Books are deceptively tidily-packaged keystones of great power—and, if you’re lucky (as I consider myself to be), years of reading will arm you with presentiments about what a protracted brush against that power might do [to] you. And I had that hunch with The Bell Jar. I’ve known everything there was to know about the novel before I read it, and every little thing was bad news for someone like me. Call it readerly superstition, call it a far-too-strong awareness of my own psychological climate: I stayed away from Plath’s novel because it was about me.
And once I closed the book, I went back to the little gauge in my soul. There was the usual hum that runs through you after a good and/or timely book. But beyond that: I felt strange—both superior and self-pitying; I looked at all the teenagers that swarmed that coffee shop, all those souls that would never ever need to be scared of a book like The Bell Jar—all for naught or otherwise. [Continue reading.]
Franzen, I’ve found, shies away from an indulgent narrative about families—about his family, here in particular. Snidely, I think: His essays need to have reach—they shouldn’t only be about the Franzens. And so: Family dynamics should naturally draw on Snoopy and its creator. An awkward adolescence—too enlightening, really: who knew Franzen was such a big dorkus?—dignified by an examination of the youth group he belonged to. Selling the house his mother had spent nearly a lifetime to build—a house full, no doubt, of his mother’s disappoints—should lead to a dissection of real estate in America. And, goddammit, troubles with his wife should veer into bird-watching in them good ol’ United States. [Continue reading.]
Currently reading: The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen; and Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Lydia Davis. • I’ve had a rather triumphant week: I’ve been (*holds breath*) blogging regularly—mostly driven by chants of “It’s the principle of the thing, Sasha!”—plus the very thought of the rest of 2013 continues to inspire in me a hope that it’ll get better, reading-wise. (Life insists that it will look up as well, but I’ve heard that before.) [Continue reading.]
I began reading both books right before the year ended—on top of promises to myself that I’d finally wrap up Rowan Moore [architecture] and Richard Dawkins [science]. Those promises fulfilled, I then leapt to Hornby [nerdiness], mostly because I couldn’t help it. Proust and Flynn—the latter I bought on the 31st because I was afraid I’d get bored during an lonesome late lunch—moldered in my overnight bag until I went back home in the new year.
Rest assured, I duly chastised myself: You are doing your shoulders no amount of good, Sasha. You can at least read something and make the pain worth it, please. We all have ways of motivating ourselves; my terrible posture happens to be among the most effective. [Continue reading.]
Fear is the tale’s lynchpin. Though preternatural hounds and a family curse form the foundations of Holmes’s new case, The Hound is a story of how fear kills—how the very idea of something monstrous in the shadows can be lethal, and how sly little villains can successfully seize on that facet of human nature. And, of course, it will take the straight-spined rationality of the Holmesian world—of Sherlock Holmes himself, and the as-vital-as-ever Watson—to reinstate order in the moors. [Continue reading.]
And so I plod on with my own little ambitions—to amass as much of the Classics that I want to read, which involves reading a lot of the Oxford World’s Classics [oh, that unrelenting white spine] and amassing more of NYRB Classics, too [I’ve been shy-stalking the NYRB Classics group on Goodreads, and it’s a treat]. I’ve also just recently bought Proust’s Swann’s Way—partly because of the heathenhood factor, partly because I trust Lydia Davis’ translating prowess. I’ve bought this beautiful annotated and unexpurgated edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as yet another edition of Jane Eyre. I want to read Frankenstein, too, and Dracula, and Moby-Dick. I’ve bought Anna Karenina, and one of these days, I am taking a deep breath. I want more of Sherlock Holmes. And then there’s Raymond Carver and Richard Yates—we need reunions, we do—them, and Wilfrido Nolledo and Kerima Polotan. I want more of the books people have forgotten over time but are recently rediscovering—it’s not unlike being privy to a great secret, not unlike being part of a movement. I want more dead writers in my shelves, more people-characters that have grown timeless right in my head, were they justly belong. I just want more. [Continue reading.]
In his introduction to Mavis Gallant’s short story collection, Varieties of Exile, Russell Banks offers us a quote from the other herself— Stories are not chapters of novels. They should not be read one after another, as if they were meant to follow along. Read one. Shut the book. Read something else. Come back later. [...]
I suppose I ought to consider this an education in [Classic] Gothic Literature—a movement whose influence I’ve always only encountered in books, though mostly as tone or a small plot detour. But I don’t think I’ve ever really read something that was so solidly Gothic. So. For this installment of the ever-enlightening Classics Circuit, the parameters [...]
#151 of 2011 • A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, translated from the French by Richard Howard. Published by Hill & Wang. * * * [FOUR AND A HALF YEARS AGO] 1. POSSESSION Two of my friends are currently reading Roland Barthes. One keeps hurling invectives at the page. The other, whom [...]
I make no progress with Patrick White’s Voss. At the end of every chapter I read, I go back and read it from the beginning, lingering over scenes and passages, adding to the annotations I’ve already littered the margins with. Technically, I am about to begin Chapter 6. But I’ve backtracked so many times, reliving pages—I’ve [...]