I’ve reached the end of the year, and I’ve been so shamefully bad about blogging for the past several months that, as a punishment to myself (not to you!), I will not be doing the usual year-end round of bibliographing charts. Perhaps they will be a birthday present to myself in a couple months.
For now, instead, I will devote the end of the year to two things: a list (as part of the same punishment), and several posts on some of the best things I’ve been reading recently: the works of Jane Gardam.
Today, the list. These are, subjectively and somewhat arbitrarily, the 10 best things I read this year, in no particular order.
The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño. Several years late reading this one, but it was well worth it (and thanks to Richard for another excellent readalong experience). Roberto Bolaño, where have you been all my life? Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Before reading Fellow-Townsmen, a pleasant little novella, earlier this year, my only previous experience with Hardy had been Tess of the d’Urbervilles, mere mention of which is still enough to raise my blood pressure over a decade after reading it. But Far from the Madding Crowd gave me the heart to give Hardy another go, which he seems to mostly deserve. Adam Bede by George Eliot. Middlemarch may be the “better” book, but again, Adam Bede was a heart-opener of sorts. In this case I had had fond memories of Eliot’s masterwork, but beginning with her first novel helped pave the way for a deeper understanding of Middlemarch when I re-read it a few weeks later. And it’s an excellent story in its own right. What Happened to Sophie Wilder by Christopher Beha. Someone said not long ago on Twitter
Continue reading Two lists, before 2012 can go unjudged
Earlier this week, BookRiot posted my first official contribution to their site, an examination of What Happened to Sophie Wilder and its relation to Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. Please check it out if you haven’t and let me know what you think! There will be more to come every couple weeks—and on my quest to pair classics with contemporary literature, I’ll surely need some really excellent contemporary literature recommendations.
Don’t worry, bibliographing will not suffer. At least not more than it already has! I’ve got some good stuff coming your way now that I’ve broken out of Pastors and Masters a bit, and I’m still looking to do an Ivy Compton-Burnett group read at some point in the next few months.
I just wanted to give a quick thank you to anyone who voted for me in BookRiot‘s START HERE write-in contest. Thanks to you, Melville will be assured an entry in the book they’re developing!
If, that is, they manage to raise the rest of the funding to produce it. There are only five days left to reach the Kickstarter target and fully fund the project. If you like the the project, do consider helping to make it happen—because if you don’t, it might not. The prizes are pretty cool, too.
Thanks again to all who voted. If my post impressed that many people, I’m hoping it might also help someone get started loving Melville!
This is a post I’ve put off writing for weeks, because I haven’t been able to organize my thoughts or do the research I would like to do. On top of that, I’ve been thwarted by lost files twice just tonight! But I will persevere with my “bleg,” because it’s the only way I think I can get this thing off the ground—with help from my very wise and well-read readers.
Oldtimers may recall that the second-ever bibliographing project was on maritime literature, which is still a great interest to me. And a lot of maritime literature concerns work—as Tom discusses in his post on Kipling’s Captains Courageous (which I must now read), “Harvey overcomes his petulance and joins the crew, where he does honest work, acquires practical skills (knots, for example), overcomes his class prejudices, and learns to appreciate useful work.” It makes sense, after all: a novel set on shipboard, with most of the characters as crewmembers, is bound to involve work, since that is, in fact, what they’re doing all the time—salting fish, furling sails, “the ordinary life of cod fisherman off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.”
Meanwhile, I have found work to be one of the more profoundly unsatisfying aspects of most contemporary fiction I read. Here is where I am frustrated with myself and hesitant to go forward: I don’t want to be trying to prove out a hypothesis, but exploring the fiction of work. But I do have a hypothesis, and I’ll come clean. I suspect, on very little evidence of course (since the project has not really started!), that the professionalization of writing (especially of novel-writing) has diluted the presence of work in fiction, and what’s more, has denuded it of its variety. To some extent, this is a variant on the
Continue reading A call: help me with the beginnings of a new project!
I’ll keep this short and sweet, if disappointing (at least for me). I’m going to be putting bibliographing on hiatus indefinitely. I hope to be back before too long, and that in the meantime I will at least be more of a presence on the blogs of all my wonderful readers. And don’t be too surprised if you see a post here or there—I’m not exactly the best at sticking to any kind of resolution, especially not difficult ones.
And now, I’m off to read Mardi. To Ravavai!
You’ve got to give the people what they want, at least once in a while, and today that means giving you charts!
The first chart today is one of the most shocking, I think. Compare to last year—the scale is different, but in 2011 I read much more from the second half of the nineteenth century, more from the twentieth century overall, and what seems almost like a record amount from this century (though I suppose it’s not).
