lilwatchergirl correctly noted that I was reading far too many books at once. This is just an update, a month later, to see how I'm getting through that pile.
I've finished the Barnes (Before She Met Me) and the Fitzgerald (This Side of Paradise). Woohoo! On the other hand, I'm still reading the seemingly endless trivia book (The Know-It-All), I gave up on the heavy political book (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine) when I accidentally soaked it in red wine, I haven't read any more of Miranda July's stories and I haven't made much progress on the French & Spanish re-reads.
Meanwhile, I also quickly read Silk by Alessandro Baricco (short, atmospheric, but not particularly memorable), and now I'm enjoying Pages for You (lovely lesbian love romp) by Sylvia Brownrigg.
There's a post here from 2 years ago, in which I mention a few books. As a trivial memory experiment, I glanced over it to see what I could remember of them.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude - I remember the drudging pain of reading this book as if it were yesterday. I never did finish the last few pages, in which, apparently, the entire universe Marquez created disappears as suddenly and inexplicably as it had appeared. However, since then I have read another Marquez book (Memories of My Melancholy Whores) with more success, and the important thing, I suppose, is that the novel somehow stuck in my mind, albeit negatively.
At some point in 2003, I made a list of books I wanted to read. These lists always intrigue me because when I go back to look them, I've inevitably forgotten why on earth half the books were even on there, and have certainly never read all the books. So here's an update on those 11 books in particular:
Books I actually read:
Mme Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Ahh, this was one of those immensely memorable reads for me. As in, I remember exactly what I was doing around the time I read it, and how I felt. I remember also how the little book itself felt in my hands - it was such an unusual edition, a tiny, almost square hardback with a green and white checked cover. It looked more like a diary than a book. I read it in the original French, I'm happy to say.
The Reader - Bernhard Schlink
My memory is very hazy here, but I think this is about an affair of a young man with an older woman (teacher?) and it's very readable and rather touching.
La gloire de mon pere - Marcel Pagnol
This book was so pointless. At the time, all I noted was: I didn't love this. It read more like an episode of his childhood rather than a novel, though it was touching at times. However, my memory of it is more negative than that; I remember being bored throughout.
Love's executioner and other tales of Psychotherapy - Irvin D. Yalom
I read this (a collection of stories based on Yalom's experience as a therapist) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Girl has suggested Neitzsche Wept, his novel, which I will be eagerly adding to my current to-be-read list.
Book I started but didn't finish:
A short treatise on the great virtues - Andre Comte-Sponville
I did read some of this, but it was a bit heavy-going - a little too didactic for my taste I suppose - and the translation from French into English was cumbersome. And perhaps I couldn't quite get over the fact he proposed politeness to be the first great virtue.
How the mind works - Steven Pinker
I think my officemate put me off reading this. I was an impressionable first year, he was a self-assured third year, and he said Pinker was arrogant. I quickly abandoned his books.
The Master and His Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov (in Russian)
I didn't get beyond where I was 4 years ago, I'm afraid. I think the trick is to admit defeat and read it in translation. A man on the bus tried to chat me up the other day while I was reading Flaubert's Parrot (Julian Barnes), and his pick-up lines consisted of 1) asking whether I was reading 1984, because my copy of Flaubert's Parrot confusingly had the year of publication printed in huge print on the jacket, and 2) extolling the virtues of The Master and His Margarita. The latter impressed me, but the fact that he hadn't heard of Flaubert did not.
Books I haven't even started:
Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
I've read and studied To The Lighthouse instead for now, but this is one to return to in future.
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
Never got round to reading this - I might do one day, but it's hardly a priority.
To the promised land - a history of Zionist thought - David J. Goldberg
OK, I'm a bad Jew (see below). I haven't read any books on Zionism. Ever.
The Fateful Triangle - Noam Chomsky
I got ticked off from many sides for including this on the list. I was just being controversial. Also, wanted to see what all the fuss was about - why people had such extreme reactions. I guess I still don't know.
