Today’s post is something very different for me: Natalie, has been a regular at Le Salon’s virtual discussions for 12 months now and she asked if we could (virtually) sit down and discuss all kinds of book-related things. The interesting part?
📖 We’ve never met in person (despite talking about good literature for a year).
📖 I didn’t know what her questions would be.
So, here is a short video of my unpracticed answers to some questions she, and maybe you, have had about me!
Transcript of Get to know Marisa: Founder and Host of Le Salon Literary Discussions
Natalie: Ok. So, I just want to jump right into this because I don’t know how long it’s going to take because I obviously didn’t test out the interview guide. But I basically just went through and composed a whole bunch of questions that I think would be really interesting to have you speak to, a little bit about yourself, a little bit about Le Salon, and things like that. So, just to get us started though: can you tell us what’s your name, what is the name of your business, and what pronouns do you use?
Marisa: Ok! So, my name is Marisa Hopp, and I am the founder and host of Le Salon Literary Discussions which is my literary small business. Small right now, but big dreams in the future; and I go by she/her.
N: Awesome! So, enquiring minds what to know: do you like books?
M: (laughs) Yes! Love books. [Gestures to full bookshelf behind her] I actually need to get a second bookshelf going!
N: Would you say you’ve always been a reader? Like is that something that you’ve always been known to do, even as a kid?
M: I think that is a really great question. I remember the first short novel that I read in grade school. I remember finishing it and going to my mum and my brother and being like ‘I did this thing! I finished this!’ and it felt like a right of passage. But also, like entering into a community that just totally expanded my world. So, I think I have definitely always been a reader; it’s definitely gotten more voracious I would say in the last 10 to 12 years. But I have always gravitated towards English literature, that was my favourite course in high school. It’s definitely getting worse as I get older—Or better! Depending on how you look at it.
N: Do you remember the first book you fell in love with? Like, not the first book that you read and felt it was an accomplishment, but the first book you fell in *love* with.
M: Oh, that is a great question! So, I know that the first classic literature novel that I read on my own was Jane Eyreby Charlotte Bronte. I just remember being like… I didn’t have the words [at the time] to articulate that this was a great piece of art and that it had stood the test of time. But I just remember knowing that there was something about it that just kind of drew me in. So, I think I’d have to go with Jane Eyre.
N: Oh my gosh, that is just such a beautiful response. What about the first character that you fell in love with? Would that have been Jane Eyre as well? Or do you think it would have been someone from a different work?
M: When I read Jane Eyre I was in early high school. So, I think as a character maybe she didn’t connect with me as much as she did later in life. I have to say, Hermione from the Harry Potter series. I love that quote that always goes around [on social media] that goes ‘if Hermione wasn’t there Harry and Ron would have died in book one’. Just this idea of this girl, who becomes a woman, who could be book smart and be such a key figure in the novels—I had never really come across something like that before.
N: And [Hermione] was not really held back or created as a secondary character just because [the boys] were book smart rather than… I don’t want to say ‘brawny’ because neither Ron nor Harry were really muscle…
N: Do you think your tastes in books have changed over time? You said you were reading classical literature in high school, but in addition to those, has that shifted over time? Or is it mostly the same?
M: Oh, for sure! So, when I left high school, and I did go into an undergrad that was double major English and history, so, I was reading additional classics in university. But I felt that kind of sucked the fun out of it. I remember being introduced to Chaucer and Don Juan [by Lord Byron], and thinking ‘these are not my eras, I do not enjoy this’. And I almost had like a backlash to these readings and fell in love with YA (young adult). I was reading Twilight when it was big! I was reading all kinds of that genre... The Shadownhunter series is another one that comes to mind. I just really loved the more simplistic plots but this idea that ordinary people could be extraordinary. But I found the longer I got out of school, my desire to read YA kind of dwindled because I wanted to be more challenged in my reading. So, that is when I came back around to the classics. I have definitely had some phases with different genres as I’ve gone through my reading process.
