Minor life goal fulfilled: now that my purchases from the winter sale have arrived I finally have enough NYRB Classics to arrange them chromatically. It’s only semi-successful and needs some readjustment; also, some transitions are bound to be rocky due to simple lack of properly coloured books. Clearly I should choose my next purchases based on spine colour alone.
Showing posts tagged with “books”
In other news, I am so excited to read Geoff Dyer’s Zona. It’s a booklong consideration of Tarkovsky’s Stalker!! In case the reason for anticipation is not clear: that’s one of my favourite essayists on one of my favourite movies. I would have bought it already but I still have not purchased a copy of the film for myself and obviously I must watch it again before I read about it, or perhaps watch it while I read about it, keep the film playing in an endless loop for however long it takes me to get through the book (knowing Dyer: not long). But then I am reminded that I still haven’t read the story, or is it a novella, that it’s based on and I’ve always intended to do that… so I have a lot of steps between myself and Zona. At least there are things like this interview with Dyer to sate me in the interim.
BF: I have one last, utterly pointless question. In Out of Sheer Rage there’s a wonderful passage about how much you hate seafood. Do you really hate seafood?
GD: Oh yeah, absolutely. There’s a lot of stuff in the books that isn’t true, but nothing is more to the heart than that. I really think that if I’ve said anything wise in the book it’s that line where I say that seafood is a delicacy in the sense that you’ve got to cook it just right or you’ll be shitting squid ink for a week.
BF: Good, because I justify my hatred of seafood by saying that Geoff Dyer hates it too.
GD: My name is Geoff Dyer and I endorse this.
“The ducks swam through the drawing-room windows. The weight of the water had forced the windows open; so the ducks swam in. Round the room they sailed quacking their approval; then they sailed out again to explore the wonderful new world that had come in the night.”
—The opening lines of Barbara Comyns’ Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, which I like more than anything else I’ve read recently. It is a marvelous little book, beginning wonderfully with a flood and ending with a funeral; it’s funny and dark and sad and delightful. Reminded me a bit of Shirley Jackson with a dash of Richard Hughes. I’ve just finished it and immediately I want to start over at the beginning, a rare urge for me.
Thought for the evening: I am very sick of the “What we talk about when we talk about ________” title format. It was great the first time but now it is just tiresome and derivative; anything with this title actually encourages me not to read the work because I’m shallowly contrary like that.
(Even though I think this list is kind of horrible but what can you expect, it was a poor publishing year) I am spasming about with glee tonight. The Rooster is the most fun on the internet in March for bookish types and I’ve been looking forward to it for months now. I’ve read 7 1/2 of these already and will, of course, read the rest, even the ones that give me hives to even think about. Thoughts:
- Actually grateful for the lack of David Foster Wallace (even though I cannot believe it—along with 1Q84 and the Eugenides I thought for sure that was a shoo in). I’m not ready to read it, not sure if I ever will be. Posthumous publications—I have issues with them.
- Tea Obreht and Karen Russell? Both? At once? Ugh. How disappointing. One or the other, not both, that’s my rule. They’re both so overhyped—I’m fairly well convinced that they only get so much attention because they’re both young and female and pretty. It’s certainly not because of their stunning talent, particularly in Obreht’s case. If I had to grudgingly allow one I’d go with Russell (Swamplandia! did have its moments; I think Russell might grow into a good author but for now her structure is weak and her influences too obvious) and replace Obreht with something from Open Letter or New Directions or even a NYBRC—in short, something that’s actually good. That said, I predict that Swamplandia! will do well.
- Also inexplicably popular: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. This is a book I did not appreciate except for its potential to make a good movie someday but I won’t complain too much about its inclusion—it’s their token genre pick and I’m just thankful that they didn’t go for the equally beloved Ready Player One (awful) or The Magician King (unreadable).
- Ann Patchett is an odd inclusion for me. I guess it fits—I’ll never forget The Lacuna debacle a few years ago, and how near it came to beating the far superior Wolf Hall—as she’s a similar author to Kingsolver, but I don’t really think of either as “literary” or, ahem, “prizeworthy”—they’re bookclub reads: acceptable quality, just edgy enough to inspire discussion, but not transgressive or interesting. (Please note: I read the Patchett and liked it just fine for what it was. I gave it to my mother. She liked it.)
