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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reading Anything Good?

I've been finding a wealth of reading -- and here are the first of a few recommendations:

1.) Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Novel, by Jane Smiley. Honestly I had no idea who she was. I have since learned she wrote a narrow volume on the life of Dickens where she said all his books except one were covered (h'mm). And she won some awards, and her books look sort of oprah-ish, but maybe that's the designer's fault. At any rate, this books first parts are terrific -- I now own a copy ( due to a coffee spill on what was the library's) and I'm happy to have it. What she writes on literature and on the creation of literature is smack on. It got me thinking of the recent (?) trend of demystifying the process of writing the novel. I've since seen Ford (at a reading) Smiley (here) and Pamuk (New Yorker article) all talk about writing as a sit down job. Ride the wave? I understand why, I think. Our age of everyone's special and can do anything they want, god forbid we talk of talent. Buy me a beer, I'll ramble to ya.

2.) Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor's wonderful book on raising peacocks and on writing. Quote of the month comes from her, "Many a bestseller could have been prevented by a good teacher." She says, and remember this is a fairlly old book, that our youth are raised with an undying love for the slick and adolescent in literature. I skipped the five or so chapters that related religion to literature -- I gave up religious fanaticism long ago.

3.) Snow by Maxence Fermine -- short and sweet. Or is that sweet and short, kicking in at about 12,000 words, easily read over a coffee, and it provides the sacchrin. But when it's good it's good. A young poet hooked on haiku and on snow. I like the succinctness of the work. Evidently it sold a good 40,000 copies in France (this is translated).

4.) Just began A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole's posthumous legacy. Wow, and wow again, after slogging through endless crap this book is a true knockout. I'm actually surprised Garbage Head wasn't compared to it, but then they never read ACofD did they. Toole attended Columbia and then taught at Hunter -- I think I taught there later than he did though.

Needless to day the holidays did nothing to reduce the piles of unread books, oh well, when James Dickey died he was surrounded by 18,000 books in his house.