On to country of origin. The US and UK have flip-flopped since last year, and my tail is two countries shorter. Where last year I had just one or two books from most of that long tail, though, this year gets a little bit deeper for a few of them at least. Do I wish some of the non-Anglo totals were higher? I do, but I wouldn’t give up many of those US or UK titles to make it so. I just want more.
Author gender was another real shocker for me this year. Last year I speculated on whether the Laura Ingalls Wilder books would finally tip the scales further toward women (if not actually in their favor). The opposite seems to have happened—the men got a greater share than ever, with 62 out of 85 books (one title was an anthology with authors of both genders).
Again, it’s not something I worry about (although I do look forward to following Michelle’s new life as a flashlight and have gotten some [hopefully] good female-author suggestions from my readers this year), but I am surprised that I’ve actually become more skewed than I already was.
I’ve got one chart this year that I haven’t done before, with my reading broken down into literary “forms.”
Continue reading Year-end charts: a bibliographing tradition
This morning’s post on May Day made nine novellas I have written about thus far, putting me at “passionate” in Melville House’s challenge schema. Honestly, nine seems so paltry! I’ll be a little disappointed if I don’t end up at “unstoppable.” Here’s a rundown of what I’ve posted on so far:
The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain The Lifted Veil by George Eliot The Dialogue of the Dogs by Miguel de Cervantes Freya of the Seven Isles by Joseph Conrad and The Beach of Falesá by Robert Louis Stevenson The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett Stempenyu: A Jewish Romance by Sholem Aleichem May Day by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’m preparing this post in advance, so I suppose I run some risk of missing a late entry to the Unstructured Clarel Readalong, but let’s be real…
It’s the end of September, and that means it’s time for a wrap-up post for the Unstructured Clarel Readalong!
My first contribution was an overview of the poem and its geography. I followed up with an argument for the beauty in Clarel I discussed some of Melville’s motifs and how closely he ties the desert to the sea Amateur Reader jumped in with a post on how to read the darn thing, and its sea imagery I claimed Mortmain for my own, though it proved a tougher choice when I thought about it AR tackled the wonderfully wild and the characters who Go Too Far I finished off on a lighter note about Clarel‘s connection to Hawthorne And AR wrapped up with connections of his own, to William Carlos Williams and Thomas Carlyle, and difficult books in general
A readalong for two, but an excellent one, and I thank all my readers for their interest and support. I promise more such insanity in future.
I expect blogging to be somewhat light for the next several weeks. Now that I’ve finished wrestling with Melville—for now, for now—and am reading at whim I won’t have quite as much to say. Plus, I’ll be busy with a few other things. For one, I’ll be getting ready, both at home and at work, for another vacation, this one with wider appeal than the last: I’m going to Yellowstone! (I’m super excited about this; the East Coaster in me gets super excited about seeing the West.) Also unlike last time, I think I’ll be taking a “blogcation” (ugh, what a horrid word) during the trip itself, so it will be especially quiet around here for a week or so. Oh, and I’m already having book-packing stress. Will I even want/have time to read? At night, right? Anyway.
So far in my reading at whim I’ve gone through two not just contemporary but actually brand-new novels, and I have one more on the way to me shortly (Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Aurorarama). But now I have turned back to the classics and to my first work by Sir Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor. Pretty sure Amateur Reader recommended that to me as a good starting point a while back and that’s how it ended up in my house. How much do you love the Scotch maiden complete with tartan shawl on the cover of the latest Oxford World’s Classics edition?
I haven’t actually told Frances yet, and I’m still afraid to commit, but I think I’m going to join her Madame Bovary readalong in October. Largely because I have never read Flaubert. (I said that loudly instead of whispering, even though I wanted to, because the first step in reading dehumiliation is admitting you have a
Continue reading Miscellany
Although there are a couple things I really meant to read that I didn’t, I’ve decided it’s time to call an end to the epistolary literature project. After nearly eleven months, I’ve done what I’m going to do, for a while at least. I think it was mostly a good run:
I started in Ancient Greece with the lovely epistolary poems of Ovid and Alciphron’s letters of fishermen, farmers, parasites, and courtesans. I tackled the necessary Pamela, but didn’t think much of her. No indeed, but important to my project nonetheless. I took a break from the 18th century with some real love letters, then enjoyed a parody of Pamela. I discovered a lesser-known work from North America, cute and romantic. Also historically interesting and full of good travel writing and a very sweet hero. Then I found a new favorite in Humphry Clinker, especially in the person of Matthew Bramble—even with his spleen. Smollett also gave me another excuse to knock Pamela and some great food writing. Another Scottish writer provided me with another delightful epistolary novel, a relative of the first. I determined that the middling Evelina is not a great example of the form. But I have a lot of fun with middling Jane Austen. I happen upon a later example of the form in Dostoevsky’s Poor Folk. And I finally get around to reading Werther and his letters.
As with all projects, I’m finishing with a longer list than I began with. Also typically, I’m ready to do other things for a while.