Friday, December 25, 2009

Where we are, and where we are going.

I just moved, and my copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is still packed in a box. Since I'm sitting here with Marissa (yay!) I decided to borrow her copy and post a list of the first 20 or so books that we will be reading. So that we can refer back to it. (And so I can stop texting Marissa at random times to ask what books are next on the list.)

Where we are - the first 10 books:
1. Aaron's Rod by D.H. Lawrence
2. The Abbot C by Georges Bataille
3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
4. The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth
5. Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
6. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
7. Adam Bede by George Eliot
8. Adjunct: An Undigest by Peter Manson
9. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
10. The Adventures of Caleb Williams by William Godwin

Where we are going - the next 10 books:
11. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
12. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
13. Aesop's Fables by Aesopus
14. After the Death of Don Juan by Sylvia Townsend Warner
15. After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
16. The Afternoon of a Writer by Peter Handke
17. Against the Grain by Joris-Karl Huysmans
18. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
19. Agnes Gray by Anne Bronte
20. Aithiopika by Heliodorus

I'm pretty excited about some of the books that we have coming up. There are some classics that I've never read, and some that are really, really old!

Also, Marissa got Mike and me the most awesome Christmas present this year - a Kindle! I can't wait to start using it. It seems like a great way to read some of these books - I love how portable it is.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wait, what?

I just finished L'Abbe C.

I'm confused.

So here's what I gathered: Charles was sleeping with Eponine, but Eponine wanted to get with Charles' twin brother Robert who was a priest, and Robert didn't want to, but he secretly did. Then somebody pooped outside Eponine's window, and Robert was faking sick in the rectory, and they thought the butcher was going to kill Charles. Then Robert decided he'd have two whores at once, neither of which was Eponine, then he got arrested by the Gestapo and died, and Eponine did too.

Toward the end of the book, Charles makes the following statement that is basically how I feel about the book. From page 152: "All of this depresses me."

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 version) summarizes all of the books, and the summary for L'Abbe C is quite interesting and good. Treachery!

Monsieur Bataille: Je suis désolé, je croyais que votre livre a été la merde.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goddamn it.

Emily texted me yesterday to ask what book came after Adam Bede. I was at work and didn't have 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die at hand, so I thought, "Hey, the internet!" and went poking around. Turns out there is a website for the 1001 series. Great, right? It even has the list right on there!


The list is there, to be sure, but it has been updated. No Aaron's Rod, no L'Abbe C, no The Absentee, et cetera. Basically, nothing that we've read so far! D'oh! I propose we keep going with the list we started with (by gum, it took me forever to read Aaron's Rod and I want credit for it!). So we're working from the list put out in 2006. Why, oh why does such a long list need to be updated almost four years later? Ridiculous.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Incest. I just can’t get behind it.

I just finished Ada by Vladimir Nabokov.  Perhaps I am a bit of a Puritan in my reading preferences.  So although the author really attempts to present Ada and Van as sympathetic characters, for me the author’s efforts were in vain.  I just can’t get behind incest.  (That sounds like a really off the wall bumper sticker.)

I appreciated how richly the characters were drawn.  In fact, that’s one of the things I liked best about the book.  However, the intensity of the characters didn’t mean I liked them a whole lot.  I found Van too navel gazing and slimy, especially how he goes after women, and Ada is way too uptight.

Here comes the embarrassing part where I admit what I didn’t understand.  I didn’t get the whole Terra/Antiterra business.  I don’t understand where the novel took place.  And those 20ish pages toward the end reflecting on time (or Time, as the author calls it)?  Yeah, I really just skimmed those pages.  (Hey, if you’re going to write a 589 page novel and stick in that many pages of stuff that totally doesn't advance the plot at the very end, don’t expect me to read them in detail!  I have 1001 books to get through!)

This all seems kind of negative, but I am glad I read it. The first part of the book that takes place at Ardis is beautifully written.  (I almost wish he had stopped there.)  The alliteration throughout the book is cool too.  It’s definitely an interesting book and I certainly wouldn’t have found or read it on my own without the 1001 books list!

Next up:  Marissa has Adam Bede which I will try to get through when I visit next week (yay!) and I’m about to try to hunt down Adjunct: An Undigest.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aaron Sisson is kind of a jerk.

