CHRISTINA WAS BORN, RAISED, AND CURRENTLY LIVES IN LOS ANGELES, BUT HER WORLDLINESS COMES FROM HER LOVE FOR TRAVEL AND CALLING SEVERAL OTHER PLACES HOME. SHE'S DARING AND CLASSIC, WHAT WE LIKE TO CALL MODERN INTELLECTUAL WOMAN WITH A PENCHANT FOR DESIGN. CHRISTINA IS ENDLESSLY INSPIRING AND BELOW ARE SOME OF THE BOOKS AND PEOPLE THAT HAVE INSPIRED HER.
GAL: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a life long reader?
CGJ: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
GAL: What is the power of story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
CGJ: Stories can show you how many different kinds of lives can be lead, how many different worlds can be experienced and how realities can be constructed and destroyed. In other words, a story can show you how to view the world through different points of view and through different lenses. That’s my Lavar Burton answer.
GAL: How often do you read?
CGJ: Reading paper pages is something I should do more than I do – six hours a week would be amazing It’s maybe more like one or two hours a week. I use a computer all day for work so I usually get home, close my eyes, and listen to a story every night. Typically it’s the same thing over and over again, like a crazy person. Either David Sedaris or Tina Fey or Angelica Huston. Late into the night I’ll listen to short story podcasts, like Selected Shorts or The New Yorker Fiction Podcast with Deborah Treisman.
CHRISTINA GREGORY JONES
GAL: Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
CGJ: I might never have lived in Venice, Italy had I not read Invisible Cities. I would not have understood the richness of grimy East 7th Street if I had never read Up in the Old Hotel. Driving the back highways of Los Angeles is always more vivid when I wonder if Joan Didion had ever been lost on the 118 in her Stingray. Those stories put layers of footsteps under my feet and include me in the endless conversation that started way before I arrived on the scene.
GAL: Is it important for you to physically hold a book you read?
CGJ: I prefer holding a book, though I read the second and third Hunger Games books on my iPhone because I couldn’t wait to read them. I own a Kindle but I don’t know where it is.
GAL: How do you choose the books you read?
CGJ: On recommendation or whim or because I’m interested in a particular subject. Right now I’m curious about the lives of 20th-century American artists.
GAL: Which do you prefer non-fiction or fiction?
CGJ: Lately I prefer non-fiction. I love reading about people’s lives, people in the past. Maybe in a way these stories are more easily digestible than something that came purely out of imagination. A really amazing fiction story has a way of sitting with me and expanding, I need time to process fiction. Maybe in the end I get more inspiration from fiction than non-fiction. But, right now, I find real people (who are dead) fascinating.
GAL: Who is your favorite author? (If impossible to choose please name two.)
CGJ: David Sedaris (is he more a ‘writer’ than and ‘author’?) Fiction-wise…Edith Wharton.
GAL: If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?
CGJ: Memoir and biography.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
CGJ: Either I Don’t Know or Pizza Eater.
“For solace, a poem is something so immediately transportive, sympathetic.”
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
A book is a forever book to me for more than the words written on the page, more than the story told – the Parker book is as much a physical object, as a memory object that has come with me everywhere I’ve ever traveled. I don’t know how it came into my possession but I’ve always had it. The Murakami book is long lost but it makes me think of the people who gave it to me and the people I gave it to.
The words inside do make a big difference, but it’s less about their story and more about my own story, which is the one about the places, and the people I was surrounded with at the time I encountered these books.
“DRIVING THE BACK HIGHWAYS OF LOS ANGELES IS ALWAYS MORE VIVID WHEN I WONDER IF JOAN DIDION HAD EVER BEEN LOST ON THE 118 IN HER STINGRAY.”
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to reread for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
For solace a poem is something so immediately transportive, sympathetic. Recently a good friend of mine died and I read Lament for the Death of Bullfighter by Lorca. The imagery, ritual, and pageantry of mourning helped me understand how people and society process sudden death. Didn’t mean to take this to a dark place!
GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot? Where is it?
CGJ: I just got some new shelves underneath my stairs and have finally made it a cozy spot to read and look at picture books. But, since I was a kid, and the reason why my eyes are (were! Thanks, science!) so bad is because I tend to read crouched uncomfortably under the covers, bolstered by a pillow fort, by low light reading into the wee hours of morning.
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere – place is not important?
CGJ: I think it’s romantic to sit in a cafe alone with a glass of something and a book. But, in reality, I find it an impossible situation for actually reading. It’s more a pose and there are too many distractions. I prefer privacy for reading – though if the book is captivating enough I could read it anywhere. I was stranded in a busy airport once and I was reading The House of Mirth and bawling like my heart was breaking. It was an Italian airport though so I don’t think it was unusual to see someone sobbing.
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
CGJ: The Secret History by Donna Tartt – because holy shit, when you want to fall down the rabbit hole, this is the book to do it with.
The Woman in White by Wilke Collins – a) it’s a beautifully written classic tale of terror and b) Nora Ephron loved it. The provenance of recommendation is important.
The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. I think of this like the foundation book of young women in New York, young creative chicks embarking on their lives together – glamour and dismay and everything. Timeless and vulnerable and inspiring.