Linda Ronstadt can’t stand ‘boring writing’

RONSTADT: I just finished “Victoria Finlay”Tissue.” She’s an anthropologist who writes about the history of fabric. It’s just wonderful writing and great information. It turns out that most pashminas are fakes.

BOOKS: Is this a typical reading for you?

RONSTADT: I have a stack of books here on my bedside table. I have “Obscure Vagina” by Rachel E. Gross, which is really good. I read “white girls” by Hilton Als. I have never read anything like it. I also read “The magician.” I picked it up because I thought it was a biography of Thomas Mann, one of my favorite writers. It turned out to be a novelization of Mann’s life. Tóibín’s research is so thorough and his writing is so good that it was like watching a great biopic.

BOOKS: What are your favorite Mann novels?

RONSTADT: I like “Buddenbrook.” My friend Kenny Edwards who was in my group recommended me “The magic mountainwhich I read twice. I began by “Death in Venicebecause it’s his shortest novel but I couldn’t get into it. Maybe I could now. I understand Thomas Mann a little better.

BOOKS: How do you choose what you read?

RONSTADT: I get a lot of recommendations from NPR and the New York Times. My friend the writer John Rockwell recommended the “The Fractalistwhich is a book on fractal geometry, for me. I didn’t know anything about math. Now I can recognize things that are the products of fractal geometry, but I don’t really understand fractal geometry. Probably only ten people in the world do it.

BOOKS: How would you describe your taste for books?

RONSTADT: I can’t stand boring writing. I’m not interested in surfing but I read a book about it, William Finnegan’s”barbaric days“, because the writing is so good.

BOOKS: Have your tastes changed over the years?

RONSTADT: I hardly ever read modern novels, I’m sorry to say. I wouldn’t have bought “The Magician” if I had known it was a novel. I like Henry James, Edith Wharton and classic Russian novelists. Dickens is boring to me but I don’t hate him like I hate Ernest Hemmingway. I don’t like a lot of French stuff but I liked Flaubert’s stuff”Mrs. Bovaire.” I haven’t read Proust. Maybe I will now that I’m 76. I doubt.

BOOKS: What was the last classic you read?

RONSTADT: I read “The age of innocence“over and over again. I went to visit the Arion Press here in San Francisco, and they had done a hand-printed edition of it, which I bought. It’s beautiful. I could lick it.”

BOOKS: What are your tastes in non-fiction?

RONSTADT: I like to read about volcanoes, waves or wind. My favorite non-fiction writer is John McPhee. He is so precise and precise. My favorite is “The binding energy curve.” It’s physics, which I don’t understand, but his writing is so lovely.

BOOKS: Have any of your readings influenced you as a musician?

RONSTADT: I think everything you read and see influences your music. People always ask me for advice on becoming a professional musician. I tell them every city you go to go to their museums. Read as much as you can, especially if you’re a songwriter. People like Paul Simon have read it all.

BOOKS: What are your reading habits?

RONSTADT: My mind wanders a lot but I can read a long time. I prefer to read in the morning, but read in the afternoon before nap and in the evening before going to bed. I didn’t have a TV for 30 years and I was reading so much back then. When Obama was elected, I had to keep going to my friends to see him speak. So I bought a television. That cut my reading in half. I discovered the Home Renovation channel.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Saving Penny Jane” and can be reached at [email protected].

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