7.13.2006

Summer reading

Whatcha readin'? Most of my reading time is taken up with novel research stuff, but I've managed to slip in other stuff recently, too:

Valis. A romp through madness, paranoia, conspiracy, and healing riding a strange bucking bronco combination of autobiography and science fiction. Pretty funny, too. Reminded me of Vonnegut. Philip K. Dick's star has risen steadily since his death in 1982 because his stories tend to make good films.

Speak, Memory. About a quarter of the way through Nabokov's autobiography so far, and it's living up to the hype. Luscious sentences often containing breathtaking snark. I'd kill to write prose like this.

American Gods. I really wanted to love this, but it didn't do it for me. The style was too breezy and had stretches of slop and awkwardness, the protagonist was too remote and flat, and the detective story ending was laughable. Great idea, but it has to be all about the execution. I hear Anasazi Boys is better, but I dunno, now I am a tad wary of Gaiman. Someone defend this, because too many people I know liked it.

The Devil Is a Gentleman. Very good survey of modern American religious fringe movements, using William James as a touchstone.

Oxherding Tale. This novel was outstanding. Hilarious and heart-breaking and extremely well written. And short. A jewel. If you can imagine a comic novel about slavery ... oh, you can't? Seek it out. Read it. Made me want to read all of Johnson's works.

Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. I don't swallow all of the author's assertions, but he does a formidable job of puncturing the myth of scientific impartiality and biaslessness. He retells the history of Indian settlement and white anthropology in America, uncovering systematic, often shocking racism. As it turns out, he was more right than wrong, as more and more scholarship agrees that no, the Indians did not exterminate the mammoths and other megafauna, and no, they didn't arrive only 11,000 years ago, and no, they were not poor stewards of the land. Perhaps the most fundamental bias has been that anthropologists simply don't take Indians' stories about their own origins seriously, preferring to weave their white, agenda-laden fantasies that take decades, in some cases a century or more, to dislodge.

American Indian Myths and Legends. Fantastic collection of rich, rich mythical stories. Better than the Bible.

10 comments:

Pete said...

Gaiman's tough. His bad stuff is as bad as his great stuff is great, and then there's a whole lot of okay stuff in the middle. I recommend "Smoke and Mirrors" if you can suffer through the insufferable introduction. The best story in there, by far is "we can get it for you wholesale." Maybe, just read that.

Antoine said...

I loved Oxherding Tale.

Hey if you're reading lots of Native American story stuff, you should check out Trickster Makes this World, by Lewis Hyde. Not limited to Native American myth but the books you listed made me think of it.

Grendel said...

Thanks, fellas. They both go on The List. But surely you yourselves are reading things now, yes? Isn't anybody going to share with the class?

segall said...

Alright, I'll bite:

Liquidation - Imre Kertesz
Theft: A Love Story - Peter Carey
Mortals - Norman Rush
Bouvard and Pecuchet - Gustave Flaubert
The Death of Ivan Ilyich - Leo Tolstoy
Gilgamesh - Stephen Mitchell, trans.
Appointment in Samarra - John O'Hara
Christmas Holiday - Somerset Maugham (just started)
On the to read pile:
Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
The Rise of David Levinsky - Abraham Cahan
On the to buy pile:
Breach of Faith - Jed Horne

dunkeys said...

I just finished reading The Great Gatsby again and finally figured out why I don't adore it. But aside from that, I read Affliction, The Plot Against America, and am currently on The Bluest Eye. I gave up on Angels and The Ambassadors recently, which says more about me than either book.

Has anyone read much Toni Morrison? Thoughts on her books? I've only read Song of Solomon otherwise, and remember disliking it intensely. And Beloved was the biggest fave in that NYTimes survey a few weeks back, of course . . . which of her books are good?

traca de broon said...

My list is so much like many of your lists from last summer, but here we go:

The History of Love
Cloud Atlas
Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile
Fury
The Feast of Love
The Line of Beauty (or I was, until Grendel returned it to the library on me)
Re-read Like Life and Birds of America
Re-reading Lolita
Also currently reading (thanks to MSF and TLB) No-Limit Texas Hold'Em: The New Player's Guide to Winning Poker's Biggest Game--a new vice will do me good, I think.

MSF said...

i'm so going to hell.

re neil gaiman: i thought american gods was overrated, but i absolutely loved anansi boys--one of the most fun books i've read in a while.

re toni morrison: i loved song of solomon, so i may not be the one to ask. i still think sula is her best, though. skip the later stuff.

recently read recommendations:
allegra goodman, intuition (interesting use of voice, great plot--good overall summer read.)
jose saramago, seeing (not as good as blindness, but still worth reading.)
bret easton ellis, lunar park (serioiusly. it was kind of awesome. have i recommended this yet?)
john fowles, the magus (back when i wrote about fucked-up books, i hadn't read this one yet. crazy.)

next on the list:
man of my dreams

El Gordo de Amore said...

Europe Central -- William Vollman
Gilead
The Pugilist at Rest -- Thom Jones -- reread
In Persuasion Nation -- George Saunders
Black Swan Green -- David Mitchell
The Eternals -- Neil Gaiman (new comic series)

And the latest issue of Weekly World News with the list of the 19 most popular people in Heaven -- Johnnie Cochran is Number 1!

Also, a T-Rex fell through a time hole and is terrorizing a trailer park.

And a gay man fell into another timehole, and now is appearing in all of Michealangelo's work.

How does one get such a wonderful job? I think I would go to work literally singing.

Antoine said...

Trying to make my way through the final book of His Dark Materials. Having trouble staying engaged with it. Dunno why.

Don Quixote, the Tobias Smollet translation. Slow going there. Been picking away at this one for years.

Swann's Way, the Lydia Davis translation. Picking away here too. For a long time I missed Moncrieff, but now starting to get into LD's...her style might be more suited to the Swann in Love section than the opening.

Correction, Thomas Bernhard.

Bouvard and Pecuchet, Flaubert.

Holy crizzap. That's almost all lit-in-translation. What's my problem?

Grendel said...

Antoine, you don't hate freedom, do you?

El Gordo, how is the Saunders and the Vollman?

Also, what's up with the Flaubert book? New translation or coincidence?

dunks, Beloved rocks, but that's all I've read of hers so far.

msf, thanks for the book. Also, I just finished Man of My Dreams. Started it last night at 10 and couldn't put it down till 4:30am. Extremely absorbing. I just had to know everything about Hannah, now, now, now! Better than Prep, more mature, and even, I would say, sharper in wit and prose, and that's saying something.