CHRIS KUBICA: BY THE BOOK

In which I pretend (in the format of their now famous column) the New York Times @nytimes gives a damn about my thoughts on books, authors and my reading habits. I should also like to read such a ListApp list by @lenadunham and @bjnovak.
  1. What books are currently on your night stand?
    So many books that my nightstand looks like a top-heavy oil derrick. Thus too many to ListApp, but here’s a selection: Heart of Darkness (for the classic literature book club I run). Tuck Everlasting. Gregory Pardlo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, Digest. The Once and Future King. Blow-Up by Julio Cortázar. Nabokov’s Collected Poems. And whatever is in my Kindle Voyage.
  2. And what’s the last truly great book you read?
    Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall. Such a devastating, thoughtful, funny and honest collection of thoughts about what it’s like as old age, infirmity, isolation and writer’s block descend upon a former poet laureate and titan-poet/man of letters. I’ve never read a book that made me more fearful of (and fascinated by) my own inevitable “twilight years" than this one. Also: Arresting/evocative cover!
  3. Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?
    J. D. Salinger, though he only wrote one skimpy novel is his own lifetime. But probably no book has made more of an impact on my formative life than Catcher. Or maybe John Kennedy Toole. Toole wrote only two novels (The Neon Bible), but they are both amazing and for very different reasons. Toole’s batting average is 1.0. As for living novelists, I’d say—for me—no one comes close to Nicholson Baker. Love me some minutiae. And his work is hilarious and brave.
  4. What are your reading habits – do you prefer electronic or print?
    My heart is with paper and always will be (I’m a fetishist, I guess). So I keep the books stacked high on my nightstand and read usually 15 at a time. I don’t always finish them...and that’s okay. I use my Kindle for “expendable” books…ones I want to read but not keep around/pass along. Like the Walter Isaacson doorstop, Steve Jobs. Or the Sunday New York Times.
  5. Do you write in your books? Keep them or give away?
    If you write in your books (or, well, *my* books), you are dead to me. DEAD. And I never *used* to give away books, but as I age I’ve started to differentiate between books I want to keep and those I own but know I’ll never read. Like Infinite Jest. Soon I will divest myself of that behemoth.
  6. What’s your favorite genre to read?
    These days, I’m all about Classic literature. And I have a huge collection of faery (yes, “faery”! (a la Tolkien’s On Faery Stories)) tales, fables and epics…because you only live once; and who has time for Ann Coulter or Bridges of Madison County or Mitch Albom or books about Heaven or beloved dogs?
  7. Any guilty pleasures?
    I have a weakness for cheesy post-apocalyptic fiction like Day of the Triffids…in which everyone goes blind after a comet passes by the Earth. And there are giant, flesh-eating, ambulant, semi-sentient plants roaming about. Amazebuckets.
  8. What kind of reader were you as a child?
    Um, I was a late-bloomer to books. My parents had an old Encyclopedia Brittanica set and a book about Elvis. And a few cookbooks and some collections of Penthouse Letters. It wasn’t until my 4th grade teacher, Mr. Horan, turned me onto books that bibliophilia consumed me.
  9. Your favorite book? Most beloved character?
    I started out reading Poe short stories and had a overly-long Piers Anthony/Xanth phase. I adored the Moomin books, The House With the Clock in Its Walls, Bunnicula and The Cricket in Times Square. And Penthouse Letters (jk!).
  10. What books do you most enjoy reading with your children?
    Both are avid readers. But I did read them The Hobbit until we got to the giant spiders and then I was not allowed to continue. I also used to enjoy reading Mo Willems books to my son. When I realized how We Are In a Book! is self-referential, it blew my melon. It’s the best kid book since The Monster at the End of This Book (which terrified me in my youth!).
  11. You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
    Virgil, Dante and Dan Brown. Because it would be interesting to watch Virgil get all embarrassed about being in Dante’s Inferno and watch Dante get all embarrassed about being in Dan Brown’s Inferno and watch Dan Brown get all embarrassed about how awful a writer he is. And then Virgil would write an epic poem that had Dan Brown in it as a character and the cycle would be complete.
  12. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
    Oh, the Places You’ll Go! What over-given, over-rated, over-promising garbage. “And will you succeed? / Yes! You will, indeed!” Maybe you *won’t* move mountains. Maybe you’ll be wracked with student loan debt and move back in with your parents at 26 and not get any job interviews and drink too much and wallow. Yeah, I’m a glass-is-half-empty. All-empty. I’m an all-empty. Sorry, Ted. Imma write a book one day called So You Graduated…Now What?!
  13. What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
    I haven’t read anything by a Brontë yet. So embarrassing. Wuthering Heights is toward the top of my to-be-read pile, though, so I’ll fill this cultural hole in myself posthaste. I also haven’t read any of the “great,” difficult books. Like Ulysses. Or House of Leaves. I guess I’m dumb? Or don’t want to work that hard? Or am turned off by books that require an entirely separate book of notes and annotations to understand? I’ll take Bukowski and “Betty’s warm ass” over Finnegan’s Wake any day.
  14. What do you plan to read next?
    Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (for book club). And True Names by Vernor Vinge.