Five Questions: Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks
1. Why do you blog?
I guess there’s a couple reasons. My high-minded, optimistic, lofty, if not sappy-sounding ambition is to promote the books and authors I love to other possible fans. I like the idea of someone stumbling across my blog, seeing something in common between my literary tastes and theirs, and using that as a springboard to find other books they might like. There’s something great about being part of this broad, loosely-connected, almost random community of readers. It’s like the world’s most unorganized but driven book club. It’s really great fun.
If you call me back down to earth, I’ll admit it’s also about having one more interesting way to pass the time between dinnertime and bedtime. It’s a nice excuse to occasionally spout off about things I’m not very well-informed about. When I blog, I try to do it when it most amuses me, and I hope that blog readers are also amused along the way.
2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?
Knowing that any answer I give is possibly likely to change from month to month – or even maybe from day to day . . . if I had to nail it down right now, I guess I’d say it’s The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Funny story (to me, at least): the last month of my last year of high school, my English teacher assigned us this book as our final piece of reading. It’s a really, really big book, and even the other honors nerds in my class were already pretty much permanently out the door, mentally, so I think the most anyone read was up to page 200.
I’m not quite sure what my teacher was thinking when he picked that book, but I’m glad he did, because for some reason, I couldn’t stop reading it. Retrospect (and maybe a touch of revisionist history) might be coloring my memory, but it seems like maybe this was one of the first times when I fully felt some of the true power of literature. I’d always been a book nerd, the kind of kid who preferred reading to playing sports, but I’d always put a sort of artificial divide between the books we had to read for classes and the books I read for fun. But here, in this 130-years-dead Russian’s final novel, I found a book that trampled all over that border. It was art, yes, and it spoke volumes about the human condition and had resonant themes and motifs and all the yadda yadda yadda that was the stuff of research papers. But it was totally enthralling and enlightening and amusing and fascinating and . . . personal, somehow.
Of course even for all that I still didn’t read every word of it. I skipped a couple chapters near the end during a last-couple-hundred page reading spree the night before the exam. I’m finally planning on re-reading it before this year is over. I’m looking forward to diving back into that world, to see just how much else I might see, this time through.
3. Which three blogs do you most visit?
Here’s some not-necessarily-lit-related blogs that I like.
Brewed Fresh Daily at: http://www.brewedfreshdaily.com/ Cleveland, Ohio is home to an extremely active, highly outspoken and exciting blogger community, one that touches on just about every subject you could imagine. There’s far more going on in this town than I could possibly hope to keep up with, though I swear I keep intending to try harder to do so. George Nemeth runs Brewed Fresh Daily, which I think could safely be called our Cleveland community flagship blog. He does an excellent job highlighting some of the best work of local bloggers, turning his blog into our own virtual corner coffee shop, where people are free to chatter and debate and raise their voices. I think what makes his blog unique is that, though it’s definitely his show and is subject to and guided by his tastes and interests, as anyone’s blog is, George has also kept it a wide open forum where just about anybody can contribute. It’s the same sort of philosophy that goes into Meet the Bloggers, a fascinating experiment in open citizen journalism which George is highly involved with, and which I’d like to become more involved in, myself.
Create Digital Music at: http://createdigitalmusic.com/ Confession: you could, if you were feeling generous, call me a closet electronic musician. Actually, “closet” isn’t even accurate. Think of the darkest, dustiest, most secret corner of your closet, and then transport your closet to the basement of an abandoned mansion plopped down in the middle of a deserted island, and then maybe cover the island in a radar-repellent tarp, which itself is coated in a fine sheen of dream-hazed head-in-the-clouds ambition, and you’ll get some idea of just how off-the-grid my musician-ness really is. I am, to say the least, currently more interested in the idea of making music, than in ever actually really making anything worthwhile myself. So I find Peter Kirn’s webzine fascinating. It stokes my interest in that point where art and technology intersect, collide, mesh, mash, and come away affected and enriched each by the other. Maybe one of these days I’ll strike it rich and buy some of the neat music-making toys the site highlights; in the meantime, I’ll be here in my musty little corner, fiddling with some of the free and cheap software and ideas I’ve learned about through the site.
The Cleveland-area Writers Collective Blog that, sadly, only exists in my imagination. I’m cheating, and I apologize, but I can’t pick just one of the blogs I’m about to mention. So imagine that there’s a collective blog that includes all the posts of Cleveland’s finest fiction writers, such as Grant Bailie whose novel Cloud 8 I adore, and Erin O’Brien whose novel Harvey & Eck I need to read because if it’s half as entertaining as her blog it’s going to be really very entertaining, and Austin Kleon who is working on a graphic novel and whose art style has done much to interest me in a medium I’d have previously sworn I had no interest in, and Maureen McHugh who won’t be in Cleveland too much longer, but hey, we’re going to claim her for as long as we possibly can. I’m pretty sure that if I ever actually made this imaginary blog of mine real, it would utterly devastate the blogosphere with the sheer magnitude of its awesomeness.
4. Why do you read fiction?
Oh, see, now, already, in just the time it took me to type out my lengthy response to the last question, I’ve already thought of another possible answer for question #2, a book I read a couple years before I read The Brothers Karamazov. (What was I saying about retrospect and revisionism? Never underestimate the power of the desire to tell or be told a good story!)
For a summer reading project one year in high school, I read through 1984 by George Orwell, and I found it crushing, both emotionally and intellectually. Mostly emotionally. I feel like up until then I’d mostly been exposed to books in which the good guys won and the bad guys lost. 1984 transformed me and my views of both what fiction could tell us about the world, and of the world itself: here was a world that wasn’t neat and tidy, a world in which expectations could be dashed, obliterated, tossed out with the trash. That book changed me a little, and I guess that seems like as good a reason as any to read fiction: a desire to change, to be changed, in ways that fiction has a superior power to do, when you open yourself up to it.
That, and it keeps me off the cold, dark, dangerous streets, and out of harm’s way.
5. What makes you laugh?
I dig absurd humor. Which means the absurd length of my responses to these questions might be the funniest thing I’ve seen all week.
Darby M. Dixon III blogs at Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks.