The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I took some time to catch up with my favourite literary magazine ventures online. Open Letters Monthly turned out to be the most rewarding site as I accompanied the reading with a lot of mental exclamations like, What a fun idea that was! or What the hell? I totally wanted to review that book and Oh, I now find this interesting thanks to the Evil Telly (granted I saw the shows on the internet because who has time for tv these days?).

The Vampire Fan(g) Guide by Sharon Fulton immediately caught my eye in the October issue because I am one of those who find such creatures very compelling, sometimes to my deep, soul numbing distress, sexy, evil, what have you; and am always on the lookout for authors who can mine something fresh from the cliches. Fulton doesn’t cover much in the last category but her piece is useful because she gives specifics on books about which I’ve heard a lot of empty praise (eg. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore) and about which I can never see mocked too much (the Twilight series by everyone’s favourite Mormon writer). For more nutritious brain food try Lianne Habineck’s meditation on Hamlet from a neuroscience perspective suitable for Shakespeare’s time period. (One of the few essays that applies neuroscience without making me yearn to poke out my eyeballs.) I can’t remember if I read Donoghue’s examination of the only play in which Shakespeare decided to bother with the Tudors — I don’t think I did (yet)– but you should because Donoghue is consistently funny and smart with a touch of acid.

Also, Tudors! Usually, I yawn at anything having to do with the lot. For mediocre film directors and writers Henry VIII and his beheading hobbyhorse is third only to Shakespeare and Austen in source material. (Oh, that I could unsee that movie with Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. When is Johansson going to act in anything as good as Lost in Translation and that Vermeer flick again? Yeesh.) I can’t explain how The Tudors cheap soap opera antics and gratuitous heterosexual sex scenes — homosexuals don’t have sex in Tudor England, they only touch each other’s cheeks tenderly and lie in bed shirtless — managed to get past my guard. Natalie Dormer’s Anne Boleyn may have something to do with it but the biggest draw is the writers’ cavalier handling of historical fact. (It’s very heady if you aren’t a history professor — if you are I suggest keeping a cell phone with 911 on speed dial nearby.)

Anyway, such productions tend to heighten my curiousity about the pertinent historical figures or time periods so Steve Donoghue’s ongoing essay series “Year with the Tudors” could not come at a better time. In each new instalment he covers fiction or non-fiction books that cover seminal figures and for September he chose Bloody Mary. She gets a sympethetic biography in Linda Porter’s The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary”, further inspection with Donoghue’s Q&A with the author, and inclusion in a fun quiz question: Why are cover art designers so fond of her’s and other Tudor women’s bosom? The world may never know.

The other coolest of cool September offerings is OLM’s survey of “the bestseller’s list” (I don’t know which one) as contributor’s tackle everything from Nora Roberts to James Patterson. Not that that’s much of a range. As a tepid Nora Roberts fan I found John Cotter’s review amusing — I could not have thought of an odder book-reviewer pairing — although I am disappointed he didn’t mention Roberts’ fondness for incomplete sentences. (She does them for emotional impact, gravitas or because she feels like it and it never, ever works.) Donoghue asseses Evanovich’s never ending Stephanie Plum series and comes out with an opinion many of the series’ fans would not disagree with at this stage. Fulton is more receptive to what fans may find appealing in Catherine Coulter’s ongoing action/romance books about FBI agents. It’s quite novel to find such books reviewed in literary venues and while I may have wished the books had a more receptive audience, seeing a title like “The Last Patriot” on OLM made my month. Seriously. I’d like the non-fiction list done next, please! I’d like to experience gimmicky Gladwell tomes, self-help bibles and bogus financial advice books second hand.

I’ve barely skimmed August but Dan Green writes a fan letter to James Wood’s How Fiction Works, Donoghue tells us all about Henry VII — the feller who came off as an honourable goody two shoes in Shakespeare’s Richard III —  and Laura Tanenbaum carefully dissects two books of the “Young People Today!” variety in Scolds in the Agora.

Was there room in my heart for other outfits? Certainly. Estella’s Revenge can be depended on for articles by book lovers about their obsessions and idiosyncrasies. In the October issue Jodie writes about her yen for big books, Chris Bucner introduces us to some comic book lines beyond the hot properties making their way to film, and the reviews section covers a gratifying mix of books for those who read high and low.