Today I stumbled upon A Transatlantic Love Affair, a collection of Simone de Beauvoir's letters to Nelso Algren, a mid-Westerner. She's writing in English, at first hesitantly, and then more assuredly. I somehow thought it was appropriate for me to read this right now...
Meanwhile, I'm also reading the following books:
Julian Barnes, Before She Met Me - have read this before, but had the sudden urge to re-read, possibly because his autobiography has just come out.
AJ Jacobs - The Know-It-All - silly book in which the author reads the Encyclopaedia Britannica from cover to cover and makes some trivial remarks along the way.
F. Scott Fitzgerald - This Side of Paradise - I loved The Great Gatsby, so picked this up in New York. I put it down a couple of weeks ago though, and it's looking increasingly like I've abandoned it in favour of other temptations. The pastiche style was making it a bit hard to persevere.
Ilan Pappe - The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine - recommend to me by a Palestinian, a relative of a well-known historian. Following an unfortunate episode with a glass of red wine, the book is now stained from cover to cover, making it a little difficult to read.
Miranda July - No One Belongs Here More than You - loved her film Me and You and Everyone We Know, read about this collection of short stories somewhere. Just checked out her website mirandajuly.com, it's a little...intimidating.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Memoria de mis Putas Tristes (SP) - read this quickly in English, now laboriously trawling through it in Spanish and diligently looking up every unfamiliar word.
Amélie Nothomb - Antechrista (FR) - I'm not technically reading this, but annotating it with vocabulary to send to a friend.
That's definitely too many books to be reading at once. Next time, I'll update with the books I read in 2007, and possibly 2006.
I was going to post this as a comment but I wanted everyone (ha, ha) to see it.
The rule (which we should really have agreed upon at the outset) is that a post with no mention of any book or at least reading material (newspaper article or what-have-you) does not count as a post. Quite aside from this being a malicious gesture intended to humiliate you and set you back yet another post, this rule is quite a clever way of ensuring that no annoying loser is tempted to come on here to moan about their lives, or generally participate in any activity that doesn't involve discussing books.
In future maybe we could implement a harsh yet necessary post-deletion policy (isn't that what our community administrator powers are for?), although of course this post should be left and perhaps your last one as an example of what not to do. This is reminding me of the education system of the USSR...
100 Years of Solitude is still lying on my desk with 15 pages to go. I was thinking today, what is really going to change once I get to the end of the book? Will I really have understood/enjoyed it any more than I have so far? At the moment I don't feel like I have the right to claim to have read the book, but should I be able to do so once I've read those last few pages? I don't think so.
Meanwhile, I read Zoe Heller's debut novel, Everything You Know. I had enjoyed Notes on a Scandal last year, thought it was neatly written and rather insightful, but unfortunately can't say the same about Everything You Know. She's obviously very good at writing dialogue and semi-trashy prose, but the whole set-up in this book seemed pointless, and, apart from the question of whether Willy actually killed his wife or not which is of course never resolved, generally not that interesting. It was also based around one of my least favourite types of hero - an old, sick, ugly, disgusting man who somehow manages to shag loads of young, pretty, sexy, horny women who just can't get enough of him. I can't explain why, but as I read this book I had a weird deja-vu - something to do with the atmosphere - of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, which I inexplicably abhorred (inexplicably, not because it's a work of genius or anything, but because I do love my Irvine Welsh).
To continue with this mood of filth and debauchery, I picked up Less Than Zero (Bret Easton Ellis) on Oli's recommendation, which he presented as an introduction/taster (being his first book [?]) of Ellis's major themes (indiscriminate shagging, kids stealing drugs of their parents, and other existential crises of the amoral soul), which would give me an idea of whether I was willing/able to progress to the more hardcore American Psycho.
I've already mentioned five books in this one post alone so I better wait until another day to tell you what books I bought, especially as I'm not reading them at the moment (they're just lying on my work desk, just about the only appealing items on it actually) and it's about time someone other than me posted here.
