Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ready to Read

Otepoti has threatened to remove her wonderful conversion posts if we don't start talking about books again soon. I'm here to remedy the problem by:

A) publicly imploring Otepoti to leave her posts up
B.) getting the ball rolling on another book
C) talking about my own reading.

With A accomplished, I now ask of you, "Believers in Reading," would you like to read a book together? And if so, who would like to choose one? I believe that Melanie, Dorian, Pentimento or Otepoti would be the likeliest choices for choosing, so if any of you are reading something interesting and would like company, please, speak up.

Alternately, I could tell you that I have picked up my first non-Walker Percy book in about six months, and it's A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower. I love the way Byatt writes, even though she's anti-Christian by her own self-description. She seems to have an accomplished sense of the Christian mentality regardless. I'm only about one relatively thick chapter into the book though, so not entrenched enough to recommend or the opposite.

I enjoyed an interview with Joan Didion in the most recent Poets and Writers magazine (the link is not the actual interview to which I'm referring). Notable in that Didion made a name for herself as an essayist, but never felt like an accomplished writer until she had written a novel. She's just put out another memoir (following the Year of Magical Thinking) concerning the death of her daughter, which deals with her sense of failure as a mother. Should be a lighthearted read. Heh.

I tried reading a short by Ursula le Guin recently and didn't finish. I keep trying to make myself like fantasy writing--and it never works out. This is how I have made it through thirty six years of my life with four male children and have never read any Tolkien. If anyone has fantasical writing that I might like in mind, please recommend. Of course, I could just call it quits on trying to read fantasy, and stick to my memoir-reading.

I'm feeling the urge to delve into a classic right now. I would like to A) make sure I still have the concentration for great literary works, and B) Not have to worry about whether or not the book is worthy of my investment. Anyone in the mood for Middlemarch?


Enbrethiliel said...


I read Middlemarch many years ago and would be glad to give it another go with everyone here, if it turns out to be the pick.

And I can certainly relate to the worry that I no longer have the concentration for great literary works. I spent a month writing cheesy articles (but don't tell my editor I said that), editing academic papers by someone whose first language is Chinese (which I don't understand at all), reading other people's blogs rather than updating my own, and carrying around Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I feel that I've dropped a couple of IQ points. =P

Two nights ago, in the spirit of Halloween, I picked up Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, and couldn't believe how much my book reading style had altered thanks to all that online "reading." I kept looking up from the page and wishing I could click on some tab that would let me read something else for a while! =/

Melanie B said...

I'll second A.

As for books... I'm currently reading Amy Welborn's Wish You Were Here-- a masterpiece of a memoir-- and finishing The Book Thief on Emily's recommendation. I've got two books from the library that I've yet to start: Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell and Catherine of Aragorn by Garrett Mattingly, both on a recommendation and neither of which I feel particularly committed to.

I read Middlemarch in college for a British novel class and don't remember feeling any particular love for it. Mainly I recall a sense of pride at having finished it at all, rather a slog. Then again, I did enjoy the re-read of Jane Eyre and I suspect I will find Middlemarch too a very different book at thirty-seven than I did at twenty. Now that I am married I think the relationship between Dorothea and Mr Casaubon might look much more interesting. So if the group decides to read it, I might jump in.

I went through a Byatt phase right out of college-- I wrote my senior thesis on Possession. I do love the way she writes but I don't recall much about Babel Tower. I don't think I really understood what she was trying to do with it and it was all rather over my head. I could probably spend the next decade re-reading all the stuff I didn't quite understand in my twenties. I read more slowly now but have actually lived a bit more and so I think I'm probably a bit more equipped to grapple with them.

Maybe that would be smarter than constantly looking for new books to read. I do think you make a good point about being sure that it's worthy of your investment. I did feel a great satisfaction at getting through The Brothers Karamazov. At least I know it wasn't a waste.

I do like fantasy but I don't much like Le Guin. Still, if you don't like the genre I'm not sure there's much use in recommending books.

However, since you broach the topic, one of my favorite, under-appreciated fantasy writers is Guy Gavriel Kay. He's Canadian and writes an interesting sort of fantasy/historical fiction mash-up that I really enjoy. He got his start working with Christopher Tokien on editing The Silmarillion and his first series was, understandably, a Tolkien-esque high fantasy; but his later stuff is very different. His most recent novel, Under Heaven, is set in a kind of alternate world version of Tang dynasty China.

Otepoti said...

Elizabeth, it wasn't a threat! - it was just that I suspected I had bogarted the blog and unintentionally silenced everyone else.

