Sunday, November 13, 2016

reading rainbow

I haven't been blogging so much, mostly because when I feel like it, it's already 9:30pm, and then I'm up all the way to 11 writing, and then I don't sleep well. And really, I have enough problems.

I have been reading, which is how it's early November and I've finished 85 books this year. Taking books out of the library and reading them via the Kindle service means that they're accessible and synced on my Kindle, iPhone, and iPad, which means that at any moment, I have, immediately accessible, all the books I'm in the middle of.

Related: now that my books-in-progress count is not limited by paper--storage, cost, portability--I am discovering some limits to how many books I can actually productively be "reading" at one time, in the sense that I can dip into a book and remember what was happening when I last put it down. I think it's somewhere in the 15-24 range. I have about 500 books available in the wings still, so there's plenty to keep me going. (90 or so are books I labeled "work," often lightweight stuff by consultants that I will skim quickly and possibly never finish. Some are labeled "boring," which means I'll either read them before bed to settle my mind down, or I'll just never read them.)

I finished Moby-Dick! It wasn't a bucket list item or anything, but when I was in Chile and we read whatever books were available, I read a few things I would not have otherwise: Reading Lolita In Tehran, Siddartha, The Alchemist, The Shack, and East of Eden. All good in their way, and all with serious flaws, except for East of Eden, which felt like the kind of pure clear jewel of a book that an author should win the Nobel Prize for.

I'm not sure how to hedge about Moby-Dick. It's not...interesting, exactly. It's very good, in its way, but the reader must let go the idea that a "novel" is a "story" where things "happen." Having done that, you can then roll with the endless digressions, which start right at the beginning and continue through to the last chapter, which is the only one that has a white whale actually on-screen. The narrator doesn't board a ship until 25% of the way through, and this is not a short book. Character-free discourses on whale behavior, anatomy, and flensing occupy, conservatively, a full third of the book. You get the idea. It's fine bedtime reading.

Somehow J started reading the The Iliad, and since I've never read it and needed a new bedtime classic, I've added it to the rotation. I had been thinking Don Quixote, I got bogged down picking a translation. Meanwhile, The Iliad isn't long, and the opening sets its hook in you:
Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, 
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, 
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, 
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion, 
feasts for the dogs and birds, 
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end. 
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed, 
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.
Right? I assume the Greek is better, but read that out loud and hear how Robert Fagles makes this a story you'd hear over the fire, back when humans had to be afraid of the dark. (Back when Europe had lions!)

I'm curious now why I read The Odyssey in high school instead, while my older brother read The Iliad; maybe I'll read The Odyssey later. (He did take some kind of Classics class, since I also remember his copy of Virgil's Aeneid kicking around; maybe he took Latin also? It wasn't something we discussed as a family.)

I chewed through 5 sci-fi novels by Peter Watts. First the two Firefall books (Blindsight, Echopraxia), then the Rifters trilogy (Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth). His writing is kind of cold and bleak, so it's just as well I need to move on to something else.

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