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Where are the Wednesdays of Yesteryear?

What I've Finished Reading

It is possible for a writer to make, or remake at least, for a reader, the primary pleasures of eating, or drinking, or looking on, or sex. . . They do not habitually elaborate on the equally intense pleasure of reading.
--A. S. Byatt, Possession

Grave-robbing! Long-lost heirs! The wrath of the heavens and the vengeance of the trees! Action-packed index-card searches! A labyrinth of title drops! Possession was the best time I've had in, I don't know, a couple weeks at least. Even better than Dick Talks With Oliver Mellors? As a book, yes; as a running joke I'm going to keep tediously alluding to for the rest of my life, probably not. But you can't have everything all the time.

Seriously, this book was a delight and a half. I could rake up a lot of tiny caveats (and one medium-sized one: I thought Sabine's journal was too conveniently explicit even for this celebration of all things epistolary and omniscient, and it throws the second half of the book off balance for a while) (and my dislike of certain revelations about Ellen Ash keeps growing quietly, now that I'm not reading anymore) but none of them made a significant dent in how much I enjoyed it.

osprey_archer has real discussion and spoilers. I may attempt some real discussion in the future. I will note that Beatrice Nest saves the day, and the stupid rich guy I was rooting for also saves the day, and shows Val a good time and throws in a couple of Albert Campion references for good measure.

What I'm Reading Now

The Anthony Powell I got from the library was the first three novels of A Dance to the Music of Time in a single volume. I finished A Question of Upbringing a couple days ago and may or may not get through A Buyer's Market before I have to leave town again. They're ok! I don't anticipate any trouble reading twelve of these. They're very fast-moving, especially given that Burgess and others put it into my head to compare them to Proust. People keep turning up briefly and melting into the crowd and reappearing six months later with the marks of their own unseen narratives on them, kind of like a large-scale version of Austen movie dancing, though that metaphor wouldn't have occurred to me at all if Powell hadn't frontloaded the whole “dance” thing.

On the other hand, I haven't started Henry Williamson's The Dark Lantern yet because the library didn't have it. I'll have to order it when I get back, and probably the 99 Novels are going to be on hold until then.

I'm reading The Story of an African Farm, which I've meant to read for a long time because it was a favorite book of one of my favorite writers, L. M. Montgomery (and consequently of Emily of New Moon). The problem with that is it's impossible for me to respond to the book on “its own terms,” without reading it through the eyes of Maud-as-Emily and Maud-as-Maud. But maybe that's just a problem with books in general, and not so much a “problem” as a condition.

What I Plan to Read Next

Small books that fit in my luggage! The Painted Veil, the Foundation trilogy, maybe one or two of my more disposable murder mysteries.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 23rd, 2016 01:44 am (UTC)
Possession! Clearly an excellent choice for a June book. Never have I read such thrilling index-card action!

I'm thinking particularly of the scenes where Beatrice Nest is pottering through her index cards for Ellen Ash's journal - she's so vague and thoughtful and they're just like "PLEASE HURRY UP PLEASE PLEASE," but of course they daren't ask because that would give away how important it is.

Which revelations about Ellen Ash did you dislike?

And I agree about Sabine's journal. It's very conveniently focused on Cristabel, isn't it? I sort of pretending that it was the highlights version: doubtless Maud and Roland where skimming through looking for the Cristabel bits, so they didn't notice Sabine's three-page attempt to write a description of the weather or her lengthy musing about story ideas that she's considering or all the other things that tend to clog up real journals.

My reading challenge for July is a book chosen for me by someone else, and while "internet partner in reading" is not one of the listed categories of people who might choose the book, I thought I might go ahead and ask if you would pick a book for me anyway.
Jun. 23rd, 2016 05:13 am (UTC)
Which revelations about Ellen Ash did you dislike?

It's so irrational! I'm annoyed by the decision to make the Ash marriage sexless, because it feels like a false explanation and a cheap mitigating factor for the affair. I don't think Byatt's actually doing anything that unsubtle, but it jabbed on all my primitive-brain recoil buttons anyway.

