Sunday, November 11th, 2007
Over at Unfogged, they're talking about books people are embarrassed about not having read. For me this usually comes up (nowadays I mean -- ten years ago I was incessantly feeling embarrassed about my lack of intellectual achievement) in the context of books which I should have read in order better to understand the book that I am reading at the moment, and enjoying, and I'm feeling like the enjoyment is a false consciousness because I don't have the background necessary to actually enjoy the book.
Like last night on the way home from the Truman Sparks show, I was reading Pamuk's marvellous introduction to the Turkish edition of Tristram Shandy, and my dormant feelings of embarrassment about being unable to get through Sterne were reawoken -- I thought I had gotten over that during the group read at Is There No Sin In It?* last year. Other authors Pamuk is making me feel bad about my lack of acquaintance with: Dostoevsky, Stendhal, Victor Hugo.
But Pamuk also gives me hope that I may pick Shandy up again someday:
Behind the smoke and noise of his anger, there is the knowledge that great literature is what gives man his understanding of his place in the scheme of things, and so, reminding himself that writing is one of the deepest and most wondrously strange of human activities, he picks up the book again in a moment of solitude.
*What is the standard formatting to indicate a no-longer-active web site? It seems kind of weird to italicize the name of a blog, but a link would not be appropriate.
Tuesday, August first, 2006
Tristram is born, maimed and misnamed; and I am lapping the reading group. So let's leave him to his own devices a little while, when A White Bear puts up her Volume II post I will return there. In the meantime: this weekend I read a book review that interested me very strongly. So today, when Jennifer Egan's The Keep was published, I went by Coliseum Books and picked it up. (I believe it is the second book I have ever bought on the day of its publication, the other one was Mason & Dixon.)
Started the book on the way home and am being blown away by it. Funny, this is the second book I've read recently in which the protagonist is just my age. (The other was Absurdistan.) This is giving me a funny sense of generational presence that I have not felt before. (Note -- Shteyngart is indeed my coeval; Egan is a couple of years older than I.)
Ellen read Egan's Look at Me previously, and doesn't remember much about it except that she loved it, and thinks she has it around the house.
Thursday, July 20th, 2006
At the party last night, Roy reminded me of my initial aim in starting this blog (and this website in general), which was to write about the books I am reading. Well, and, right now I am reading one that I'm finding just lovely, very moving, to wit Dickens' Bleak House.
It is hardly the perfect book I suppose -- I find myself thinking as I read it that there are too many lucky coincidences -- and I think I will notice even more such when I reread it and have the various threads of narrative more firmly in mind. I think that is the principal failing of the story. But with disbelief suspended, what a lovely story it is! The poetry of Dickens' language and the acerbity of his wit make for a world I can spend all day thinking about.
Also: I think the story is very sentimental in places; but it is sentimental in such a way that I respond emotionally, which I am finding pretty unusual. I felt a tear in my eye when Jo was dying -- when I was talking with LizardBreath last night she said she didn't really respond to that, Jo was just the poor orphan who dies, rather than a fully human character; and I could see what she meant, sort of -- but it worked on me. So whatever.
Next up: A White Bear is going to be conducting a discussion of Tristram Shandy. So I will read it! I started to back in 1999, it was the very first book written about on this web site. So here I am full circle! Nice.
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