stuff I read

Productivity redux

I am still being productive, at least with reading books. Look at what I’ve finished:
The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can by Broken by Daniel Mendelsohn

That’s about half the list. TGK is for Literature by Women so for any major thoughts you’ll need to hit the BNBC board; suffice to say, this was probably the wrong Murdoch to start with and I should have switched the title to The Sea, The Sea which was Murdoch’s Booker Prize winner. However, since I’d never read any Murdoch before, now I know. There’s a good deal of unreality (people don’t speak or act quite the way you would expect them to in the late 1980s because they sound vaguely Edwardian) but overall it’s a good novel. Breaking Dawn could have used a decent editor; not as catchy a story as Twilight and Meyer went seriously outer-limits with the number of plot threads she needed to tie up (not to mention the overly ridiculous footnote that appears directing the reader to a chart of the vampire covens at about the time a main character grumbles that a chart is needed to keep everyone straight). The Dead Father was recommended to me by a fellow bookseller and I may steer clear of anything else he recommends in the future; that might have been the strangest book I’ve ever read and I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand a darn thing (but it’s DONE).

I’m almost finished with:
Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The Millenium Problems by Keith Devlin

Villette by Charlotte Bronte (still only about half-way done, but that’s better than it was)

That leaves:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (can I just say how relieved I am that I both purchased and started reading this before Oprah even breathed a hint that it was her new pick?)
Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (now, that one I haven’t started recently but it seems that everytime I try to read it I have to re-start)

Except Grendel by John Gardner – I had to take it back to the library because I just couldn’t get into it after about 30 pages. I just really didn’t care that much about Grendel being scared or anything. I’ll come back to it later.

I can now start some new books (see how this start-itis thing can be a problem?). In honor of Banned Books Week I’m reading Salman Rushdie, starting with Midnight’s Children and then probably The Satanic Verses. I recently started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which is the new Barnes and Noble Recommends title and looks to be a very good mystery.

Current book-in-progress: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Current knitted item: Steel grey tea cozy and red variegated scarf (and the surprise items, since I decided that they screamed “fashion victim” and ripped them back out)
Current movie obsession: Velvet Goldmine (still – hey, there’s college football on AND all the TV shows are premiering this week)
Current iTunes loop: Paradise City (yes, that G’n’R song)

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start-itis · stuff I read

I’ve been productive!

Really. I have. Ok fine, I’ve played a lot of PackRat, too.

As many of you know, I have a little start-itis problem with books and knitting projects, books being the major problem. I recently made a list of all the books I recently started but didn’t finish yet:

The Green Knight by Iris Murdoch
Feather Man by Rhyll McMaster
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Dead Father by Donald Barthelme
Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas Foster
The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Why We Read Fiction by Lisa Zunshine
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
The Millenium Problems by Keith Devlin
How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can by Broken by Daniel Mendelsohn
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
Grendel by John Gardner
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (now, that one I haven’t started recently but it seems that everytime I try to read it I have to re-start)

And I’m sure there are others I missed. I decided to try and make a bit of a dent in the pile. I finished The Time Traveler’s Wife first; Niffenegger has an interesting concept in the narrative thread of the book. It is vaguely linear, with view-points by both Claire and Henry which gives each character a great deal of depth. I only had a few bones about the ending – I thought it was trite and lacked a good emotional punch (I’d gotten invested in those characters then it seemed Niffenegger just ran out of steam). I also polished off How to Read Literature Like a Professor which is a really easy-to-read book; I plan to yoink a bit of his insights about Iris Murdoch (I think he’s got a soft spot for her). Next up was How Beautiful it is and How Easily it Can be Broken which is a book of criticism by Daniel Mendelsohn, a collection of his work from various New York sources. Mendelsohn has a great writing style, educated, reflecting his post-graduate work in Classics but not obviously trying to be remote and obscure. Some of the best essays were either reviews of new productions/adaptation of classical Greek drama or were reviews of movies thinly based on Greek epic or drama. A very enjoyable book. Guns, Germs, and Steel was an easy polish-off; I didn’t have much left and the book had run out of steam and was merely re-capitulating earlier points (it was good up until that point).

I then trimmed down Feather Man (caught back up with the “Book Explorers” for BNBC); FM is a first novel by a very respected poet in Australia. Although the novel does have some unsettling subject matter the author writes beautifully about Sooky’s vision of her own world as she grows up in 1950s Brisbane. I’m trying not to read too far ahead of my group in The Green Knight because it’s harder to keep track of everything when I’ve read through the novel.

I have The Dead Father and Trainspotting in my bag today; I’ll see what I can do about those (The Dead Father is really, really hard to follow because it is so incredibly far into the post-modernist style). I will sit down this weekend, biting the bullet, to finish Breaking Dawn; it just isn’t as interesting as the first three books in the series so I might as well be done with it (there are 200 pages left).

Current book-in-progress: I’m really trying to read a bit of criticism for The Green Knight (thankfully, there isn’t very much)
Current knitted item: Finishing second pair of booties (must be done by baby shower on October 12) and I’m doing a few more “surprise” items
Current movie obsession: Velvet Goldmine (though since I’ve been busy reading I haven’t been watching anything besides the morning news)
Current iTunes loop: Lucy Woodward is Hot…and Bothered (excellent jazz/lounge-sounding album)

random

I love the 80s

A high point of my day is that my new iPod has enough battery life to let me listen to podcasts throughout the day, which keeps me sane at my desk (when I’m not misbehaving by playing on the Internet, like now). I’m listening to the September 2 podcast from “All Songs Considered” wherein the panel discusses the “bad”-ness that is 80s music. Hysterical. I’m on the extreme tail-end of the 80s generation (I turned 12 in 1990) so I probably belong more to grunge than 80s but I have to confess that, while I acknowledge that most of the 80s music is technically terrible, I love to listen to bad 80s music. Hall ‘n Oates, Denise E. Williams, Huey Lewis, Genesis, Madonna, even Eddie Murphy. It has a good beat, you know?

And then the “All Songs Considered” group played Don Johnson (i.e. “Miami Vice”-era Don Johnson) – gag! Ok, I don’t like that.

The panel did ask a really interesting question: of the groups/bands/individuals who made music in both the 1970s and 1980s, did any of them make better music in the 1980s than the 1970s?

Then they played “I will dare” by The Replacements because the group got tired of embarassing each other. Excellent!