Saturday, October 13, 2007

Current and Ongoing Reading

Today I finished reading Sons and Lovers for the Outmoded Authors Challenge (post to follow) and haven’t started another book yet. I thought I’d take stock and see which books have been hanging around, lurking in different piles waiting to be read.

The Current Reading section on the left shows that I’m reading:

1. Lewis Carroll by Morton Cohen. This is a long and detailed biography and I read some each morning, so it’s taking me quite a while to finish. I’m just over half way into the book.

2. Remainder by Tom McCarthy - a novel about a man who is suffering from amnesia and trying to re-discover his identity. I started this in August and at first I was enjoying it. But then I found it hard going, as it seemed to be going over and over the same ground. Whilst this does reflect the state of mind of the main character as he tries to regain his memory it became tedious. It’s a disturbing book, strangely unreal. On the back cover the book is described as a “darkly comic meditation”. Well, it’s dark but I don’t think it’s funny. I’ve only got about 90 pages left to read, so I suppose I’ll pick it up again sometime. I don’t think it will matter if I can’t quite remember what happened in the first 196 pages, as it’ll probably be repeated before the end.

3. Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve read quite a number of these and will carry on until the 31 October at least – that’s when the R.I.P.II Challenge finishes.

My Ongoing Reading lists three books but really the only one I’m still dipping into is Body Parts by Hermione Lee. I came to a full stop with Thomas Hardy: the Time-Torn Man by Claire Tomalin and Michael Palin’s Diaries of the Monty Python Years some time ago. I still intend to read the latter two books, but they have been pushed to the sidelines. I may go back to one of these now.

Body Parts: Essays on Life-Writing is a very interesting to book to read, especially in conjunction with reading biographies and memoirs. It’s about the relationship of biography to fiction and history and also about the writing of biography. When you think about it it’s obvious that because biographers are trying to reconstruct a person’s life from different sources – letters, diaries, other people’s accounts etc – that the end result although it may seem as if it is factual, is an interpretation and quasi-fictional. So much has to be assumed. As Hermione Lee writes "Biography is a process of making up or making over." I bear this in mind as I’m reading Cohen’s biography of Lewis Carroll. There is so much in it that Cohen has read between the lines, without any real solid evidence to support it. Cohen asks questions when it isn’t known what Dodgson’s feelings and opinions were and although he writes that these are “almost unanswerable questions” he does speculate and suggests answers, prefaced with “perhaps” and questions such as “what if …?”

Body Parts includes essays on Shelley’s Heart and Pepys’s Lobsters; Virginia Woolf’s Nose; Reading in Bed; and Jane Austen Faints. I’ll go into more details in another post or two (or more). It’s good stuff.

The computer room/office/little bedroom is in dire need of a good sort out, so I’m going to have to leave the more interesting topic of what book to read next until another time. I’m tempted by One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (short listed for the Booker Prize), or Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke.

6 comments:

Nan - said...

Wow, I guess the world is passing me by. I can't imagine that Lawrence is now considered "outmoded." I thought he was considered one of the literary world's treasures, like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Austen. I wonder when he fell out of popular favor.

BooksPlease said...

Yes, I was surprised Nan that Lawrence was in this category - but pleased too. I've had my copy of Sons and Lovers sitting on my bookshelves for far too long unread. It's an amazing read and I really enjoyed it even though I found it quite harrowing in parts, the death of Mrs Morel in particular.

Dorothy W. said...

I've been wanting to read Body Parts for a while -- your description of it makes it sound SO intriguing.

Stephanie said...

I tried reading Poe for the Short Story Sundays at the RIP challenge, but had a horrible time getting into them. Maybe I'll leave them for another day. So I picked up Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman!! I was hooked by the first page!

danielle said...

I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought of the Lawrence book. I started The Rainbow, but I have a couple obligation reads I really need to finish, so everything else is being pushed to the side at the moment. I found a used book by Mollie Panter Downes that I'd like to read as well. Like so many other books....it'll have to wait....

danielle said...

I'm looking forward to hearing what you thought of the Lawrence book. I started The Rainbow, but I have a couple obligation reads I really need to finish, so everything else is being pushed to the side at the moment. I found a used book by Mollie Panter Downes that I'd like to read as well. Like so many other books....it'll have to wait....