Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BBAW: Interview with Rebecca from Rebecca Reads.

Last year, I missed out on the opportunity to interview another blogger for BBAW. This year, I made sure I was on top of things so I could be paired up for an interview!

I was over the moon when I heard that my swap partner is the lovely Rebecca from Rebecca Reads. I have long been a follower and fan of her blog, so I feel incredibly honored to be partnered up with her. It is also great fun to interview someone who made the same short list I did (Rebecca and I are both up for "Best Classics Book Blog") and someone who I look up to immensely.

Rebecca is a true driving force among classic book bloggers. Before I even started blogging, she created the Classics Circuit, one of my favorite things to participate in as a book blogger. It is a great opportunity for all of us to dive into new classics by authors we already love, as well as authors we're scared of. It is a great way to meet other bloggers, and Rebecca is the mastermind of it all. I know that I am very grateful for her time and energy for such a wonderful event!

Additionally, Rebecca writes a great deal on her own blog (linked above). In addition to focusing on classics (especially the Victorians), she also reviews children's books as well. Her reviews always make me want to revisit my childhood and the memories I have of being read to. She also has a son she reads to often, and another little one on the way! I am looking forward to hearing more about their own reading adventures in the future!

Anyway, enough of my rambling and on to the important stuff-our interview!

1. You have a quote from Madeleine L'Engle on your blog that I just love; "A great piece of literature does not try to coerce you to believe it or to agree with it. A great piece of literature simply is." How does this apply to what you choose to read for yourself and to your family?

As a new stay-at-home mom, I found myself wondering just which books would be worth my time to read. For the first time since childhood, I had time on my hands and reading two books in an afternoon wasn’t satisfying me. Then I discovered East of Eden and was blown away by the language, the epic nature of the plot, and the complexity of human nature as portrayed in fiction.

Shortly after this, I started blogging. Then I came across Madeleine L’Engle’s quote; I adopted it as one of my mottos because I was finding it was true. You know when you’re reading great literature. Steinbeck’s novel did that for me; other books also have taught me that. Books that are good are simply good: they aren’t trying too hard, they aren’t forcing a point or a plot. They simply are great, and I can tell, normally, from page one.

It is not hard to apply the same principles to children’s literature. I know when I pick up a picture book whether it will work for me and my son. Do the illustrations balance the text? Are they attractive illustrations? Does the text read well? Does the story work for a young child? As with the fiction I choose to read myself, picture books can simply be great.

2. One aspect of your blog that I really love is your discussions of reading with your son. What are some books you cannot wait to share with him (and the baby on the way) when he is older and why?

I admit I haven’t waited for some books! I read Winnie-the-Pooh to Raisin when he was 4 months old, and I’ll probably do the same with the new baby.

I’ve also read Raisin some other full-length classic novels when he was one and two years old, like Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. We’re in between full-length novels now that he’s nearly four; he’d rather reread favorite picture books, which of course is also wonderfully fun! When we do get back to longer books, I look forward to revisiting those books, as well as reading other favorites of mine by Beverly Cleary, or Mr. Popper’s Penguins or The Wizard of Oz, and so forth. I remember that one day when I stayed home sick, my mom read me The Secret Garden. That book has a special place in my memory because it came to me first on a day my mom took the time to read to me (and only me)!

I hope my son will treasure similar memories. I intend to encourage the classics by introducing them to my son when he’s young. I’ll have them nearby in case he is decides he’s ready to give them a try. Tom Sawyer, Kipling’s Just So Stories, Treasure Island…the list goes on and on.

3. Since you also read a lot of classics and older literature, I am sure there are some authors you wish had more works left behind. If given the opportunity, which author(s) would you want to read more books by and why?

Although I do love classics, I haven’t read multiple books by many authors. Charles Dickens is the author I’ve read the most fiction works by, but even having read seven works, there is still a lot of Dickens left to love. Wilkie Collins and Anthony Trollope have also become favorites, but both authors have extensive backlists. I don’t think I’ll wish for more by the time I get to the end (if I do).

There are many other authors I really can’t wait to read more of, and once I’ve read through their backlist, I’ll probably be craving more: Jane Austen (only one more major novel left), George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, the Bronte sisters (Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels), Shakespeare. Also, this isn’t a particularly author, but I do look forward to reading more of the women authors of the Harlem Renaissance. Many of them have written only a few books, so it will be sad to reach “the end.”

