Sunday, July 03, 2011

For Pleasure: Summer Reading
So I noticed on several newspaper and magazine sites this weekend a feature about books that people (usually famous people) are reading this summer, usually accompanied by a photo like the one above (the pipe stem is a nice if unintended touch--I used to smoke it many years ago, and now I keep it around for the occasional phantom pipe tobacco taste, but mostly as decor.)

So in addition to my never-dwindling pile of books to review (many still to go from this past spring), my summer reading so far is this pile of books.  I wish I could say it was a considered literary program, but all of them were recent finds in used bookstores and a big bookstore sale (except the Vonnegut and the James Hillman, which I've had for years and am re-reading; I generally do a Hillman around my birthday, especially big ones.)

I've just completed reading (for the first time, I'm ashamed to say) Memories of My Melancholy Whores, so far the last published novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  It's better than the reviews I remember.  I kept waiting to find a proper hardback used or remaindered, but at this late date I settled for this new paperback.  It was also an interesting book to read around my birthday (though still a quarter century from my 90th, which is the narrator's age.)

I've been re-reading Vonnegut's novels more or less in order.  I read Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan last month and started Cat's Cradle, only to realize I re-read this one last year.  But it has been years since I've read the rest.  I'm also intrigued by the idea of re-reading J.D. Salinger.  I haven't re-read any of those books in decades.

I've started Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorder collection of stories. The voice is very similar to that in the occasional pieces in Writing With Intent--same sort of humor, of little leaps and connections, but with more literary qualities.  The first story in the collection, "The Bad News," is an absolute masterpiece, the best apocalyptic in everyday life story I can recall since one by Charles Baxter many years ago.  I'm enjoying this a lot--come on, Nobel Prize committee!

I've started Kim Stanley Robinson's latest novel, Galileo's Dream. I've been a little wary of his historical/alternate history novels, though I can't exactly explain why.  I guess I couldn't see how they could be as good as his s/f and future vision novels.  And Galileo has always seemed more of a symbol to me--he seems to be treated that way in several plays about him--and not my choice for someone I'd like to see Doctor Who visit.  But he's a real character here, and not at all stiff or stuffy.  I am enjoying this, and I sense there's more to it in regard to the contemporary world than noted in reviews or descriptions.

Earlier this year I had a chance to buy a remainder copy of Jack Kornfield's The Wise Heart, and passed on it.  Though I went back to get it, I'd lost my chance.  Faced with it again as a sale paperback, I couldn't pass it up again. I tend to start but not finish his books, though I don't know why.  I started reading it as a spiritual balance to the soul concerns of Hillman (Hillman makes a big distinction between soul and spirit, and it makes a lot of sense.)  Its subtitle is "A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology" which is of great pith and moment.

That's the summer so far, though I'm likely to roam through my library (and probably a few more bookstores) in search of another kind of moment, another reading experience, as the spirit (and the soul) moves.

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