Tuesday 14 September 2010

BBAW: Blogger Interview Swap

Through the miracle of a random generator, I was paired with The Reading Ape for BBAW 2010's Blogger Interview Grand Swap-a-roo.

This lovely gent is a professor of literature and writing in his professional life and blogs about literary fiction in his spare time.  Who doesn't want to read a blog written by a primate that is passionate and an educationally-gauged expert?

On a personal note, it was fantastic to be paired with another teacher/blogger - we rock!

You're a professor of writing and literature - should we address you as Professor Ape?
Somewhat bizarrely, I've come to be known in my little sphere of bloggishness as just "The Ape." Blogging really is a way for me to escape academia, so the fewer reminders of it, the better.

Why the Arthur Helps inspired blog name? A kitschy or sentimental choice?
Can I choose c) ironic? The thing about that quotation is that I believe it, but it can't possibly be true. I think reading and language comprises more of what we understand "human" means than we care to admit, but I also am nervous about this claim. A "reading ape" is a being presumably wanting to be something more, something other, than it already is. So I like the aspirational quality of the phrase. Also, people tend to remember it.

What inspired your decision to enter the blogosphere?
Pretty simple really: I wanted to write about books in a way that my professional doesn't allow: personally, passionately, subjectively, and informally. It's actually quite surprising how much "pleasure" is sucked out of literature in academic settings. We do many things well in the ivory tower, but having fun with books ain't one of them.

We each have a different focus for our blogs and vastly different reviewing styles - what do you think makes a good review, regardless of book genre?
No idea. I find reviewing extremely difficult. I have been trying recently to make my reviews enjoyable on their own terms--that is, you needn't have read or even be interested in the book I'm reviewing to get something out of the review. One other thing I appreciate in reviews is a sense of what the experience of reading a particular book is like. This goes beyond plot summary and description of style and gives us a window of how it feels to inhabit this book.

Read any good young adult titles of late?
I read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials this summer and definitely enjoyed it (though I'm a little tired of sci-fi/fantasy YA titles leaning on "fate"). He's so inventive and fearless; after all, the triology provides an alternate history of Judeo-Christian mythology.

If you could take any three literary characters and sit them at a dinner table with yourself - who would they be?
I think the Falstaff of Henry IV, Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Zaphod Beeblebrox from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker Trilogy. I would then laugh until my face fell off.

Many book bloggers write on the side. You are a professor of writing. What is the most essential piece of advice you can give them?
Omit needless words. Use active verbs. Ask yourself "why should my reader care about this?" x Have both a dictionary and thesaurus at the ready. Give yourself time to revise. Take solace in the fact that writing is hard for everyone, but don't use it as an excuse.

A film comes out that is an adaptation of a novel. You like the sound of the film. Do you - read the book first, just see the movie or read the book after seeing the movie?
My general rule is start with whatever medium you encountered first. If you only heard of something because it's now a movie, start with the movie. If a book you've been interested in is being made into a movie, start with the book. I tend not to see/read both sides of a movie/book only because there's so much out there I feel bad doubling up on one story.

In ten words exactly describe The Reading Ape for those unfamiliar with it.
A blog primarily about contemporary American literary fiction. That's only eight, but is that OK?

A big thank you to the Ape for being a fantastically fast interview subject (and for asking me some great questions too.)  Also a big cheers to the folks behind the blog pairing for this BBAW event :)


Anonymous said...

I just discovered The Reading Ape a few days ago so it's lovely to read an interview with him. His reasons for writing a book blog is probably similar to that of many blogger's. Books touch us in so many ways and it's great to be able to discuss them freely. Great questions too!

Meredith said...

"We do many things well in the ivory tower, but having fun with books ain't one of them."

YES! This is why I love the book blogging world - it's all about having fun with books.

Amy said...

Great interview. I love this pairing because you are both as smart as a whip but blog about totally different kinds of books. :)

Valerie said...

Lots of good advice and thoughts here! I've just discovered both of your blogs, thanks to BBAW!

Cecelia said...

Great interview! Thanks for the insightful questions and responses. His comments about academia sucking the joy out of reading are part of the reason I had to get out myself (after three years invested in grad school, naturally). What a world we live in, eh?

Anonymous said...

I love how "the ape" says to omit needless words when writing. I had an English professor in college who was constantly after me about that! Her remarks have stuck with me to this day and I usually try to heed her advice but sometimes it just doesn't happen!

Serena said...

I think this statement sums up why I never became a professor like I had hoped: "We do many things well in the ivory tower, but having fun with books ain't one of them."

great interview!