As to conversion stories, they're well enough in their way, but you (and now I) know the real story is in the second confession you make, not the first. Because having been so wonderfully disburdened of my own little piece of hell, a week later I slipped into an slick lie-of-convenience to one of the children.

I recognized the submerged habit under the visible iceberg sin, and see the icefield ahead, but, thank God, I really am now in the unsinkable ship.

Middlemarch, now... I've been there often :-) The New Zealand one is very scenic,and is the start of the famous-in-NZ bike trail, and the country around there featured as Rohan in LOTR.

Plus I've tried to read it in the past and failed at that. So I'd like to read it in a group.

So I'd be up for Middlemarch!

Emily J. said...

I'm up for a classic. But Middlemarch is, well, long. Alternatives? Silas Marner? I have an old copy of The House of Seven Gables I keep meaning to get to...

I read The Year of Magical Thinking and while it was fine, it wasn't magical for me. Joan Didion has a lovely voice, but since she doesn't get into faith issues, I wouldn't see myself looking at it for comfort after the death of a spouse. Melanie you'll have to let us know what you think of Welborn's book. I like the title better.

I tried to pick up Byatt's The Children's Book, but couldn't finish, even though I loved Possession, too. What to think? Did I not give it time?

O - after the beauty of your last post, I know I was reluctant to follow. Nothing I had to say seemed of import in comparison. So I'm glad Betty took on the trivialities.

BettyDuffy said...

I am trivia incarnate. Hence, I started The Great Gatsby last night--In the spirit of being "ready to read" in an elementary school sense, and ready to return to what I read when I was just starting out, and ready to try a classic on for size, and ready to see how things sit with me now that I'm older.

And I have to say, Gatsby was just my speed. Parties! Beautiful people!

I might follow with To Kill a Mockingbird, since I read it in 8th grade.

All that said, I'd also love to read Welborn's memoir.

Christy from fountains of home said...

Haha-yay for late night Great Gatsby reading I always say!

I just finished reading Middlemarch! So I feel like there must be something in the air about it. It was still fabulous even though I've read it two or three times before. I wrote about it a little the other day here: http://fountainsofhome.blogspot.com/2011/10/middlemarch-by-george-eliot.html

And I've also had Babel Tower on my bookshelf for almost a year after I found a copy at a library sale and haven't yet tackled it. I know Byatt can seem hard to wade through at times, especially in The Children's Book, but I've always found her worthwhile. Her Christian themes are so beautifully interwoven into the story.

Melanie B said...

Let me amend. I'd be willing to tackle Middlemarch so long as we break it into manageable chunks. No way I'm going to get through it in a month. Like Emily says, it's long.

On the other hand, I used to live right near the House of Seven Gables in Salem and a couple of my former roommates were even tour guides there so I feel funny for never having read it. So I wouldn't mind taking that up either.

As for The Children's Book. I found it tough going. I did make it all the way through but I'm still not sure what I think of it or if I'd say it was worth it to press on.

I'm trying not to be all gushy and fangirl about Wish You Were Here. Amy's was one of the first ever blogs I read and I've always felt she was sort of a kindred spirit. And I remember reading what she wrote at the time of Michael's death and her blog posts about Sicily so I sort of feel like I'm approaching the book with a very strong predisposition to love it. And maybe there are funny echoes in it for me in that I've never really wanted to go to Sicily very much until I married a man who is half Sicilian and then we discussed it as our dream honeymoon but couldn't actually afford to go. So there is that layer of the emotions from my own marriage weaving throughout.

All that said, I do think its a magical (I've not read Didion's book; but I can already tell you this is completely different) sort of mash up of travel memoir and a very Catholic exploration of grief. She does both genres so well but the way she slips seamlessly from one to the other is sort of breathtaking. (See, I'm gushing.) Just to do a reality check I read a chapter to my sister this evening while we were making dinner. Oh even better than I thought. The prose is lyrical but down to earth. The imagery doesn't beat you over the head but somehow the details of every tourist stop are marshaled so that you are constantly staring death in the face. Most of all what strikes me is how faith informs everything. It doesn't make death and grief easy, doesn't make it go away. Just that it is the medium in which they happen.

MrsDarwin said...

I recently finished a new book, Rules of Civility, which is set in the roaring 30's, but although it was well-written and memorable, it's not really the sort of book you need to sit around discussing at length.

I've read neither Silas Marner or Middlemarch, but I did read Enoch Arden a few months ago -- it was short, spare and haunting, though not life-changing.