an extremely strong influence in American government and politics and is helping to drive really bad and extreme political and social decisions. Though occasionally insightful, the ideas here are more often sophomoric. As final word on these books, I must mention that I find Rand’s storytelling skills to be downright awful.
7. Favorite quotes
Carl Sagan from “Pale Blue Dot”.
The below quote refers to a picture of the earth taken from the Voyager 1 spacecraft when it was four billion miles from Earth. In the picture the Earth is just a speck.
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The below quote is from William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. I am not always so nihilistic about life as this quote implies, but I do think it does put some things into perspective.
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
8. Three tips for book bloggers.
1. Write as much or as little as you want. It is your blog.
2. Even if you are blogging about a limited subject, strive to express something about your beliefs and feelings about life and other important ideas into your blog. This is your chance to be heard.
3. Reach out. There is a dynamic and friendly blogging community out there. Engage with others. Comment on the blogs of others. Consider guest blogging or inviting others to write posts on your site. Join in on reading events, read along events, etc.
9. What are you most passionate about?
I tend to be passionate about social and political issues. These are the things that affect the most people. It is in these areas where much of our morality is played out. Though I believe that my views are moderate and reasoned, I feel very strongly about them and I am not shy about expressing them.
10. Last book that made you cry.
Though it was not the last book that made me cry, there is a passage from a book that never fails to make me emotional when I think about it. This is true years after reading it. It comes from “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. When the main character, Siddhartha, has sunk into the deepest depths of despair as a result of the vacuousness of the world and the hollow life that he has created for himself, he attempts suicide by drowning. As he nears the end he hears the sacred word “Om”, which at least in the context of this story, is symbolic of the harmony and balance inherent of the Universe. At this moment Siddhartha chooses not to die. Though I am not a believer in external spirituality, I do place a high value in finding meaning and strength in life based upon one’s own positive values as they interrelate to the Universe at large. I find this passage to be enormously impactful and affecting in a positive way. Thus, this scene never fails to bring tears to my eyes when I contemplate it.
11. Ask me a question.
What book has influenced you or affected you the most?
That is an easy question because this book is also my favorite – Don Juan by Josef Toman, a Czech author. I love the mix of history, religion, the battle between good and evil and the strong positive message in the second half of the book. I have never met a person who has heard of it or read it, although one or two people have done so at my recommendation. That makes me sad, because it’s an incredibly beautiful book who deserves to be out there next to the best historical fiction. I own a Romanian translation and thanks to a good friend I met in the blogosphere, an English translation from 1958. The book came out in 1944.