Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
And R. wrote the grant proposal for her.
Man, they've come a long way since they met in third grade and spent all their time obsessing over Battle of the Books.
Monday, March 26, 2007
My selections for Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge:
Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo (fantasy)
Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (folklore)
David Mitchell's translation of Gilgamesh (mythology)
Susanna Clarke's Ladies of Grace Adieu (fairy tale)
and, per Carl's suggestion, Midsummer Night's Dream to conclude the challenge in June.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I didn't really start to read until I went to Graduate School and then I began to read and write at the same time. When I went to Iowa I had never heard of Faulkner, Kafka, Joyce, much less read them. Then I began to read everything at once, so much so that I didn't have time I suppose to be influenced by any one writer. I read all the Catholic novelists, Mauriac, Bernanos, Bloy, Greene, Waugh; I read all the nuts like Djuna Barnes and Dorothy Richardson and Va. Woolf (unfair to the dear lady of course); I read the best Southern writers like Faulkner and the Tates, K.A. Porter, Eudora Welty and Peter Taylor; read the Russians, not Tolstoy so much but Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov and Gogol. I became a great admirer of Conrad and have read almost all his fiction. I have totally skipped such people as Dreiser, Anderson (except for a few stories) and Thomas Wolfe. I have learned something from Hawthorne, Flaubert, Balzac and something from Kafka, thought I have never been able to finish one of his novels. I've read almost all of Henry James--from a sense of High Duty and because when I read James I feel something is happening to me, in slow motion but happening nevertheless. I admire Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets. But always the largest thing that looms up is The Humerous Tales of Edgar Allan Poe. I am sure he wrote them all while drunk too.
--Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being
She would've been 82 today.
Friday, March 23, 2007
I took the new Jonathan Raban, unread, back to the library yesterday. Someday. . .
Sunday while S. was with his Spanish tutor, I made a quick walk-though at the bookstore across the street. I had to talk myself out of purchasing Kurt Andersen's Heyday, one of the newest additions to my wishlist: no new books for a couple of months, remember? I came home, placed a hold on it at the library, then, for good measure, placed holds on all the books being published in May or June that I'd been enticing myself with thoughts of blowing all my gift cards and coupons on: why not save the coupons until fall?
The Assault on Reason.
The Shadow Catcher.
The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
But I haven't read the stack of books I got for my birthday last fall. Nor have I read a single one of the books I got for Christmas. The neat stack of classics on the dining room table has disassembled into a messy pile of neglect.
Heyday was waiting for me at the library yesterday. I should read Lady Susan first. I'll continue on with Emma, but slowly since Heyday is 620 pages.
I want to read The Violent Bear It Away now that I've reacquainted myself with Wise Blood. I want to read Doctor Faustus before we see the play. I want to participate in Carl's Fantasy Challenge.
I want to read at least 20 other books before the next wave of library holds comes in but I know I won't have the time.
The game is fixed and yet I continue to play.
I just need to stop dreaming about it.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
--Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood
I'd totally forgotten the gorilla.
1. Short Stories? Or full-length novels?
I love them both. I read more short stories when I was writing fiction; once I get out of this "fallow field" stage that has gone on for much too long, I expect I'll spend more time reading them again.
2. And, what's your favorite source for short stories? (You know, if you read them.)
Individual collections (although I rarely read them straight through); BASS and O. Henry and New Stories from the South; literary magazines (the late Story, Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, etc.); the New Yorker; various story anthologies from college and used book stores.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Last week while I was migraining, though, I whined enough to convince L. I needed a Coke to help me through the nausea. He brought home a two-liter. It's hard for me to ration a two-liter, especially when I have to deal with the DMV, and I drank like old times, swigging from the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed.
And I can't do that anymore. For two nights I couldn't get to sleep, I couldn't stay asleep. I finally reached the point that is at the heart of why I find it so difficult to weed my collection of books or to stop buying them: what if I wake up at 3 am in the morning and need that particular title?
