Monday, June 19, 2017

A Summer Of Book Discovery And Realization!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                             Summer, which I view as the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is when I do lots of heavy duty reading.  Of course, since retiring January 20, I have been in a reading frenzy.  So much so that, I declare, my speed has picked up.  I am reading as fast as I can, so fast I worry about what the next book will be.

                               Most people, upon retiring, say that now they are going to read all the books they promised themselves to read.  This generally includes "War And Peace," "Anna Karenina," "Remembrance Of Things Past," "Moby- Dick," "Middlemarch," "Bleak House," "One Hundred Years Of Solitude," "The Sound And The Fury," "The Aeneid," and "Women In Love."

                               This list is typical of most retirees' aspirations.  The problem with me, girls, is I have already read them all; many, more than once.

                                 So, I am concentrating on books that genuinely interest me, not that feel an obligation to read.   Since I am over sixty, and Time becomes increasingly important, especially as to how well and wisely I use it, I have resigned myself to NOT reading the following, and I can live with it.  I will go over the list, to explain why, and to maybe provide some of you out there to read something I have given up on.  If so inclined, go ahead!
                                  1. "Finnegan's Wake," by James Joyce--I first became aware of this book in high school, where it was referenced in Sylvia Plath's novel, "The Bell Jar," which I identified with so much, at the time, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!!  It sounded challenging, and, over the years, starting with college, I made periodic attempts at it!  I just couldn't do it!  By the time I became aware of the readings at the Gotham Book Mart, that store became history, and, over the years, while I promised myself, should the opportunity arise, I would take or audit a course in it, reading it that way, that chance never emerged.  So, at 62, I have to conclude the ship has sailed on this one, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                     2. "Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace--For almost two decades this very edition stared me in the face, as I moved it from apartment to apartment.  I even Googled articles that told one how to read it.  And I read one of Wallace's earlier novels, 1987's "The Broom Of The System," and loved it.  One day, recently, I accepted that I was never going to pick this up, ever.  Too many literary interests of mine were getting in the way, to the point where this book was beginning to hang over me, like an albatross.  So, I cut the string, and let it go!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                    3. "Gravity's Rainbow," by Thomas Pynchon--Hey, no one can call me a Literary Cream Puff!  I tried this in my 20's, when those of my age were still struggling with nursery rhymes, and the sophistication of "Mary Poppins!"  I have actually read "Mason And Dixon," and, at a very low point in my life, while living in Woodside, Queens, a spinster, with the ceiling of my living room caving in, forcing me to live in my bedroom for fourteen weeks, till things got fixed, I read Pynchon's  "Against The Day," in a single week.  It was a sweeping, almost Jules Verne-like adventure that absorbed me so completely it took me out of the depression I was in, took me away from a world I wanted out of, at the time, and turned out to be one of the best reading experiences I have ever had.  So, go easy on me, dolls; I have earned the right to bypass this one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                     4. "The Gormenghast Novels/Trilogy," by Mervyn Peake-- I am convinced this series is favored by advanced techno and fantasy geeks.  Sure, I read the Tolkien Trilogy--twice, in fact!!!!!!!!!--with a sense of generational obligation; the difference being I actually enjoyed it, and it got better on a second, latter day, reading!  These tomes I have been aware of since college, and have been floating in my consciousness, ever since.  About fifteen years ago, a fellow I knew loaned me his three volume set--a tome, containing all three novels; what a weight that was!!!!!!!--and I tried!!!!!!!  I REALLY tried!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Mervyn's last name may be Peake, but his words did not peak my interest at all!  So, farewell!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                          5. "A Dance To The Music Of Time," by Anthony Powell--When the Biography Bookshop was in its original location, on the corner of Bleecker and Charles Streets, across from the original Magnolia Bakery, and I would visit each every Friday evening of my spinster youth, this book would stare me in the face from its place on the shelf, as if challenging me!  Ever since Marc Jacobs replaced the bookstore, and it moved further east on Bleecker, I don't get to visit it much, and so that challenge has faded for me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  And I really don't miss it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Good riddance, dolls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                       6.  All Of Trollope--Hey, it's not like I have read none!  I adored "Can You Forgive Her?" and "Phineas Finn," so I have hope I may read the rest of "The Palliser Novels."  But his entire oeuvre??????????  Not a chance!  I would have had to have began this project decades ago!!!!!!!!!!  But I do hold out hope for "The Pallisers!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
                                        7. "House Of Leaves," by Mark Z. Danielewski--Another book that I am sure is a cult favorite with techno geeks.  A mammoth, gimmicky thousand page plus tome, combining text and visuals, it almost foreshadowed the Graphic Novel.  To excess is how I felt, every time I would thumb through it, contemplating whether or not I should attempt it.  Time, like fame, is fleeting, and I cannot waste it masochistically reading something I may ultimately dislike!  I have done it, when younger!  And what did I get for it?  Nothing!  I have too much to live for, so I will pass on this one!