I’ll get to my print subscriptions at some point. The LRB pile looks less daunting, my grudge against Bookforum lessens and my fall Paris Review is finally here. Plus, the founding editor of a new-to-me offering sent me a PDF copy of the latest issue which promises to be a mix of the literary and fantastical. Sounds like it should fit me perfectly, doesn’t it?

Edit: Oh poop. I forgot about Strange Horizons. I forbid anyone to tell me about any new literary sites/magazines for the next decade.

I am ready to return into literature’s welcoming bosom. As a sign that I made the right decision, the gods saw fit to give The Mill on The Floss the kind of soul wrenching end that left me sobbing. I haven’t done that since Andre Dubus’ “Rose” (a short story) which was years ago. Every one fusses about Middlemarch but perhaps one ought to take a closer look at my new favourite? I am now convinced that Eliot deserves to be immortalised in marble — I hope there’s a statue I can visit somewhere.


Middlemarch is her best so I’ll get to it some time but…is it another Fallen Woman story? My heart can’t take any more of those at present. I may swerve into Silas Marner instead. That’s another one of her books that I started to read in my younger days but never finished.

Edit: La la, here is my review up at FM: The Intoxication of Transformation.

I got wrestled into being a regular contributor to First Magazine to pronounce on all things ♣literary. Since I’m barely able to keep up with my blog we’ll see how it goes. My first bit will be on Zweig’s The Post-Office Girl and, depending on what actually turns up on the site, I’ll post some complementary commentary here because I love that little book to pieces. Easily re-readable which is always a good sign. I’ll have to go back and reread Chess Story since I didn’t quite get it the first time around…

The Valve is holding a summer reading group and the book of choice is Adam Bede by the lovely George Eliot. It’s practically my first book by her since I barely remember a thing about Mill on the Floss which I picked up over a decade ago. It ought to be fun so consider joining in. Chapters 1-5 should have be read by today but the reading schedule is generous so one should have little problem catching up. I’m rereading the chapters (and eyeballing what others say first) before I put anything up. Have you read it before?

How are the other Golconda slaves doing with the Edith Wharton? I found it perfect with its mix of social commentary and romance. I was not expecting it to be such a fun read as I had the impression Wharton was a very serious, serious writer, depressed maybe, and that Winona Ryder chick was in that movie adaptation and is she ever in a fun movie (besides Beetlejuice). I’m a bit more eager to scoop up her other novels though. It’s an interesting book to read in conjunction with The Post-Office Girl. Both involve impoverished characters (though I daresay my Christine in Zweig is a lot worse off) with precarious positions in higher society whose values change as a result of their experience albeit in different ways.

Au contraire, I can submit articles on anything I like! Isn’t that nice.

You want to listen to Bat Segundo’s interview with Sarah Hall and buy The Carhullan Army aka Daughters of the North. How can you resist? You shouldn’t. Sarah Weinman agrees!

I can’t think of enough good things to say about this except that it should be read, now and years to come.

The novel, for some goddamned reason, has not been getting near any of the attention it deserves nor is Sarah Hall considering that her Electric Michelangelo was a Booker finalist. (I can’t believe all you print people slobbered on Gessen’s shoes and all Carhullan gets is a notice in the New Yorker.)

Newspapers and magazines have been jumping into the blogging pool for some months now but the only one that has managed to impress is Harper’s Online Sentences — yes, the title is uninspired, but what can you do, those print folks — run by Wyatt Mason. (There’s something about those LRB contributors….) He blogs about books I don’t typically seen covered anywhere else and so far has provided some thoughtful coverage on a Q&A (I and II) with James Wood and Jonathan Franzen. I’m kinda tired of reading about both men at the moment so it’s telling that Mason managed to get past my instinctive yawn.

The latest London Review of Books has two of its eye-catching articles available for free online. James Meeks makes a very persuasive case for the high quality of James Kelman’s work in Dead not Died, inclusive rather than in spite of his generous use of Glaswegian dialect and cuss words. I nearly wrote down the review’s conclusion in my notebook.

