Monday, July 26, 2010
Alas, alas! On this food had Richard Mutimer pastured his soul since he grew to manhood, on this and this only. English literature was to him a sealed volume; poetry he scarcely knew by name; of history he was worse than ignorant, having looked at this period and that through distorting media, and congratulating himself on his clear vision because he saw men as trees walking; the bent of his mind would have led him to natural science, but opportunities of instruction were lacking, and the chosen directors of his prejudice taught him to regard every fact, every discovery, as for or against something.
--George Gissing, Demos (1892)
Reading Habits of Fictional Characters
Friday, July 09, 2010
Yes, they brought in the mail, and there was nothing interesting, just junk, just bills, they always tell me, which actually means: We take no interest in the stinkin' book packages of which there are too menny.
So I don't know when my latest package from the Book Depository actually arrived because they carelessly segregated it from the rest of the mail in the kitchen and I found it this morning in the shadows of the family room.
It contained Tana French's Faithful Place.
Two chapters in, I know what I'll be doing this weekend.
Water roars off the roof, and I am dry.
Later tonight I will fix coffee.
They're not alike at all, really: writing and geology. There's a deceit in writing; you're trying to pull all the clever elements together and toss out the dull and round-edged ones. Basically, it's building a lie and then swinging the lie's massiveness into the path of the reader and hiding behind it. Curiously, however, in geology, when I pour a cup of coffee and sit down and begin to map, I'm not hiding behind anything; there's no pretense, no deceit, just an inquisitive hunger and innocence where I am neither superior nor inferior to the reader, but am the reader. There's truly an amount of trust. The earth lies there, still, and obeys certain rules. I have faith that I am not going to let myself believe something that is not true. It is perhaps the purest thing I've ever done. Perhaps that is why geologists become so fervent about a particular prospect. Not holy men, but still there is that aspect to it--as in athletics, and religions.
Go beyond that, under the greed and dollars of it and into the purity. How many traps of ancient reserves are left, and how long will it take us to use, at our known rate, our known requirements, this projectable quantity? You hit zero, every well in the world a dry hole, in about sixty-five years. Do not think it will be a pretty sight.
--Rick Bass, Oil Notes (1989)
Thursday, July 08, 2010
This photo makes me look much worse than I've actually been. Practically half the books pictured were freebies from the new staff book exchange at work. I've done my best not to be greedy there, waiting several days for others to take first dibs, but after awhile I started carrying them out, one per day.
From the top left:
Too Many Magpies by Elizabeth Baines. Mainly because the cover reminds me of the birds I saw last December.
The Tenants of Moonbloom by Edward Lewis Wallant. Another for my NYRB shelf.
The City and the City by China Mieville. Because I need more mind-blowing books and everyone says this qualifies.
Kraken by China Mieville. Because I find it impossible to resist an inky and tenacled Magnificent Octopus.
Savage Lands by Clare Clark. From the Book Exchange.
Reality Hunger by David Shields. A former writing instructor has a quote in here. Book Exchange.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine. Book Exchange.
The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee. Book Exchange.
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. Book Exchange.
Dracula's Guest. "A connoisseur's collection of Victorian vampire stories" edited by Michael Sims. Purchased because of this article from the editor.
The Radleys by Matt Haig. When I first heard the title and saw the white picket fence on the cover, I was convinced it was about Boo Radley's family and I was squeefully excited. Instead it's about non-practicing vampires. That could work. . .
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson. I'm not reading Stephenson this summer with the Girl Detective and Mental Multivitamin, alas, but they've inspired me to buy a copy to have on hand for when the time is right.
To the End of the Land by David Grossman. This is an ARC of an Israeli novel due out in September. According to the editor, it's "about the toll of war on one particular family and the impulse toward peace that persists even in a society constantly taking up arms." I have very high expectations for this one.
The Passage by Justin Cronin.
Eight White Nights by Andre Aciman. I'd read about this one somewhere just a day or so before spotting it on the Book Exchange shelves.
36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. I know Dorothy set it aside awhile back, so if I don't get along with it any better than she, I'll simply return it to the Book Exchange shelves.
I'm also stockpiling titles on the Kindle, which is a bad, bad practice. I have Allegra Goodman's latest, The Cookbook Collector, and Shappi Khorsandi's A Beginner's Guide to Acting English and Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen and Pinckney Benedict's Miracle Boy and Other Stories. I really need to get the immediate gratification thing under control. We've a new roof and gutters to pay for!
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
--Dorothy Canfield Fisher, The Home-maker
Tuesday, July 06, 2010
Soooo, June was a particularly wonderful month for reading. I stuck to my summer reading plans until late in the month, when I snuck in Muriel Spark's Memento Mori instead of moving on to any of the books I'd mentally assigned to July or August. I completed Jean Stafford's The Mountain Lion, Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr. Y, Justin Cronin's The Passage, Dorothy Canfield Fisher's The Home-maker, Doris Lessing's The Sweetest Dream, and Wallace Stegner's bildungsroman The Big Rock Candy Mountain.
My favorite of the bunch was the Lessing, which explains why I now have Martha Quest and Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta on my desk at the library. I intend to have a Lessing-intense fall--if I can hold out that long. I read The Passage in a weekend right after we returned from a family vacation to New York, and it was a most enjoyable way to decompress. There were only a couple scenes where I wanted to mentally check out for pop corn and not come back until they were over, and I didn't appreciate how jerked around I felt near the end, but I'll be reading the next in the series whenever it may be published.
And since we're now (more than) half-way though the year, I should provide you with a reading update based on the plans from the first of the year. Only 16 of the books I've read so far have been from the library, so I'm doing well in the read-from-my-own-shelves department. And Ulysses is back in progress after a six-week hiatus. I've two chapters remaining, "Ithaca" and "Penelope," both of which I'm most eager to read, but I need to coordinate my schedule with W.'s, so we finish at the same time. Have I mentioned that everyone else dropped out? (I wasn't a bit surprised.)
I mentioned starting a new Reading Habits of Fictional Characters project back in January, and it's there that I've been an abject failure. Oh, I've dutifully dogearred pages when characters mention the books they've read, but I have not kept track of this reading on the blog, let alone started a wiki page so that others could join in. I blame it on Buddy and Seymour Glass: I read Salinger's "Hapworth 16, 1924" as a tribute back in February, and the reading list included in the story was so extensive that I've not yet recovered from copying it all out on notecards.**
Perhaps I shall in the months to come.
And if there is a downside to having completed 51 books Jan.-June, other than that many bloggers have read twice that much or more, it is that I will now feel like a failure if I don't manage to reach 100 books for the year. I hadn't intended to pay any attention to numbers,*** and now I'm sure to worry about them constantly. The quality of the books I've been reading has been too high for such distracting silliness; maybe I ought to deliberately trip myself up by taking a month off from reading. It might make an interesting experiment to see how I'd use my time if I couldn't read.
*have I ever left them?
**which I have since misplaced
***except for short stories, where I'm clearly lagging behind my great expectations