Sunday, April 03, 2011
What I've been reading lately
I know, I know, I've been absent around these parts and I do feel guilty. I know what causes me to feel burned out on blogging and yet I still find it difficult not to be distracted by the malaise of other bloggers, by outbreaks of drama, usually from areas of the book blogging community that have little or no bearing on my own, by the realization that I'd much rather read than write a review designed to market product (and I am putting it that bluntly because I chanced upon a comment by a book blogger who said that's what she does--product reviews) for an industry that's found a source of free labor. Labor, of course, that is discounted, disparaged, demeaned by those who may or not--that's still hotly debated--benefit.
I just want to read, record my thoughts on what I read. I want to read blogs by other readers who do the same, who are more interested in recommending and discussing books than marketing them, than marketing themselves. (And watch me turn right around later this week with a giveaway from a publisher.) I want to follow Twitter links directly to interesting posts and articles, not be taken on a detour to a blogger's Tumblr posts that do nothing but repeat the tweet (and up stats across all social media) before sending you on to the full post elsewhere. What I want out of blogging is definitely not what other bloggers want.
Although I know all this, I'm too often sidetracked. My suspicion is that's related to how cruddy I've been feeling for quite some time: I find myself reading the stuff that irritates me, to justify how I feel. A couple weeks back, after two days of severe facial pain due to an especially potent crop of spring pollen, I broke down and went to the doctor. Since I was there, I mentioned how frequent and unpredictable my migraines had come, how often I felt overcome by feelings of free-floating rage--surely, menopause had to be right around the corner to account for this upheaval, right? My doctor kept asking questions until she determined that what I'd been seeing as purely a hormonal issue was actually due to lack of sleep. Bingo: I'd told L. months ago that I felt as sleep-deprived as I had when the kids were babies; I'd become so accustomed to it that I'd ceased to see it as a problem.
So, a sleep aid. I'm off caffeine. My sugar craving's gone. I've still not achieved eight hours more than a time or two, but I'm managing to go back to sleep when I wake in the middle of the night, I'm getting enough sleep to dream again. It feels pretty wonderful.
To help regain my blogging mojo, I've started reading through my favorite bloggers' archives and will continue to do so because it's turning out to be even more fun than I'd expected.
And now for the books I read in March:
Louise Penny's The Brutal Telling. My friend C. has raved about Bury Your Dead, and I read this in prep for reading its follow-up. Hated it. I have certain pet peeves, and one of the biggies is Shifting Perspective. Penny played hopscotch through her characters' heads--a sentence or two from one's perspective, a sentence or two from another's, and on and on, until we're even briefly privy to a horse's thoughts. C. laughed at me when I ranted about this, but B.S. said she didn't like shifting viewpoint either and that Penny doesn't do it in Bury Your Dead. I did like the duck and the trip to Queen Charlotte Islands, however.
Jean Silber's The Art of Time in Fiction, from the Art of series. I'd like to read the rest of the series, but I didn't like this near as Charles Baxter's The Art of Subtext. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus. I was pleased when the library staff book club chose Adichie, but alas, the club was disbanded before the discussion took place. Very much a first novel--the main character narrates a scene she wasn't on hand to witness and the first person perspective keeps us from learning why the Catholic father would repeatedly beat his wife until she aborted (even crazy religious fundamentalism doesn't account for that)--but a noteworthy debut nonetheless.
Steve Yarbrough's Safe from the Neighbors. The Tournament of Books crowd would label this one a White Male Fuck Up novel and there were several occasions when I wished someone would smack the main character/narrator upside the head. But it's also an interesting look at the contemporary South, at how thinking someone's a good guy merely because he isn't a racist, or someone's bad because he is, is ultimately an inadequate way of judging your fellow man (or self). Plus, there's an incredible set piece the Ole Miss library involving a deer that's crashed through a glass window that I'm glad I didn't miss.
Jo Walton's Among Others. Loved, loved, loved this. A fantasy novel that sings the praises of science fiction, a coming-of-age story that takes place in the aftermath of the story most authors would have chosen to tell instead of this one. Loved following the links about the book back to Walton's Live Journal and reading the discussion between Walton and Pamela Dean on whether fan fic between the worlds in Among Others and Tam Lin could sync up, as well as the original post that was the genesis of the book.
John Wyndham's The Chrysalids. One of the myriad books mentioned in Among Others, and one I happened to have on hand. Genetic mutations in a dystopian community where religious fundamentalism runs rampant. I want to read more Wyndham.
Barbara Comyns' Who was Changed and Who was Dead. I read Our Spoons Came from Woolworths years ago, but this was quite different. A flood, a very peculiar family, ergot poisoning. I'll want to read it again, after I've read the rest of Comyns' work.
William Faulkner's Spotted Horses. Reviewed for the Classics Circuit.
Victoria Patterson's This Vacant Paradise. I ordered this immediately after reading Kate Christensen's review. I love modern takes on classics, particularly when the writer takes inspiration from, instead of strick adherence to, the original. Patterson does this beautifully with this Southern California retelling of The House of Mirth.
Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus. For the Slaves of Golconda discussion at the end of the week. All I'll say now is that I loved it.
Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. Because of the Patterson and because it had been at least a decade since I first read it. It holds up.
And now I'm going to try to stay current with what I'm reading instead of letting everything languish.