If I spend so much time on Kelman’s use of language, it’s partly because Kieron’s story is so bound up with it, and partly because I am not sure that all his potential readers can bring themselves to credit the degree of artistry, the weighing of each word and comma, that he puts into his work. There’s a reluctance to accept Kelman for what he is, a perfectionist and a radical Modernist writer of exceptional brilliance, and this reluctance is not just bourgeois superciliousness. There’s a generous but misdirected romanticism, too, which would like to imagine Kelman warbling his native fucknotes wild, simply sluicing a measure of his authentic working-class soul onto the page without the mediation of rational thought: a one-shot exotic. The real reason Kelman, despite his stature and reputation, remains something of a literary outsider is not, I suspect, so much that great, radical Modernist writers aren’t supposed to come from working-class Glasgow, as that great, radical Modernist writers are supposed to be dead. Dead, and wrapped up in a Penguin Classic: that’s when it’s safe to regret that their work was underappreciated or misunderstood (or how little they were paid) in their lifetimes. You can write what you like about Beckett or Kafka and know they’re not going to come round and tell you you’re talking nonsense, or confound your expectations with a new work. Kelman is still alive, still writing great books, climbing.

Terry Eagleton, always an amusing fellow, spends more than half of his “review” giving a rundown on the ever changing theories about literary works in relation to authors through the years, and splits the other half telling us what’s in the reviewed book, something which bore only a superficial link with his previous wind up, and some actual commentary. I giggled a lot while reading it in Starbucks.

Hip hip hurrah! Spring’s premature summer warmth distracted me for a few weeks but now that the weather has returned to a seasonal chilly gloom I remembered to check on the Lady Margaret Lectures at Cambridge which are about Milton this year. Behold! Another podcast is up, this time with Sharon Achinstein‘s effort which focuses on Milton as a prose writer and poet. I haven’t listened to it yet but I was too excited to exclude it from this post. The next lecture won’t be until THE END of October…:( :( :(. If you’re a LRB subscriber Quentin Skinner’s transcript of his lecture is printed as What does it mean to be a free person? in the newest issue (May 22nd).

To finish, I’d like to declare that, contrary to previous suspicions, Gabriel Josipovici has not spoiled me for all other modern literature. I’ve fallen a little bit in love with that characters in Stefan Zweig’s The Post-Office Girl, the way he’s written them in light of how I think the plot may develop, and I’m expecting great things from Edith Wharton’s New York Stories which I picked up in preparation for the next Slaves of Golconda read, The Glimpses of the Moon. Roxana Robinson’s introduction made Wharton’s background sound remarkably as though it was taken straight out of an Austen novel.

How are you, dear readers? If any of you still exist :P. The premature summer heat of spring (which has now returned to seasonal temperatures) burnt away any and all interests in blogs and blogging. I decided to go with it until it ran out. My reading was not similarly effected. I’ve read the first two in Scalzi’s Old Man’s War…series? for he will continue to write for it as long as he is so inclined and sales are encouraging. One of the local stores brought in a pack of John Wyndham releases so I’ve spent a few days, eyes wide open, reading through The Chrysalids and The Day of the Triffids (whoa, just…whoa) and I hope to be able to share some thoughts with you about them in a few days. Wyndham appears to be fascinated with man’s ability to change and adapt to new ideas, new environments and the consequences of those who cling to static paradigms. And for an old SF writer his female characters aren’t bad at all. (Unlike others of which I recently learned.)

I don’t know if I’ll be able to write anything much on the Scalzi. I found them fun and entertaining (with The Ghost Brigades guilty of some wearying pages long info-dumping) but they didn’t seem to be saying anything. Not that Scalzi is obligated to do so but novels about such a militaristic society complete with very liberal bioengineering kinda beg for a little something but from what I observed he kinda dances around it, dips a toe in, and then jumps into another action plot line. I am unsure of myself, though, because I theorised that my limited SF experience may hinder my perspective, somewhat. For instance it is common knowledge that the novels were heavily influenced by Heinlein fiction but I’ve never read the guy.

How the Dead Dream proved elusive on a first reading so I’ve chosen to reread it again. Worries that it would read too familiar were not confirmed for reasons I have yet to refine. I find Lydia Millet’s characters, her main character at least, eccentric rather than quirky (the silly, unnecessary, waste of space, for-giggles type) because she takes that one extreme feature, places it immediately before, and explicates how it’s an extension of the character’s basic personality in a very non-showy yet arresting manner. She doesn’t try to wear you out with circus tricks. Because of this her humorous moments work a lot better because at first it’s unexpected. And though a critic described those moments as “asides” are more integral and necessary — without them this would be a boring, didactic lecture with unfulfilled potential.