So I finally finished Aaron's Rod, and wow, what a jerk! Seriously. Grow up. You have responsibilities, so put on your big girl panties and deal. He is so self-absorbed. From page 178 in my copy (Chapter 14): "He knew well enough that the thought of any loving, any sort of real coming together between himself and anybody or anything, was just objectionable to him. No-- he was not moving towards anything: he was moving almost violently away from everything. And that was what he wanted." Well, maybe you should've thought of that before you got married and had two little girls and a house. I know people need to find themselves. I am working on that right now, being comfortable with myself and being the authentic me (which is partially visible but not totally because I think some of my authentic self is weird). But I think Aaron went about it in the totally wrong way and hurt a lot of people in the process. For example, the scene when he goes back to Lottie and she is pretty much distraught? Not cool!

This book reminds me a LOT of W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge except the main character in that story goes in search of meaning before he's really tied down. He does hurt some people along the way, but not like Aaron. I don't know if Maugham's book is on the list, but it's a great read!

It's interesting that Aaron's whole self is based on his flute, referred to as a rod. This is a not-so-subtle phallic symbol that Aaron is controlled by his own desire, sexual or otherwise. Interesting to note that once his rod is broken (ouchies), he really comes to understand that aloneness and singularity are what he wants. Broken rod, wants to be alone. Broken rod, has to be alone because he's lost his sense of self/masculinity? Hmm. Something to ponder.

I liked Aaron's Rod even if I didn't like Aaron. I really think Aaron could've figured out his issues beforehand. This book is a bildungsroman with a late start. I think most coming of age stories (bildungsromans) start when the main character is younger, but I suppose the War gives Aaron a perspective that he didn't have before. I think he's a jerk, but I do tip my hat to the fact that he won't compromise his true self. At the end, page 295 in my copy, Chapter 21, Aaron's pal Lilly says, "You can only stick to your own very self, and never betray it." Words of wisdom that we should all try to live by.


Note: After this post I looked in the big book of books and Maugham's The Razor's Edge is on the list! And I forgot to check it off! So now with book 1 done, I've read 54. Yay!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Being an absentee landlord is BAD. (Also, romance! and incognito adventures!)

The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth really was quite fun and interesting, especially compared to the last few books.  And I didn’t think it would be – when I saw it was published in 1812 and was about Irish absentee landlords, I thought I was in for something really dry, old fashioned, and that I wouldn’t really relate to what was going on. 

Surprise!  I really liked this book.  The author was able to get her points across while weaving the ideas into a really interesting story (that does indeed have romance and incognito adventures, always fun to read about).  So not only did I learn something I had no idea about – I had no idea that absentee landownership even was a big problem in Ireland at the time – I also got to read a great story.  I’m looking forward to reading Castle Rackrent, Edgeworth’s much more well-known book, when we reach the C’s. 

Now…I go back to Nabokov’s Ada.  I’m about 200 pages in.  

Friday, November 20, 2009

Maybe I was supposed to read every OTHER word.

L’Abbe C has such a cool title!  Unfortunately, once I got past the title, I didn’t really get much else about what was going on in this book.  It’s super short, thankfully.  The characters are obsessed with sex and death.  I KNOW I’m missing something in this book.  It’s like I didn’t get the key or something. I hope that Mike or Marissa reads it and comes along and explains it to me.

Sometimes I think I’m not smart enough to be reading these.  I’m obviously struggling through some of them.

Here’s a recipe for Apple Cake.

5-6 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces

1 c walnuts

1.5 cups sugar

4 t cinnamon

4 t baking powder

2 t vanilla

2 c flour

1 c oil

4 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together all ingredients other than apples and walnuts in large bowl.  Fold in apples and walnuts.  Pour into glass Pyrex-type baking pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  (Optional: you can mix some sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it on top).

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am not a hipster.

Apparently Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes is this hipster odyssey through London in the late 1950s.  Unfortunately, I just Didn’t Get It.  It’s a breezy read, especially just having read a William Faulkner book where you have to concentrate on every word.  But, I’ve missed something, or its coolness is completely lost on me.  Maybe I don’t know enough about England at that time and what was going on…but I didn’t enjoy this book very much at all.  I didn’t like the characters very much and I didn’t feel I could relate to them or what was going on.  And, although I’ve visited London, I don’t know the city well enough to picture where the characters were or what they were doing. 


Also, on an embarrassingly superficial note, the copy of the book I borrowed from the library smells very musty.  It is a few feet away from me on the dining room table now and I can SMELL it.  I don’t think this one gets into circulation too much.


