What are you reading now? Just finished The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John. A very light but wonderfully enjoyable novel. Set in a 1950s Australian department store, it was very evocative of my retail stint in women’s dresses back in the day. In general, I like brand new contemporary fiction, the newer the better and preferably character driven. Family dramas are my go-to genre and it is hard to break out of that, though I am also drawn to quirky, modern character-study types of novels (e.g., Sourdough, by Robin Sloan). These days, I avoid anything dark or scary. I’m actually between books and in search of something light and frothy or absorbing and emotionally complex.
What is in your TBR pile? Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward, Anne Tyler’s Redhead by the Side of the Road, and This is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World (and me) by Marisa Meltzer
Favorite children’s book and why? There’s so many! Just because I actually quote from it to this day, I’ll pick Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Virost. The subject matter is highly relatable and the illustrations are perfect. No, I haven’t seen the movie, the book illustrations are just too perfect.
Favorite non-fiction book and why? I don’t read much non-fiction. The one that has had lasting impact for many years and I have read more than once – The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman. First published in 1997, it describes the predicament of Hmong refugees who encounter the American medical system for the first time. It has relevance to this day. Released in 2016, The Sound of Gravel: a Memoir, by Ruth Wariner is a riveting first-person account of growing up in a polygamist cult. Particularly haunting in light of the November 2019 brutal ambush just south of the Mexico border on members of this same community.
Favorite movie and why? In terms of number of times viewed, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret with Liza Minnelli. As a naive, suburban high school junior when I first saw this in a theatre in 1972, I was astonished. I still remember looking over in the flickering dark at my big sister who was staring enraptured at the screen. This movie is a classic. Every moment, scene, actor, song is perfect.
Favorite TV series and why? Mash. Frazier. Cheers. Well-done, multi-camera old-school series with smart scripts and stars. The genre seems clunky and so lacking in diversity these days, but they were great TV back in the day. I no longer have TV reception these days so I rely on Facebook and YouTube videos and the occasional Netflix mini-series. Tiger King, anyone?
Favorite fiction book and why? This is nearly impossible but here goes. In terms of sheer number of times reread and emotional staying power, The Stand, by Stephen King. Not the TV show but the big, fat book. A masterpiece in style and entertainment. There’s lots of apocalyptic fiction out there, but this one sets the bar. A good read for right now. Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing is a classic for family dysfunction and drama and so beautifully written. Published in 1972, this is the novel that sparked my life long love affair with contemporary novels about families and marriages. And if you’ve only ever experienced the TV show version of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, read the book today – it will blow you away with its power and continued relevance. On the Road by Jack Kerouac was also life altering. Lines from that book pop randomly into my head to this day. I still have my original paperback copy!
If someone was to play your favorite book character on screen who would it be? I really can’t answer this. I don’t have one favorite fictional character and usually book characters are in my mind as at once more diffuse and infinitely larger than a human actor can really embody. The Harry Potter series are probably the best movie interpretations I’ve enjoyed.