Is it too late to comment on that Slaves of Golconda read? I couldn’t finish it. Cristina García did not seem so much interested in writing a novel as a series of character profiles (complete with headings) strung weakly together by a basic, uninteresting plot. (Uninteresting to me, at any rate. Woo woo Cuba-communist-intergenerational clash-fish-out-of-water-immigrants-in different country. Tell me something I don’t know or at least try and do something different with the damn thing.) Stuck in the middle of that was an amateur YA novel wherein a young girl struggles with her domineering, restrictive mother, giving readers the right dose of teenage rebellion and oh-so-unconsciously deep insights into human nature. Snore. I’ll try to see what the others got out of it as I think I’m the only one who wasn’t enamoured.

Villette: Nope. Sorry, I know some of you are fans but Brontë was in preacher mode far too often throughout the narrative. Things would just start to get interesting and then she would push Lucy Snowe aside to interject some pages long sermon on the follies of Catholicism and the wonders of enlightened English Protestants; also how stupid and frivolous the French are and how smart and noble the English. She even gave that stupid, self-absorbed English doctor — I count it a miracle that she managed to engage in near Austen-like sarcasm every so often — and her precious pet English whateverhernameis a charmed happy ending. Near the end I skipped pages just to see if the prof jumped Snowe or not. If Shirley is anything like that I’ll abstain.

I’d like to say the writing made up for it but some of her passages were uncomfortably close to Emily Brontë’s exhausting melodrama in Wuthering Heights when it came to depicting Snowe’s depression. That is what led to the skipped pages — near the end Snowe woke up in the middle of the night after being ineffectively drugged (I think?) and escaped out of the house wandering the streets. I thought to myself, Oh holy…I’m not going through one of your damn deranged moments again. Do the prof, slit your wrists, or I’ll slit mine. Later on I picked up that whatever festival she experienced during that night was an actual occurrence. No doubt it’s important but you’d have to pay me to get me to read it for any significant thematic developments.

I started The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. (Curse my inability to keep to my F/SF moratorium.) It is the latest fantasy sensation purported to be “one of the best stories told in any medium in a decade…Shelve [it] beside The Lord of the Rings…and look forward to the day when it’s mentioned in the same breath, perhaps as first among equals.” (Name of reviewer hidden to protect the hoodwinked.) I am at chapter eight. Let’s start ticking off the clichés shall we?

  • Famous, brilliant, exceptional assassin tortured about his horrible, horrible past – Check
  • Inn as prominent setting – Check (Seriously? I saw it on the first page and thought, Oh god not another faux medieval European setting, please [insert favourite deity here]. [Your favourite deity] didn’t listen.)
  • Assassin accompanied by best, loyal buddy who is “dark” so of course he had to be graceful, moving like a dancer and blah blah blah. I bet he’s also noble and respects nature? Sidekicks are allowed that much. – Check
  • Ignorant village locals – Check
  • Dull looking sword that belies its true value as it is no doubt really famous and/or powerful – Check
  • Innocent children’s rhymes that turn out to be totally true and significant! No one saw that coming! – Check

All of this would be forgivable — all of it– if Rothfuss made something new with those elements. Take it to a different place. Aforementioned hoodwinked reviewer implied this is what he does as the book is “a brooding, thoroughly adult meditation on how heroism went wrong”. In a 700+ pages it may be too early to expect all of this to pop up by page 63. The problem is that the writing is so mediocre, at times verging on hysterical, that I may not wait long enough to find it. Ursula K. Le Guin (who was no doubt threatened) wrote that “It is a rare and great pleasure to find a fantasist writing…with true music in the words”. Let’s have an example of this musician at work. (All formatting mine.)

Sunlight poured into the Waystone. It was a cool fresh light, fitted for beginnings. It brushed past the miller as he set his waterwheel turning for the day. It lit the forge the smith was rekindling after four days of cold metal work. It touched draft horses hitched to wagons and sickle blades glittering sharp and ready at the beginning of an autumn day.

Inside the Waystone, the light fell across Chronicler’s face and touched a beginning there, a blank page waiting the first words of a story. The light flowed across the bar, scattered a thousand tiny rainbow beginnings from the colored bottles, and climbed the wall toward the sword, as if searching for one final beginning.

But when the light touched the sword there were no beginnings to be seen. In fact, the light the sword reflected [Ed: *&#$$*# sword — it’s the second in 20+ small pages that he’s given us this ” old dull sword” routine] was dull, burnished, and ages old. Looking at it, Chronicler remembered that though it was the beginning of the a day, it was also late autumn and growing colder. The sword shone with the knowledge that dawn was a small beginning compared to the ending of a seas: the ending of a year. [Ed: It shone with what?)

