Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bookstores, Blurbs, Beginnings

I was at a bookstore and saw these "If You Lived..." books. If you lived in Colonial times... or if you lived back when Martin Luther King was still alive. Makes you think.

I finished all of the books I was reading sort of all at once. It felt that way. Now I started 3 new books, Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, and An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. I'm finding less time to read, I'm on the road more, so I was smart enough to get all three books on Kindle where I can keep them all in one place. (In the past weeks I was carrying a lot of books around, or it felt like I was, I would forget I left Stargazey in the car, and would hike someplace and have to read something else, and I was worried about losing or damaging a library book since all the ones I checked out were in pristine condition.)

I found two more novels at the thrift shop: The Concrete Pillow a mystery by Ronald Tierney and Coast to Coast by Frederic Raphael ... and I almost passed on Coast to Coast until I saw a blurb on the back:

"Bleakly enjoyable, and filled with some really terrifically hateful conversations." ~ The Guardian

You don't see that kind of blurb everyday.

Once I got the book home I saw that the the author also wrote some screenplays and this book is sort of a companion to his 1967 dialogue for the Audrey Hepburn film "Two for the Road" - a film I like a lot. I haven't started on this novel yet. I can juggle many books, but not too comfortably if I start them all at the same time.

It's weird enough to be at the beginning of 3 books, without starting 2 more. I usually stagger things so this doesn't happen. Summer slows me way down too, lots of activity and pleasant distractions. Winter is my prime reading time.
One of the reasons I started the blog was I noticed I was reading a lot less last summer. I'm glad for the Virtual Book Club, too.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Messy Reading

I got a postcard with a picture of P.G. Wodehouse on it, so I made a little shrine to reading - the candle was too bright so a put a bottle in front of it. I really enjoyed the banana book and the Sedaris essays. Coal is interesting too (half done with that one.) I haven't started the Edith Wharton novel yet, but it's hard to leave a library empty handed. I have a mess of books to finish and am currently reading one I found in a dusty pile at a thrift shop. "I am Mary Dunne" a novel by Brian Moore. (1966.)

I found a typo in my copy of Stargazey... can you see it?
Typos used to really bug me when I was a teen, now I just shrug them off. I don't care. In my early twenties, I caught a typo ( one that everyone missed and it cost the company much $$$$$$$. ) I came back from vacation, glanced at a series of ads I'd had nothing to do with, and saw the same typo in the body copy of each one. I said "Er, in this sentence it says Pam Am Airlines instead of Pan Am!" To make matters worse / funnier, the head of the copy department was a woman named Pam. Ultimately, she was responsible. A dozen of her people had proofed that ad, and she had too. Proofing is not that easy.
That was the turning point for me, I began to think typos were funny little gremlins and was no longer outraged by them.

I prefer to read about crazed spring cleaning days rather than actually having one myself. Thankfully I'm married to a person who finds those super obsessively neat women boring. We like neatness, but we also like pillows and hairy pets and book piles and people hanging out. My neighbor is obsessively neat and just thinks the world of her sanitized self. It is kind of VERY uncomfortable over there, but then I'm sure she disapproves of my casual approach to cleaning and defense of certain germs.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reading Others

Read this most interesting book on Kindness. Seems like I'm surrounded by opportunities. People are always misunderstanding others - it seems we cut people little slack anymore. I learned that whining and ranting are extremely popular nowadays, and that they are kind of dead ends if overdone. Revenge is a very scary dead end. I once asked an acquaintance what he would do with a million dollars and he said "First off, I'd have my enemies dealt with!" Yikes. And he was serious. Am I old fashioned for not having any enemies? Is someone out there eyeing me as their enemy? Does someone perceive me as a self centered, rude, unkind jerk? Am I just a couple of blue funks away from being denounced?

Things I never knew about O'Connor. (From The Financial Times Book Section.)

It was an eye opening book. Just when you think you have some subject figured out... you realize you don't at all.

Ants in America

The Library has one small sex shelf, but not an entire sex section. Shouldn't there be a whole room full of books on the subject? A lot of people out there doing it ~ they may need books!

