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.)
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