Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Meme

Now that snow shoveling season has returned, my guilt at staying indoors and reading has diminished considerably. In order to further justify my indolence, I've joined this "5 things" meme:

1. The book I’m currently reading:

Dylan's Vision of Sin by Christopher Ricks.
Yes, The Oxford Book of English Verse, Christopher Ricks. If you've ever had a yen to see if Bob Dylan's lyrics hold up to a close reading under the "classical" microscope, this is the book for you. Although he may not cover your favorite Dylan song, those which Ricks does analyze are covered in depth: in their construction, in their relationship to other poetry, and in their meaning. At over 500 extremely verbose pages this is neither a quick nor easy read. It is, however, refreshingly free of the usual Dylan biographical sidetracks as Ricks takes each song as a stand-alone creation and doesn't dwell on what Dylan ate for supper the day he wrote it.

2. The last book I finished:

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. One of my Nobel Laureate "series", is a small gem of a novel concerning a sad affair between a middle-aged Japanese man (Shimamura) and a young woman (Komako, a geisha) who try to create a meaningful relationship in a mountain ski resort and spa. As it develops it shows various nuances of the very Japanese situation. It was hard for me to warm up to the characters in the book, Shimamura is aware of imbalance in their relationship but can do little or nothing to change it, his passivity lacks empathy. Komako, who seems to be somewhat different than other geisha girls, remains trapped in her role as well.

3. The next book I want to read:

Laterna Magica by William Heinesen. I found this book when I was in Seattle, one of several Faroese connections I made that weekend.
I had recently read Heinesen's The Lost Musicians, along with several pieces in Faroese Short Stories. This book contains more short fiction- it is his final book- and was published in Seattle by Tiina Nunnally for the Fjord Press in 1987 (Tiina translated Peter Høeg's immensely successful Smilla's Sense of Snow).
I've peeked at it; I'm sure I'll devour it once I'm through with the Dylan book.

4. The last book I bought:

The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir, translated by Brian FitzGibbon. This is a leap of faith, I've seen numerous favorable reviews, it is still a risky bet though. I've been burned before by on-line recommendations but have been pleasantly "warmed" by others. Outside of crime fiction writers, I am woefully ignorant of modern Icelandic fiction.

It's in my Amazon queue, I'll put off actually ordering it until after I make the rounds of the Minneapolis booksellers.

5. The last book I was given:

Icelandic Essays, explorations in the anthropology of modern life by E. Paul Durrenberger, Rudi Press, 1995.

This gifted book was a complete surprise from my blog-pal "Rose". It contains a series of anecdotal essays tying modern life in Iceland to its history and culture. Written just before the crazy economic expansion in the 2000's, its greatest value may line in its "time capsule" description of that time of transistion. While this book would have limited appeal for the general reader, Rose knows exactly what appeals to my fancy.

This meme is from Simon, via Niranjana...

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Niranjana (Brown Paper) said...

As I might have predicted, I've heard of none of these books. Which, I suppose, was the point of this meme--to find new writing. The Kawabata sounds good, but I'm not touching any book with any connection to either ice or snow till April...

Blogger Professor Batty said...

This is a pretty fair representation of my reading patterns- Non-fiction, high art "literature", some obscure Scandinavian fiction, and finally some Icelandic culture. I wouldn't recommend any of these books to anyone who didn't already have an interest in the subjects.
The Heinesen is sublime, however.

Blogger Mary said...

Can I play, too?

Currently reading - The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - finding that I have little patience with the young people in the book.

Last book I finished - Albert Glinsky's "Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage". Excellent biography of Leon Theremin (the inventor of the early electronic instrument of the same name) which was intertwined with the history of the Soviet Union.

Next book I want to read: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I have loved all of his books, but this one is more than 900 pages long!! Will I make it? Is it worth that much of my life?

Last book I bought - the collection of short stories by Faroese writers suggested in this blog.

Last book I received as a gift - a while ago my husband gave me Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder. Very disturbing account of civil war and genocide in Burundi.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I've had my eye on the Theremin book for a while, and The Marriage Plot since reading the Virgin Suicides. I'd love to hear your reaction to the Faroese Stories after you've read them, as well as the Murakami, which seems to be getting an extremely wide range of responses so far- love-hate- indifference- perplexion (is that even a word?)

Blogger Darien Fisher-Duke said...

"sublime"... a high compliment indeed. I must read Heinesen.

Anonymous I'd Rather Be in Iceland said...

Thanks for the recommendation, I've just added The Greenhouse to my Amazon wish list! I'm always looking for translated Icelandic fiction.

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