These are the books that are on my coffee table right now.

books

I am not actually reading all of them at once. The only one I’m actively reading is What Did Miss Darrington See?

Both The Dark Monk and Nature Wars I have read the first chapters of, but I haven’t developed a committed reading relationship with either one yet.

And the rest are to be read eventually, probably.

Coffee Table Books!

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Currently Reading Snapshot

Books I am in the middle of:

Mockingbird by Julie Trimingham

The Mammoth Book of Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories edited by Richard Dalby

The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor

Flickering Shadows by Kwadwo Agymah Kamau

Also, Sallie has been reading this one out loud to me, one story at a time:

Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins by Emma Donoghue

Other Books:

I recently finished In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker. I may write down some more thoughts on this later, if I feel inspired.

I recently abandoned Grange House by Sarah Blake because it felt over-written and because I had zero interest in the love-story parts of it. Give me a straight ghost story any day! But if you start adding anything hinting at a love triangle, it had better be really really well written or I’ll drop it quick.

Finally, Red doc> by Anne Carson is currently hibernating. It’s a book that I want to give 100% heart and attention to, and I just don’t have enough freedom from distraction right now. I mostly have to snatch my reading in small moments–that’s why I always keep a book on the back of the toilet!–and that’s very much not how I want to read this particular book. So it is waiting in the wings for a time when I feel able to set aside the 500 other things pulling at my attention and really sit down for a solid chunk of reading.

I think that’s everything! I hope to do one of these snapshot posts on a semi-regular basis because it will be useful and interesting to me to have a little summary I can look back on to see what I was reading “back then.”

lists

I am going to add this: http://listverse.com/2010/04/08/top-10-underrated-fantasy-stories-before-1937/ to my bookmooch wishlist.  The ones on there that I haven’t read before, that is.  And one that I have read before, The Worm Ouroboros, because I’d like to re-read it and I have no idea what happened to the old paperback that I read back in high school.  I hardly remember the story, even.  Just that I really liked it.  Which made me happy to see it included on this list, because then I was reminded of the book’s existence, and I can seek it out.

Getting rid of books

lamp and curtain

S and I found out recently that our landlady is selling the house we live in, so now we’re getting ready for yet another move.  I never thought that I would be as nomadic as I’ve ended up so far in my adult life.  We’ve moved about once a year since college.  I’m resigned to this next move, but there are parts of it that are rather difficult.  Getting rid of books, for instance.  I just love to own piles and piles of them, even ones that I know I’ll never read, or ones that I have read but likely won’t read again.  And I’ve been acquiring them like crazy over the past year because I thought we would be here longer and because I can’t help browsing the free book cart in the lobby of the library every time I go there.  Not to mention the book sale at the library, and the book sections at my two favorite thrift stores.  At least I’ve been spared the danger of having a decent used book store in town!

So, S and I are planning to have a yard sale next weekend.  Our criteria for removing books from our collection is that we’re either unlikely to read them or else if we did want to read that title, it wouldn’t be difficult to get from a library.  That means goodbye to some classics, goodbye to some random ones that could be great, goodbye to random ones I only picked up because I thought the title was funny (see below), goodbye to some that have been on the shelves for a long time, and goodbye to some we just got last week.  I promised myself before starting to sort them that I would be brutal.  There’s a good chance that we’ll be moving into a smaller apartment than this one.  Also, books are very heavy to carry.  And we’re paring down our clothing, art supplies, cds, furniture, and everything else we own with the same brutality.  I just feel saddest about the books.

So, Goodbye to this: Sometimes I feel like a Blob

And Goodbye to this: Your First Romance

 

dressing and describing a character

Sometimes the character descriptions are my favorite parts of novels.  They often seem more vibrant to me than other parts of the same book.  Is this because the author puts in extra effort when describing a character?  To me they just seem great fun to write.

Here are a couple recent ones that I enjoyed.  They amused me.  Both are from The Dancing Druids by Gladys Mitchell.  It’s my current bathroom-reading mystery novel, obtained from the free discards rack at the library.

“Laura was as bold as a lion, but was as superstitious as a warlock.  She was full of dark fancies drowned in primordial deeps.  She also believed, with healthy, female instinct, that dangerous and delicate missions were less unpleasant in the daylight than in the dark.  With respect to the house itself, she was torn between a frantic desire to visit it and an equally strong determination not to go anywhere near its boundaries.  She was, in fact, like a child who both dreads and longs for a ghost-story just at bedtime.  The thrill would be worth it, the aftermath definitely not.  In other words, although Laura was both practical and hard-headed, and although she was brisk, jimp, and daring in all that she undertook, she was also the prey of an inherited belief in the legends, spectres and bogies of a Highland ancestry.  It was one of the many reasons for her adherence to Mrs. Bradley, who was legend, spectre, and bogie all in one, for she felt, without realizing it, that the greater demon kept the lesser demons at bay.”

