Friday, September 08, 2006

Thoughts on books

With that generic post title, I can write about anything! I'm finding myself with a whole lot of little ideas on what to write here and can't decide what to focus on, so I'll write a little about a lot of stuff.

First of all, while I won't tell you you must read Alison Lurie because I don't believe in telling people they have to read things (um ... unless you're a student in my class that is -- in that case, there'll be a quiz), I think it would be great if more people read her. I finished The War Between the Tates last night and loved it. It's smart, extremely well-written, clever and satirical, but also warm in a way many satirical novels are not. I like reading academic satires now and then, and this book would certainly qualify as one, but I do sometimes find them rather cold and brittle. Give me some emotional warmth, and I'm happy, and I found it here.

I've discovered a number of writers recently whom I've come to love -- writers that are new to me, although not necessarily to others -- and I'm interested that they are women: Rebecca West, Colette, Alison Lurie, Elizabeth Taylor, maybe Anne Tyler (I liked her latest book a lot, but I'm not sure I'm inspired to go read more). I've sensed that when I think of "great" writers of recent times, let's say the last 100 years, I tend to think of more male writers than female; maybe I've picked up biases from the educational systems I've gone through, or maybe it's that male authors are written about and reviewed more often than female writers. Well, I know the latter is true; maybe, my point is, I've picked up a bias from the media as well as from my education. And now I'm poised to read Margaret Atwood for the first time (Alias Grace, although Dracula will come first), so maybe I'll find another woman writer to love. And the poets -- yes -- I'd add Jane Kenyon, Jane Hirschfield, and Mary Oliver to my list of recently-discovered women writers whom I've come to love. The friend of mind who loves Anita Brookner was wondering why she hadn't heard of Brookner before, and surely it has something to do with the lack of serious attention paid to women writers -- still.

But at any rate -- Alias Grace just arrived in the mail through Book Mooch, and I've got a rather embarrassingly large number of books still to come. I've sent out two books to people, and have received two and am waiting on five more. I've accumulated points (which is what you use to request books from others) by adding books to my Book Mooch list (1/10 of a point for each book), and by mailing a book to Canada, which earned me a whole three points instead of the usual one. I justify my greed by reminding myself that people like to get books mooched from them because they can get rid of what they don't want and use the points they earn to get ones they do. I eagerly await emails from people saying they want books of mine. So I tell myself I'm making people happy when I ask them to mail me books. It's true, I'm sure!

So here's what I'm waiting on: Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, Marguerite Navarre's The Heptameron (in the style of The Decameron but written by a woman), Mythologies by Roland Barthes (this one I can justify because the Hobgoblin wants it), Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine (I like this guy a lot, and I'm not entirely sure why), and John Kelly's The Great Mortality, the book on the plague. I'm not sure why a book on the plague fascinates me so much, but it does.

And I finished the first volume of Proust. I loved it. I'll have to write more on it later -- that surely deserves its own post, not a brief mention in this random one.

One other thing: I'm considering moving my to-be-read books to their own separate shelf, something I've never done before. I've got some space on my bookshelves upstairs in my study where I do most of my reading that would work nicely. This would please and appease my obsessive, hyper-organized self (another way to sort things!), and it would have another benefit: I'll put the books on the shelf across the room from me, which, since it's not a very big room, I'll be able to see quite clearly. That way, the books I own that I haven't read will be before me at all times, tempting me (hopefully) to read them next instead of rushing off to the bookstore to buy more books.