Do you see what he’s trying to get at there? Not me. Something about…no can’t fathom it. For a “thoroughly adult” book he does not think much of our intelligence. I get that fire might something to keep an eye on in the book but if I read one more line about fires snapping, crackling, blazing, flaring, spitting or glowing I’m going to burn…a fake copy of this book because I still have the receipt for the real one and the return window is still open. Whether you like Tolkien’s prose or not it’s difficult to deny that he had a particular style that showed its influences while seeming authentic rather than imitative. There is nothing that stands out about Rothfuss’ prose, much less anything musical. The best thing I can say is that he avoids writing any poetry for the most part, sticking to cute childish limericks.

That’s another thing. The different peoples presented are poorly costumed facsimiles of real world counterparts. So the main character’s people are gypsies with a different name and they meet up on a dour community who are costumed Puritans. I’m becoming quite bored with religious folks being used as the predictable resisters of all joy and intellectual curiosity. Wyndham has them in The Chrysalids but he makes the community’s philosophy work as an understandable, natural reaction to the events rather than a story element he hit with a dart on a story board. It’s FANTASY, Rothfuss. Be inventive! Go crazy! Maybe make the religious folks curious and open-minded, eh? Maybe make the non-believers rigid and unwelcoming? LOTR’s appeal was that while its influences and source material were obvious on a conceptual level Tolkien went to great lengths to make something completely new — or to make it appear so. It’s the difference between the good ol’ days of remixed music when the artist gave it such a different setting that a new side to the music was exposed, a new angle provided — not these days when a “remix” means asking a rapper to add a verse.

High fantasy is not for me. Tolkien and Kay were flukes in a genre filled with flawed heroes spouting cheesy lore. At least in romance the tortured alpha heroes are sexy.

The original authors of this exercise are Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, and Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright. (via Charlotte’s Web)

Bold the true statements. You can explain further if you wish.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children’s books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

Swimming, ballet, music (piano, violin, voice), a brief spurt with Judo.
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
Private high schools in Jamaica are typically the worst things you could saddle your child with, although they are known to scoop a good public high school teacher or two when they get fed up with low government pay.
17. Went to summer camp
Yeah, loved that stuff.
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
For a very brief period in preparation for Common Entrance (10+) exams when I was in prep school (private elementary).
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
A few times but 90% of them it involved staying with family.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Either bought new or sewn by my aunt or a close family friend.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
Yeah, but it was used. My Mum worked with hotels and typically drove company cars so there was nothing to hand down.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
Not many and I have no idea where it came from because none of it was my type.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
My extended family (aunts and cousins). I guess it was a “single-family” house that my Mum extended it. This only happened after she decided to get my younger brother and I out of hotel living. I got shipped to boarding school. On breaks I’d as often stay with my Mum (at hotels) than in Kingston (at the house). So I only felt as if I properly lived in such a home for sixth form.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
Don’t have a clue.
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
Yes, but that was only after I took SAT I on my own. The tutor heard of my score and “recruited” me for his college prep programme but I never paid anything since he doesn’t prep for SAT IIs as they are subject specific. I was doing my A-levels. (SAT IIs were much easier.)
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
Never and still don’t. The idea makes me uncomfortable — seems excessive and guaranteed to suck away precious hours. I’m in a situation now, though, when the available tv is so small and pathetic (and often co-opted by the landlady’s boyfriend-now-husband to watch Westerns) that I may invest in one.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Well, you know, us Caribbean folk like to go abroad.
31. Went on a cruise with your family
Don’t think I’ll ever do this. Stuck on a ship with fake golf courses and retirees chilling by the pool and godawful night entertainment? Do not want. (Maybe those Antarctic/Arctic cruises? Maybe. There seems to be something to those.)
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family
N/A

Yikes. Lots more bolding than I expected. Feel free to do this one if you care to.

Eva in her Striped Armchair came up with a fun description of the different kinds of ways the habitual reader relates to books, how she groups them. I thought it would make a fun meme so I decided to tackle it. You should read hers first because it’s funnier than mine.

The guilt read – Translations and Caribbean fiction used to fall under this category but now picking them up is becoming a habit and the urge springs from natural cravings rather than guilt when I peruse my recent reads and notice I’ve fallen into the white American/UK rut again. For example Geoffrey Philp’s highlighting of Kwame Dawes’ artistic project on HIV/Aids in Jamaica at the Pulitzer Center (unfortunately?) made me rub my lips and think, Hmmmm…I could totally go for a Jamaican novel right now.

