Books 12/8/03

I read yesterday a review of a book I should have written. The woman who wrote it decided to read a book a week and write about how they intersected with her life. I made the goal this year of reading 100 books, which works out to about 2 books a week, or 8ish books a month with an extra 4 to be fit in where ever there’s space. I thought about writing about them every now and then, but was usually looking to start the next book rather than “waste” time writing. Apparently I should have been writing.
I’d usually feel the compunction to write when I noticed an interesting thread between 2 seemingly disparate books- fascinating connections were created between the oddest combination of books, mainly due to booksfree.com. With this service you have a wishlist of books and they send you 6 at a time, but what they send you is determined by what they have in stock, not the order you put them on your list. So while you may have, in a frenzy of vampire obsession, listed all of the Anne Rice books as well as some vampire anthologies and some random horror titles for good measure all in a nice concise section of your list, what you end up receiving is a package with The Vampire Lestat cozied up to Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, Capote: A Biography, and The Man Who Was Thursday:A Nightmare, each of which were put on the list in their own genre appropriate frenzy.
What I noticed through this exercise in somewhat randomly generated reading was that the themes you’re aware of in books is highly dependent on what you read before them, especially if the books are read in quick succession. I hadn’t necessarily noticed it before because I tend to get into the aforementioned genre appropriate frenzies, and read say, everything that Dorothy Parker ever wrote, along with her numerous biographies. My reading of her work is then influenced by my reading of her biographies, but I just took that for granted. Even though the next books, all about Marion Davies, didn’t even mention D.P., they’re the same time period, so the information just logically flows together. But when the books are completely different genres/ time periods/ subject matter, you start to realize that perhaps if you had read Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man after say, Little Women instead of The Vampire Lestat, you would have noticed the themes of family and struggling for honesty in art rather than that all of us are vampires in our own ways, and that perhaps art is intrinsicly vampiric.
That specific example is hypothetical however, as I couldn’t force myself to actually finish Portrait, which at one point in my life I would have felt incredibly guilty about, and if being I’m completely honest with myself I still kinda do. I realize on a rational level that those feelings of guilt don’t make sense, because I wouldn’t feel guilty if I stopped hitting myself over the head with a brick even though people told me it was a worthwhile experience- and reading Portrait was pretty similar to said brick, but I still feel an obligation to at least attempt to appreciate the books everyone thinks are the product of genius. If I don’t love them then I feel like I missed out on something, some deep shared human experience. Yet when I do love a book that everyone else loves and has always loved, it’s not quite the same as finding my own book that I think is brilliant and that the whole world doesn’t know about and love. It’s like the truly popular kids in high school, the ones that everyone genuinely likes- when you meet them you have a moment of “Oh this is why everyone loves you, of course!” and you love them too. But the shy kids in the back that keep to themselves, when you get to know them and love them for all the qualities that aren’t known by the entire student body, theres a intimacy there that isn’t with the people everyone knows.

I’m currently reading Namedropper by Emma Forrest for the second time- after having just finished it. The experience of the second reading is really like that of watching a magician do an illusion over again- you’re watching to figure out what the trick is, but you end up getting so caught up in the magic of the rabbit that you forget to figure out how they got it in there, and then the illusion is over and you still don’t know. Emma Forrest’s writing is incredible, her sense of voice, her turn of phrase. I find myself passionately wishing that I could my writing could sound like hers, but the voice of the book is so uniquely the main character’s that the only way it would work is if it were a book about her. I try to pay attention to how the sentences and dialogue are crafted, but I’m too infatuated with the phrases to figure out why I love them. All the same, while I’m reading I’m completely aware of the fact that I’m reading. The sentences are so lovely that I can’t stop looking at them, and enjoying them for their perfectness on the page.
Nana by Delacorta, a book I’ve read so many times I can’t begin to count, is perfect in a completely different way. Instead of being shiny and charming, the sentences form a cushion around you, pulling you in to entirely experience Gorodish and Alba’s world. Delacorta’s books are the ones I grab to read as I slip into the bath or under the nice warm covers because they utterly fit the action- you slip into the words and forget that you’re reading. There’s just enough description to enable you to see everything vividly, without bogging you down, and casual enought dialouge that you feel like a part of the conversation rather than someone eavesdropping on people who know you’re listening. I’d never read one of his sentences out loud, thrilled with it’s smartness, because once I start reading I don’t notice the sentences at all.

Current Reading: Namedropper by Emma Forrest, Nana by Delacorta

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