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Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Reading List

Books I am currently reading, or finished this week -- it struck me as an odd list:

  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
    • Just finished this, the first Austen I've ever read. She's brilliant -- the economy of the prose, the holographic way every character is completely present in every surprising line of dialogue. Oddly, though, the effect of the entire book is a little less than the sum of its parts -- the opposite of, say, Jame Eyre.
  • The Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil
    • I'd probably be more impressed with this if I hadn't already gotten most of the ideas filtered through Charlie and Cory and Greg Egan's stories, among others. It's a very interesting book, with some really fascinating parts. It's a little marred by his extremely poor understanding of quantum physics -- the fact that he makes grand pronouncements on that topic that are total hogwash makes me a little wary of his other assertions
  • The Plague, Albert Camus
    • Reading this desultorily, which I guess is appropriate
  • The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, ed. Datlow, Link & Grant
    • About halfway through this. Many gems. I particularly like a lot of the small, moody horror stories like "Cell Call", maybe because I rarely read horror otherwise.
  • Give Our Regards To The Atom Smashers, ed. Sean Howe
    • An anthology of literary writers talking about their favorite comic books. Made me miss Galactus-era Kirby, Love & Rockets, and Raw
  • Killshot, Elmore Leonard
    • I have never read Leonard. It's true what they say about him -- great dialogue, great economy of prose, vivid characters. All of which is true about Jane Austen... but they're pretty different.
  • The City of God, St. Augustine
    • I seem to have lost this, which is annoying because it was really interesting. After the sack of Rome, Augustine makes a good case for Christianity based not on the idea that the Christian God is better at protecting his followers, but rather that they never claimed he was going to protect them, because that's not the point -- in other words, his case rests on the idea that his religion is not so much a set of provably accurate claims, as a more appropriate response to the world as it is. This seems like a good way to think about the problem.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
    • This is lovely; internally consistent, fascinating characters, commandingly assured prose. I would have said a month ago that I was thoroughly sick of time travel and the last thing I wanted was a novel on the topic -- but utter, playful artistic seriousness care in the details can redeem even the most hackneyed trope. It seems appropriate, really, that time travel is now essentially the province of literary writers -- the juice has been squeezed out of it as an idea per se. But this book is not just sloppily invoking time travel as a literary metaphor; it is actually very good speculative fiction, despite the implausibility of the science

Those are the ones I actually hope to finish: I'm about ready to abandon William Vollman's Fathers and Crows, not because it's not good, but because it's huge and intense, and commands much more attention than I can give.

Wow, searching for the above links, I notice that there are a crazy number of sequels to Pride and Prejudice!

Check it out: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

That's not a subgenre, it's an industry...

Posted by benrosen at October 6, 2004 02:10 PM | Up to blog

Hey Ben,

Wow, that's an impressive list! I'm astounded when I can finish one book in a week. Reading 8 simultaneously is beyond me. Thought I'd add one to your list, but it's just a short story and you may have read it already anyway, but it's a favorite of mine. It's called The Black Month, and was written by Checkhov, so is in the public domain and is available at UVA's Electronic Text Center: https://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixed-new?id=CheMonk&tag=public&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed

Posted by: Levi at October 6, 2004 03:32 PM

The Time Traveller's Wife is my favorite book of last year. I bawled my eyes out for the last, oh, third of the book. So beautifully done.

Posted by: Heather Shaw at October 6, 2004 06:52 PM

re TTW: I am just at the part when he meets Alba. I keep staying up way too late to read that damn book.

Will check out The Black Month... I like Chekov.

I finished Killshot, Atom Smashers, and P&P, and am now rereading The Importance of Being Earnest. So funny! :-)

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at October 7, 2004 10:53 AM


Saddened to see that you're abandoning Vollman, but you're right that it's huge and intense. Vollman tends towards huge and intense as a rule. I tend to read his chapters as miniature works of literature in their own right. He has written some short stuff: The Atlas, Rainbow Stories, Whores for Gloria. If you're interested in the series of which Fathers and Crows is a part, check out The Ice-Shirt or The Rifles. I found The Rifles a little easier to read, but his whole attitude towards women can be off-putting, and The Rifles is fairly indicative of it.

Anyway, I guess this means I get my copy of F&C back :)

Posted by: Matt at October 7, 2004 03:38 PM

I'll borrow it again sometime when I'm going to the beach -- or better yet, next time the family goes off to Switzerland without me...

But perhaps I'll borrow one of the simpler Vollmans tomorrow, to start...

Finished Importance of Being Earnest. Am now rereading Candide. :-) I feel the need to inject some Austen, Wilde, and Voltaire into a far-future story I'm working on...

Posted by: Benjamin Rosenbaum at October 7, 2004 04:32 PM
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