Tuesday, June 24th, 2003
Kieran Healy has a post up now looking for reading recommendations; and the Invisible Adjunct recommended to him the work of Penelope Fitzgerald, in language ("a rare combination of irony plus compassion") that made it sound too good to pass up. So this afternoon, I stopped in at Coliseum books and after looking over her œuvre, settled on The Book Shop as a good intro. I read the first 2 ½ chapters on the train coming home and I'm hooked.
Wednesday, June 25th, 2003
It often seemed to her that if she knew exactly what her financial position was down to the last three farthings, ... she would not have the courage to carry on for another day.
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Book Shop
The book is engrossing and funny. Very warm, sympathetic characterization of Mrs. Green and of Christine. The other characters seem thus far (halfway) mainly foils to Mrs. Green.
"I have read Lolita, as you requested. It is a good book, and therefore you should try to sell it to the inhabitants of Hardborough. They won't understand it, but that is all to the good. Understanding makes the mind lazy."
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Book Shop
Can you dig it — Understanding makes the mind lazy!!! This will be my slogan from now on, or until I find a better.I finished the book this afternoon; grew a bit exasperated with myself as I got into the familiar mode of being so interested in the plot, that I read too fast and fail to process completely what I am reading. I would be less dependent on rereading if I would not do that so frequently. Anyways -- I love it! Loaning it out to all my friends starting now.
Two bits of good news: Coliseum Books has reopened, and very near my place of employment! I have been there twice already. And, this weekend we are going to visit Eva in Craryville which means, a chance to visit Rodgers Book Barn!
Monday, June 30th, 2003
Inspired by Invisible Adjunct and Kieran Healy, I am seeking input from my readers as regards my summer reading list. I am, however, doing it a bit in reverse: I went to the bookstore this weekend, bought a bunch of books which caught my eye -- these will make up my summer reading (at least until they are exhausted); and now I want to find out if any of you have impressions about them. I do not, alas, have a comments feature; but if you send me e-mail in this regard I promise to put it up as part of this post. So fire away! Here is this list, with comments:
- Travels in Hyperreality, by Umberto Eco
- The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy
- Under the Net, by Iris Murdoch
- Nuns and Soldiers, by Iris Murdoch
- The Beginning of Spring, by Penelope Fitzgerald
- Journal of the Fictive Life, by Howard Nemerov
- Quetzlcoatl and the Irony of Empire, by David Carrasco
- Black Spring, by Henry Miller
Tuesday, July 15th, 2003
After finishing The Ginger Man (and not thinking too much of it) I need a new book for my commute reading -- looks like it will be Penelope Fitzgerald's The Beginning of Spring, which I started this morning. I think it is going to be a good one!
Last night on a lark, I picked up The Birth of Tragedy and read (for the manyth time) the forward -- it intrigues me and I may stick with it this time.
Thursday, July 17th, 2003
I am nearly finished now with The Beginning of Spring -- I love these Fitzgerald books but they go by so fast! There is a bit of a mysterious feel to it like there is something under the surface that I am not quite getting -- I suspect is has something to do with Nellie's absense. Reference is made to her fairly often and yet she is not a character in the story, nor is it clear how important she is to any of the characters. There is no hint of approval or condemnation for her leaving -- very little even from the characters (who can be excused judgemental attitudes more easily than can the author), none at all from the author. And Selwyn's status is pretty opaque too -- he could be a parody but I don't really think so. I'm having trouble fitting these characters into the standard slots!
Today I finished The Beginning of Spring -- I felt curiously moved by the interaction between Frank and Selwyn in the next-to-last chapter, "curiously" because I could not understand quite how I was reacting. I got a sort of adrenaline rush -- though the book is not by any stretch a thriller -- and I felt totally alienated from Selwyn, much more so than I had throughout the book. Not in a particularly condemnatory way, I just thought, This guy is not from my planet.
The last chapter is total disintegration -- almost like the final third of Gravity's Rainbow in microcosm. And the ending did feel a bit like a tease.
A little later I picked up The Birth of Tragedy and started reading Nietzsche's forward to Wagner and wow! realized that it was written in Selwyn's voice. I'm not sure what to make of this realization but there it is. The first few pages of the first chapter are inspiring me to get back up on my Jaynesian hobby horse -- but I will read a bit further before I decide to subject you to that. My favorite quote from these first few pages is,
...but nature itself, long alienated or subjugated, rises again to celebrate the reconciliation with her prodigal son, man.
-- which I like in large part because every time I read it, it seems to me like Janis Joplin is speaking, and giving a different intonation to the final two words than that intended by the translator. (Who is, by the way, Francis Golffing of Bennington College; date of the translation is 1956.)
I have the evening to myself, as Ellen and Sylvia are visiting Uncle Kenny on the east end of Long Island; I think I will walk to town and have a drink. I will be joining them tomorrow so no blogging this weekend. (Not that that is unusual or anything, but still.)
Friday, August 24th, 2007
I went to the bookstore yesterday and got two new books: My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk, and The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald, she whose name is at the top of this blog. (The latter I got on the recommendation of Matt Weiner, the former on that of Dr. Snarkout.)
Sunday, October 14th, 2007
We can sing beneath his window, "We know what is wrong with your system....There is no place in it, no place for love."
I seem to have a poor memory for schools of thought. Like right now I am reading The Blue Flower, about the life of German Romantic poet Novalis; and I find that I can summon up only a very hazy memory of the history of German Romanticism, which I know I studied in two classes in college; and furthermore that I don't even really know what kind of thinking "Romanticism" is. (I think it must be similar to "Idealism" which I have a little bit of a handle on, but I'm not sure how they differ.*) I remember when I was 18, that my sort-of-mentor Jim Higgs told me I was a romantic thinker, and that I read some Romantics to try and grasp what he was telling me about myself. But if I ever was successful in that it has escaped me in the meantime.
So probably I should school myself a bit in the meanings of terms, as I approach this book. The book seems like a lot of fun. I am liking the descriptions of Friedrich's family and school life, and nodding and smiling with recognition at certain passages -- notably the youthful Fritz's insistence that "the body is not flesh, but the same stuff as the soul," and later his statement to Schlegel that "the golden age would return, and that there was nothing evil in the world."
*Interestingly Novalis is the top hit that comes back from a Wiki search for "Romantic idealism"...
Monday, October 15th, 2007
Beginning on page 207, Wendy Steiner's Venus in Exile: The Rejection of Beauty in 20th-Century Art features some discussion of the philosophy of being in The Blue Flower.
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