I had to look up “jimp.”  It’s apparently a Scottish term that means slender or scant or neat or elegant.  Perhaps also archaic usage, since the novel was published in 1948.

And then there’s this description a little later in the book of Mrs. Bradley herself:

“Mrs. Bradley cordially agreed.  She herself looked very far from appetizing in a sage-green costume and a bright red blouse, an heirloom brooch of vast proportions whose only virtue was that it did at least conceal some of the blouse, stout shoes with crepe rubber soles, knitted stockings, and a rakish diamond clip on the side of her shining black hair.”

Doesn’t that seem a bit of fun to have written?  If I ever write a novel myself….

a tiny thing, really

I’m reading a little book right now called Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman.  I picked it up at my new favorite source for books–the free cart at the library.  Libraries only have limited space on their shelves, so they have to discard stuff sometimes to make room for new books.  I guess I’m just like the library, really.  My personal library can’t stop acquiring new books either.  I just can’t stop!  And then I discard ones I’m done with.  Then they can join someone else’s book collection.  It’s a literary cycle.  Actually, I’m writing this right now from the library, and I just picked up five more books on my way in here–two mysteries, a young adult novel, a historical novel, and a book by an author I like (Kate Atkinson–try her out if you’re into quirky).

Anyway, before I started rambling I meant to write about this particular free-cart book, Einstein’s Dreams.  It’s rather good.  The book jacket compares it to Italo Calvino, which makes a connection for me between my casual reading and my academic reading.  As if there needed to be a distinction…  I told B in my letter to her that I really did see the similarities with Calvino.  That’s praise, by the way, in case you haven’t heard of Italo Calvino.  But there was this one little thing, a problem, the last time I was reading Einstein’s Dreams and it was enough to make me put down the book.  I’ll pick it up again, but I had to walk away and think about editing for a while.  There was a scene in the book where a character takes up needles and starts crocheting.  As someone who both knits and crochets, I know that you don’t crochet with needles.  You crochet with a hook.  Singular.  It’s a very small detail, unimportant to the plot, as much as there is even a plot, but it reminded me that even the tiniest details matter sometimes to a reader.  Or, from the point of view of a writer, every tiny detail matters, because you don’t want to make your reader annoyed.  You don’t want to cause them to put down your book.  I just hope that when I’m trying to get published, in the future, that I can catch all tiny problems in my writing and soothe and fix them to perfection, and that I’ll have a good editor to help me.

re-reading

Late last night I sort of felt like watching a movie, but also felt rather tired.  I was yawning, but didn’t want to go to bed yet, and a movie would have been a cozy thing to do.  Then again, I was uncertain that I’d want to stay awake for an hour and a half, or whatever a movie would take.  I have several books scattered around the house that I’m in the middle of reading, but none of them felt attractive to me right then.  Maybe I should have just given in to the sleepiness and gone to bed, but I frequently resist bedtime, like I’m a stubborn girl again, or something.  Anyway, I decided against watching a movie and started scanning the bookshelves for something new to read a few chapters of.  What I finally selected was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Now, this is a book that I’ve read before.  I went through a R.L. Stevenson phase at some point in high school, although I’ve actually never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  There’s something nice about re-reading a book that’s very different from reading a book for the first time.  If the book is worthy of a second reading (or a third, fourth, fifth, etc.), then it’s like an act of returning.  Going back to a place, a city or a landscape, that once welcomed you or changed you.  And your friends are still living there, even though you’ve been away for a long time.  Re-reading is a much more relaxed sort of reading than the first encounter with a book, which is why it was the right thing for me to do last night.  You already know what’s going to happen, so there’s no anxiety.  Instead, you just enjoy the scenery, and collect details and emotions that you didn’t see the first time.  It has been a really long time since I read Treasure Island, so most of the little parts of the story feel new to me.  I really just remember the broad arc of what happens.  I was going to say something cheesy about finding new parts of a book when you read it at a different time in your life than the first time, how your relationship with the book changes because you’ve changed, etc. but I feel like I’ve been cheesy enough already, so you can think that one out for yourself.

It’s also interesting to me how this book in particular has been one that people return to.  There have been a lot of movies made based on this story, too.  I’m partial to the Muppet version, personally.  It’s an exciting story, lots of action and whatnot, so I guess that helps it to translate well to movie adaptations.  Also, people love pirates.  I think that Long John Silver is one of the archetypes of exactly why people are so attached to or attracted to pirates.  He’s confusing.  Should you like him or dislike him?  Is he good or evil?  The bad guy is so much more interesting than the good guy.  We all want to be the bad guy, right?  We want to get away with things.  Or maybe some people want to date the rebel.  Like Captain Jack Sparrow.  Yes, Johnny Depp is sexy, but I think it would be much more interesting to be Captain Sparrow than anything else.