(Drawing of Diana McQuaid by Vanessa Waring)
A monthly interview with Bolinas Library readers.
Diana McQuaid grew up in Seattle and moved to Bolinas in 1975 after living in Rhode Island, Rome and Berkeley. She is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley in English Literature. After moving to Bolinas, Diana worked a variety of jobs including the People’s store, a food coop that she helped start. She also worked at Smiley’s, Las Baulines Nursery, and did landscaping. She has published some of her poems in small, local Bolinas anthologies such as Smithereens and Peninsula: New writing from the Coast.
What are you reading now? What’s in your pile of books? Do you read one book at a time or several?
I usually read one at a time but on occasion I might read several at once. The books that I presently have in line to read are: Robin (David Itzkofff), Richard III (Shakespeare), Something in the Water (Catherine Steadman), and two books by Aleksandar Heman: The Book of My Lives and The Lazarus Project.
Do you like to read paper or ebooks? Audio books?
I always read paper books. I don’t listen to audio or read ebooks. However I do enjoy films, music and art.
Are you a browser in the library or do you know in advance what you are looking for? If so, how do you find out about them?
I like to browse and in addition I also read a lot of book reviews in papers and magazines such as the New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, NY Review of Books and Harpers, so I usually know what to order. I look at what others have read and returned. Friends also recommend books to me that they think I would like. However, sometimes books don’t live up to the reviews.
Do you have a favorite genre? Any genres that you never read?
I pretty much read all genres. Although when I was younger I read a lot of science fiction. I especially liked the classics, by authors such as Bradbury, HG Wells, and Conan Doyle. During that period of time I didn’t read mysteries at all, but now I like a well-done mystery. Some of the mystery writers I like are Michael Dibdin and his Aurelio Zen series, Jo Nesbo, Thomas Harris and Colin Harrison. Oh and the books by Donna Leon based in Venice. I also like cookbooks, gardening, art, film, music, biography, autobiography, politics, graphic novels and history.
What was your reading experience as a child? What books made an impression on you?
As a child, I read constantly, even walking. I started at age 4 reading neon and advertising signs. I just read everything. I especially liked, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lewis Carroll, Nursery Rhymes, Myths and Enchantment tales, Wild Animals I Have Known, The Secret Garden, The Fairy Books, Comics (explorers and adventurers), Nancy Drew, Poe, Bronte.
Is there a famous author you ever wanted to meet? Maybe back in time?
I have met many. In college, I had a class with James Wright, the poet. And later at UC Berkeley, I had classes with Joan Didion, Raymond Carver, and Ishmael Reed. An author I haven’t met? Maybe John Ashbery though I hear he can be difficult.
What’s the last book you recommended to a friend?
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
Any book by Edward St.Aubyn
Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
Born Round, by Frank Bruni (plus all of his political columns in NYT)
Is there a book that you’ve always meant to read but still haven’t. Any highly rated books that you thought were over rated?
Well, I’ve never read Ovid’s Metamorphoses or other Romans such as Virgil. I should also mention the Greeks.
What books do you return to? Are there any books that you like to re-read?
I am often re-reading books that I have read. I return to cook books and reference books all the time.
Do you have a collection of books at home? If so, where do you keep them and do you re-read?
I have too many! I built a 10×12 shed to store them. It is full. I look things up too. A lot of my books at home are small press publications by people I know or knew. I need to clean the shed now.
Who are some of the local writers whose works you have collected?
Well, the list is long but I can mention a few who come immediately to mind, mostly Bolinas local poets:
What kind of characters draw you in as a reader?
Good question. I like explorers; either in physical space or working on a philosophical problem. Books by Conrad, Melville and Jules Verne would be examples of these kinds of characters. I would also like to mention an interesting book I am reading, Letters From Yellowstone by Diane Smith, a fictional account set in 1898 of a lone woman botanist in a group of men and her experiences expressed through her letters.
When and where do you like to read? Describe your ideal reading experience.
I carry a book or article with me nearly always. Never a dull moment. Ideally, all night in bed when it is quiet and there are no distractions.
Why not? I’ve been reading constantly since the age of 4, whatever is in front of me. Always have. I’ll read anything on any subject as long as the writing is good. With me, it depends on quality. The good thing about the library is that I don’t feel obligated to read anything I don’t like. I just move on to the next book.