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Wednesday What I'm Reading

What I've Just Finished Reading

I'm not totally sure what to say about At Swim-Two-Birds. Anthony Burgess' summary is good: “The narrator is an Irish student who, when not lying in bed or pub-crawling, is writing a novel about a man named Trellis who is writing a book about his enemies who, in revenge, are writing a book about him.”

Now that I've finished it, it doesn't seem nearly as messy as it did when I was reading, but it's also making me laugh less. The continuous and cumulative quality that makes the humor hard to excerpt also makes it hard to recall. I enjoyed it a lot without necessarily always liking it, but I'm also not sure how to explain that distinction or if it makes any sense. The fictional novelist's characters drug him so that he'll leave them alone, and write their own book in which he is tortured extravagantly and then put on trial. Finn MacCool shows up to declaim a lot of poetry, and the narrator passes his exams against all expectation. It ends on a sad note, and reminded me a little of A Confederacy of Dunces (with its stale bedroom and impotent author-tyrant) though in the latter book the narrative persists in pretending that all the fictional characters are real together.

What I'm Reading Now

An Alphabetical Life by Wendy Werris is a memoir about working in bookstores and being a book purchaser, by a narrator I ought to really like -- highly competent, but prone to inexplicable bouts of laziness and bad decision making. I'm not sure why it feels so light and shallow at the moment. Maybe it's just the way she's breezing through locations and time periods that look interesting -- it reads more like a cover letter that got out of hand than a memoir. Even the anecdotes go by in a blur. But there's still plenty of time for it to find its stride, so we'll see.

And now that it's the only book left in Anthony Burgess' 1939, it's time to get serious about Finnegans Wake! Or whatever it is you're supposed to get about Finnegans Wake, brickburied or eaten or whatever. I started out making slightly elaborate, if still crappy, Bad Bang-style art for each page, with the thought that I was going to post it on Tumblr at some point, but then I realized that I don't actually want to post my crappy fan art on Tumblr right now and I'm probably going to have to speed it up if I'm going to get anywhere.

What I Plan to Read Next

Lud-in-the-Mist was recommended to me by a friend who has uncannily good taste in things I should read, so that is going to jump to the front of the line once it arrives. In the meantime, there's whatever comes next in the Water Damage Club -- Life Mask by Emma Donoghue is both hefty and heavily water damaged, so maybe it should be next? -- and Burgess' 1940 selections: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and the start of C. P. Snow's extremely long Strangers and Brothers series. Any advice on choosing from this cornucopia of possibility?

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