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Wednesday Reading Wrangling

What I've Just Finished Reading

Nothing but For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I tolerated and sometimes admired but did not love. Anthony Burgess concedes that "Maria. . . is not quite as compelling as Tolstoy's Natasha, despite Hemingway's ambition and boast," which might be the Understatement of the Year; Maria is not quite as compelling as the pine needles. I haven't been able to check on "Hemingway's ambition and boast," yet, but if Maria is meant to resemble Natasha Rostova in some way, or even just to be comparably "real," that's a really fascinating failure. Or maybe just another instance of good writing being in the eye of the beholder; I'm not sure.

Only a few days after I finished it, I met a Hemingway fan, a young scientist who also hates F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald! I spent a lot of time defending Scott's decision to write about terrible people whose inner lives are not magnificent, but it's not like Fitzgerald has a monopoly on terrible people! It's theoretically possible to love both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway, but I don't know if I've ever met anyone who does. I could love them both, but I don't -- not yet, anyway. Fitzgerald isn't less of a romantic than the Heminator, I think, but I find his prose much less of a slog in large quantities.

Not a book, but I missed Silmarillion Sunday because I went to see the Globe On Screen production of Antony and Cleopatra. It was pretty much the best thing ever. I was happy to see a few more people in the theater than there were for Julius Caesar -- I mean the cinema where the filmed play was being shown; the theatre on the screen was packed, with people leaning right up against the stage). I hope it's a successful venture for the cinema so they'll bring it back next year; I am really happy to be able to see professional-quality live theater without traveling hundreds of miles and spending all my money. The Globe On Screen is a good contender for my favorite new thing of 2015.

What I'm Reading Now

"The malady you suffer from should, I think, be called 'life-sickness.' You are, so to speak, a bad sailor, and the motion of life makes you brain-sick. There, beneath you, all round you, there surges and swells, and ebbs and flows, that great, ungovernable, ruthless element that we call life. And its motion gets into your blood, turns your head dizzy. Get your sea legs, Master Nathaniel! By which I do not mean you must cease feeing the motion . . . go on feeling it, but learn to like it; or if not to like it, at any rate to bear it with firm legs and a steady head."

Lud-in-the-Midst is so good that I am reading it with some apprehension; either it will stop being as good as it is (unlikely) or it will eventually end and then I won't be reading it anymore. Dorimare shares a border with Fairyland, but no one likes to talk about it, and fairy fruit is forbidden. Unfortunately, the mayor's son has begun to show the alarming symptoms of having eaten fairy fruit, and the mayor himself is not above suspicion. It's a bright, disconcerting metaphor parade and so funny and neatly written. The place and character names are as good as Tolkien's, though totally different in tone.

What I Plan to Read Next

I really want to get this book, but I probably won't for a while because I can't afford to buy any more books. I did ask the public library to order it, but they might not. We'll see!

I'll probably bring The Once and Future King with me when I go out of town in a couple of weeks. It's a 99 Novels selection that has the advantage of being something I've already read and liked. Also coming with me: Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend and one or two other books; I haven't decided which ones yet.

Chronologically next in 99 Novels: Strangers and Brothers by C. P. Snow, the start of an 11-novel "sequence" that Burgess thinks still only counts as one. Well, if I can read thirty-plus books about the same needlessly posh or fussy detectives, I can just as well read eleven novels about whatever C. P. Snow's deal is, right?


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2015 04:09 am (UTC)
The Golden Age of Murder looks fascinating and I hope you get the chance to read it! I checked, but my library doesn't have it either. :(

Lud-in-the-Mist sounds intriguing. Maybe if I ever dig my way out of this pile of books I'm partway through (I just keep adding new ones rather than finishing anything), I will read it.

I have a friend who loves Hemingway. I should ask her about her opinions on Fitzgerald sometime. Usually I don't care for Hemingway, but his memoir A Moveable Feast, about his years in Paris in the twenties, is fascinating.
Jun. 11th, 2015 05:21 am (UTC)
The thing is, I just have to be really on the ball, and buy The Golden Age of Murder (and a few other things) right after I get paid for my summer job, before all the money goes to coffee and bills and book purchases that are less expensive but also less necessary. Otherwise I will be right back where I am now, hoping the library will order it but not feeling too optimistic.

Lud-in-the-Mist is magically lucid and unabashedly magical. However,

(I just keep adding new ones rather than finishing anything)

I know that story all too well, because it is also the story of my life.

I love A Moveable Feast. Hemingway is such an asshole and it's a delight to read. Honestly, Hem and Scott were both brilliant; it's just that Scott's is the kind of brilliance that speaks to me in a conspiratorial whisper and Hem's is the kind that makes my face stick in a permanent :\
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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