Blogging really does bring people together. How else could I count someone like Blimpish amongst my most respected interlocutors? He has done me the honour of passing on the current book questionnaire that is doing the rounds.
There is always the Desert Island Discs temptation here - hide the Bay City Rollers albums under the bed, and pretend to be a devotee of Stravinsky and Mahler.
But here goes.
Number of books I own
By a happy combination of events, almost my entire book collection is in a windowless room on the Rue de Torcy in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. But I would guess it's around 500-600.
Last book I bought
Er, a tourist guide to Massachusetts. The last book I got out of the library was James Joyce's Ulysses. I rather think it's destined to be returned unread (yet again).
Last book I read
The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera. A stimulating examination of the roots and the current problems of the modern novel.
Five books that mean a lot to me. Tricky to narrow it down, but nonetheless:
Don Quixote by Cervantes. An easy choice, as this is the novel - the one that started it all and the one most often cited as the best ever. But I still wasn't prepared for just how good it really is. I almost wish I hadn't read it, as it can now make all too many other novels seem like rather feeble attempts to rewrite it.
Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. A rip-roaring detective novel and a supreme dissection of the interaction of faith, emotion and rationality. In the spell-binding monologue of the Grand Inquisitor, we get a brilliantly depressing examination of the relationship between the individual and authority. A sublime creation.
The Trial by Kafka. Dostoevsky for the 20th century. An individual searches for moral justification for his existence in a modern, sophisticated society. And finds he has none. Spine-chilling.
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. A dream-like examination of the meaning of existence amongst the terminally ill of Europe at a Swiss sanatorium in the years leading up to the Great War. The sense of an era coming to an end is palpable, as is the bitter-sweet nostalgia. A dazzling dance of life and death.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Not everyone's favourite Austen, perhaps because its romantic couple is not all that romantic. But for me the most stimulating of all the works of England's greatest novelist (and I will tolerate no dissent on that classification of Austen). The description of Fanny's arrival back at Mansfield Park following her visit to her parents is the epitome of effortless genius in action. Read it and weep (I did).