I could go on. There is a wealth of literature available to be enjoyed. While I’m sure I will be sad to come to the end of the backlist for some favorite authors, I will remain happy with an abundance of other literature awaiting my read. Besides, I absolutely love rereading favorite books. If worse comes to worse, I could reread favorites for years. Each reread is a different experience from the last.

4. What do you believe is the biggest misconception about classics by modern-day readers?

I think some people believe classics are boring or wordy or just not their style. To be completely honest, I too think some classic works are boring! In my college Victorian literature class, we read essays by Ruskin and the novel Wuthering Heights (which I didn’t like). I found “Victorian literature” very boring indeed. I was surprised when I later discovered the Victorian author Wilkie Collins, a sensation fiction writer, and I also have fallen in love with the plot twists and conveniences in the Dickens novels I’ve read, not to mention the women Victorian authors I adore. I’m finding Victorian literature is my favorite literature to read.

That said, other readers simply may not be able to get over Dickens’ writing style, or may find Wilkie Collins too melodramatic. That’s okay! Wuthering Heights isn’t my style, and neither are Ruskin’s essays! To each his own. Readers are individuals, so each reader has their own expectations when they pick up a book. Is reading for being entertained? Is reading for a story? Is reading for humor? Is reading for beautiful language? Readers provide their own definitions for “good” when they pick up a work, and it may be different every day. The wonderful thing about classics is that there is an abundance of options to choose from.

5. What books or authors would you recommend to anyone looking for a
wonderful, enriching read?

I struggle with giving recommendations simply because, as I mention in the previous answer, everyone is looking for something different when they pick up a novel. Here are some suggestions, but keep in mind that not every novel is going to work for every reader!

If you want a novel about human nature, good and bad, as seen through the eyes of a growing child: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If you want a romantic novel about love that turns out right: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

If you want an intense and complex psychological novel about guilt and innocence: Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky

If you want a lighter modern novel that helps you appreciate math even when you normally hate it: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

If you want a Victorian gothic novel with romance: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

If you want a modern novel in the Victorian gothic tradition: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Thank you so much for the interview Rebecca! You all need to go check out her blog at Rebecca Reads and see for yourself what an amazing woman and blogger she is!


  1. This is a great interview... Now I have to go check out Rebecca's blog :)

  2. What a fun interview! Yay for great questions and answers you too. :D (Also, Wuthering Heights isn't my style either.)

  3. How wonderful! Pooh sounds perfect for a little one--just as perfect as it does for an adult, in fact.

    (Incidentally, I confess that I read Jane Eyre to my son when he was a few months old. Kept me entertained, and he was happy to hear the sound of my voice.)

    Thanks for the great interview, Allie!

  4. Ironically, I would answer "Jane Eyre" to the one you answered "Pride and Prejudice" to. :D

    Loved the interview!

  5. We have a lot of similar tastes in books. Enjoyed getting to know you better.

  6. Thanks, Allie, for the interview! It was so fun to do with you.

  7. I love your answers and that quote from L’Engle is brilliant. How have I never found your blog before now?!? Yay for BBAW introducing me to more bloggers.

  8. I love Rebecca's blog, so I enjoyed getting to know more about her. I can relate to not being able to wait to read to children; I read Pride and Prejudice to my daughter while she was in the womb. ;)

  9. Great interview! That is a great L'Engle quote. Thanks for this!

  10. I loved the questions and I must say that I think Rebecca does a great job encouraging her child to read, it's all in the power of being a great role model for the youngsters. Awesome reading suggestions, I also strongly recommend 'The thirteenth tale' (the other ones need no introduction :) ).

  11. I love Rebecca's blog and really enjoyed reading your interviews with one another. What a great pairing! You both asked such interesting questions and gave such thoughtful answers.

  12. These are wonderful answers to every question -- just the kind of reader that I love! Thanks for letting us get to know Rebecca a bit more!

  13. It was great to learn more about you Rebecca! I love it that you freely admit that some classics are boring. I tell my students that I read many classics, that I love quite a few, and that some I just plain hate. It's like they think a classics-lover has to love all of them. Crazies. :)

  14. You two are the PERFECT interview pair - I'm so glad you were assigned to each other!

  15. Classics are definitely NOT boring :)

    But I do like 'Wuthering Heights'...

  16. Great interview. I'm really, really liking children's literature. It has opened up my imagination so much. I believe in magic again. :-)