Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Books I might read

Why would anyone care, but I have to remind myself how to write, so here we have this bit of self-indulgence.  What do I want to read in the next whenever?

1.  French, books in French.  No principle of organization besides reading level.  Hard enough so I learn, not so hard that I give up.

The most tempting project-like reading is a good wallow in French Romantic poetry – Lamartine, Vigny, Musset, Desbordes-Valmore, Hugo, more Hugo, and yet more Hugo – followed by a plunge into Baudelaire, Verlaine, etc., etc., stopping with – perhaps never stopping.  It’s the great glory of French literature, modern poetry, and much of it is graspable at my reading level.  Or almost graspable.  A little more patience; a little more work.

2.  Post-Victorian British literature.  The Lyon public library had an outstanding but maybe old-fashioned collection of British literature.  They absorbed an English library in – I don’t know when – and thus had plenty of Aldous Huxley, Richard Hughes, D. H. Lawrence, that sort of thing.  Cold Comfort Farm and Rogue Male and Malice Aforethought and Elizabeth Bowen and Rudyard Kipling short story collections in their original formats.  Whatever expats might have wanted to read circa 1965, I guess.  If I had refused to learn French, there would still have been plenty to read.

I thought I would be tired of this stuff, but back home I found myself picking up old favorites like Zuleika Dobson and Howards End, more of the same like The Moon and Sixpence, and even New Grub Street, which now looked like an immediate Victorian precursor of this post-Victorian tradition or attitude.

Maybe I should write some of this out, so that it makes some sense.  Anyway, more second-tier, sarcastic British literature.

3.  Not French, not British.  What I thought I would want to read immediately was the thing I was deprived of in France, like great Russian and German literature.  The Magic Mountain, Berlin Alexanderplatz, Red Cavalry, The Foundation Pit.  I want to revisit Kafka, who I haven’t really read for a long time.  Same for Bely’s Petersburg.

4.  The 1910s.  The 1920s.  Otherwise I will likely resume my chronological drift, floating through the 1910s into the 1920s.

5.  I have one more idea I would like to pursue –  literary criticism – but I would like advice on that, so I will write it up tomorrow.

What will you be reading in the next six months?  Something good, I hope?

22 comments:

  1. I'll continue reading a lot more nonfiction, and hopefully continue to post on them and any of the following I get to.
    For fiction: I just finished Ernst Junger's "On the Marble Cliffs," possibly the strangest thing I have ever read. And that's saying a lot. (Plan on posting on it soon.) A few of the books queued up are beefy: "The Cypresses Believe in God" by Jose Maria Gironella, for my French connection I want to tackle "The Thibaults" by Roger Martin du Gard (I quite liked "Jean Barois"), more Szentkuthy, and I've been meaning to read more Galdos. Revisiting books...I'm thinking some southern U.S. authors, particularly Eudora Welty. As you know, plans change, but I find it helpful to have a flexible framework.

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  2. All right! I can post comments again!

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  3. Crazy blog software. Good news, anyways.

    Strangest thing you have ever read - now that piques the interest. Welty is wonderful. Szentkuthy sounds wonderful. Martin du Gard still has readers in France, which almost surprised me.

    Great stuff, generally.

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  4. That list of poets reminded me of the anthology I studied as a set text at A Level in England many years ago (that's the pre-university level, similar I presume to high school in the US): Leconte de Lisle, Lamartine, Baudelaire, Verlaine, etc. Lines still linger in my head. Studying Eliot for Eng Lit at the same time made much more sense as a result. Just finished the fifth Barsetshire novel, followed by Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain while in Mallorca, which gets a lot of mentions in the novel/memoir. More Trollope to come, plus maybe Waugh, Vile Bodies as a freshener

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  5. In the coming months, I'll be reading old poets, exploring "experimental" prose from Laurence Sterne on, and seeking out the weirder fringes of science fiction and fantasy. I will also be reading Wuthering Expectations, it seems! I'm so glad you're blogging about books about.

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  6. Eliot was immersed in French poetry.

    I hope to revisit Waugh now. I have a lot more context. He is not so far off from what is going on around him, not as much as I had thought.

    Yes, the weirder fringe, the weirder fringe. Yes, yes, yes.

    A lot of good stuff there mentioned here. Everyone should be busy.

