1. What author do you own the most books by?
Charles Dickens, if I discount books that belong to the same series.
2. What book do you own the most copies of?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Multiple copies of the four different translations.
3. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
The gay baseball player Randy Dreyfus in The Dreyfus Affair by Peter Lefcourt. He’s hot it all: athletic, ruggedly good-looking and smart.
4. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children, i.e. Goodnight Moon does not count)?
The Master and Margarita now ties with The Remains of the Day.
5. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Ten was a tough year for me. In Hong Kong, ten-year-olds had to focus on doing well in core subjects (Chinese language, English language, and mathematics) in preparation for secondary school entrance exam. There were talks to send me abroad for school. In between all that, I did remember reading a bunch of Roald Dahl.
6. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
The very recent Capital by John Lanchester. Consider how profusely I enjoyed his previous works, the novel about a microcosm of London diverse society was a major disappointment. It is seriously flawed, with its disjointed, episodic structure that reads like a series of newspaper observations and vignettes. It’s a long book (so overwritten and overwrought to make a point about greed and mindless consumption) that just ends with the stories winding themselves out.
7. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov.
8. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
9. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope.
10. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
The Master and Margarita would be disastrous as a film. Once you edit out the offensive things, there’s nothing left.
11. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner all in one day, cramming for an exam in college. I had weird dreams that night.
12. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
13. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses and To the Lighthouse need a tie breaker.
14. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I think they’re all obscure except for As You Like It.
15. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Hands down the Russians. The stories address to the depth of human interest and make inquiries to the meaning of life. I feel like I don’t read about French literature to critique. Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov and Anna Karenina all occupy a precious spot in my heart and help initiate me into adulthood.
16. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Ancient and classic literature by time period; poetry by genre.
17. What is your favorite novel?
I can only pick one? Shadow Without A Name by Ignacio Padilla is a great one on war and identity. East of Eden by John Steinbeck for story. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is one of the greatest piece of literature that embodies culture, history, social satire, and cross-genre elements. The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham is a plot-driven story set partially in my hometown. I also enjoyed Maurice, The Go-Between, and A Separate Peace. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner is an ode to friendship and marriage. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is beautifully written book about one’s loyalty and unreliable retrospection.
18. Work of nonfiction?
The Gentleman in the Parlour by Somerset Maugham and Argo by Tony Mendez.
19. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
John Grisham, James Patterson, and Haruki Murakami.
20. What is your desert island book?
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie for the atmosphere because it’s set on an island. The Master and Margarita for the very entertaining plotlines.
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