N: So, if you think back over time, what book do you think you’ve recommended the most to other people?
M: Not a classic book, but it is called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It is this awesome historical fiction; I think it may be YA. It is about this fierce female friendship during the Second World War—and I’ve got an interest in war time history and spies—and this book just combined feminism, war time, spies, and there’s no kind of major love interest, it is this friendship between these two women… Every time someone is like ‘I need something to read’ I’m like: ‘read Code Name Verity!’.
N: [laughs] ‘this is my first choice every time’! It’s also interesting, even it is so rare, that the plot is about friendship rather than some sort of [romantic] relationship with another partner. So, that is the one you recommend the most; what about the one you have bought the most for other people? Because they are not always necessarily the same thing.
M: No! And this is actually a great question because I am at the point in my life where a lot of my friends are having kids or have had kids, and books are my favourite gift to give at the shower. So, I have gifted the most Alligator Pie [by Dennis Lee], it is a Canadian work. It is the first book that I learnt to read from, so I like passing on that memory! It is short poems and really weird 80s watercolour [images], it’s just really great.
N: I love that it is poetry! It’s like ‘yes, I know that you’re only one, but you are going to love it!’. So, I know you said that the first classic you dove into and that really resonated was Jane Eyre, and I know that you have reread it [for a virtual literary salon]. Can you tell me a bit about how that novel has sort of grown and progressed in your mind from the first time to having read it as an adult?
M: I think I kind of alluded to this when I was speaking to it earlier. I think Jane as a character evolves for me. As an adult very much picking up on this idea that she is that ‘plain jane’, she’s not necessarily beautiful, but she has her values that she stands up for and I think that is something I missed the first time around. Whereas the first [read through] I was just so in awe of this different time period and the fact that you could have this love interest that isn’t good looking and yet he is so captivating to her. I think also the way it has changed is my layered understanding of the history of the time, but also then as an adult being a bit more critical of the relationship between the two characters. I feel rereading it has added different layers as I’ve gotten older, but I am also a big believer that books, or the meaning we find in books, actually shifts in us every time we re-read one. Reading [Jane Austen’s] Emma at the age of 20 versus reading when you’re 45 I think will be a vastly different experience just because of what is going on in your own life. I think you always pick and choose what facets are important to you as you reread the same novel.
N: And as your life experience changes… Are you a re-reader? Not for Le Salon, but in general, are you someone who will pick some up now and again out of curiosity?
M: Generally, no.
M: I am of the mind that there are so many books out there that I struggle to do a re-read. Now, I was looking at my GoodReads account the other day because I was putting in The Haunting of Hill House [by Shirley Jackson] which is the most recent read we did for Le Salon, and I realized that I have actually read it about seven or eight times, and I hadn’t picked up on that! So, I don’t dislike re-reading, but it isn’t my default. My default is to go to my ‘to be read’ pile and picking out a new one.
N: The next and the next… I know that one of your virtual salon participants read [Haunting of Hill House] twice prior to the salon, so it seems to be a pretty captivating book! Which book would you say is the most captivating to you; what is your favourite classic so far? ‘So far’, I am giving you the space to change your mind as you progress!
M: I appreciate that because you never know what you’re going to stumble upon when it comes to the classics! It has to be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It is not very long, maybe about 160 pages or just at 200 pages, and just the philosophy that [Shelley] is able to weave into it as well as the sympathy we get for the Creature and the strong anger we feel towards Victor Frankenstein… It is a tale of compassion, it is a tale of belonging, and isolation… it’s just so complex but you don’t necessarily have to read it that way. But one of my favourite things about it is that the Frankenstein Creature is so engrained in our pop culture, right? You know, we think of the green skin and the neck bolts, the square head—the Boris Karloff interpretation of the Monster. But it isn’t like that in the book. I find I always recommend it to people as well because I’m like ‘read it!’ it is so different from our [modern] interpretation. I mean we just had Halloween, so seeing that [pop culture] image everywhere… The novel itself is so complex and wonderful and heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time!