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  7. I'm reading War and Peace again. I'd forgotten how good it is; I'd forgotten how bad it is. A good time. I'm also reading Iris Murdoch. Future plans include more poetry and books about poetry, all of Chekhov again, the Shakespeare "history" plays I haven't read, and, um, whatever else. More Japanese novels. More novels translated from Spanish and Portuguese. That second volume of Euripides I never got to three years ago. Same old stuff, really. Oh, yes: a couple of weeks ago I stumbled onto a copy of In Einem Andern Land, which is A Farewell to Arms in German. I'll be reading that soon.

    Welcome back, that's what I mean to say. When I was in France, I read Lawrence and Chekhov. I can read almost nothing in French. At a bakery in Montmartre, I was begged to place my order in English. A humbling experience.

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  8. That wasn't about you. Paris is like New York. Whatever's fastest. Keep the line moving! In Lyon, and elsewhere, we were all more likely to stay in French. Talk about humbling.

    Euripides, Shakespeare. Way better than whatever I will read.

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  9. The closest sound to Shakespeare was probably the Jugement section of d'aubigne's les tragiques.

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  10. One of my long-term goals is to get my French to the level where I can read Les Tragiques. Funny you mention it.

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  11. I'm glad to see you're still blogging. I've been following your French adventures: bravo!

    I'm currently working my way slowly through the complete works of Charles Cros and the complete poetry of Yeats. (Full disclosure: I'm translating Cros's monologues). Those should take me awhile. On the stack are Borges's lectures on English lit, the plays of Raymond Roussel, and some of the poetry of Laurent Tailhade. I'm also trying to get my Italian back up to speed with some Giordano Bruno. All of that is very delicious, but a lot of work...

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  12. Doug, thanks. Your recent Alphonse Allais books tempt me to break my rule of reading in French. Your notes alone are worth a lot. Plus the reading level blah blah blah. We'll see. If the sales of the last couple were one copy lower than you expected, it's because I was in France.

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  13. It's been more like Maya Doesn't Read Books lately, but I'm hoping to get back on track. The NYRB Classics 50% off sale was very helpful in acquiring new reading material--I got Tsvetaeva's diaries, Shalamov's Kolyma Stories, and a couple of Chinese and Taiwanese books (Eileen Chang's Naked Earth looks amazing, but I haven't tried it yet).

    Trying to get through Cesare Pavese's The Moon and the Bonfires in Italian--it's beautifully written and I'm learning a bunch of agricultural/outdoor words but it's a bit slow, deliberately so, which makes it easy to put down and forget.

    It would also be nice to get my Spanish back on track (haven't studied it seriously in years) with the eventual goal of reading La Regenta. Even though I studied Spanish longer and better than French, it's somehow harder to read. Jorge Semprun, who wrote in both, suggests that's because of the extravagant vocab used in Spanish, or something like that.

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  14. Btw, Semprun has a memoir of learning French (as a teenage refugee from Franco) and falling in love with French literature. It's called "Adieu, vive clarté."

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  15. Those all sound like fantastic choices. I've just recently finished Kafka's fiction and am ready to start over... but it'll have to wait. Right now I'm in a bit of a Southern Gothic phase, with some late 20th century fiction thrown in. Till distracted, I *was* in the 1910s/20s and need to get back to that timeframe soon with a T. E. Lawrence biography and others.

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  16. That NYRB sale just about took over my Twitter for a while.

    I may write a little bit on how specific French novels were useful for specific vocabulary. Now I am learning about birds! Or whatever. Truly useful.

    Semprun's memoir sounds quite interesting, thanks for the pointer.

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  17. Kafka, Southern Gothic, T. E. Lawrence - outstanding. I want to get back to Faulkner sometime, too. A giant, and I've barely read him for twenty-five years.

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  18. Oh, and if you have not tried him, maybe read Michael Farris Smith, a true modern day Faulknerian or Southern Gothicist or whatever. A living example of the species.

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  19. Alas, my newly chosen project — Charles Dickens — seems not to fit with your floated proposal. Still, I would like to find room for Stevenson or Kipling. Well, perhaps.

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  20. Dickens goes with every proposal, I feel. There is something in Dickens to go with everything. An immense writer.

    I read the last two volumes of Kipling's short stories in France. The stories where he is dealing with his son's death in the war - wrenching. Beautiful, but rough.

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  21. Last month I read four short stories by Blume Lempel, translated from Yiddish. All are set in Paris where she lived from 1929 to 1939 before luckily moving to New York City. One story has a magnetic title, “A Yiddish Poet in Paris”. Lempel loved Paris, she lived on Long Island for forty plus years and never lost her fluency in French. She published in NYC yiddish publications, writing in that language to preserve her heritage.

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  22. Huh, Yiddish writing but also fluent in French. Not so common, I don't think.

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