Books? Books! BOOKS!

My reading is very scattered lately. I hit a lull after finishing War and Peace. So I’m currently reading about five different books (plus the stuff I’m reading for research purposes), but making my way through at an extremely leisurely pace.In no particular order:

Early Irish Myths and Sagas, trans. Jeffrey Gantz [London: Penguin, 1981]). These are entertaining, and make good breakfast fare but my do you have to overlook the horrible horrible misogyny. Female characters so far have literally been either 1) trophies in contests of strength between men or 2) equivalent to gold/armour/horses that can be traded/sold. Maybe things will get better in later stories?

Chekhov’s novella ‘The Duel’ (Seven Short Novels, trans. Barbara Makanowitzky [New York: Norton, 1963], 10-105). Chekhov, as always, writes with a psychological realism which is (in this story at least) extremely uncomfortable. I love Chekhov forever.

Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (trans. Max Hayward, Manya Harari, and Bernard Guilbert Guerney [New York: Pantheon, 1958]). This novel is amazing but is taking me ages to get through, either because I’ve been working a lot lately and am a bit tired by the time I pick it up or because I’m a bit burnt out on long novels. I started reading it at the same time I was reading Robert Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra though, and the novel is set in the same time period (most of it details the events following the overthrow of the Romanovs and the beginning of the Revolution); both books are really excellent, though very different, tellings of a horribly tragic and violent period in Russian history.

Nabokov’s Pale Fire (New York: Vintage, 1989). I am very ambivalent about this novel. It’s well-written, but the narrator is also pretentious pretentious pretentious and I can’t figure out if it’s just the character himself or the book as a whole (probably a bit of both). At this moment there’s  enough in the novel that intrigues me so that I think I’ll keep reading it, but also maybe I won’t. (I’m also a bit worn out from novels that use violence as a way to make a philosophical point and Nabokov does this all the time in his writing. I’m pretty sure this will be the last Nabokov I read in a long long time.)

I also finished Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (New York: Little, Brown, 2009) today and it is charming and beautiful and weaves stories within stories, with each story working towards a whole. I loved it enough that I’m putting it on my re-read list immediately.

Finally, I finished Rudolf Erich Raspe’s The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen (New York: Everyman, 2012). It was incredibly readable and entertaining, and pokes fun at the adventure narrative and a particular kind of eighteenth-century male narrator/fellow who obsessively brags about his exploits. Though I think it’s not really poking fun of the western-European sense of entitlement to the natural and geographical world that led to colonialism (the Baron mostly travels the world killing wild animals).

And these are all the books I’ve been reading. Plus Berkeley’s Lost Lady. Hopefully I’ll have made some progress in the novels by the end of next week.

12 April 2015


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