Today I am featuring Skip from The Reading Ape. This is perhaps the most intelligent blog that I have the pleasure of following. I has such wonderfully thoughtful discussion of literary issues that I can't get enough of it. If you are looking for something slightly different to the average book blog, something that holds real interest and inteliigent discussion, then this is a blog for you.
Tell us something about yourself
Well, I grew up in Kansas, moved to New York for graduate school, and now teach writing and literature at a small liberal arts college in Manhattan. I guess my best reading-related biographical story is that when I was a kid, my folks would send me to my room when I got in trouble—until I discovered novels. After that, being sent to my room wasn’t much of a deterrent, so it was off to the laundry room with me. I thought it wise not to tell them that I eventually wedged a few books behind the washing machine.
What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?
Like many young readers, I burned through a bunch of series: Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books, the Wrinkle in Time stuff, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and on and on. In sixth grade, I pulled The Last of the Mohicans off the shelf at my school library and can still remember the feelings of danger, sadness, and I guess you might say honor that book spurred in me. There’s a non-zero chance I’m still chasing that first shock in my reading to this day.
Why do you love to read?
Because it makes my life richer. Rounder. Deeper. More meaningful. Reading provides wonder, sadness, and exultation in quantities no other human activity can match. It’s pretty swell, really.
How do you choose your books?
No idea. Not kidding here. I definitely have a stable of authors who make me rush to the bookstore when they release something new, but as for finding new writers, the process that leads me to check someone out is a bit of a mystery to me. Some combination of reviews, blogs, cover blurbs, and subject matter has to coalesce in some obscure way. If anyone has a better way to do it, I’d love to know.
I just wrote a post about my favorite novels of 2010 (so far), and Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes took the top spot. As a student and scholar of American literature, I track war writing somewhat carefully, and I think this is a significant work. The tone is really remarkable—clear-eyed and critical, where much writing about Vietnam plays up the hysteria of the experience and of the domestic politics.
When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in earnest a few months ago, but I’ve been circling it for about five years (There was in fact a previous version of The Reading Ape for a while in 2005, but school and teaching devoured it—quite mercifully actually, like a lion plucking a diseased zebra). I wanted a venue to talk about books and literature in a way the academy doesn’t really accommodate, somewhat less formal and dare I say joyful than what passes for scholarly discourse. I also like to write things other than criticism, and I thought The Ape might provide some structure for those experiments. We’ll see.
How did you choose your blog's name?
Is nothing sacred? But really, it’s because I’m a Virginia Woolf junkie and her account of the remunerations of the reading life seems to me a kind of gospel for the bookish(Side note: Woolf’s sister called Virginia “Ape” as well): When the day of judgment comes therefore and all secrets are laid bare, we shall not be surprised to learn that the reason why we have grown from apes to men, and left our caves and dropped our bows and arrows and sat round the fire and talked and given to the poor and helped the sick – the reason why we have made shelter and society out of the wastes of the desert and the tangle of the jungle is simply this – we have loved reading.
What do you love about book blogging?
Man, book bloggers are supportive. That’s been the real surprise—the level of enthusiasm people have for books, for their and each other’s blogs, and for talking about books. It’s really pretty inspiring.
What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?
I love how you describe why you read. I have been thinking about this lately. I used to answer escapism, but increasingly I think that it is something more than that. Escapism is an enjoyable side effect (if I can use that phrase) but I think my motivation to read is something bigger than that, and I like how you expressed it.
Thank you for participating. I hope everyone takes the time to have a look at The Reading Ape.