                                              8. "The Recognitions," by William Gaddis--You know, if I were going to devote my life to reading exceptionally long novels, which would take the rest of what time I have left here on earth, this would be among the top five.  I have nursed a healthy curiosity about this one, but have never had the fortitude to pick this up.   Am I making a mistake?  If so, someone out there make a case for me to read it!  I just don't know!  Maybe it is because I finally don't feel the need to prove myself to anyone--even myself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                              9. "Harlot's Ghost," by Norman Mailer--Norman Mailer, as far as I am concerned, wrote two genuinely good books, which should be read--his very first novel, "The Naked And The Dead," and his latter day work, "The Executioner's Song."  The last I have read twice!!!!!!!!!!  But Norman Mailer is a mixed bag; some of his stuff is God awful, and, despite its cheesy title, 1425 pages of a novel dealing with the CIA is just too much for me!  Maybe this was a literary pissing contest with William T. Vollman!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Whom I will also never read again!
I cannot believe "Harlot's Ghost" was first published 26 years ago, back in 1991.  I still belonged to the Book Of The Month Club, and, when first published, it was the featured item!  One time, I forgot to say I did not want it, and it came!  So, I sent it back, with a note, saying I did not want "Harlot's Ghost!"  Still, they kept sending me the damn book!  By the third time, it took a close to nasty phone call, convincing them I did not want this book at all!  And that STILL goes for today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                          10.  "The Tale Of Genji," by Murasaki Shikibu--It almost pains me to list this one, darlings, because it so widely regarded as a classic of Japanese literature, to the extent of being regarded, in some quarters, as the First Novel, that I feel a bit of guilt over listing it. I have perused it; the text is concentrated and involved, as might be expected. Do I want to get myself involved, at this point?  I don't think so, though, of all the titles listed, it is the one I most regret. Like "Finnegan's Wake," I wish I had had an opportunity for a class or seminar, while still in college, to undertake this masterwork!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                           So, that is my list!  See how it compares with yours, see if you have read any of these, or can make a case for why I should read any one of them!  Meanwhile, here are two holdouts I am hoping to get through!

                                            1. "Don Quixote," by Miguel De Cervantes--I have been told Edith Grossman's translation is very accessible.  And, no, "Man Of La Mancha" is not a favorite musical of mine.  I acknowledge its artistry, but I can't go so far as to LIKE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So, that has nothing to do with my desire to read it.  It has more to do with its probably being the last accessible classic I will ever lay eyes on--if I do.
                                          2.  "The Instructions," by Adam Levin--Look at its size!  This alone challenges me!  So, is the fact I know no one who has actually read it, though Miriam at Three Lives, whose literary acumen I adore, has encouraged me to undertake it.  And I hear it is amazingly funny!  So, I will put this on my hope list, as well!  Again, as with the ten before these, tell me what you think as to why I should especially give these a try!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                           Something to chew over for the day, girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                            Happy Reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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