Genia Soukhodolskaia is a multitalented Montrealer who has worked countless jobs while dabbling in an English Lit degree at Concordia University, which she expects to complete some time before the next millennium. I’ve heard she’s amazing in the kitchen, but can’t attest to this firsthand because she never did get around to cooking that meal she promised months ago (ahem). Genia would like to be a librarian but also wouldn’t mind baking wedding cakes or doing peoples’ taxes for the rest of her life. Her last name is impossible to pronounce.
What kind of a reader are you?
Obsessive. If I find an author that I like, I will try to read every work by that author until I reach my breaking point or I run out of works to read. I am putty around anything having to do with the Mitford sisters. I am also the type of reader who will read anything that is in front of them. And I really do mean ANYTHING. I guess some would call that “non-judgmental” or “indiscriminating” but I call it desperate. I’ve read issues of Catholic Digest when there was nothing else to read at the dentist’s office. I do have some hard and fast rules about what I will not read. Any book that anthropomorphizes animals is out.
How do you get your books — buy, borrow, trade?
I used to borrow books from friends but would never give them back. They no longer lend books to me. So instead, I spend an exorbitant amount on books every year. I prefer new editions but will settle for used. I just love beautiful covers on books. I do use the library though I am often tardy with books and have monstrous library fines. I have nightmares about them.
What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?
The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers are both awful. Dave Eggers’ book is neither heartbreaking nor of staggering genius. I’m sorry he lost his parents but there is really no need for the rest that follows. It is mindless self-involved drivel whose sole purpose is to trick otherwise intelligent people into spending hours reading it when they could be reading something much, much better. I hate Dave Eggers the way Laura Drake hates Yann Martel (hate him too actually). Fuck you Dave Eggers. Or rather, I hope no one ever fucks you again.
I had high expectations for The Romantics. It could have been so good but no, no it wasn’t. The book is a pathetic account of a weekend in Maine where college friends meet for a wedding and the insipid madness that ensues. The characters all seem to loathe one another as well as themselves and are one-dimensional elitist jerks that inspire nothing but animosity from the reader. Ooh la la you went to Yale but now you are too depressed by your profound lack of any kind of achievement in your post-college years because it turns out you are a hollow shell of a person and your spouse who you hate, hates you back. Lila, the WASP princess in the book, never speaks but rather shrills, barks, yelps, commands and orders. You almost feel bad for the characters because the author felt so little respect for them that she, THEIR CREATOR, could not develop them any further than the pieces of cardboard that they are. One of them has distinction of being Jewish which I’m pretty is the only interesting thing in the whole book. Also, nothing happens in the book.
As an aside (and for the sake of controversy), I would just like to mention that the worst movie I have ever seen is Little Miss Sunshine. Yeah, I hated it more than I hated anything by Todd Solondz and Michael Haneke combined. Just so everyone knows.
What makes you choose a book?
I select the books I read either by the author, when I am going through one of my more maniacal phases of reading everything by that author, by the summary on the back/inside cover, or by genre (I’m unable to resist English murder mysteries or a cookbook). I will read almost any murder mystery or cookbook or book about the Mitford sisters. I LOVE reading cookbooks like regular books especially How to Eat by Nigella Lawson and Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. I am moving on to Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David soon because I am unable to resist a cookery book written by a Brit. I am also strangely attracted to books that have been adapted for the cinema. Currently I am just dying to read Winter’s Bone and The Red Riding Quartet by David Peace simply because the previews for their cinematic counterparts look so good.
What book have you reread more than any other?
I’ve read Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin more times than I care to count. I don’t really know why. I like Laurie Colwin’s food writing much, much, much more than her fiction but this book just stuck with me for some reason. Maybe it is because it is darker than her other books. Colwin’s other fiction is a bit fluffier than this book where we find more maturity and self-reflection on the main character’s part.
You’re having a dinner party and can invite three fictional characters to attend. Who is coming?
Uh… Can I just invite the real life Baltimore detectives David Simon wrote about? I think they would be interesting, intelligent and extremely hilarious.
Can you remember the first book that made you love reading?
The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, which is just the most beautiful and heartbreaking book, that I read when I was nine or so. This book never fails to make me cry and I try to re-read it every couple of years. It may have been written for a young audience but I will never let go of this one. I wrote to Dr. Snyder once and she wrote back the sweetest email ever; it just made me so happy that the author of such a wonderful book would take the time to write back a personalized email.
If you were a book what book would you be?
The Sisters by Mary Lovell, which is the best biography I have read. I just want to be a Mitford sister so badly that I might even settle for being Unity, the crazy one who was in love with Hitler (though I would never ever settle for being Pamela). Ultimately, I would love to be Deborah who ended up as the Duchess of Devonshire. Or Nancy for her writing talent and biting wit.
Genia’s Must Reads
Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
How to Eat by Nigella Lawson
The House in Paris by Elizabeth Bowen
Homicide: A year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas