The “A” Tag

I haven’t done a tag for quite some time and I’ve been watching this one on BookTube. It was originally created by Jim at jim’s books reading & stuff. I feel like doing a tag, so here goes:

A is for America. What do you consider the Great American Novel?

Taking “America” to mean “the USA”, I don’t think there’s any such thing as THE Great American Novel. There are lots of great novels written by American authors and how on earth is anyone supposed to pick one to rule them all?

Two US-American novels that I find great are: Toni Morrison, Beloved and Hermann Melville, Moby Dick.

You can also take “America” to stand for any country in North and South America. Unfortunately, I’m not well read in the literature of the other American countries, but one that comes to mind is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez who is an Argentinian writer. I read this a long time ago and liked it a lot. It’s due for a reread.

What makes a novel great? I think novels that show the human condition and that last the test of time are often great, but I’m sure there are lots of other criteria. Also, what makes a novel from a certain nation great? Does a great US-American novel have different qualities from a great novel from another country? Lots of questions to ponder, too many to answer in a bookish tag post.

A is for arc. Which character in literature has the most interesting character arc?

Another hard question. There are millions of characters who go through an interesting development. Let’s take Gandalf. He goes from being Gandalf the Grey, to Gandalf the White by rebirth through fire. Very dramatic. You can see, I’m not taking this seriously. But I’m not at home and can’t check out my shelves for better examples so I going to my default favourite The Lord of the Rings.

A is for Australia. What was the last book you read by an Australian author?

I can’t remember when I last read a book by an Australian author, but I can tell you about a series of books that I read and reread in my early teenage years. Actually, I first read the series in primary school: The Silver Brumby series by Elyne Mitchell. I loved this series and still own a few of the books. Some of them weren’t published yet when I was a teenager and some of them I borrowed from the library. Now most of them seem to be out of print, although the first one is out on Kindle. Hopefully the others will follow. The first book, The Silver Brumby, gives the series its title. It’s all about the life of a wild white stallion in the Snowy Mountain region of Australia and it’s told from the point-of-view of the horses which could be cheesy but isn’t. The rest of the series are about the lives of his descendants. Here’s the first paragraph of the first chapter in the first book to give you a little taste:

Once there was a dark, stormy night in spring, when, deep down their holes, the wombats knew not to come out, when the possums stayed quiet in their hollow limbs, when the great black flying phallangers that live in the mountain forests never stirred. On this night, Bel Bel, the cream brumby mare, gave birth to a colt foal, pale like herself, or paler, in that wild, black storm.

Elyne Mitchell, The Silver Brumby. Hutchinson & Co. London, 1965, p. 11.

The passage still gives me a little shiver of delight.


A is for Austen. What do you plan to read for Jane Austen July?

Not sure yet what I’ll be reading for Jane Austen July. I need to think about it. But I do want to participate this year.

A is for automobile. What is your favourite literary automobile?

Can’t think of anything offhand. What about the Enterprise? That’s like an automobile in space, right? 😉

A is for anonymous. What is your favourite book or poem published anonymously?

I like the little Middle High German poem I blogged about a few weeks ago: Memoirs and Poems.

A is for autobiography. What was the last autobiography you read?

Elegy for Iris, also mentioned in the post Memoirs and Poems. I think that that terms “memoir” and “autobiography” are often used interchangeably, so I’m guessing it counts. I tend to think that memoirs are more introspective and autobiographies more about the events in a life, but I don’t know if that’s really true.

A is for audiobooks. Do you consider listening to an audiobook as “reading”?

No. I think listening and reading are two distinct activities. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to an audiobook. Maybe a few plays on the radio when I was younger. So, I haven’t got much experience to compare the two, but still think that the two activities are different. That’s not to say that one is better or worse. But when I read a book, I decipher symbols on a page and when I listen, I decipher sounds. I use my eyes or my ears. Ergo, reading is not the same as listening.

The thing about audiobooks for me is that I love reading so much, I don’t want to make time for listening to books being read. And when I do things like ironing (which I’ve mostly given up anyway), I kind of drift and muse about things and don’t want to concentrate on someone’s voice. I could do it in the car; I like listening to podcasts on my commute, but since I haven’t commuted to work for more than a year, I also haven’t been listening to podcasts either.
Maybe I’ll try audiobooks at some other point in my life. I do think they are a great alternative, but currently just not for me.

So that was the “A” tag. Maybe I’ll do some of the other alphabet tags from Jim as well – he’s up to “E” by now.

Keep safe, world.

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