Of course the particular title I needed at that moment happened to be a library book, but how can that undermine my book-hoardiness when it was a book I checked out last spring from the university library. I couldn't very well have gotten into the library at 3 am to reclaim it, now could I?
The book was Muriel Spark's The Comforters, which Spark fans at Readerville have claimed as their favorite. (Did any Slave actually read this one last summer? I think a couple may have intended to but never followed through.) I knew nothing else about the book, but I knew the time had come for me to read it.
The oddness of the characters and the focus on Catholicism quickly reminded me of Flannery O'Connor; I took this as a sign that I ought not postpone reading her for several weeks as I'd been intending and I began rereading Wise Blood over the weekend. And encountering a character in the Spark who hears a typewriter and a voice narrating her thoughts and experiences was a delightful bit of synchronicity since I had Stranger Than Fiction on hand to watch as well.
I'm also rereading Emma. I hope I have time to finish it before I'll need to start Lady Susan for the Slaves discussion at the end of the month, but I may need to set it aside for Jonathan Raban's Surveillance, which is due at the public library on the 27th and cannot be renewed.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
--Jane Austen, Emma
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I'm posting my latest stack of new books a little early this month. Since the plan is to hoard gift cards and vouchers until late May, there isn't any reason to wait until the stack grows a little taller: it isn't going to.
The Testament of Gideon Mack. James Robertson
This one has a U.S. pub date of March 22; the local libraries have yet to order it. I decided that ordering the paperback from the U.K. would free up lots of time being wasted on daily catalog checks.
Then I wondered why God allowed me to go on sinning in this way if he so disapproved of it. I was twelve years old, having a religious crisis over whether or not I should be watching the Vietnam War and I Dream of Jeannie on television. Gradually it came to me that I was being toyed with. Did God set traps for children? I thought less of him for that. I watched the programmes because I found them interesting: I found the world interesting. And it dawned on me that it didn't actually matter whether God liked it or not: I was going to go on doing it. The television was a tunnel to the outside, and I was halfway along it already.
Frankie and Stankie. Barbara Trapido
If ordering one book from the U.K., why not spring for another? This is another title that isn't to be found in the local libraries.
Nobody knows about housedust mite when Dinah is a little girl. So asthmatics are thought to wheeze at night because that's dream time, Freudian time, unconscious time. If you're asthmatic, it's because you're daffy. It's all in your head. Dinah's dad doesn't get asthma. He's a physically superior specimen--that's except for his terrible three-day-long migraine headaches which leave him groaning feebly in a darkened room. Otherwise, he'll always take flights of stairs three treads at a time and he goes for vigorous daylong hikes in the Natal countryside at weekends, stamping in his sturdy boots to discourage the green mambas. But he still likes to contemplate the possibility of terminal illness. He does this with spirit at mealtimes while tucking into great quantities of bread and cheese, although he always keeps his slim, boyish physique.
Queen of the Underworld. Gail Godwin
Review copy offered and eagerly accepted. It's been awhile since I've read any Godwin.
Could such a woman still exist in the late nineteen-fifties, even in rural North Carolina? Why not? Maybe I would write this existential pastorale with its O. Henry-ish ending in the evenings when I got home from my newspaper job. It was the sort of thing that might get me published in a literary quarterly, especially one of the Southern ones, which abounded in stories about trains passing and nothing much ever happening at home. My plan was to become a crack journalist in the daytime, building my worldly experience and gaining fluency through the practice of writing to meet deadlines. Then, in the evening and on weekends, I would slip across the border into fiction, searching for characters interesting and strong enough to live out my keenest questions. My journalism would support me until I became a famous novelist. Perhaps I would become a famous journalist on the side, if I could manage both.
Collapse. Jared Diamond
I bought this at Park Road Books minutes before the store closed last Thursday night; Haven Kimmel was still in the back signing autographs. I couldn't possibly check out a book like this from the library since I'll read in fits and starts over a great length of time (and more than likely never finish it).