Today I did something naughty. I left the house without my unfinished copy of 100 Years of Solitude. I justified this by thinking it was pointless to carry around a book of which only 15 pages were unread. It is testament to how little I enjoyed this book that I am ready to discuss it now, with potentially the most crucial part yet to be read. I was thinking about it, and I came to the conclusion that maybe my memory capacity, and possibly also my heart, are simply too small to (respectively) hold so many different people's stories, and care about them. The weird thing about this book I guess (sorry if this is all obvious, I'm sure this kind of analysis is taught at GCSE but I didn't listen - maybe it was that lesson where I got my classmates to sign a petition that my friend Phoebe and I should leave the school, and then cried in the loo about it) is that there isn't really a protagonist, so as every new generation is born you're supposed to get really into their story. For me, the important people were those who were there from the start, like Ursula and maybe Colonel Aureliano Buendia, although by the second part of the book I had confused his character with that of many others and no longer had a clear image of him in my mind. Ursula was perhaps the only one I can visualise, the stable rock who is there throughout the book. I think once she died I really didn't care any more - I guess that was just a few pages back though. With 15 pages to go there are still new characters being brought in, and by this point I'm not evening bothering to try and remember who they are. Another thing that bothers me about the book is how on one hand it's supposed to be all magical and in an imaginary place in imaginary times, while on the other hand there are random references to actual countries and anachronistic (well, not strictly anachronistic as of course we aren't in any particular period, but just out-of-place I guess) references to modern technology. I know that there is a great idea/purpose behind this, but I just didn't find it convincing.
Anyway, the reason I'm making this post is to confess my indulgence in a guilty pleasure (see subject line). But unfortunately I have to rush so I will leave you trying to guess the two books I bought, until next time...
This is a cheat-post just to say that I WILL finish 100 Years of Solitude tonight. I would write more but my hand hurts...how convenient. Lid, I'm counting on you to initiate the chat on this one as I'm afraid I'm going to be stuck for something interesting to say about this book. It just hasn't made me care.
I've just started The Line of Beauty, inspired by Yana. Yes, this does mean I've temporarily abandoned the three or four other books I had started, undisciplined butterfly that I am. Well, how could I resist: the beautifully structured sentences, the Jamesian tinge, the promise of generous lashings of gay sex... I've only just started chapter two (no sex of any kind so far, I'll admit), and predictably enough, am already in love with it. However, I've been warned it may lag a bit in the middle, so we'll see.
Here is the author himself reviewing a collection of Lytton Strachey's letters in, you guessed it, the NYRB. I've always had a weakness for that generation/social group (Strachey's, that is, not Hollinghurst's), though in a way I'd expect them to annoy me.
Anyway, I suppose the title of this entry gives me as good an excuse as any to digress from the high-minded theme of the community as a whole and share with you, as promised, a short piece of dialogue that took place during a screening of Brokeback Mountain on 12th February 2006 (also, incidentally, my 22nd birthday, so an illustrious occasion all round):
[Heath and Jake are fucking in a tent]
Ya [with mounting horror and disbelief]: This is the most they're going to show, isn't it?
Lid [equally hurt and disappointed by lack of explicit man-love]: I...I'm afraid so, yeah.
Ya [sceptically]: Is this supposed to be the first time he's done that?
Lid: Who, Ennis or Heath?
Ya [seemingly in response to lack of kissing and/or the spitting on the hand]: It's not very romantic, is it?
Ya: Haven't you ever seen gay porn?
Lid [hissing]: This ISN'T GAY PORN!
Ya [hissing louder]: I WISH IT WAS GAY PORN!
And to be fair, you can see her point. Although I loved the movie, all joking aside. I think we both did. There were tears. I have now seen it more than once in the cinema and I am not ashamed. What I am though, is grateful to Ya for buying my ticket that day as a birthday treat, as I would otherwise shudder to think how much money the ludicrous London cinema rates would have induced me to spend on my repeated viewings of this one film.
I have lowered the tone definitively. I apologise. Back to the books.