The Old Paris Review Interviews are interesting.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Almost Thursday Reading

" I do not know how to express the admiration I feel for this wonderful book without seeming to be extravagant. I am usually not lavish with my praise, but indeed the book impresses me as among the very greatest novels I have ever read. It is wholly beautiful; it is saturated with wisdom and humor and tenderness." ~ H.G. Wells

Poor Contemptible Knut Hamsen (born Knud Pedersen in 1859 ) He wins a Nobel Prize in 1920, has written a couple of great books (Hunger, The Growth of the Soil) and then at about seventy years of age begins to act out in both violent and demented ways. In his eighties, frail and nearly deaf, he meets with Adolf Hitler and sees Hitler as a really nice guy. He sends his Nobel Prize to Goebbels as a gift, and angry Norwegians burn Hamsen's books. I read a bit of a biography of Hamsen and had to put it down--it was too depressing. Clearly he had become unhinged and paranoid in his golden years, but people didn't see it as mental illness back then. He was simply a traitor. I didn't know about Hamsen's craziness until I'd read and enjoyed three of his novels. My Norwegian friends tell me he was a great writer who suffered from early onset dementia and appeared to be both lucid and angry at times. Others argue he simply took on a whole new personality, believed himself to be reborn, and was quite sane. Max Von Sydow, who played Hamsen in a film said that the writer was both naive and pitiable. He had isolated himself and lost touch long before he became a contemptible fellow.

I hope I die before my brain crumbles and I do something really terribly horribly stupid.

I still can't believe he gave Goebbels his Nobel Prize for Literature... that just freaks me out.


The Appalachian Trail book: This is just a guidebook to tramping through... not that I would ever want to walk the entire trail. I'm happy enough to spend little bits of time on it here and there ~ so far I've walked a few dozen miles of it in Pennsylvania and New York. (not counting the miles of it I've traveled over & over again in New York.)

I haven't kept track, and I'm not always up for a hurried scramble either, although I have hiked with groups that do that, and will definitely hike with them again. I prefer to stop and observe a lot of little things, but sometimes with the group it's more about how many miles you can go in eight hours or so, especially when some of the people have to get home by a certain time. I'm a little less enthusiastic about crawling and climbing through places nicknamed the squeezer or the agony than I was when I was a kid, but then what I consider a thrill has changed a bit since I was ten years old.

I take a book with me, since some hiking groups like an hour long lunch stop / rest period. I usually take a novel.

This film is coming to my town and I hope to see it. A kind of domestic horror movie -- an eerie call from beyond the grave. Creepy.

To find out who wrote the description of New Orleans in the last post, I discovered through another blogger that all you had to do was google the first line! It was a page from Bob Dylan's memoir.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Places in Reading

I go through definite phases in my reading, where I might read several books sequentially. I went through a travel book phase once ~ mainly books on France. France is an endlessly fascinating place. But I also enjoy reading about places like Antarctica.

But there's always something else going on ~ even as a kid, I would read a variety of things. I pretty much indulge in this type of reading every week. A classic, a memoir, something spiritual, a big adventure story, a fun book, a food book, a how to book, some sort of travel guide, plus assorted newspapers and magazines. Once I've gotten a good start into each book and decided, yes, this is something I want to spend time with, then I know I'll finish the book. I could read them one at a time, much in the same way I can sit in one place and watch a half-dozen episodes of the Twilight Zone back to back when they have the marathon on television. I keep my place in each book, and when I settle back into it, I usually re-read a page or two to get back into the flow.

I've read the back of the postcard many times over the years, and always wonder what the Underhills are studying. I usually end up guessing art history, or picture them in chef togs. I just don't know what those Underhills are up to. They give no clue. But the postcard reminds me of a E.M. Forster type of novel in which Underhills have some exciting and some unfortunate adventures in Paris, which leads to some great and sudden change in Mrs. Underhill. It's 1928 and the Underhills don't know that they'll lose their fortune in the upcoming stock market crash. They meet Gertrude Stein and Mr. Underhill strikes up a friendship with Picasso that goes very sour. Mr. Underhill will sigh a lot and wish they'd never come to this place! He will perhaps return to Maryland alone.

I always like it when a memoir includes descriptions of a place. Can you guess who wrote it?

The best place to read this book is at a table with a nice cuppa and a biscuit or cookie. I'm overly familiar with the biscuits listed in the book, as well as many other kinds of tea biscuits, cakes, and cookies. I have a number of favorites, but like with books, need to taste them all in the span of a year. The book is perfect for the biscuit enthusiast, and there is a cake/bread/cracker/cookie/biscuit Venn diagram ~ always fun to add to the confusion with a Venn diagram. There's also a chapter on dunking, which brought back memories of some fabulous dunks of yesteryear, and made me wonder why I stopped dunking. But the book reminded me ~ bottom sludge and breakage were factors.

