Welcome to #Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is the interview series where you read about the most amazing humans who love books and all things bookish.
Today’s #Spotlight is on RodKelly. Do you know what “quintessential” is? It’s an adjective relating to the most perfect embodiment of something. All you need to do is go through his timeline or chat with him in the DM to understand what I’m ranting about.
His approach to reading is refreshing and inspiring. The book reviews he shares will always almost leave you feeling enlightened. And his style? What a style man! I could go on and on about him but that would take away from this interview, so just read on.
Where did your love of books/reading come from?
I grew up mostly loving to read. However, my taste in books was mediocre, childish really. A few years ago, I made the decision to start really refining my reading palate and my gateway drug into the grown-up literary world was Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” So, I suppose my love of reading came from within; just deciding one day that I would be a serious reader.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I read all kinds of things, I don’t latch on to any specific genres. I pretty much only read fiction, but within the genre-spectrum, I do tend to be drawn toward more realistic works. I’m not huge on fantasy and sci-fi, although it’s sprinkled in from time to time. As long as the book meets my standards (insert long list here) I’m open to reading in any genre.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
When a writer can create a perfect balance of style and substance, I’m guaranteed to be moved. Plot has become a throwaway element for me. An author can be writing about a piece of paper blowing in the wind and I’m left breathless and emotional because of the specificity of the words, the structure used, the tone, etc., all of which leads to a poignancy and emotional resonance that goes beyond what the book is about.
What’s the last great book you read?
Questions like this are impossible for me! I’m going to give it to the true winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, “Girl, Woman, Other” by our bae, Bernardine Evaristo!
Is there a classic book you never got around to reading until recently?
I have just completed Swann’s Way, Vol. I of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. It is a stunning work of art and I’m so excited to make my way through the entire thing.
If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
Spanish, mostly so I could read Roberto Bolaño’s books in their original language, especially The Savage Detectives and 2666.
Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
I rarely read fantasy, but damn N. K. Jemisin’s work sounds fascinating…
What is your policy on book lending?
It’s a hard no. If you really want it, I may be kind enough to buy it for you, otherwise I’ll send you a link on where to get it.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?
I love this question because I used to be strictly paper and one book at a time. Now, I’m reading 3 or 4 books at a time, in both paper and e-format. Reading at night is still difficult for me though; I’m naturally a morning person and that is when my brain is the most active, so I get all my reading done in the first half of the day.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
My shelves are pretty boring actually. But perhaps my music library would surprise anyone who doesn’t know I’m a classically trained singer. I have a pretty large collection of scores.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
A few years ago, I was gifted three of Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry and the nostalgia I felt swept me away with such force that I started crying. Those books were my absolute favourites as a child, with their quirky, slightly dark tone, and those zany, crude illustrations.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Marlon James, Danez Smith, and Nafissa Thompson-Spires. The idea of having a dinner where it’s all serious and we talk books the entire time sounds a bit pretentious and boring. With these three, I think it’d be a nice little party. We’d drink rosé. Marlon would do the bulk of the cooking and provide a banging ass playlist, Nafissa and I would be wine-drunk and laughing at the antics of Danez all evening. Nafissa and Danez will leave but Marlon will stay a bit longer for dessert. All three will divinely receive the inspiration for their next book over the course of the evening and each book will be lovingly dedicated to me, especially Marlon’s. My dedication from him will be novella-length, extolling the literary merits of wine and dessert, and in his style, he will describe that evening as something gritty, dark, and violent — he will say I choked this novel out of him. Critics will be filthy with acclaim, award panels will beg to split their prizes, and I will forevermore be exalted as the charm of the book industry. T H E E N D.
How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews, word-of-mouth, books by friends, books for research? Does it depend on mood or do you plot in advance?
I tried out the monthly TBR earlier this year and I don’t know how people do it – it’s torture. I go with my mood mostly. I might binge one author for a couple months or I might read all the books nominated for a prize, the way I did with the Booker, but mostly I just pick up whatever catches my attention on my shelf. In terms of what I buy, I do get a lot of guidance from my Instagram feed, the reviews I see, etc.
If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Beyoncé. I don’t think this needs an explanation.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Rod Kelly Hines
Lived to be 105 and died with no end in sight for his student loan payments.
You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?
No ungroomed eyebrows!
Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?
Cheese spit. My stomach would be a wreck, but yum, especially if the flavour changed based on the weather or time of day or something.
What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?
Totally not guilty about adoring the original Aladdin and the live-action remake!
If you were known as a strain of cannabis, what would your name be?
Yessssss! I think I’d be something sophisticated like Kelly Green. The high would be cosy and warm; sensual; rose-coloured.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I’ll just say thank you so much for interviewing me!!
Make sure you follow him on Instagram, okay?
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