The most visible effect of global warming in Montana, and perhaps anywhere in the world, is in Glacier National Park. While glaciers all over the world are in retreat--on Mt. Kilimanjaro, in the Andes and Alps, on the mountains of New Guinea, and around Mt. Everest--the phenomenon has been especially well studied in Montana because its glaciers are so accessible to climatologists and tourists. When the area of Glacier National Park was first visited by naturalists in the late 1800s, it contained over 150 glaciers; now, there are only about 35 left, mostly at just a small fraction of their first-reported size. At present rates of melting, Glacier National Park will have no glaciers at all by the year 2030. Such declines in the mountain snowpack are bad for irrigation systems, whose summer water comes from melting of the snow that remains up in the mountains. It's also bad for well systems tapping theBitterroot River's aquifer, whose volume has decreased because of recent drought.
The Call of the Weird. Louis Theroux
A review copy. A book for when Anne Tyler's quirky characters aren't nearly quirky enough.
I tried to think why I felt sad. The community had been founded by gun nuts and Bible thumpers. When they talked about the slide into immorality, they meant people like me and my friends: drug takers and fornicators, supporters of welfare programs and socialized medicine. George W. Bush, the born-again president, who to me seemed far right, to them was another socialist, a puppet of the New World Order. But they also spoke for intransigence, idealism, a refusal to take the world on the world's terms. There was clarity in their simple notions of discipline and justice. In a childish way, I'd like my world to be a story with goodies and baddies. Every time I used to read about a patriot group declaring themselves a sovereign country, as they sometimes did, my heart gladdened. Though undoubtedly weird, it's also a kind of maverick statement to ask a notary to witness your own personal declaration of independence. A little part of me would have liked to be the sovereign state of Louis.
The Thirteenth Tale. Diane Setterfield
Plucked this one from the library sale cart for 50 cents. Of course: everyone else has already read it.
Contemporary literature is a world I know little of. My father had taken me to task on this topic many times during our daily talks about books. He reads as much as I do, but more widely, and I have great respect for his opinions. He has descibed in precise, measured words the beautiful desolation he feels at the close of novels where the message is that there is no end to human suffering, only endurance. He has spoken of endings that are muted, but which echo longer in the memory than louder, more explosive denouements. He has explained why it is that ambiguity touches his heart more nearly than the death and marriage style of finish that I prefer.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
"All this natural misery," Dr. Goodsir said suddenly. "Why do you men have to add to it? Why does our species always have to take our full measure of God-given misery and terror and mortality and then make it worse? Can you answer me that, Mr. Hickey?"
Last week I considered making The Terror a long-term read while reading another book or two on the side. It's such a big book after all, and besides, the fate of the Franklin expedition is not a well-kept secret. But then I made it past the one chapter, the only chapter in the whole book that dragged for me, and from that point on, I could not put it down. I put life on hold over the weekend (I'm still playing catch-up), cursed daylight savings time for robbing me of an hour of reading time, and reached the last sentence shortly before bedtime Sunday night.
Scurvy! Lead poisoning! Cannibalism! A melancholy captain who preaches sermons based upon Hobbes's Leviathan! (It's my theory that the crozier held in the hand of the giant on Leviathan's frontispiece sparked Simmons's storyline for Captain Francis Crozier.)
If a man in a smoking jacket in a coal-fire-heated library in his manor house in London can understand that life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, then how can it be denied by a man pulling a sledge stacked with frozen meat and furs across an unnamed island, through the arctic night under a sky gone mad, toward a frozen sea a thousand miles and more from any civilized hearth?
Friday, March 09, 2007
I've been nominated for a Thinking Blogger Award by Mental Multivitamin. Thanks, MFS!