Well, and also because Ash is obviously patterned on Robert Browning and I'm kind of a stan for him and Elizabeth Barrett, but that's probably even less fair to Byatt.

I thought I might go ahead and ask if you would pick a book for me anyway.

ARE YOU SURE? Just so you know how unfit I am for this responsibility, my first thought was "PROUST, bb! :D :D :D" (in exactly those words; my internal monologue is not v. literate). Of course that's not my real answer, that would be unfair to you and Proust.

Ok, I may need a few days to think about it. Do you want a reasonably good book whose quality I can vouch for, or do you want to explore the highly embarrassing source texts of my soul? Or something in between?
Jun. 23rd, 2016 12:34 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I can see that, especially in conjunction with the Browning/Barrett connection. I guess Cristabel LaMotte is supposed to be Ashe's Barrett in this weird not-quite-parallel? And poor Ellen Ash is left out in the cold.

Hahaha, I had a suspicion you might say Proust! But I don't think I could read all of Proust in a month; in fact I am probably going to veto multivolume sets on that principle.

My head is saying "go for the reasonably good book, that sounds safer," but my heart is saying "SOURCE TEXTS OF THE SOUL, YES."

Do you have any highly embarrassing source texts of your soul that you also think might have independent literary value? I realize that it's hard to tell with books like that; I reread things like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books and I am completely unable to judge them by any standard other than "IT'S THE SCENE WHERE THEY POUR MAPLE SYRUP ON THE SNOW AND IT HARDENS INTO CANDY, I LOVE THAT SCENE."
Jun. 24th, 2016 12:08 am (UTC)
Aww, the MAPLE SYRUP SCENE is always the best. I don't even remember what book that's from, but I was so fond of MAPLE SYRUP SNOW CANDY.

I'll vouch for the literary value of L.M. Montgomery, but you've already read those! I had a thought about re-reading some probably-terrible things I haven't re-read in ages, but it might be better to do that in another context. So I'm going to think about it for a few days and let you know by Monday, maybe sooner!

Ellen got the tyrannical father and the prolonged courtship; Christabel got the passionate attachment and literary flowering. Which hardly seems fair. :( Of course, it's not really a straightforward hacking up of EBB into opposing modes of Victorian womanhood; Christabel's drawing on several poets & it's a romance, not a roman a clef. But it's one of those nagging things that probably says a little more about me than it does about the book.

Jun. 24th, 2016 12:34 am (UTC)
The maple syrup scene is from Little House in the Big Woods! One of my favorite books in the series. The coziness quotient is off the charts.

I won't start the next reading challenge till the beginning of July, so you have some time to contemplate your choice.
Jun. 23rd, 2016 04:21 am (UTC)
I've been tempted by Powell (he figured prominently in a couple of my "Who Was Really Who in Roman a Clef" books, which always makes me curious...

But oh, my to-read pile...
Jun. 23rd, 2016 05:21 am (UTC)
So far, it's not something I want to grab everyone by the lapels about. It's enjoyable and I think it'll probably get a little more so as we go along, but there's a distinct lack of lightning in my brain.

My taste isn't exactly reliable, though! Maybe you should abandon that TBR pile and take the P train to Everyone Powell Knows Station! There are worse places. Then you could come back and tell me your thoughts on Widmerpool and the incident of the sugar bowl, or whatever you turn out to have thoughts on.

Edited at 2016-06-23 05:31 am (UTC)
Jun. 23rd, 2016 10:26 am (UTC)
Jun. 23rd, 2016 01:04 pm (UTC)
I love Possession. Every few years I pull it back out for a re-read.

I've never seen the movie adaptation, though - some day maybe I'll give that a whirl but I worry that it might ruin the book for me if I don't like it.
Jun. 24th, 2016 12:39 am (UTC)
I'm sure I'll end up reading it again, too!

I didn't know there was a movie! It's not the most obvious candidate for movie adaptation, but not the least obvious, either. It might be fun. Library montages and Gothic storms!

Has a book ever been ruined for you by a movie? I think I've been lucky that this hasn't happened for me (that I can think of).
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


blase ev

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