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Worm in the Bud Wednesday

What I've Finished Reading

Nothing this week! How did that happen? A massive pearl of fatigue, anxiety, and procrastination, spun industriously around a tiny grain of actual work.

What I'm Reading Now

Possession is such a treat! I'm just about to start Chapter 14, for osprey_archer's reference. It's all the surprisingly suspenseful fact-finding fun of The Daughter of Time, only more leisurely and expansive, and about fictional characters rather than the historical Richard III, so there can be a fact of the matter eventually if Byatt feels like it. Plus Byatt's digs at 80s/90s academia and feminist criticism are a little more enjoyable to me personally than Alan Grant's gleeful disgust about not enough people getting killed at Tonypandy. Roland and Maud find a cache of letters from the intense, previously undiscovered correspondence between poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte (all the names are great) and are now combing through related documents, trying to find out what happened between them and [osprey_archer this may be a spoiler for you]whether it has anything to do with the suicide of LaMotte's companion (probably yes). Byatt's Victorians are as surprising as real Victorians.

And now [Mild but possibly important spoiler!] suddenly Maud has had Christabel LaMotte's significant mermaid brooch pinned to her turban all along, as though their search made it real somehow, like the duplicate objects of Tlön -- little beads of desire hardening in the air like amber. Or maybe it's just a coincidence? Is something terrible going to happen to Roland's girlfriend Val, by the same alchemy of coincidence? The text is hinting at it, but I hope not. I am petulantly sorry for Val and feel angry every time she comes into the frame. I hope she runs off with that mildly stupid rich guy who seems to like her. She can feel superfluous on a yacht!

I'm enjoying watching the significance of the title creep slowly into focus, like a distant figure in the fog. I don't know what it is yet, but you can feel it moving toward you anyway, and eventually all will be revealed.

Apparently Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time was influenced by Proust. I like Proust! The first book, A Question of Upbringing is ok so far. The influence isn't as obvious as I expected. I don't think I would have noticed it at all if it hadn't been pointed out to me ahead of time -- there's a kind of boat-ramp beginning where the narrator sees a thing and is reminded of another thing, and then there's the vivid encounter with a hapless contemporary (Widmerpool, famous at school for trying too hard and for once having worn a mildly outlandish overcoat), but beyond that the memories of Powell's narrator "Jenkins" are much more orderly and signposted than Little M.'s: bricks and topiaries of time, rather than kudzu and groundwater.

And I got drawn into Fernando Pessoa's Book of Disquiet while hunting for quotes, in one of these procrastination scrambles. It's the "factless autobiography" of an assistant bookkeeper bearing a non-coincidental resemblance to Pessoa himself (who is sort of the Portuguese Franz Kafka and sort of not). It's full of lines like, “There are ships sailing to many ports, but not a single one goes where life is not painful,” and "Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life." If that sort of thing makes your heart sing along as if to a song by Morrissey, then maybe The Book of Disquiet is for you.

What I Plan to Read Next

Exactly the same as before!


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2016 03:17 pm (UTC)
'Posession' sounds more enjoyable than 'The Daughter of Time'?
Jun. 15th, 2016 04:13 pm (UTC)
It's hard to say! I enjoyed The Daughter of Time a lot. Possession pushes the same buttons, but is differently paced and doesn't have Daughter's (weirdly specific) sour notes. It might end up with some of its own, but it's too soon to tell.
Jun. 16th, 2016 02:46 pm (UTC)
I hope the sourness stays away!
Jun. 15th, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
I love Posession! I re-read it every couple of years and feel the same thrill every time even if I know what will happen. :)
Jun. 15th, 2016 04:17 pm (UTC)

Things are looking very slightly ominous right now, but I won't inquire!
Jun. 18th, 2016 02:23 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you have found out by now. I've actually started to re-read it. I realsied I have never read it in English, which really should be corrected. :)
Jun. 15th, 2016 06:20 pm (UTC)
I read a few chapters to catch up with you! And now I too am terribly worried for poor Val: the fact that she's describing herself in much the same words that Blanche used before jumping off a bridge with rocks in her pockets is quite alarming.

I also hope that she ends up with the slightly stupid rich guy. Then she can find a watery new life on the yacht instead of a watery grave in the Thames, and her inferiority complex won't torment her anymore because she clearly doesn't see the rich guy as gratingly superior to herself, and everyone can be happy or at least less sad.

I also quite liked the excerpts from Ellen Ash's diaries, and Beatrice Nest's feeling that Ellen is writing with the intent to baffle. At very least, I think Ellen is writing a misleadingly idyllic portrait of her marriage - there's a bit that seems particularly to point that way, where she starts a sentence "Depsite all," crosses it out, and continues "We have been so happy in our life together..." (It's page 249 in my copy.) And perhaps Ellen has a secret of her own, hidden by the great thicket of her words.

little beads of desire hardening in the air like amber

Is that a quote from Borges (Tlon is from Borges, isn't it?), or did you come up with that yourself? It's beautiful.
Jun. 15th, 2016 09:33 pm (UTC)

I like that all these "peripheral" "supporting" characters keep tugging at us; I think it's all going to come together in some really clever way and the title will turn out to be multiply perfect, but don't ask me how.

That strikethrough! Too obvious? Maybe deliberately obvious, but who knows now? Maybe Ellen was better at keeping her secrets than the rest of them. Honestly, I like the bits about the unknowable parts of any human life so much that I'm just a tiny bit peeved about how much is being revealed about Christabel et al.. Though of course(?) if they were real authors I was interested in, I would be happy to see every rough draft and shopping list collected and covered in invasive footnotes.

Tlön is from Borges but the amber is not from Borges as far as I remember; it's been a long time since I read that story.
Jun. 16th, 2016 01:23 am (UTC)
Perhaps even Ellen Ash sometimes yearns to let slip the truth! Keeping up a facade for decades must be rather tiring, especially as she's doing it in her own private journal.

I have such mixed feelings about learning things about authors that I'm interested in. The desire to know everything wars with a fear that I'll learn something that spoils my enjoyment of their work, even just in the sense that I might read it and think, "Ah, this bit of setting description must come from her trip to Y in year X," rather than focusing on the characters and the story.
Jun. 16th, 2016 02:16 am (UTC)
That's why I've been avoiding reading anything about Proust's real life so far - I know I'll just get distracted comparing Little M. with Original Proust! Sometimes I mind knowing too much about authors, and sometimes not (sometimes I feel fleetingly guilty for rifling through their shoeboxes).
Jun. 15th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC)
I love reading your reviews and thoughts on the books you engage with! Always interesting and it gives me the urge to read more than a few of them!

Jun. 16th, 2016 12:16 am (UTC)
Thanks, a_phoenixdragon! :) If you do read some of the books, I hope you come back with your thoughts (or post them on your journal) if you want!

(I hope you stay above water this week, too)
Jun. 16th, 2016 01:23 am (UTC)
I'm barely coherent about fanfiction. :D no one wants to hear my scattered yipping about fiction. I leapfrog all over the place and foam over silly things, lol! But you are lovely (and way more coherent), so I shall slap down snippets of squee randomly in comments, lol!

(I am...barely...but I am - nice being halfway out of the dark, I must say!)

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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