Next up for me…Marissa has The Abbot C in Connecticut so I will get started with that.  She also has borrowed Ada for me to read during my visit.  It’s something like 589 pages!  (I requested The Absentee via interlibrary loan, but it won’t be in for a while yet.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

William Faulkner...

writes in these really, really long sentences where you start in one place and end in another, so that even great readers (like Marissa, or like my grandmother, who kept a list of every book she’d ever read for what must have been her whole life - a really long list) have to have trouble sometimes following what is going on, especially at the beginning, but then, as the reader keeps reading, it turns out that you get used to the way the sentences are structured, so that as you get further into the book it gets easier and it’s like talking with an old, very verbose friend.


AWESOME book.  

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am Sisphyus.

I am Sisphyus and Aaron's Rod is my boulder. Unlike Sisphyus, I will get to the top without my boulder crushing me. In more positive news, L'Abbe C came through interlibrary loan yesterday. I love interlibrary loan!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm plugging along with Aaron.

D.H. Lawrence is watching me. He's saying, "Get with it already!"

Well, I am working on it, Mr. Lawrence. I'm enjoying the bit that I've read so far. I'm not very far, admittedly-- I keep reading before bed and then falling asleep mid-sentence. As for book #2, The Abbot C by Georges Bataille, I did a little detective work. The Connecticut state-wide library catalog indicated that only one library had a copy. I IMd a reference librarian there to see if the book was in English as it was first published in French in 1950. Alas, their copy was in French, but she did a more comprehensive search and found some libraries in Connecticut that had the translation. It was an awesome online reference transaction and I requested the book through interlibrary loan. (My library schooling is showing-- "online reference transaction.") I'll lend it to Emily since it's tricky to track down.

While I'm enjoying these European writers, I look forward to book #3, William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!. Its original publication date is 1936 and it takes place here in the States. My senior year, my English teacher recommended Absalom, Absalom! to me but I never got around to it. Well, William Faulkner, here I come!


More About Aaron's Rod

I finished the book today!  Aaron really doesn’t like women very much, huh?  Not only did he leave his wife and little girls to go off on his adventures, he and his companions spend an inordinate amount of time discussing our ulterior motives.  Apparently, it’s our main goal in life to get men to subject themselves to us.  Who knew?

The kind of open-ended ending was pretty cool.  I was wondering how Lawrence would wrap it up.  

Next up for me: Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner.  (The Abbot C is book #2, but not available at my library, so I’ll come back to that one soon.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hello. And Aaron's Rod.

Hello.  I am SO excited to start this project!  It is going to be a big undertaking, but I think we are up to the task!  There are so many books that I have always wanted to read, and this is going to be a great way to knock off some of the very best ones.  I can't wait.

I do feel very underqualified to talk about such great works of literature (and also to contribute to this blog created by my English-major, librarian sister).  These books have been discussed by minds much much greater than mine.  So I'm absolutely not going to be adding to the scholarship on this literature.  I don't have anything to add that someone much smarter hasn't already thought of and said!

What I can offer, though, is armchair thoughts on the books from someone who 1) hasn't read a whole lot of great books and 2) doesn't have a lot of time!

So.  I'm about 2/3 of the way done with Aaron's Rod now.  As I read, I have been asking myself whether the book is worth reading and am I glad that I am reading it.  So far Aaron's Rod is absolutely worth reading.  I think this is the first D.H. Lawrence book I have ever read and it's really good so far.  I like that his characters don't really take themselves too seriously.  When I read in the introduction (by a D.H. Lawrence scholar) that the book was about Europe's reaction to World War I, I thought to myself, "Oh no, this is going to be very sad, drawn-out, and boring."  But so far it really isn't at all.  I see how the characters are exploring what it means to live in postwar Europe.  Thankfully, they are doing so in an entertaining way.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Book 1: Aaron's Rod by D.H. Lawrence

Emily got her copy of Lawrence's Aaron's Rod yesterday and mine came in through interlibrary loan today, so we are off! Mike is going to try and read the 1001 books and he'll probably read the copies Emily gets. So far, Em is slogging through the introduction and I'm itching to open my copy.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The 1001 Books Project

The goal: Read one thousand one books before we die.
The rule book: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, published in 2006 by Universe and edited by Peter Boxall.
The players: Emily, Michael, and Marissa
The method: We're going to read through the list alphabetically starting with Aaron's Rod by D.H. Lawrence.

More info soon!