Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wayward Readings & 2006 in Review:

As 2006 comes to a close, I realize that there are several books I read over the year that I never got around to commenting on. Whether I read them for my classes , for my book group, or for fun, here are a few others that occupied my time this year:

Michael Faber, The Crimson Petal and the White -- Follows the trials and tribulations of Sugar, a 19th Century prostitute in England ... sort of a contemporary Moll Flanders, in a way. Not terribly "literary," but it's good "fluff" reading.

Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac -- I read this for book group. Fun stuff, and the movie's just as good. Wonderful wordplay throughout the work, akin to a French Oscar Wilde.

Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz -- Introduced this in A.P. English in the spring; it went over like a lead balloon, but I liked it. A classic of magic realism.

David Yaffe, Fascinating Rhythm: Reading Jazz in American Writing -- Great series of essays that detail the influence of jazz on post-WWII writers like Mailer, Salinger, Ellison, et al.

Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho -- Worst piece of gothic drivel I read all year (not that I read a lot of gothic drivel this year, mind you). I read it for book group in preparation for our January discussion of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. 'Supposed to have been very popular in its day. A real clinker, in my opinion.

Charles Dickens, The Christmas Stories (A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Haunted Man, and The Battle for Life) -- Read these and taught the first three for my fall Newberry seminar. Carol is by far the best!

Gary Paulsen, Soldier's Heart -- Began the year in my Dimensions in Reading class with this novel of a young man's coming of age as a foot soldier in the Civil War. My students enjoyed it!

Colin Higgins, Harold and Maude -- Technically, this is a re-read for me. But it's been years since I taught this book, and I used it in my Dimensions in Reading class. Brilliant dark humor with a liberal dose of Zen koans and irony make this book a winner for any reader!

In retrospect, I guess I've read about thirty-three separate books this year, not counting the various and sundry readings I've had to do in addition to those (e.g., literary criticisms, secondary sources, and biographical accounts for the Dickens novels, re-reading the books I normally teach in class, and the fact that many of the Dickens works I read this year I read twice -- once for content and basic plot, and once later for analysis each week with my students). Plus, that dern'd Pynchon novel was arguably the longest novel I've ever read: 1,085 pages! A-and my wife's Us! magazine keeps appearing in the bathroom each week, riveting me to the latest happenings in the lives of Paris, Britney, and Brangelina, so . . .

Ne'ertheless, already for 2007 I have some awesome old-school science fiction waiting to be read, as well as some much-needed non-fiction regarding Miles Davis, Samuel Johnson, and the Afterlife!

Who could want more?

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