The Books of My Numberless Dreams

New month, new updates

Posted on: July 3, 2007

It’s the beginning of July and a friend and I are planning to move out because our land lord proved especially stubborn towards admitting the most adorable, tiny, well-behaved basset hound in our midsts. I sigh and think, god damn it my books have just settled in. Ah well.

There are no book store tours in the July issue of Estella’s Revenge (pout) but Stuart Sharpe comes to the rescue with an interesting, if a bit rambling, article on the absence of the older hero in fantasy. I wonder if it’s the same thing in science fiction, or is it not as stuck on the young girl or boy wizard? Andi tells us what exactly is a children’s literature scholar (hint: much less to do with actual children as you may have assumed) and Amanda Addison shares some great history books that fired her imagination as a child. There’s also interviews, reviews and more columns on the theme of “Young at heart” so browse at your leisure.

Open Monthly starts off with one of those intriguing examples of contemporary poetry that begs to be unpacked and scrutinised: Heat by Sommer Browning. I always feel less equipped to tackle the more modern stuff. They don’t work the same as a trusty ol’ Shakespeare sonnet or a powerful Tennyson poem working nicely with some familiar ancient Greek tale. (Dan Green would scoff at my quaint affection for rhymes ;).) None of this stops me from trying.

Have a Sex on the Beach with Sam Sacks as he does the peer review this time around on the periodical reactions to Ian McEwan’s latest. It didn’t make me laugh like Donoghue’s but it had such a great, great opening and his opinions were elegantly expressed. So I have a new favourite, I think. In any case the excerpts of Jonathan Lethem’s NYTBR review provided the humour. (That “the-novel-is-like-rocks-on-the-beach-of-time” line was killer. I will have to work into random conversations somehow.) Warning to Fran if she reads it: Sacks doesn’t think much of everyone’s favourite critic either.

There’s reviews on the latest from Khalad Hosseini, Annie Dillard, and Ondaatje as well as Pope Benedict and Vincent Bugliosi, whose name Colbert Report fans should recognise. He is that strange interviewee who wrote that mammoth tome on JFK’s assassination. To end on a torturous note there’s the monthly quiz: the theme this time is on everything porcine. Am I the only one finds these blasted things difficult? The winner of the last quiz got twelve right. Twelve! I think I only managed to completely answer four before I gave up in embarrassment. Don’t ask me how this one is going.

And now, because I want to, here’s a list of my latest purchases.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally: Annie at Reading is my superpower was the blogger to first turn me on to this trilogy. I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before then. The fact that Nunnally did the translation for me sealed the deal. What snippets of Undset’s life is revealed in this profile of Nunnally also piqued my interest in the author herself, which does not often happen.

Heather has got it too now and I’m so tempted to read it with her. It doesn’t help that she’s abandoned DQ partly for the same reasons I’m having trouble continuing.

Maigret at the Crossroads by Georges Simenon, translated by Robert Baldick: I found the old Penguin edition at my favourite used book store. I went there to unload some unnecessary texts including that awful Electric Michelangelo. I haven’t bought any of the NYRB classics editions because I’m not quite sure if Simenon is for me. This seems to be an easy way of trying him out.

The Stain on the Snow by Georges Simenon, translated by John Petrie: A friend who recently left the country gave this one to me. The publisher’s description goes: “At nineteen Frank Friedmaier is a pimp, thief and a murderer, whose very action is an unconscious bid for punishment. Within his cold, inhospitable mind lies an obsession — with self-torture — that leads him remorselessly to the point of no return.”

Oooo la laa. It sports a different title than the NYRB classic which is Dirty Snow and is translated by a duo, Marc Romano and Louise Varese. If I like the Penguin enough maybe I’ll get the NYRB to compare. It would be nicer if more local stores just stocked the things….

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë: Another find at the used book store. I had wanted The Tenant of Wildfield Hall but it wasn’t there and I figured this one would do in a pinch. I read the first three pages and it drew me in well enough so I don’t think I’ll be disappointed my first time out, venturing beyond her more popular sisters.

Beauty and Sadness by Kawabata Yasunari, translated by Howard Hibbett: All my reading on Soseki has accelerated my interest in acquired more works by Japanese novelists. This is Yasunari’s last, I think, so not ideally what I would have wanted to get first. What I really want is The House of Sleeping Beauties and other stories, that edition specifically, for that Klimt cover (and what’s inside of course).

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7 Responses to "New month, new updates"

Well, I don’t agree with Sacks about Kakutani, and it’s disappointing hearing yet another male complain about her work. But in that article he is making generalized criticisms about several reviewers. This reviewers reviewing reviewers’ reviews stuff is getting circularly hilarious! What is their point? And I still don’t understand why so many people seem to expect TNYT to be an academic-style literary-criticism mouthpiece. I’m a native New Yorker, and unless my head was up my ass for many years, most people I came across considered TNYT a good resource for business and financial info, and finding a job; the book review part was an extra they didn’t discuss–and maybe didn’t even read. In my opinion, in recent times the nonfiction part of the paper has shown itself to be a corporate whore that loves publishing falsities; it’s really a commercial mainstream paper so I wouldn’t expect much else from its content.

By the way, Sacks wrote a really good article I blogged about once http://franswhatever.blogspot.com/2005/12/please-say-it-aint-so-sam.html

Nice list of books. Quite a haul. 🙂

The library near my office actually stocks the full range of Georges Simenon’s novels – both the NYRB Classics and the Penguin versions. (It’s quite a miracle, because that library usually stock more mass paperbacks than classics.) I’m still fighting the temptation to pick up one of his books.

Kristin Lavransdatter – still on my TBR pile. Was hoping I could finally get to it later in the year. Thanks for the link to the interview btw.

On Japanese lit: I realise I have not read any Kawabata – although I have Master of Go sitting on my bookshelf. Someone gave me a free copy of Botchan recently. Need to get around to it soon also.

Fran, the Peer Review is simply a fun exercise IMO and whoever writes it usually makes a few worthwhile evaluative remarks. I’d say Sacks was criticising the selected reviewer’s article rather than about the reviewers themselves.

I don’t expect the NYTBR to be academic really, just not boring and medicore. Don’t know much about New York but I do know that the Book Review has quite a celebratory reputation.

Funny thing about that article on MFAs. I remember reading a post by a MFA who expressed that any works written before the 1950s were pretty much archaic and of no use to writers in such programmes. Blew my mind.

Dark O I envy you your library. Is it a regular ol’ public one? I checked mine and it’s impressive enough, I think, that they have aaaaalllll of the Maigret books, with several copies of each. The Penguin ones though, no NYRB classics (it doesn’t buy a lot of those). The uni library appears to have everything by him but most, I’d say, is in the original French. Only one NRYB classic spotted (Tropic Moon) and of course it was purchased by one of the affiliated religious universities. (They tend to have the best fiction collections for some reason.)

i have been trying to remember for several years. i don’t think the author’s kawabata but i bought the remaindered paperback the same day, and i think they were the same series.

it was a story or novella about a man and his cat, and how he ended up not having any other primary relationship other than that.

no, it’s not ‘i am a cat’ though i do recommend those!

do you have any idea what author/book i’m talking about??!

Oh I’m glad you did because I had no idea, not having read any Junichiro. Yay for you finding it!

I hope you enjoy Kristin Lavransdatter as much as I did–looking forward to your review!

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