I think the only guilt reads I have left are the unread books I want to and should read but for which I can’t quite summon up the mood so I check my bookmarks for new books. :p Oh, and contemporary fiction. Sometimes I have a natural craving, a lot of the time I am comfortably settled in to a whole range of classics…and then I hop over to Dan Green’s site and feel wretched for not picking up Stephen Marche’s or Jesse Ball’s latest yet. *squirm* (He often advocates the importance of covering contemporary fiction.)

However, I picked up Lydia Millet’s latest of my own free will! It doesn’t seem to be getting half the excited attention Oh Pure and Radiant Heart did so that must earn me extra brownie points with…my imaginary literary supervisor.

One of my favourite bloggers really liked this book/author read: I have quite a few favourite bloggers with wholly different tastes from me so I don’t have this problem since I just don’t read the books. :P Of those who do we are curious about or appreciate the same or similar authors. And, to be perfectly frank, I adore you all but am quite careful about following up on recommendations about authors new to me because I prefer to buy rather than borrow books and I know I’m a moody reader. It’s doubtful that I’ll get to a new book before the return window closes so I like to think I made good investments. There are about two bloggers who can send me to the book store to try an author I don’t know that hasn’t received much blog or print attention. So my records been perfect so far.

I’ve been reading a bunch of 20th century lit recently, so now I need to read a classic: For Eva it was YA lit that sent her for the classic, and for me in this category “classic” means anything pre-20th century. This happened recently and is what sent me to Austen and now to Brontë because I’m still craving female authors.

I regularly become weary of modern prose and wish for more archaic rhythms and formal, repetitive structures. It’s what I was raised on and what I first respected.

well, I haven’t enjoyed a single book by this author ever, but s/he’s really popular, so I ought to give it another go: No, no. If I didn’t like it it sucked or wasn’t my cup of tea. Passes are only given if I didn’t finish the book abandoned it for other reasons besides the possibility that it was so godawful I could not get past page 3. (Gallant, Rusdhie and Vonnegut have this pass. In light of that replace “popular” with “respected”.)

Of course, there’s the why does the world suck so much? read, whose main job is to make me completely forget all of my problems. Romances may fall under this category, as do fantasies and favourite pre-20th century classics. Basically, I guess, the books I loved when I was a kid.

Then there’s the I’m going somewhere and need a book small enough to fit in my purse/suitcase/etc choice: Yeah, this is why Don Quixote will never leave my bedroom. I always carry a book around and since I find myself out and about doing so much research these days, or doing office hours etc. I am less inclined to purchase hardcovers. Why big publisher persist in producing hardcovers in GINORMOUS dimensions is beyond me; they even curse some of their trade paperbacks with hardcover-like lengths and widths. I suspect they want to justify charging me $30+ for a tiny 200+ pager so I tend to flip the bird and silently inform them to pray that I remember their precious tome when it comes out in paperback. Indie publishers produce saner hardcover sizes that cost less so I feel kinder towards those.

I was anxious to get my hands on Quiet Girl by Peter Høeg and Winnie and Wolf by A.N. Wilson until I saw the brontosauruses the respective publishers expected me to lug around. (The second one is also obscenely expensive even for a hardcover. I don’t know if the publishers thought that J.K. Rowling wrote the book? How else do they expect it to sell? Huh.)

the random seduction read: This hasn’t happened to me in a while. I have so many ideas about the kind of books I’d like to try…even when I’m randomly browsing I typically have a criterion in mind.

I bought this X years ago, and I still haven’t read it, which is a horrible waste of money read, which provides a strong incentive to get those books off the TBR shelf: Yeah, as mentioned up top, I have a lot of those. But not as many as Danielle.

I call X one of my favourite authors, and I haven’t read anything by him/her in forever read: I have a few of those: Borges, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Cicero, Proust. Dubus recently fell off that list. I try to get through my Borges’ Collected Fictions but the arrangement of everything just pushed together is overwhelming, I think, so I decided to gradually collect individual books. I do that for Ted Hughes because his Collected Poems is a whopper at 1333 pages. I’d like to know the jokers who bought that with the intention of actually reading it… The individual collections are packaged more nicely, anyway.

If you’d like to take this and adapt it to your specifications feel free.


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