This is the second interview for Reader of the Month.
In high school, I made friends with the fantastic Vlahaki, twin sisters who sang and boldly shared their Christian faith. Alicia V., met her future husband one summer in the late 1990s. While most know him as Ed, Alicia and her friends call him Buddy. When we all belonged to the same church, we often discussed what we were reading. If challenged to describe Buddy in one word, I choose “unforgettable.”
1. What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past year?
My, but that’s a tough question. I’ve logged many hours with some truly humorous material this year, as well as more than a few thought provoking tomes. I’ve even reread a couple of favorites, and put down several duds after wading a chapter or two in. But without a doubt, one of the best and most inspiring books that I read in 2011 would be Máire Brennan’s autobiography “The Other Side of the Rainbow”. In it she recalls her family life growing up in the Northernmost Irish county of Donegal’s Gaoth Dobhair. She also writes of her later years of touring with her band Clannad, and the troubles she faced which ultimately returned her to, and bolstered, her faith.
2. Do you have any quirks when it comes to reading?
If I had some fickle caprice when it comes to perusing my paperbacks, it would be my inability to drift off to sleep without shoving something in front of my face for an hour or so. Sure, if a book completely captivates me then I’ll easily devote 6 hours of my day while leisurely burying myself in the text. But before I allow myself to pass out, I seem to have trained my body from years of abuse to require that vital wind down time with a book (or a more recent phenomenon of some random Wikipedia strolling on my Kindle or iPhone).
3. What’s on your bookshelf or in your book bag?
Hah! My efficiency apartment is lined with no less than 10 bookshelves crammed full of everything from medieval music books, Bible commentaries, sword technique manuals, biographies, pulp paperbacks from early 20th century magazine authors, graphic novels, a somewhat incomplete Easton Press library of leather-bound classic literature, poetry, science fiction, and just about every type of folio,
handbook, hardcover, leaflet, and trade paperback spanning the entirety of the Dewey decimal system. Of course, with advances in technology, I also have a remarkable number of volumes on my Amazon Kindle 3G (over 2500 at last count), so conceivably I could really downsize the amount of physical tomes I possess, but I still can’t get beyond the charm and magnetism of holding a real live hardcover in my hands. In my mind’s eye, books are my friends and teachers, whereas computerized gadgets are my servants. My generation may never truly make the leap from printed page to pixel.
4. Who supplies your reading material?
I worked at Half Price Books for years. I sometimes wish I had stayed on for a couple of hours a week to retain my “benefits”, and I’m not talking about insurance and 401K! As I still have many friends employed at the various stores around Houston and Austin, I must confess that I have a steady stream of dusty gently used 4th editions flowing into my possession on the cheap. I also frequent Amazon.com late at night when I should be sleeping. I then promptly forget my digital browsing until a new box arrives at my doorstep, surprising me with my somnambulistic purchases. In truth however, most of my reading is probably done online. Between all the blogs, articles, Facebook updates, tweets, online journalism, Wikipedia, and informational websites, my time spent indulging in the pen scribblings of paperback published authors has dwindled significantly from when I was 14 and such things were in their infancy.
5. What type of reading do you usually enjoy?
In the last 10 years or so I have begun to appreciate the autobiography much more than I did in my youth. Perhaps I now have the experience to appreciate other people’s trials and triumphs, or the simple fact that I am more amused by the psychology behind my hero’s self-perceptions and deceptions. Quentin Crisp, the great English writer and raconteur said, “An autobiography is an obituary in serial form with the last installment missing.” However, an autobiography can’t be relied upon as the “truth”, or even as one person’s memories of events, but rather it should be seen as a piece of performance art put on for the indulgent pleasure of the reader.
For sheer fun, and when I don’t feel like investing the cerebral or emotional wherewithal, I have a rather large stack of Robert E. Howard paperbacks by the bed. These were originally published in serial form in Weird Tales magazine and their ilk in the 20’s and 30’s. They range from supernatural horror, to westerns, to boxing fiction, to detective stories, and his most famous creation, the ubiquitous Conan the Barbarian. The draw of these yarns is that I don’t have to begin in a certain place, or end anywhere in particular. I can just pick up some adventure story somewhere in the middle and read until sleep overwhelms me.
6. Who are some authors that you read regardless of anything?
I tend to exhaust the catalogue of authors that I enjoy. Once I find someone whose style I appreciate, I will hunt down everything they ever set pen to and voraciously tear through until there’s nothing left before turning to my next victim. The aforementioned Robert E. Howard, his collaborator in pulp, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and their direct literary ancestor, Edgar Allan Poe, have certainly taken up several months of my life. John Fowles, Robert A. Heinlein, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl Jung, Michael Moorcock, and C.S. Lewis, are all individuals whose diverse works I have also devoured.
7. What’s on your TBR (to be read) list?
The following are at the top of my TBR list:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard
Mogword by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw
8. Can you recall a book that changed your life? How so?
Once I stopped reading The Bible as historical mythology and began experiencing its contents through a relationship with its Author, I was transformed in a number of ways, namely through my ineffectual attempts to apply the teachings of Christ to my own mannerisms and realizing my own need for grace.
9. What was something you enjoyed reading as a child?
The first book I read on my own and in its entirety was The Hobbit at the astonishing age of 5, if my mother is to be believed. I always enjoyed fantasy stories and fairy tales. Some of my fondest recollections from childhood are memories of being read to sleep by tales from the Chronicles of Narnia, and my tastes haven’t changed significantly in the intervening years.
10. Where do you like to read?
Anywhere that provides enough space. Sitting up while eating between students at the teaching studio, upright in front of a computer monitor, lounging in a hammock, or reclining in bed are among my favorites.
11. Other than reading, what do you like doing?
Teaching, performing, appreciating music, playing computer games, amateur venomous herpetology.
12. Where can we find you online?
13. Would you like to make a shout out to any other avid readers that are online?
Yo Kat B. remember to always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.
14. How about sharing five random facts about you?
- Type O-blood
- Motter in German means mud farmer and Vlahakos in Greek mean little farmer.
- I would never join any organization which would have me as a member.
- I am simultaneously registered as a Republican, an Anarchist, and a Libertarian.
- This is the first time I have ever appeared on television.