Now I'm supposed to nominate five blogs that make me think. A mere five? That means I'll be leaving many worthies unmentioned. . . and in need of nomination from one of these thought-provoking bloggers:
So Many Books
A Work in Progress
Of Books and Bicycles
Box of Books
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Not many people I know are interested in the types of books I read, so I'm actually thrilled when someone wants to borrow one. I'll even loan them out so others can read them first.
Do you borrow books from other people? (Friends or family—I'm not talking about the public library)
I borrow books from my mother-in-law once she's through with them. Then I get to keep them. Unless it's from her leatherbound collection; those I have to give back. Otherwise I don't borrow very many because I've usually already read what's offered to me (or don't want to read it).
And, most importantly—do the books you lend/borrow get returned to their rightful owners??
Usually. Eventually. Although we've had the Christopher Buckleys loaned to my husband for almost two years now and I've probably had Galapagos longer than that. . .
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
World Light. Halldor Laxness. Started in May 2003. The first chapter ends with the undersized literature-loving foster child Olafur weeping when a book he couldn't read, but kept hidden in his clothes, is taken from him and burned. But I put it down 200 pages in when the character seemed to transmogrify into someone I didn't recognize. The next February I read 200 more pages. Only 200 more yet to go and then I can read Independent People. Bookmark: one from the public library, a quick guide to Dewey Decimal classification and subject areas.
Virginia Woolf. Hermione Lee. Stopped at p. 478 (out of 755), the chapter on Vita Sackville-West, to read The Easter Party by Sackville-West. Was I waiting to read All Passion Spent as well? Bookmark: a reply form from the QPBC. Guess I didn't.
Jenny and the Jaws of Life. Jincy Willett. I know I've read more than one story in this collection--and I rarely read story collections straight through--but there's a notecard stuck between p. 26-27. The notecard is a black and white photo of a kitty touching noses with a walrusy-looking puppy stuffed in a ceramic teapot.
The Italian. Ann Radcliffe. Set aside last fall at an exciting spot: Ellena and the evil monk on the beach, p. 260. Bookmark: old-fashioned library checkout card from Harriet Hume.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Annie Dillard. Six out of 15 chapters read. Bookmark: a strip of Glidden paint samples, ranging in color from Pasture Green to Forest Light.
Emerson Among the Eccentrics. Carlos Baker. Stopped at the end of Part Two, intending to read Emerson's essays from the Forties before continuing on into the Fifties in the bio. Bookmark: an index card on which is written "A Conversation with My Father. Grace Paley."
Selected Essays, Lectures, and Poems. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Next essay to read: "The Over-Soul," from 1841. Bookmark: a folded envelope preaddressed to the Children's Theatre here in town.
Will in the World. Stephen Greenblatt. A post card from Sir John Soane's Museum in London between p. 92 and 93.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I could return to Rebecca West.
The Harsh Voice.
The Thinking Reed
The Fountain Overflows
The Birds Fall Down
This Real Night
I could spend several weeks on Southern literature.
Wise Blood. Flannery O'Connor
The Violent Bear It Away. Flannery O'Connor
Collected Stories. Flannery O'Connor
The Unvanquished. William Faulkner
Go Down Moses. William Faulkner
Thirteen Moons. Charles Frazier
The Golden Apples. Eudora Welty
Move Over, Mountain. John Ehle
Off For the Sweet Hereafter. T.R. Pearson
I could finish all the classics on my "13 Classics to Read in 2007" list (three down at this point).
I could read all the books on my Reading Across Boundaries list.
I could have a Thomas Hardy month.
Far From the Madding Crowd
Two on a Tower
The Mayor of Casterbridge
Claire Tomalin's bio
I could concentrate on nonfiction.
The Omnivore's Dilemma. Michael Pollan
Misquoting Jesus. Bart Ehrman
The Human Touch. Michael Frayn
The River of Doubt. Candice Millard
Monsieur Proust. Celeste Albaret
Freethinkers. Susan Jacoby
and many others
I could focus on Ships at Sea for awhile.
