Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Books I Read in October 2023

The five-day hospital stay breaking the month in half is likely invisible to anyone but me, but that is why the fiction list is so mystery-heavy, and for that matter so long.  Many of these books, the post-surgery group, are not just short but light, well-suited for the invalid's tired hand.  The invalid is feeling much better, by the way, in fact not much of an invalid, so perhaps I am ready for a heavier book.

I hope to get a little - or big - Ovid project going soon.  Metamorphoses and the early Heroides, but them why not the rest.  It would be pleasant to have company, so I will put up an invitation sometime soon.


Mahabharata (2 BCE-2 CE), the 1973 William Buck adaptation

The Bhagavad-Gita (1 BCE), tr. Barbara Stoler-Miller         

The Ramayana (3 BCE-3 CE, maybe), the 1972  R. K. Narayan adaptation

Marvelous books I read 25 years ago, once again great pleasures.  I will pursue this Indian literature line for a while. 


Selected Essays and Dialogues (1 CE), Plutarch - another book from 25 years ago.  I find Plutarch to be a genial voice, not unlike his great descendant Montaigne.



The Death of Ivan Ilych (1886) &

Collected Shorter Fiction, Vol. 2 (1885-1906),  Leo Tolstoy, the 400 pages or so I had never read, plus the above.  Lots of Christian fairy tales, plus “The Forged Coupon,” a clever chain of sin.

The Big Money (1936), John Dos Passos - I love the USA Trilogy in theory, particularly its collage-like construction, but find it dull in practice. Or I find the more ordinary novellish parts - characters, story - dull, perhaps because so much of it is written like a medieval chronicle ("and then... and then... and then...").  I do love the potted biographies of the famous - Henry Ford, Frederick Jackson Taylor, William Randolph Hearst - turned into prose poems.  Would an entire book of just those would become tiresome?

Rebecca (1938), Daphne Du Maurier

The Third Man (1950), Graham Greene - no zither, no kitten, but solid.

The Investigation (1959), Stanislaw Lem

The Wanderer (1964), Fritz Leiber - an odd although Hugo-winning science fiction novel from one of my longtime favorite fantasy writers.  It is an early "planetary disaster" novel, with characters all over (and off) the glove reacting to the catastrophe in different ways.  I was surprised how goofy the book was in places.  Leiber had perhaps been reading Vonnegut and Pynchon.

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), Jean Rhys

At the Bottom of the River (1983), Jamaica Kincaid

The Black Book (1993), Ian Rankin

A Mountain to the North, a Lake to the South, Paths to the West, a River to the East (2003), Laszlo Krasznahorkai

The Forgery (2013), Ave Barrera



A Journey of the Mind: Collected Poems of Helen Pinkerton (1945-2016), Helen Pinkerton

Mast Year (2020), Katherine Hagopian Berry

Old Orchard Beach Cycle (2022), Robert Gibbons – these last two are Maine poems by Maine poets.  We hit a bad patch in Maine last week.  It felt healthy to read some Maine poems.



L'Art d'être grand-père (1877), Victor Hugo

La Cantatrice chauve (1950) &

La leçon (1951) &

Les chaises (1954), Eugène Ionesco

La Répétition ou l'Amour puni (1950), Jean Anouilh

En attendant Godot (1952), Samuel Beckett

A jolly little “French theater in the 1950s” run along with the great late-period Hugo poetry collection.