A slice of cake, a piece of toast, or a biscuit with your tea or coffee is grand. Add a book, and it's heavenly.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do You Read ...Outdoors?

The WPA guide to NYC has been a great read... and it's filled with maps and illustrations too. The wonderful thing about this Works Progress Administration Guide is that it can still be used, all these years later. The old neighborhood has hardly changed. Bodegas and newsstands may move, change owners... but generally my old neighborhood ...the landscape... looks just the same as it did way back when.

Met a man on the street ~ sitting on a bench, reading. He said the book he was reading was very good. He said he didn't want to be photographed reading outdoors, because he is against looking like a person who would be reading on the street. He said he didn't normally read on the street, but usually read inside a Starbucks.

"I don't want to project that image" he said.

I was confused. He explained that people look homeless when they read on the street.

I haven't been reading a lot of new fiction since I've been putting loads of free classic books onto my Kindle. Re-reading some very excellent Daniel Defoe (Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe.) I find if I take my Kindle everywhere, I end up getting a lot of reading done. Much more than if I lug around a selection of books. (Which I used to do.) I no longer have to carry a huge handbag or tote to hold all of my books. I'm back to reading as much as I want wherever I want, but not much new fiction.

I've started to read Stargazey too, so far so good!

My Classic Fiction Book List -Partial List

  • Austen, Jane: (Complete Works)
  • Balzac: Cousin Bette/ Eugenie Grandet / Cousin Pons
  • Best Russian Short Stories
  • Boyle, TC: Short Works
  • Brennan, Maeve : Short Works, 1 Novella
  • Bronte, Emily, Ann, Jane (Complete Works)
  • Brookner, Anita ( Complete Works)
  • Cather, Willa (Complete Works)
  • Chekov: Short Works
  • David Copperfield (Dickens)
  • Dickens:A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens:Great Expectations
  • Dickens:Nicholas Nickelby
  • Dickens:Our Mutual Friend
  • Dickens:The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Doyle, Roddy (some novels, memoir)
  • Drabble, Margaret (4 Novels)
  • Drieser, Theodore (Complete Works)
  • Fitzgerald, F.Scott (Most Novels & short works)
  • Hardy, Thomas (Complete Works)
  • Hemingway, Short stories
  • Hemingway: The Old Man in the Sea
  • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • Hugo: Les Miserables/Hunchback Of ND
  • James, Henry: Daisy Miller
  • James, Henry: In The Cage
  • James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady
  • James, Henry: The Golden Bowl
  • James, Henry: What Maisy Knew
  • James, Henry: Wings of a Dove
  • James, Henry:The Ambassadors
  • James, Henry; The Bostonians
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Kerouac: On The Road
  • Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Kerouac: Tristessa
  • Lardner,Ring:Short Works
  • Larsen: Quicksand
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Arrowsmith
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Free Air
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street
  • Lewis, Sinclair: The Job
  • MacGill, Patrick (Complete works)
  • Mackin, Walter (novels)
  • Maupassant: Short Works, novels
  • McGahern, John (novels of)
  • McNulty, John (Short Works)
  • Norris, Frank: McTeague
  • O'Brien, Edna (3 Novels)
  • O'Donnell, Paeder : Novels of
  • O. Henry
  • Potok, Chaim (4 novels/1 non fiction)
  • Salinger, JD : Nine Stories
  • Salinger: Franny & Zooey
  • Salinger: Raise High the Roofbeams
  • Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Dodsworth
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Elmer Gantry
  • Sinclair, Upton: King Coal
  • Sinclair, Upton: The Jungle
  • Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  • Steinbeck: Winter of our Discontent
  • Steinbeck: Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck: East of Eden
  • Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Theroux, Paul (3 Novels )
  • Toibin, Colm: (Novels of)
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy: Short Works
  • Turgenev (2 novels)
  • Twain: T Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi
  • Vonnegut: Early Works (1950s-60s)
  • Wharton, Edith: Novels of/Short Stories
  • Women & Fiction (Edit. Cahill)
  • Zola, Emile ( 10 novels)