August is over
Posted August 28, 2007on:
Everything seems to be coming together wonderfully as the summer ends: housing disruption, dead computer, women wearing way too much fucking perfume always choosing the computer next to me, books refusing to let me write about them (I’m looking at you Goldberg:Variations)…it’s been quite a month.
I never got into the idea of “summer reading” because in Jamaica it was summer all year round, more or less, and vacations usually meant I’d be travelling somewhere, doing everything but reading. Looking back at August though, my completed books appear to fit the lighter concept. I reached the half-way point in both Don Quixote and Paradise Lost, made enjoyable bedtime in-roads with Demons, read a couple of essays by Nabokov (Lectures on Literature) and Elisabeth Ladenson (Dirt for Art’s Sake). But the only books I read from beginning to end were genre.
Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones was an entertaining lark, featuring a magical companion who had a darker side to him. This proved to be a nice preview for the magnificent The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. I’ll do a much longer post on the series, one that has made a big impression because I resisted trying it for so long and, having only recently left the Hogwarts express, cannot help but focus on all the ways it’s superior. (Admittedly, this is not a hard thing to do in the fantastic area of children’s/YA fantasy literature.) I’ll have to try Stroud’s other books now. I remember Solnushka expressing how much fun it was on a past post I did on the desultory Endymion Spring. I was doubtful even then.
I started Jacques the Fatalist and his Master with some trepidation as Dorothy had compared to one of her favourites, Tristram Shandy. I had never heard of the novel before the small British film that was about a film crew making an adaptation of the same. Ignorance did not hinder my enjoyment. Then I started blogging and the title popped up enough for me to get the idea that it was a) brilliant and b) hard. Ahem. Dorothy was right that I’d like it though. Here’s another novel, like Demons, whose tone I was expecting to be so elevated as to be all but impenetrable — and got the precise opposite. Another source of worry was Martin Hall’s assertion in the introduction that it had a lot of stories within stories: oh god, not another Don Quixote, I despaired. The good thing is that it is a) much, much shorter and b) has a similar comedic tone, I think, and Hall did mention that Diderot borrowed some popular fiction conventions for his very serious novel. My main point is that the writing style is quite approachable, direct even, as the narrator rather manhandles the reader with his abrupt reaction to expected questions a typical reader would ask.
So Long Been Dreaming is going well: I even read a story that had a spaceship that I liked. Some of the ways the writer play with themes of cultural appropriation, corrupted historical narratives, racism, oppression etc. are a bit tired and obvious, but in general they’re good and a few are notable. Can’t say I’d really go for any more “themed” anthologies though. (I’d need a long break, at least.)
September is near, I’ve created two challenges, and I have finalised my own list for either. The ILL list is in better shape than the Outmoded, but only barely. Well, I did make them long for a reason. Edit: Actually, I think that what I came up with so far for my Outmoded is pretty decent for 6 months. Everything listed after Lawrence is a “maybe”.
- George Bernard Shaw – Saint Joan
- Malcolm Lowry – Under the Volcano
- Djuna Barnes – Ladies Almanack and Collected Stories or Collected Poems
- Andrew Salkey – A Quality of Violence
- D.H. Lawrence – Sons and Lovers
- Ivy Compton-Burnett – A House and its Head
- Something by Elizbaeth Bowen and May Sarton