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What I'm Reading Wednesday

What I've Just Finished Reading

Nothing since The Incredulity of Father Brown, unless you count a bunch of invoices for work (I don't).

What I'm Not Reading Anymore

Thanks to everyone who recommended ditching [redacted]. Life is indeed too short for books you can't even muster the energy to hate.

Part of me wants to vent about this book -- its many and extravagant typos, its truly awful minor characters, its completely baffling lack of moral complexity -- but I am going to leave it alone. The author is alive and near the beginning of their career, and they have been very ill-served by a publisher that does not seem to have bothered even to pay for a proofreader. The story had good bones and it ought to have been given more attention than it was. I hope things go better with your next book, author.

What I'm Reading Now

Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis is the next book in my Water Damage Club. Lydia Davis is a favorite author of many of my friends and one whom I have never quite managed to get into. I am doing my best to come in with an open heart, and Samuel Johnson is Indignant is genuinely refreshing after a series of Water Damage clunkers, but I am not really getting into these stories this time around, either. They are very spare and bloodlessly confessional and intellectual-looking in a way I might have liked when I was in high school and aspiring to be an intellectual, but which feels very far away to me now and a little artificial (but not in a fun way).

This is not a fair assessment, though -- I'm less than a third of the way into the book and it will probably get better as I get less sleep-deprived. In part, I think I just find it exhausting to read a very large number of very short stories all at once. And however much I try to keep it from influencing me, they do suffer unjusty from the taint of almost twenty years of people demanding that I read Lydia Davis and/or insisting that I must be mistaken about having already read Lydia Davis because there is no possible way I could fail to love Lydia Davis.

I just started At Swim-Two-Birds, and it's absolutely nothing like I expected. For some reason I've always pictured it hazily as a melancholy sea-and-country-house novel where a lot of bony people mope around in crepe du chine and are always opening the drawer with the pistol in it and shutting it again, with a heavy burden of architectural or gardening motifs and plenty of understated shell shock, unspoken resentments, and affairs that never get started. I don't know where I got this impression, because it could not have been further from the truth. It's actually (so far) a hilarious Tristram Shandy-esque account of its own frequently-interrupted writing process. I don't know if it can keep up its current VERY HIGH levels of ridiculous greatness, but I am definitely on board to find out where it's headed (back to that park bench in Stephen's Green, as far as I can tell).

As for Finnegans Wake, I will have something to say about it. . . one of these days.

What I Plan to Read Next

Recent additions to the TBR sea: The Haunting of Hill House, The Club of Queer Trades, The Man Who Was Thursday, Northanger Abbey. When I'll actually get to them, I can't say.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
osprey_archer
Apr. 15th, 2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
Northanger Abbey is awesome and you should read it!!!!!

Ahem. Anyway...

Also I absolutely would have expected At Swim-Two-Birds to be a melancholy sea-and-country-house novel, too - the title just begs for that interpretation. Although possibly with less staring at the pistol in the drawer and more swimming in the ocean while fully dressed as a half-hearted and never fully articulated suicide attempt. I am pleased to hear that it's actually not like that at all.
evelyn_b
Apr. 16th, 2015 03:03 am (UTC)
I will! I'm just not sure when yet. It requires going to the library and I haven't had time to spare in many days. I read Northanger Abbey once long, long ago and remember thinking it was really funny, but not any specific thing about it.

At Swim-two-Birds is such a surprise! One of the biggest expectation-content discrepancies I've ever experienced (not that my expectations were based on anything but the title). No half-heartedly suicidal swimming at all! (though it's early yet, you never do know).
lost_spook
Apr. 18th, 2015 01:18 pm (UTC)
Samuel Johnson Is Indignant is a good title. I remember you mentioning it before. But being told to read something you don't like much over and over is enough to put anyone off anything, I'd say! (I have never heard of Lydia Davis! I could tell you to read Lindsay Davis, which is what I thought you meant for a moment - would that be as bad?)

Also also I found a Tey in a charity shop for 25p yesterday and couldn't resist. I flicked through it and found SO MUCH speculation about the nationality of the killer based on the method of death (random but very neat stabbing of someone in a queue) which obviously showed the killer must be a 'Dago' because no British person would do that. Not even a sailor who'd hung around the Mediterranean a lot (a sailor wouldn't have the imagination for queue-killing).

(I'm sorry if that was a slight spoiler; I haven't read the book. I just opened it up and THERE IT WAS.)

