Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Best Playlist

Ok, these are the books that I'm going to read next. They are easily divided between "Books I am Reading Now" and "Books I Need to Finish." Let us walk through the stack.

ReJoyce by Anthony Burgess

Did you know that Anthony Burgess, famous for writing the Clockwork Orange, was a serious Joyce enthusiast? It's true, he was. I got this book for Christmas and it's receiving the majority of my reading attention right now because it isn't too long (under 300 pages), it isn't too hard going, and I'm always interested in reading opinions on Joyce. This isn't so much a biography or criticism as a really fleshed-out set of Cliff Notes, Burgess spends most of the book walking through all of Joyce's works, pointing things out and putting his two cents in here and there. Right now I'm halfway through the Ulysses section, I've got a pretty good grip on that book so reading this part is like getting a nice pat on the back but I look forward to the Finnegans Wake part of the book because that's when I'll truly be experiencing the "critic as storyteller" experience. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if theres a purpose that Finnegans Wake readily serves for its first time readers it's to teach them that Ulysses is a perfectly accessible and open book.

Snow White by Donald Barthelme

I liked his short stories, so why not try a longer (but still short) story? I bought this used when I was in Philadelphia earlier this year and read probably two pages of it before being distracted by who knows what. I came across it recently and decided to give it a real shot...I'm looking forward to a nice little post-modern slugging in the gut to spark up my mind a bit and get my own desires-to-write stirred up.

Jesus the Christ by James E Talmage

You know, I would have read this book a long time ago if someone had told me that Talmage writes like a prince (just like I would have seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid much earlier than I eventually did if my Dad had just told me it was funny). I took my first serious look at it this summer when preparing a Sunday School lesson and found it thrilling, so I've been chipping away at it here and there, mostly on Sundays. Some Sundays I read 5 pages, other Sundays I read 80 pages. I'm in no rush, but I'll finish this book.

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon

This has been my number one enemy since November. I got this book last Christmas and it just sat on my bookshelf since then, staring at me, making me feel guilty. Then, at the beginning of fall, I decided I needed to finish all the books I got for Christmas '06 before asking for any more this year. I finished off the others and started with this beast. The main problem with this book--aside from its being over 1000 pages of small print--is that I don't think completing it will be terribly rewarding...I mean, I don't think there will be a lot more to get out of it besides being able to say "Yeah, I read Pynchon's new book." It definitely has moments, but it is not V. and it is not the Crying of Lot 49. Who knows, maybe I'll have a different opinion when I'm finished with it, but right now I'm just trying to enjoy the language of the book and keep track of all the characters. It's hard to be on page 300 of a book and realize you've still got 700+ pages to go.

Now we're getting to the part of the stack made up of books I started a long time ago:

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Andrew used to talk and talk and talk about this book so I bought it back in 2005 and spent about a week on it before I got a little bildungsroman-ed out by it. Unable to forget the praise poured onto it by my old chum, I know that I must return to it and finish it.

Don Quixote by Cervantes

Remember in 2006 when Don Quixote madness was sweeping the nation? And by sweeping, I mean that this new translation had come out and both my Dad and Andrew were reading it? And, technically, since my Dad read it in Chicago and Andrew read it in Utah, more or less sort of kind of that's a coast-to-coast spread of readers, if you ignore the coasts. Anyway, who hasn't been curious about Don Quixote all their life? So I got a copy and was working on it for a while and really enjoying myself, but here's the thing: It's just very hard to stay committed to long books. That's all there is to it. But I must be a man and get back to this book and finish it because it is a classic and my soul will be enriched by conquering it, and I don't even care if the book isn't as in style as it was two years ago.

Death and the Idea of Mexico by Claudio Lomnitz

I got this one for Christmas 2005. Here's a bit of the book's official description:

Death and the Idea of Mexico is the first social, cultural, and political history of death in a nation that has made death its tutelary sign. Examining the history of death and of the death sign from sixteenth-century holocaust to contemporary Mexican-American identity politics, anthropologist Claudio Lomnitz's innovative study marks a turning point in understanding Mexico's rich and unique use of death imagery. Unlike contemporary Europeans and Americans, whose denial of death permeates their cultures, the Mexican people display and cultivate a jovial familiarity with death. This intimacy with death has become the cornerstone of Mexico's national identity.

I shouldn't have to explain my interest in this one, right? I actually think I made it pretty far into this scholarly text, I think I backed off once I was feeling a little like "Ok, I get it. Death has always been a big deal in Mexico." But if I was able to finish all my Christmas '07 books (just about), shouldn't I finish all my '05 ones, too?

Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson

Ok, I'll confess. This afternoon I got a little crazy grabbing all the books I hadn't finished that I wanted to finish and I grabbed this one. It's nice to spend time with the good doctor from time to time and I choose this to be the Hunter S Thomspon book that I spend time with from time to time for the time being (sorry Great Shark Hunt). My decision was mostly inspired by the fact that Thompson tackles (ha!) the Bears' 1986 Superbowl Victory in one of the articles/essays/what do I call these things, pieces? Chapters?

Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham.

My Dad loved it, Sariah loved it, so I bought it at the end of the Summer of '04 to read during Early Interview Week. Early Interview Week ended, and so did my time with this book. I think it was another case of not being in the mood for a coming-of-age tale (I say that so you don't get sick of me using a certain four-syllable German word)

The Big Teddy Roosevelt Biography I Bought This Summer by the Guy Who Wrote It

Inspired equally by curiosity put into my by Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation and A Night at the Museum, I picked this one up very cheap at the Strand. I actually put a fair amount of time into it, getting about 300 pages into it before burning out a bit. I don't think I ever officially stopped reading it, I just started reading other things, too. However, I hadn't been reading it too long before I realized that maybe I should have just read Mr. Roosevelt's wikipedia entry first and then deciding if I needed to read a whole thorough biography on him or if my internet learning would be enough. Basically I just want to read quips and anecdotes, not much more than that. Oh well, maybe this time next year I'll be filled to the brim with Roosevelt-knowledge.

Ok guys. Unless I come across something really exciting (and short), these are the next 10 books I'm reading. Also, at any moment I might get distracted and decide that it's time to finally re-read some Kierkegaard or get serious about reading Ulysses again. Those are bookurges I'm always fighting.


JayMoo and Stephoin said...

If you like Death and the Idea of Mexico, would you lend it to me when you are done?

Brig said...

I liked what I read of it in early 06 and considering how deep it is on my stack, I could lend it to you now. Just don't spoil the ending! (I have a hunch that everyone dies)

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

Sweet, as soon as I'm done with The Long Tail I shall come a calling.

Anonymous said...

this and the root beer post were great. more thoughts and less food pics.