Posts Tagged ‘enticing piles’

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 more Zweig for ages now and my interest has been piqued 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.


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Ariel, glaring, does not understand why I would construct a pile and then refuse to let her topple it.

I bought a few books this week and then, as if I don’t already own hundreds of unread books, I picked up a stack of interlibrary loans yesterday. Several of these were impulse orders after reading reviews on blogs; alas, this was before I had this space and so proper credit will hopefully be forthcoming along with rhapsodic thanks for the leads. There are several here that I am just itching to read. The pile contains:

  • Six Records of a Floating Life, Shen Fu — This, I am sure, is a recommendation from an unknown blogger. I haven’t read many Eastern classics but have been wanting too. This, “a uique insight … into nineteenth-century China” told by a scholar turned civil servant, sounds just fantastic.
  • Black Swan Green, David Mitchell — I’ve read this, used to have a copy, gave it away in a move, and have regretted it ever since. I found this in the tiny bookstore space in the basement of the library:  perhaps my best-spent dollar of the week. I may not actually reread this anytime soon but am thrilled to have it back.
  • The Missing of the Somme, Geoff Dyer — I have to wait a bit to read his new one, Zona, the consideration of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, so I thought I’d seek out the only other one of his nonfiction that I haven’t read. Unable to contain my anticipation, I read the first few pages in the library parking lot and continued on when I made it home. It’s about the legacy of memory built up around World War I; because it’s Dyer it’s going to be very incisive. First twenty pages bode very well–this is the book that is making me feel like I’d rather not go into work today. Bonus element:  it fits thematically into season 2 of Downton Abbey, which I loved passionately until my attention span broke and I took a month-long hiatus.
  • Death and the Penguin, Andrey Kurkov — I’m a big fan of Melville House. I got this based entirely on title and cover. (Such a great, stylized cover!) I frequently buy or order books without knowing more about them than a slim endorsement:  a certain publisher, a stray mention of its worth from a trusted (or not trusted!) source. I knew nothing about this before it arrived–turns out it’s a Ukranian crime novel about a failed novelist turned crafter of “living obituaries” and his mournful pet penguin Misha. I’m halfway through now. Thoughts pending–all I will say is that the penguin is a wonderful character.
  • I Shall Wear Midnight, Terry Pratchett — The last of my beloved Tiffany Aching novels! I’m not entirely sure that I want to read this yet–perhaps I should keep saving it for an emergency. The thought of a world without another Tiffany Aching book to lift my spirits when I need it grieves me sorely. For the uninitiated:  Tiffany Aching lives in a sparsely populated corner of Discworld, Pratchett’s famous and sprawling fantasy land/palate for hilarious satire. She is a young witch in training, and, well. You remember one Hermione Granger? Tiffany Aching is like Hermione only funnier, smarter and more human; also, her awesomeness is never impeded by dull Rons and Harrys holding her back. These are some of the few books I get really evangelical about in the store; I think I’ve frightened young girls into buying them as their post-Potter reads with the sheer tidal force of my enthusiasm. Ahhhh. Deepbreath. In short: Tiffany Aching. Wonderful.
  • Is that a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos — I’ve started this already. It’s rather frothy compared to other nonfiction books on translation that I’ve read, but I think it’ll be an enjoyable light read.
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John le Carre — This was a meditated impulse buy at work. Loved the movie, never read the book. Numerous customers have sung its praises to me–usually, heartbreakingly, while simultaneously smearing the film as inferior–and Mr. McGinty’s good opinion was the tipping point. Also it has a really fantastic cover.
  • The Dog of the South, Charles Portis — Once again I’ve got no idea what this is about, where it even takes place, if it’s a western or more traditional fiction! I shall not even look at the book to try to determine these things:  I like surprises! I think this was on someone’s best-of list for 2011, which reminded me that I’ve been wanting to read more Portis since reading and adoring True Grit? Or maybe I ordered it six months ago and it’s just now arrived? (Not uncommon in my library system.) Either way, I can’t wait to try this.
  • Not pictured:  two ebooks from netgalley:  Doc by Mary Doria Russell (because Doc Holliday is my favourite & if it’s good I’ll be able to sell a lot of copies in the summer to tourists looking for novels about the Wild West) and Dogma by Lars Iyer (because it’s Melville House & the first one was enjoyable).

The only difficulty now is self-restraint:  my impulse is to start them all at once. I am not a book monogamist.

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