Btw, not that you need any more on your list, but if you're doing Golden Age crime, have you already got Edmund Crispin down to check out, because basically quirky academic, investigates lost Shakespeare plays and moving toyshops. I have no memory whatsoever of his particular brand of prejudice(s), though. Mainly quirkiness.
evelyn_b
Apr. 18th, 2015 04:00 pm (UTC)
I would be happy to be told to read Lindsay Davis, because I don't know anything about Lindsay Davis yet! What can you tell me about Lindsay Davis?

It is a good title! For your reference, here is the title story in its entirety.

SAMUEL JOHNSON IS INDIGNANT:
that Scotland has so few trees.


Lydia Davis has a very devoted following and I understand why, but I understand it distantly; her work doesn't ring any bells for me but some of her fans think it ought to because. . . I present as vaguely "literary" and have opinions about the Oxford comma, I guess.

The Moving Toyshop has been half a foot from my keyboard since. . . whenever it was I read Talking about Detective Fiction. I'm going to read it! I just haven't yet.

The idea that you can totally tell where a killer is from (or what kind of "blood" they have) based on the way they kill someone is surprisingly common for how nonsensical it is! The Poirot books, at least the early ones, are full of this kind of speculation. "Do not Italians stab?" And then everyone ends up covered in confusion because a crime turns up that contains both Continental and English elements -- could be mixed parentage!!

It seems like an intelligent murderer could foil Scotland Yard very easily just by choosing a distinctly non-English method of killing. While everyone was combing the countryside for a mythical Frenchman, you could be coldly and Englishly slipping away by boat to sunny Lisbon. But in this kind of story blood nearly always tells; you will shoot your perfect disguise in the foot by accidentally leaving a crumpet at the crime scene or something.
lost_spook
Apr. 18th, 2015 04:19 pm (UTC)
Well, first off, I should learn to spell Lindsey Davis properly (now done). She writes historical novels, but chiefly a long sequence of historical detective novels set in 1st C Rome featuring a private informer called Falco. He is the narrator and sees himself as a sort of noir private eye for Rome... except he has a complicated family who keep turning up, and then he falls in love with a senator's daughter called Helena Justina (who is a most excellent character) who also has a complicated family who keep turning up. I've read all the books & they're very good, although the first one (The Silver Pigs) was also her first novel & it really does show - it's nowhere near as good and entertaining as the rest, or at least I don't feel it is.

She's now started writing some about Falco's (adopted daughter? the family thing really is complicated) Flavia Albia that I haven't read yet, because of being ill for ages, but I hope to do so soon if I can get my hands on them.

The Moving Toyshop doesn't live up to its name, then? By rights, you should surely keep finding it not where you left it. (I don't remember that one so well - I do remember liking it but also being kind of baffled by the quirkiness, but there's also Love Lies Bleeding, which is about murder over a discovered copy of Love's Labours Won & I enjoyed that one a lot. I think. My memory is getting more hopeless by the day.)

And then everyone ends up covered in confusion because a crime turns up that contains both Continental and English elements -- could be mixed parentage!!

Just think how difficult it would be to be such a person and be a murderer! One half of your blood is crying out for the poison/stiletto dagger, and then other half is muttering, "But my dear fellow, that's simply not cricket!" ;-)

But in this kind of story blood nearly always tells; you will shoot your perfect disguise in the foot by accidentally leaving a crumpet at the crime scene or something.

:lol: Or, presumably, a croissant or some spaghetti, depending.

(I had been vidding some things this week, including Shadow of the Tower, a v old BBC serial about Henry VII. I feel sure it would probably please Josephine Tey that the actor playing him has eyes of a blue-grey shade. A little lighter than the fatal shade, I feel, but it still can't be good, though?)
evelyn_b
Apr. 19th, 2015 05:12 pm (UTC)
Roman noir! And complicated family turning up all the time! That sounds like it could be excellent!

Henry VII's eyes can't be too dark blue, or he wouldn't be able to manage his murdering through all the nymphomania. Still highly indicative, though.
lost_spook
Apr. 19th, 2015 07:07 pm (UTC)
Henry VII's eyes can't be too dark blue, or he wouldn't be able to manage his murdering through all the nymphomania.

Given how many Ricardians love Daughter of Time, it may explain a lot about some fictional takes on him. Because, yep, not an especially nymphomaniac king, really.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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