1. I hate dill.
2. I am neutral to mildly negative about nutmeg (it seems to me clearly inferior to cinnamon and cloves as far as that sort of spice goes), but I become vituperatively against it when it is put into creamed spinach. THAT IS JUST WRONG.
3. I have a bad habit of leaving bits of trash – an apple core, a piece of chewing-gum wrapped in paper, a few used tissues – on the floor by the couch I have been reading on.
4. When I want to, I can read absurdly quickly – my eye moves down the middle of the page in a straight line and takes everything in. This is bad for light reading purposes (because there is actually not enough perfect light reading in the world) but good when it comes to work.
5. When I started graduate school, my raised hand and voice would shake with nervousness when I asked a question after a talk. My friend Emily Steiner and I made a pact that we would overcome nerves by asking a question at every single talk we ever went to, and it is now one of my trademarks.
6. My English grandmother, when any hint of gloominess or self-pity entered into the manner of my grandfather or anyone else, would say, bracingly, “Buck up, old chap!” Sometimes I say these words to myself – I like them because they make me think of her, but they also seem to me very good advice!
7. I understand and appreciate the difference between good food and bad food, but I cannot be bothered to cook anything myself – food is fuel, some of it is tastier and/or more nutritious and some less so, but it does not interest me to experiment with producing lovely foods myself.
8. Ditto for clothes and also for interior decoration – if it were possible to do so without attracting unwanted attention, I would wear a navy-blue boiler suit every day and not have to worry about clothes at all, and I cannot be bothered to pay any attention to my living environment, which is accordingly fairly monastic/spartan.
9. I am fond of miniature things! Pastel-colored petits fours strike me as the height of desirability on the cake front.
10. As an art, oil painting does not mostly speak to me – I much prefer watercolor as a medium.
11. When I’m out for a run with friends, I unconsciously pick up my pace as soon as we begin to talk about plans for training and racing.
12. I used to play a lot of different wind instruments: clarinet, oboe and recorder as the primary ones, but I also enjoyed the spinoffs (English horn, bassoon, saxophones of different sizes, random early instruments like krumhorns).
13. I like cardigans with zippers.
14. I do not like wearing socks, and the weather has to drop into the teens for me to be willing to put on a pair in everyday life. (But socks are necessary in running shoes.)
15. When I hear about something interesting or intriguing, I cannot rest until I have tracked down a satisfactory account of it.
16. I love the library stacks.
17. I am also disproportionately fond of certain Library of Congress call numbers.
18. I do not like talking on the phone.
19. I do not have a driver’s license.
20. My bicycle is a Specialized Roubaix.
21. I am not yet in love with cycling, but I am hoping that I might fall for it sometime later this spring.
22. I believe that as long as the desire is strong enough, it is possible to accomplish almost anything with sustained hard work.
23. My talents as an academic are more striking than my talents as a novelist, but certain gifts cross over. Perhaps the most striking of these are the ability to think clearly and a related talent: the development, over many years, of a flexible and precise writing voice that is so thoroughly and strongly congruent with my thoughts that I rarely find myself at a loss for words.
24. If I had to choose between three days without reading and three days without eating, I would have to give up eating. It would not really be a choice – reading is essential!
25. My first pet was a brown-and-white short-haired guinea pig called Linda.