Books 2/10/06

I’ve been in a weird non-reading mood lately, where I want to read but don’t, at the same time. (Don’t want to and just plain don’t read.) So reading has been happening, it’s just taking a while. I’d read two books that I hadn’t posted about, and then went to the library yesterday and got through another two, so I should catch up.

I’ve already posted my thoughts about The Royal Tenenbaums, so I’ll just say that I reread it. It was good.

I picked The Castle of Otronto by Horace Walpole of my bookshelf because I hadn’t read it in years and couldn’t decide whether to keep it or throw it on the ever growing pile of books that will be donated to the library. I read it originally for a Gothic Literature class in college, which was fitting as it was the first Gothic novel to be written. It’s good and creepy, with all the requisite dark corridors, unexplained manifestations, young noble ladies in peril, and protective monks. The only frustrating thing is how its formatted- there are no paragraphs or quotation marks, which makes for somewhat of a headache of a read. But nevertheless, it’s enjoyable and holds up even after more than 240 years.

The House of Paper by Carlos Maria Dominguez was a library pick up, and it was short enough to read on the bus ride home. For such a little book, it sure packed a ton of ideas. The story begins with a professor who is hit by a car as she crosses the street while reading a book of poems by Emily Dickenson. Her successor recieves a package for her shortly thereafter, which contains a volume of Conrad, encrusted in cement and inscribed by the dead professor. He decides to investigate, and discovers that the sender was a bibliophile that the professor met at a conference. He also learns that he (the bibliophile) may have gone crazy in his pursuit of the prefect collection of books, and that when tragedy struck (in the form of a fire that wiped out the vast index by which he catalogued his thousands of books), he may have taken some drastic and unbelievable actions.

The story is straightforward enough, but it brings up some great questions about reading and collecting books. Why do people keep books they know they’ll never read again? What is it that makes it so hard to get rid of books? What purpose do they serve, literally and symbolically? It really is a thought provoking book, and one that will be sticking in my mind for a long time to come.

I mentioned a short story by Aimee Bender not too many posts ago, and when I saw her latest short story collection, Willful Creatures, at the library, I had to get it. Bender’s stories are surreal and odd, but delightful and evocative. From a story about a man who buys a little man (size of a lizard, little) as a pet to a family of pumkinheads who have an iron headed baby, the stories definitly wander into Twillight Zone territory, but never in a way that is gimmicky. Instead they function as a kind of fairy tale set in the real world; never do you get the sense that you’ve left reality, just that strange things are afoot, and could be happening just around the corner. I think this collection is stronger than her last, and can’t wait to see what she comes up with in the future.

Current total: 12
Just Finished: Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
Next Up: Summer Crossing by Truman Capote

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