I have been working halfheartedly on a probably-obnoxious writeup about some of the books I’ve finished this month but I keep getting distracted, my attention torn between the ToB threads and my monomaniacal desire to be reading all the time. Most of my attention is focused In Europe by Geert Mak, which I think I read about on Bookslut last fall; it’s a travelogue and history of Europe’s 20th century. It’s good, but slow, as history is, and I am worried enough about my prospects of finishing it before the library demands its return that all internet time is infused by a haze of anxiety. So many books to read! Such exquisite pressure! Here we have:
- Lightning, Jean Echenoz, from Three Percent’s BTBA longlist. Their write up on this novel really intrigued me–Tesla? One of their best of 2011? A favourite to win? I needed no more convincing: I ordered it immediately from the library.
- In Red, Magdalena Tulli — Another from the BTBA longlist, the one that piqued my interest the most upon the list’s release. The author is Polish–reading more Polish literature is a goal of mine–and it sounds fantastic: it’s the story of the 20th century as told through an imaginary Polish town. I like places-as-characters, and this one has comparisons to Calvino, so anticipation runs high. I read the first ten pages of this the day I bought it and it has a gorgeous opening. I hope my expectations are not disappointed.
- The Magic Toyshop, Angela Carter — I run often into references to Carter but had never read her. Steps to remedy this deficiency–because I hate being unfamiliar with frequently referenced authors–were taken last month and, with terrible timing, the orders came in a glut with all of my others in the library’s nefarious conspiracy to make my life difficult. I read through her short stories in the past few weeks and, while they were still short stories and thus less appealing, her style is lovely even if her subject matter is macabre. The first few pages are rife with utterly delightful character descriptions. Curious to see if Carter’s talents are only in short form or if she has what it takes to sustain even a relatively slim novel.
- Penguin Lost, Andrey Kurkov — the sequel to Death and the Penguin, which I liked. When I saw this at the library I could not resist despite being far over my personal check out limit.
- Tarkovsky’s Stalker & Zona by Geoff Dyer — Obviously that’s a movie, not a book, but the two are inseparable as a project as the book is a dissection of the film. I don’t know when I’ll get to these–I did just read Dyer’s study of World War I and I dislike reading more than one book by a single author in a short period of time (shot story collections don’t count); it’s too risky, my head is too much a sponge, my entire pattern of words and memory get commandeered by another’s style. However long it takes me to get to these, my life is more complete having these in my possession. I’ve been anxious to rewatch teh film for about half a year now and feel triumphant to finally have it at my leisurely disposal. I am both eager and nervous; when I first saw it I considered it a favourite and I am worried that it will not live up to my memory.
- It’s Superman!, Tom De Haven — Loaned to me by my gentleman caller. I’m not a fan of Superman, but he assures me that this is a compelling take. I do hope he is understanding about the fact that I will not get to it anytime soon, particularly when I have pledged to read several others on his recommendation first. This one may languish until the proper mood strikes. Until that happens, it’s got a nice cover to brighten up the surroundings.
- The books I bought from the NYRB Winter Sale with my accompanying rationals: Pages from the Goncourt Journals by Edmond & Jules Goncourt (I needed a 4th to even out my purchase and this has an intro by Dyer); The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns (eager to read more of her after the absolutely wonderful Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead–this is the book that tempted me to partake of the sale at all despite it breaking my rules of serendipitous acquisition of NYRBs); Chess Story by Stefan Zweig (I’ve been wanting to read Zweig for ages now and my interest has only grown in the past few weeks as he has been referenced often in my WWI reading; also, it is red and I am more likely to buy red books than any other colour); and The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya (Russian. Science fictional. Did not hate her short stories. A red book.). Though interspersed throughout, these are all bottom of the pile in terms of priority. There’s no pressure to read them anytime soon now that they are mine; anyway, I do like to hoard up NYRBs for dry spells in reading–they are almost always pretty great, and it’s a comfort to possess that guarantee.
Additionally, there is this lovely gem:
Shakespeare’s Heroines: Characteristics of Women: Moral, Poetical, and Historical by Mrs. Anna Jameson. This was a gift from one of my bosses after I dashed to an estate sale with an emergency infusion of boxes and then stayed to help pack up the goods. I have a small collection of mostly valueless (but very pretty!) old books; one of my great amusements in life is arranging and rearranging them in attractive displays. I don’t usually read them, but I might this one: it’s literary criticism, first published in 1832 (though my copy is possibly a 1901 edition), and I’m curious from a historical-gender perspective to see what this female critic, hitherto unknown to me, has to say about Shakespeare’s women.
Not pictured: the aforementioned In Europe (it was in the other room & the effort to find it seemed too great), my next two Javier Marias books, and a book on Shackleton that my other boss gave me in light of my well-known obsession with polar expeditions.