Just a little comeback post, opening up the Fall season. The same thing happened last summer, only this time it was worse. But the main reason for a sustained blogging break is the same and it’s still a good one, I guess: I was writing other stuff. I say the main reason because the other reasons aren’t so good, and they consist primarily of reading badly and taking scattered shots at different books, losing focus quickly and moving on to the next, not to mention watching TV and hanging out and goofing off. And at the same time somehow I didn’t seem able to find the right, engaging book that I was able to settle into or power through, nothing like Butcher’s Crossing or The Awakening. But I wasn’t trying very hard. Now I’ll try to set down notes on some of my false starts and half-efforts as part of a general update. And I also have at least one post set up, another one to write and I think I’m actually going to finish another book today. It’s all probably something about Fall and back to school, but who knows (or cares).
A contemporary lit effort, not to say binge. And I’ll note up front that it’s a little manly and guyish, but I feel like I’ve earned the privilege. Still, this could all be balanced out by some contemporary lit written by women: Jennifer Egan’s new book came up recently. At any rate, the official comeback book, which I read yesterday, is almost embarrassing: Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I read it because my daughter read it a couple of weeks ago and I want to see if she wants to go see the movie today. I say it’s embarrassing because it seems dicey to finally read something just in order to see a movie, but of course it doesn’t matter, and the other part is that it’s a book that everybody has read, both five years ago and more recently, so there’s nothing to say about it, although I’m looking forward to reading some commentary on it today. And I’ll be curious to see what the film is like, as the book doesn’t seem to be the likeliest or easiest candidate for adaptation. I’ll end by mentioning that my daughter found Never Let Me Go somewhere on the shelves on her own, and so I dug out Remains of the Day, which she read and very much enjoyed. Does anybody know a preferred #3 from Ishiguro?
Cruising through the Ishiguro pulled me away from Wolf Hall, on which I was stalling out, but I’m hoping that finishing NLMG will put enough wind in my sails that I can get past the rather dull current section (at approximately page 150) and run through the rest of that book. Again, there’s not much incentive from the blogging perspective there, with little or nothing to be said at this point. The minor thing worth noting is the choice of the books themselves, and if they turn out be be to one’s taste or not. It occurs to me that one reason I’ve been scattered is that we never went on vacation this summer, and that’s traditionally a good time for me to lie around and get through a bunch of stuff. More excuses. A long summer staycation worked out better for my own writing, I suppose.
Another contemporary author to be mentioned here is Jonathan Lethem, and from where I’m sitting I can see the copy of The Fortress of Solitude that I opened up and started reading (and enjoying) some time last month. My old buddies up in Berkeley are all very big Lethem fans, and now I have a faint inkling of what it’s about. So if I was waking up right now, say, in Hawaii, I would like to make it through Wolf Hall today and then move on to Fortress. Too bad I’m not in Hawaii. Sigh.
The book to read right now, of course, is Freedom, which I’m sure I would really like. But my excuse on that one is that I never read The Corrections. Ten years ago, or whenever it was that it came out, I was in the middle of a long break from reading fiction, which caused me, I suppose, to miss Lethem and David Foster Wallace, along with a number of others. So the book after Fortress would be Corrections, and when I was done with that I would be caught up and able to join all the other people on the beach reading Freedom.
That’s the contemporary lit reading list at the moment, at least the one I can put together without getting up out of my chair and seeing what’s actually beside my bed, what I’m missing. The other book that I know is up there, one that I’ve been puttering through for awhile now, is Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa. I realize I’m now onto a new category here, getting into non-fiction. I’ve written about Winchester’s most recent book, The Man Who Fell in Love with China, and I’m a fan. I’d like to write a general post about Winchester, about his books that I read pre-blogging, and getting through Krakatoa might spur that cause. Lots of geology in Krakatoa, and it turns out that Winchester was trained as a geologist. Him writing Kratatoa is thus fairly obvious, while Professor and the Madman and Man Who Loved China are less so. Years ago I didn’t quite finish his book The Map That Changed The World, also geology, and it might be worth revisiting and wrapping up–it’s a good account of the early Victorian scientific revolution, filling in the details of the bridge between Charles Lyell’s theories to Darwin’s revolution. Krakatoa contains quite a lot of 19th century (and 20th century) history and perhaps this is why I’m attracted to Winchester’s books, but I seem to have no interest at all, at this point, in John McPhee’s geology tomes. And I love Mcphee’s work. So I’ll never say never.
The non-fiction tack reminds me of a book I did manage to finish, Last Train to Paradise, by Les Standiford. Standiford wrote The Man Who Invented Christmas, which I wrote about last December. So there’s that, probably worthy of a post since it’s a good story that’s out of the way (as opposed to a book like Never Let Me Go.)
And all of that, of course, is besides the main literary stuff, not that there’s a lot of that. Still, there are a few things to note in my usual stomping grounds, I’m sure, but I’ll get to that in another post.