wednesday reading notes
Whew, it’s called child care. And I finally have enough to give me time for work and a few hours of reading and writing.
So…books. What are we reading this summer?
A month or so ago I saw an article about Adam Thirwell’s The Delighted States and I got so excited I ordered the book right away. It came two weeks ago and I finally got the chance to sit down with it over the weekend. This is my kind of book. It focuses on literature AND translation AND the wonderful, sublime connection between writers and translators and ordinary people and readers and objects. It’s clever and funny and serious. Thirwell is clearly in love with language and with how writers manifest their own unique obsession with language. The book hops from one classic to the next, from one writer to another, finding similarities and lovely little gems of intertextuality. Reading The Delighted States feels a bit like watching a literary parade while a brilliant and chatty friend at your elbow tells you all you ever wanted to know about each book, each writer, each character.
For my French book club I am reading the newest Maryse Condé, Les Belles Tenebreuses. When we met last week to discuss Ella Maillart’s novel La Voie Cruelle, one of the members told me she’d already read the Condé and hated it. She said it was badly written, something which surprised me so much I started the book that evening. I’ve been a Condé admirer since grad school when I read and enjoyed her Moi, Tituba, Sorcière, where she re-imagines what the Salem witch trials must have been like for a slave woman accused of sorcery. I also read and studied her first novel Heremakhonon which examines cultural displacement through a unique back-to-Africa love story.
I’m only thirty or so pages into Les Belles Tenebreuses and the style is different from what I remember of Condé’s other work. There is an intrusive and authoritative author/narrator who speaks to the reader from time to time. I find it a little jarring, but I’m not far enough into the book to see whether this voice will serve a purpose. Which it may. Otherwise, the story is curious (embalming, terrorism, love story) and I’m eager to see where she is going.
Finally, I’m reading my first John Updike novel, Villages. I’ve read many upon many Updike short stories and I consider him to be one of the great greats, in the sense that his writing is so confident, so worked and detailed; he uses his words effectively and ingeniously, transforming a purportedly exclusive experience into something universal and collective. But I’m also often left with the feeling that his writing is overwritten. He packs so much into the small moments and descriptions, sometimes I want to say, ‘come on, I get it, let’s move on.’ There is a definite Updike style, and I need to be in the mood for it to enjoy it.
What are you all reading to start the summer? Anything good?