Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday reading this 'n that

I've been spending most of this weekend taking care of household chores and, in the off time, reading, making notes, organizing my writing and other work for the weeks to come, which means I haven't the brain power left to offer up part two of my thoughts on recent writing about MFA programs. That'll come soon; in the meantime a bit of this and a bit of that.

For almost two weeks now I've been reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. If I get in another couple hours today I should hit the halfway mark, which means I'm more or less on schedule to finish it by the end of the month. I'm in no hurry, not itching to get to the end. This is one of those magnificent reads that you enter and live inside as if in a waking dream and so the feeling is as of life, that it just naturally proceeds. I'll put off any substantive comment until I've finished, and even then I don't know that I'll have anything original to add to the 140 years of commentary already in place. One thing I do want to note at this point is that as I read I feel more and more my ignorance about French history, especially the French Revolution but also the events of 1830, the revolution of 1848, and even the Paris Commune. I read about much of this many years ago but clearly it's time for a refresher. So last night when I put down the book for the evening I went to our shelves and pulled out The Civil War in France by Karl Marx. Of course I didn't stop there. Once I was in front of the Marxist books section one thing led to another and soon I'd also pulled these others, which I'd also like to read/reread in the coming period: Anti-Duhring by Frederick Engels, The Poverty of Philosophy by Marx, and Literature and Revolution by Leon Trotsky.

Not exactly light reading? Who cares? I hunger for so much from books, have so much to learn, to encounter, be challenged by, and so little time to waste. Which is why I've been bulking up my fiction pile in preparation for my July vacation. I need something meaty to chew on, preferably stories that take me to new places or introduce me to new outlooks or, best of all, shake me up and leave me changed in some small hard to articulate but lasting way. It's got to be a good read too. As I've reported before, I give up on more books than I finish, more and more in fact as the years proceed, because yes, style matters as well as content and no, I don't want to force myself through if the words themselves aren't pulling me along. This is why I get so crazy desperate to make sure I've got enough books on hand as time off approaches. There's no way to know which I'll actually sink into. So. Over the past couple weeks I finally finished using the bookstore gift certificate I'd received back in December -- this is an amazing record for me, stretching it out for half a year -- and picked up the final few books to add to the selection from which I'll make my vacation picks. Here's what I got: Like Trees Walking by Ravi Howard. Fugue by Olive Moore (actually, this one I found in a cheap used copy at the Strand; I think it's out of print). Ghosts by Cesar Aira. Into the Beautiful North by Luis Albert Urrea. OK. I can breathe. I think I've got a tall enough pile. Anyway, there's nothing to fear. With the luxury of free weekdays in the neighborhood, I'll always have the option of strolling to our local Queens branch library and grabbing what goodies are on hand there.