One of the perils and pleasures of the internet is deluding yourself that work-avoiding browsing is "research". In a desperate attempt at self-justification, I'm ripping off the Shelf Life feature from The Spectator's Book Blog. Twelve questions as simple - or complex - as you care to make them. And, I hope, illuminating as well.
1) What are you reading at the moment?
2) As a child, what did you read under the covers?
Trick question - you can't see anything with your head under the covers.
3) Has a book ever made you cry, and if so which one?
No, but Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus -- especially the audio interviews of Spiegelman's father on the DVD-R included with the book -- is coming pretty damn close.
4) You are about to be put into solitary confinement for a year and allowed to take three books. What would you choose?
The Collected Works of Flannery O'Connor. The Bible (King James Version). A year of solitary confinement might also be the perfect opportunity to finish War and Peace (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, who are the focus of this fascinating New Yorker essay).
5) Which literary character would you most like to sleep with?
Aeneas -- no disrespect to Queen Dido of Carthage, but while it's all great fun shagging some buff, swarthy demi-God on a mission you should be thankful when they decide to push off.
6) If you could write a self-help book, what would you call it?
If I could write a self-help book, I'd be far too busy taking all that good advice to write any of it down.
7) Which book, which play, and which poem would you make compulsory reading in high school English classes?
Taking life seriously enough to laugh at it is a valuable skill you should learn as early as possible, with frequent refresher courses. So put Leave It To PSmith (P.G. Wodehouse), The Importance of Being Earnest and a collected edition of the poems of Wendy Cope on the syllabus.
8) Which party from literature would you most like to have attended?
Any one in Pride and Prejudice affording the opportunity to slam a piano lid on Mary Bennet's fingers.
9) What would you title your memoirs?
10) If you were an actor, which literary character do you dream of playing?
Lily Bart in The House of Mirth.
11) What book would you give to a lover?
That would be kissing and telling.
12) Spying Mein Kampf or Dan Brown on someone's bookshelf can spell havoc for a friendship. What's your literary deal breaker?
Owning a copy of 'Mein Kampf' is not grounds for a social death sentence. Being a neo-Nazi is. Nor is it any great tragedy to lose the aquaintance of someone who'd snub you for owning trashy popular novels - even one as ghastly as The DaVinci Code.
Feel free to come up with your own answers, quibble or denounce this whole exercise in trvial foofy-tosh below.