Beat to Quarters. C.S. Forester
This Thing of Darkness. Harry Thompson
The Voyage of the Beagle. Charles Darwin
The Willow Field. William Kittredge
Butcher's Crossing. John Williams
Angle of Repose. Wallace Stegner
The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Wallace Stegner
Dancing at the Rascal Fair. Ivan Doig
This House of Sky. Ivan Doig
Liar's Moon. Philip Kimball
The Crossing. Cormac McCarthy
Have a Go-to-the-Devil month.
The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov
Dr. Faustus. Christopher Marlowe
The Testament of Gideon Mack. James Robertson
Paradise Lost. John Milton
Complete the Fairy Tale/Fantasy Challenge.
The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Susanna Clarke
Dogsbody. Diana Wynne Jones
Anansi Boys. Neil Gaiman
April Witch. Majgull Axelsson
Summerland. Michael Chabon
Or I could just read books totally at whim within or without these parameters.
I could. Really.
Monday, March 05, 2007
The Book of Lost Things is at heart a quest story. Young David, still mourning the death of his mother and bitterly resentful of his new stepmother and baby brother who take much of the attention when his father--a code-breaker during WWII--happens to be at home, is lured into an alternative world after hearing his mother's voice call to him for rescue. This alternative world is a dark reflection of the fairy tales he's partial to and part of the pleasure of reading about this world is in recognizing the original stories that Connolly has added his kinks and twists to. Suffice it to say, if you prefer a Disneyfied-spin on the Brothers Grimm, you're going be to be very uncomfortable reading this book.
I managed to somehow get through my son's dragon phase without realizing that "wyrm" was the word usually used for such in medieval lit; the connection was made for me after reading A.S. Byatt's "The Thing in the Forest," whose creature was certainly more worm-like than dragony. There is a similar beast in The Book of Lost Things (which quite handily and gruesomely deals with some German tanks that have made their way into this alternative world), and I've found it curious that both my exposures to the legendary wyrms of Britain have come in contemporary stories dealing with children who have been sent from London during WWII to avoid the bombing.
Yesterday I started Dan Simmons' The Terror. I bought this one for L., since he has a soft spot for Arctic exploration, but since he's been complaining about his vision lately, I doubt he'll attempt this behemouth until after his next eye exam and new set of glasses.
Based on Sir John Franklin's 1845 attempt to find the Northwest Passage, the books begins this way:
Captain Crozier comes up on deck to find his ship under attack by celestial ghosts. Above him--above Terror--shimmering folds of light lunge but then quckly withdraw like the colourful arms of aggressive but ultimately uncertain spectres. Ectoplasmic skeletal fingers extend toward the ship, open, prepare to grasp, and pull back.
Temperatures are at negative 50 degrees and the HMS Terror and her sister ship Erebus have been lodged in the ice within the Arctic Circle for more than a year. Low on food and morale, the men who aren't yet dead are being stalked by something out on the ice that may prove to be supernatural.
So far very good.
Friday, March 02, 2007
A brief update:
Finished David Copperfield on Monday and S. finished it on Wednesday. We're still discussing.
I'm back to reading John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and should finish it without fail this weekend.
I've read two stories from Rick Bass's The Lives of Rocks, "The Lives of Rocks" and "Yazoo," and I can tell that I'm going to enjoy this collection mightily.
I'm reading Diana Wynne Jones's Dogsbody on the treadmill. (This is why I haven't managed to lose any weight this week--I'm still moving slow enough to read.)
I have a shipment of books coming in from the UK, but I don't expect to be ordering anything in March or April. I can't shake this feeling of saturation. I want to read what I already have on hand.
Let's see how long that feeling lasts.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
So far this year, I'm averaging five books a month.
In a year?
My average for the last five years has been 77. Last year I read 75. I don't know if I'll manage that this year if I keep reading enormous classics.
Over the last five years?
I read 386 books between 2001 and 2006.
The last 10?
I read a total of 851 books over the last decade.
(via Booking Through Thursday)