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.