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Wednesday Reading Roundup

What I’ve Just Finished Reading

"Well, I know, she said. "You'll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you'll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we'll have a lot more of them. And they'll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs."

Slaughterhouse Five is so good in so many ways. It's so good that I feel a little embarrassed by how annoyed I am that Vonnegut draws breasts like giant round cartoon eyes, or by how needlessly unkind the book is to a very minor character, Billy Pilgrim's wife Valencia. The book is unkind to everyone in it, but only needlessly unkind to Valencia. Definitely worth reading anyway (these are just tiny rocks in the cereal) though I kind of wish I'd skipped over the part where Lazzaro talks about killing the dog. That's a warning, animal cruelty-sensitive readers.

Probably not going to have a lot of well-formed thoughts on this one for a while, because my brain is the slowest and creakiest difference engine -- but yes, good; take that, Tom Brokaw.

What I’m Reading Now

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch, an enjoyable mystery in which The Most Comfortable Man in London is constantly being made uncomfortable in his quest to unravel a poisoning case. At one point, his taxi drives away without him and then he accidentally steps into a half-frozen puddle up the the knee and has to walk home in the snow with one leg all soaked. Also, I don't know how long this detective-fiction binge is going to last, but I am genuinely looking forward to being introduced to the history of forensic science another twenty times at least.

I'm still in the middle of The Golem and the Jinni (I gasped out loud when [a certain spoilery person] turned up in [a place]), and just floating in and out of Anne Carson's Euripides, not trying hard enough to figure out whether I like Carson's essays or not. The final essay is called "Why I Wrote Two Plays About Phaidra, by Euripides," but it is actually just Anne Carson speculating about Euripides, and my disappointment at it not actually being by Euripides is messing with my ability to appreciate the beautiful hubris of pretending to be a writer in order to write an essay about him. In theory, I am all for imposture, but I wanted it to be real.

I'm also going through my giant stack of unread lit journals, finding some excellent essays and stories and some good poetry and a little terrible poetry and so many thoughtful or pretentious or angrily bewildred or hyperbolic and incomprehensible book reviews, plus lots and lots of those "workshop stories" everyone was complaining about a few years ago. Maybe they still are? I don't know; I stopped reading The Great MFA Debate back in 2010 or so.

What I Plan to Read Next

Slaughterhouse Five made me want to re-read Catch-22, the other hallucinatorily regretful World War 2 novel. I read it as a teenager and loved it, read it again in my early twenties and couldn't stick to it, and may now have come back around to being able to love it again. We'll see.

Also on the docket for the near future: a bunch more lit journals and THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE.

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