This week hasn't been all doctor visits and days in bed! Okay, well, it sort of has, but somehow I've also managed to finish a load of books and get halfway through two new ones. I didn't even a chance to add the books on William Carlos Williams and H.D. that I read before finishing them. They were for school, kind of, and I don't know anyone who wants to hear reviews of literary criticism, so I won't bother with that.
Some notes on books finished and reading:
- For the sake of honesty, I feel like I should note that I didn't actually finish Midnight's Children or An Unquiet Mind. I will finish the Rushdie another time -- I love him, but I think he's one of those authors for me that I can only read at wide-spaced intervals to appreciate, and apparently three of his books in seven months is not giving enough time in between -- but I am done with An Unquiet Mind. It's a self-described "memoir of madness" (I'll talk another time about the problematic semantics of using the word "madness" to describe mental illness), which means that it is exactly like the other dozen autobiographies of mental illness that I've read. Because Kay Jamison has a PhD in psychology and specializes in bipolar disorder, I had hoped that it would be more insightful, but it followed the exact same formula as all of the others: idyllic childhood full of promise or, more rarely, hellish family life and abuse; stirrings of problems in mid to late adolescence; descent into illness that might include drugs, promiscuity, very stupid life decisions, financial ruin, estrangement from friends and family, or refusal to work with doctors; eventual culmination in suicide attempts which, in turn, lead to realization that life is beautiful and worth living, something that inevitably occurs while struggling in the death-grip of the drugs (because they are always drugs for women); and a conclusion that involves fervent commitment to drugs and therapy and the promise that everything is going to be all right even if it's still tough right now. I didn't need to read the last section of the book to know that the ending would be just like this, except probably with a bit of preaching about how people who suffer from bipolar disorder are more creative and brilliant than mere mortals.
- So far I am really enjoying both The Tin Drum and Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, though I'm worried that I'm starting to stall on both of them.
- I will probably be reading The Fall of Berlin until Christmas or some other comparably distant point in the future. I'm not enjoying it: it's brutal and confusing, and I feel like I need to have a huge military map of East Germany and Russia just to be able to understand all of the movement of troops and the battles. But I'm not reading it for fun. It's research, and it's important, so I'll keep at it, even if I can only read about fifteen pages at a time before having to stop and try to figure out which Field Marshall is which, and why does Stalin like this guy so much anyway when he hates everyone else?
- The Art Spirit, Robert Henri -- My favourite uncle gave this to me after listening patiently to my ecstatic descriptions of The Dehumanization of Art by Ortega y Gasset. I want to read this one as soon as possible, since it is so rude to leave gifts languishing on shelves.
- Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami -- I got this book from a friend exactly a year ago. I gave her Lolita in return. She took my Nabokov with her to Europe and read it in cafes in Paris, but I still haven't read her Murakami. This must be remedied! (Though I did at least read Kafka on the Shore, so at least we got to have some conversation about his style.) She's in Israel now, and I need to read this book so I'll at least have something to write about in my next letter.
- The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon -- I haven't had this one for very long. I just really want to read it.
- The Adventures of Augie March, Saul Bellow -- This is a beautiful hardcover that I bought at a used book sale for a dollar. I predict that out of all these books, it is most likely to be the downfall of this challenge. It looks like a stab at the Great American Novel. And I am really not interested in the Great American Novel right now. Also, it's really long, and I can clearly foresee my reading-blocked mind floundering and stagnating once I hit the 300 page mark. But he won a Nobel, and I've been trying to read at least one book by all of the Nobel laureates. I should probably read Humbolt's Gift instead, since it also won the Pulitzer I think, but this is the one I have.
- Still Life, A. S. Byatt -- Out of all the books on this list, I've had this one on my shelf for the longest. I bought it just after I read Possession, which was, um, almost six years ago. I loved Possession, and I can't remember why I haven't read any of Byatt's other books. Also, I realize now that the main character is a Wordsworth scholar, which just thrills me. Wordsworth is one of my ex dead poet boyfriends. (These days he's been replaced by Rilke, but I still love him anyway.)