Monday, September 2, 2013

Reading (Me)

Recent or ongoing:

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Glory, Vladimir Nabokov
various Agatha Christie mysteries
The Color of Magic, Terry Pratchett
Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov
Holy Sex, Gregory Popcak
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Kind of a schizophrenic list . . .

21 comments:

VA said...

Schizo, perhaps, but highly appropriate for the end of summer. It always feels rather like a madcap falling off a cliff.

Eva said...

How do you like the Popcak book? I have started one on education, but haven't found it compelling enough to finish.

I used to read tons of Agatha Christie during my teenage years, all in German, but I loved them.

Sally Thomas said...

Well, my husband and I were reading it together. It's quite good in its substance, though there's something in me that cringes at terms like "Infallible Lover" and "toe-curling." I just had to push past that, and it was worthwhile reading. Not the kind of book I'd ever pick up on my own -- I'm allergic to self-help books in general -- but I am glad we read it.

And yes, I devoured Agatha Christie when I was about 13. I've come into a boatload of books, thanks to my mother's move to a retirement community, and among them were lots of Agatha Christies, so I've been devouring them all over again in a spirit of nostalgia. The good thing is that even though I know I've read them all, I can't remember what happens in any of them, except that the murderer is *always* the last person you'd suspect. So the key is to figure out who the most innocent-looking person is and assume guilt.

I'm currently trying to apply that method to Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, but it's not working so well. Too many shifts of totally unreliable narrators, for one thing (pious tract-leaving Miss Clack is very entertaining), so that each new narrator's account of events changes the landscape completely. But it's great fun all the same.

Nancy Ainsworth said...

I have always wondered what "Speak, Memory" would be like...is it revealing of his personality or is it more "philosophical"?

lissla lissar said...

The Colour of Magic is one of my not-favourite Pratchett books. Are you enjoying it? And have you read other Disworld? Geoff and I have been working through the Night Watch series, me reading aloud to him, for several years now, and we love it.

The Power and the Glory is amazing, but it's too painful for me to re-read it often.

Sally Thomas said...

Nancy -- Speak, Memory is a memoir of Nabokov's childhood in Russia and the loss of the source of all his memory in the Revolution (though that's not really your question, I realize, and you probably already know that). I'd say that on the whole it's probably both of the things you mention, because it is *about* memory and place, and the way even memory becomes unreliable when unmoored from its sources. And like everything he wrote, it is about the workings of the mind, and how the mind tells a story . . . But it is also just a fascinating narrative, with lots of lepidoptera. And it's ravishingly beautiful.

Kyra -- I've only read Going Postal before. My son adores Terry Pratchett -- I think his favorite is Reaper Man, which I haven't read yet. I thought Going Postal was a lot better than Color of Magic (I mean, how you gonna beat the greengrocer and his apostrophe?), but I didn't dislike Color of Magic.

And other than Travels With My Aunt, I'm hard pressed to think of a Graham Greene novel I want to read again and again and again for fun . . . though I really like his short-story collection, May We Borrow Your Husband.

lissla lissar said...

The Colour of Magic was one of his fist- possibly his first?- and I think it really shows. He has a concept he calls 'alternate history', which explains why things don't quite line up, and says something like, "Imagine that those first books were written a long time ago, by a much less good writer...". I think he figures out what he wants to do with the Discworld several books in, and really hits his stride.

Going Postal is wonderful. There's a BBC live action movie of it that's pretty good, although they leave out Groat's exploding trousers.

I really like all the Discworld books that centre on Ankh-Morpork because it really feels like a city, full of people who keep on bustling around even when the spotlight is off them.

Sally Thomas said...

I'm pretty sure it is the first -- he spends time at the beginning establishing the whole Discworld concept (riding on the back of A'Tuin the Turtle, etc). And it really does read like a first exploration of that world.

And I agree -- I love Ankh-Morpork. Your description seems right on the mark to me: that sense that life is going on in the city regardless of whether you're paying attention to it or not.

Mark R said...

It's probably good that you read Going Postal before The Colour of Magic. As you noted, it was the first of the Discworld books, and Sir Terry improved on them greatly after that. Possibly my favorite sub-series are the Death books (Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather, and especially Thief of Time). The "young adult" Tiffany Aching books are great, too.

Nancy Ainsworth said...

When you describe something as "ravishingly beautiful" (re: "Speak, Memory", Nabokov) I feel like I must read it right this minute, for an enchanting experience. I mean this admiringly. You do not not gush. Well, not generally. Only about important stuff. You really are a critic I trust.
Side note: my children are quite grown, and because of a family tragedy we have been together recently. Because I am somewhat dense, I just noticed that they actually quiet and listen to me now. They value what I say, despite some vigorous dispute. Say, is it possible I have become a "matriarch"? Hooray!

Sally Thomas said...

Well, the writing is stunning, from page to page. The excerpt I posted some days ago, on writing his first poem, is one example. I guess a more jaded reader than I might find it all kind of solipsistic, but even the focus on himself is the same kind of focus he turns on the various butterflies that appear throughout the pages: his own mind is a specimen of interest in the same way.

I am sorry to hear that you've had a tragedy, but glad to know that you've ascended to venerability in the eyes of your children.

Dr. Ronald Thomas said...

Don't forget Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James!

Sally Thomas said...

Oh, right. Some guy bought me that book, and I read it, too.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

I read the Discworld books roughly in order. I know I started with The Colour of Magic and I thought it very funny at the time, my freshman year of college, when a friend handed it to me. They definitely do get better.

Sally Thomas said...

I've never read any series in order (except Harry Potter, as the books came out. And LOTR.). As a child, I discovered the Little House books when I took down By the Shores of Silver Lake from the shelf at my grandmother's and read it -- I didn't read the first three books until long after I'd finished the rest of the series (which I don't think I did in order), but I remember what a luxury it felt, knowing all the story that had preceded that first morning in Silver Lake, when Mary is blind and Jack is dead . . .

Sally Thomas said...

Anyway, so it hasn't bothered me not to read the Discworld books in order, but then I've only read two of them, so possibly I don't know what I'm missing here. I'll have to ask my son if he's read them in order, or how many he has left to read. I know that his favorites are more or less the ones Mark lists, above -- Reaper Man, etc.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Actually, now that I think about it, after the first bunch of them, I don't think I read them precisely in order so much as that I read the early ones first and then sort of picked them up as I found them thereafter without too much regard for chronology. So roughly in order but not really worried about it too much. Mostly they are self-contained so while there are broader story arcs that play out across novels, each one can be rad and enjoyed independent of the previous books.

Eva said...

I don't know "The Moonstone," I'll keep that one in mind when I need a new book :).

Sally Thomas said...

It's pretty fun, Eva, though I think you have to be sort of in the mood for lumbering Victorian melodrama. I haven't researched this novel to find out anything about it, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it had been a serial novel. It has that quality of "you think you're going to find out whodunnit, but ha! not this time! there's more to come!" I was getting almost to the point of not caring any more who had stolen the Moonstone by the time the truth came to light. Collins definitely doesn't have Dickens' character-making gifts . . . still, it's not a bad read, and it's often quite funny.

Sally Thomas said...

I have the audiobook -- the reason I had The Moonstone at all is that it was part of a list of free Kindle Books that you could get with free Whispersync Audible audiobooks, back when that program began -- but haven't listened to it yet. I have a feeling that it might be very entertaining to hear read aloud.

Eva said...

Thanks for the further explanations.