Posted by: zhiv | March 7, 2012

Early March Reading Notes

Seems like I might have a reading and blogging rally going, and I thought I would take a moment for some notes. I’ve got a good head of steam going on H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, which I’m just finishing, but first I feel like doing a quick overview. I read a couple of books that weren’t the sort that I would blog about, but I thought I might mention them, and also try to remember some of the other stuff I’ve been looking at.

First thing to note is that I made some progress last week in typing up my extended look at In The Valley, Harold Frederic’s Henry Esmond-style historical novel about the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley. I read the book and wrote it up in November, I think, and this isn’t such a bad time to go back to it, before it’s too late. Lots of strands come out of it, worthy of review, things such as Frederic’s other books (besides Theron Ware); Edmund Wilson’s Upstate; other historical novels like Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Tory Lover, which seems like it would make a good comparison; and reading more Walter Edmonds, besides Drums Along the Mohawk; and lastly I recall that there were some other fictionalizations of Oriskany to track down. So there’s a lot of work in that world that I never got around to.

I got stuck doing a half-hearted read of The Steppe, Chekhov’s first extended story and first major literary work. I thought this would be a good follow up to the Solzenitsyn, but I never latched on. And I have my complete Chekhov Stories now, and wanted to get more organized about that body of work. Following along with my daughter I’ve done a lot of work on Feminism/Modernism in the time since I had a good initial Chekhov run a couple of years ago, and I wonder how it fits now. I got a great comment on a Chekhov post the other day too.

The other book that I keep looking at is The Creators, by May Sinclair. I mention it partly as a prompt so that I remember how much I want to read it. Sinclair’s work and story really seem like they should be better known. And I’ll also note that Sinclair’s letters to Annie Fields are sitting over at the Huntington, which is close by, and I keep meaning to talk to my professor friends about helping me go over there to take a look. I think I’m also telling myself that it would be a good time to do a simple and straightforward TBR list.

Which brings me to the recent reading. One was an airport purchase and plane ride read, Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, which was engaging enough and well done, I thought. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, didn’t know anything about it, jumped right in and powered through it. It’s serious and interesting enough to be a good read for just about anybody, and its intent is to call attention to the refugee system and world in Britain, amongst other things, and it has a pair of intriguing narrators and good characters. Thinking about it now–it might not have stuck quite so much as it could have–it’s strange to consider it having just read King Solomon’s Mines, which I’ll be writing about soon.

And the other book that I sat down and devoured and enjoyed this week is The Hunger games, which was good fun. I had a copy from a couple of years ago, when it was already a breakout hit and the wheels of the movie machine were just starting to move. Then last week I started seeing billboards everywhere and getting a sense of the building marketing onslaught, and it seemed like it was time to join the herd–why not? It was really fun, and I’m curious to see this next phenomenon take shape, and break down some of the parts. Some day I might write about Game of Thrones too, which could be fun.


  1. What is zhiv? It’s a surname? Is it French?
    Like zifko?

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