- Book I was planning never to read and now feel like I must: Salvage the Bones. I know it won the NBA, usually a good indicator of quality, but everything about this looks painful and indulgent. Sure, fine, write about Katrina, but does your main character have to be fourteen, black and pregnant? That’s dicey, with lots of potential for horridness. Also I remember this being billed as one of those “searing narrative voice” novels which is always a red flag. Resentment.
- I’ve been planning to read The Stranger’s Child but was going to skip Ondaatje’s newest. I can’t speak with confdience having read neither, but in terms of style and historical setting and possibly even intent these seem similar enough that I think they should have chosen one or the other not both. Lots of judges will find them dull—even I find it dull, thinking of reading them, and I like this type of book. Both very safe picks, neither strong enough to win. It seems to me that they erred on the conservative this year more than others—there’s no Anne Carson equivalent here.
- Previously unknown book that I’m most excited to read even though it is about WWII and has children for the main characters (a risky combination): The Last Brother by Natacha Appanah
- Should probably win but won’t because its author is smarter than you (and me) and shows it and people either won’t get it or will feel inferior and push it away despite its merit: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- Will come close to winning but won’t because it’s just too damn long and many judges won’t finish it (and also because it’s either terribly written or terribly translated [who knows] for huge stretches of its considerable length): 1Q84
- Will win: Eugenides, The Marriage Plot, but only if the judges lean towards the pretentious-literate. It’s such a booklover’s book, tailored for anyone who’s ever been young and in love with words and at a loss for how to live beneath their weight. Not to mention: love triangle, DFW-inspired character, easy to read, lots of opportunities for the reader to feel clever. I’m not sure, but I think there’s a lot to relate to in this one for bookish judging types.
(via Chekov’s Mistress)
I have read only nine of these; ten if I can be so bold as to count Perfume, which I will probably finish tonight. I am drawn to the idea of using this as my reading list for the rest of the year—half of them are already on my epic to-read list anyway.
Over 1000 books in 40 years seems like a lot, but it averages out to around 25 books a year, which is reasonable for your average avid reader. I wish I had the ambition to keep track of every book I read and when I read them. There’s no time like the present right?
Keeping track of what you read is fantastic; I recommend it to any reader. It’s been a few years since I started writing down every book that I finish (complete with shorthand comments and a complicated, indecipherable-to-anyone-but-me rating system). I was inspired to it by the inheritance of one of my greatest treasures: my grandmother’s notebook of 30 years of books. Her notebook is a beautiful portrait of her mind, and I have egotistical fantasies that some descendent of me might take something of the same delight from mine some day. Snobbish fascination with my own imaginary legacy aside, it’s really invaluable to see where my brain has been—it’s astounding to me how many patterns emerge when I look back on what I’ve read and try to remember what was going on at the time. Like tumblr itself, it provides a map of where my brain has been dwelling in any given period of time.
The only downside is that it can set up all sorts of silly expectations—it creates an awareness of a quota, of having to live up to or beat my past reading self. In the year that I started the record I went through a long illness and spent a month and a half in bed, doing nothing but reading, sleeping, and eating pancakes. In that May alone I think I read something crazy like 32 books, which set up an unreasonable standard for all following Mays—“What?! Only ten books this May?? I am a failure as a human being! My youthful intelligence has degraded into plodding mundanity!!”—but oh well, that’s just neurosis. At least the apex of my literary mind—and it really was a significant time, a turning point, the time when I embarked upon my life project of being monstrously well-read—is documented.
It’s not all self-centeredness! I also delight in other peoples’ reading lists, like Mr. Garfunkel’s above. It’s one of my favourite ways to get recommendations—and, conversely, I use my book notebook for giving them. Have I sung the praises of the book notebook high enough to heaven? Good. Now everyone should go start one of their own. And then post it on the internet for me to peruse.
"We know one another, these books and I, and we can take our time with the unfolding story."
for reasons mainly sonic
"During the eight years Pnin had taught at Waindell College he had changed his lodgings — for one reason or another, mainly sonic — about every semester. The accumulation of consecutive rooms in his memory now resembled those displays of grouped elbow chairs on show, and beds, and lamps, and inglenooks which, ignoring all space-time distinctions, commingle in the soft light of a furniture store beyond which it snows, and the dusk deepens, and nobody really loves anybody."
—Pnin, V. Nabokov