Monday, November 16, 2009

The Rudderless Ship of Reading: Summer/Fall, 2009

It's been an odd few months of reading, and very unlike me to be this haphazard in my literary choices over a period of months. So although I've written nothing here since early June about what I've read, I have actually read quite a bit -- it's just been "all over the place."

Over most of the summer months, my reading consisted of four books: rereading Paradise Lost, Nicholas Nickleby, and The Old Curiosity Shop for my two Newberry classes, and tackling David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. While my interest was piqued early on in the reading of Wallace's "masterpiece" -- and certain passages were by turns hysterical, brilliant, or incomprehensible -- I was having a tough time keeping any sort of Big Picture in mind during the reading. Since Wallace is often compared to Pynchon and Delillo, I found myself noticing various parallels in style, motif, theme, etc. But, to be frank, a thousand pages is still a thousand pages, and although a friend of mine and I met up one evening for pizza to discuss our readings of the book (she was reading it too, and totally digging it!), it became more and more difficult for me to continue. Finally in early August, just as I was around page 600 in Infinite Jest ...

... Thomas Pynchon's new novel Inherent Vice came out! YES! So I took a week or so to slowly, savoringly enjoy the wackiness of this beautifully written work (which I have yet to write about here, but I will soon). Afterward, I found it impossible to return to the Wallace tome. And it was the start of the school year anyways by that time, so ... Infinite Jest remains, sadly, unfinished.

Overlapping much of this time period, however, was the prep time I needed for a fall seminar I was scheduled to co-teach with a Newberry colleague of mine. We were planning to collaborate on a seminar whose focus was Thomas Pynchon's thousand-page Against The Day, and so a portion of my summer months was additionally occupied with rereading that novel and doing some preliminary research. Unfortunately, low enrollment and some unforeseen school obligations led me to bow out of teaching the seminar, leaving Against the Day only partially reread and researched.

By late August school had begun and I was in the mode of rereading the usual books I have to teach during the early months of school -- The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, Macbeth, Letters From Wolfie. During this time I "tried on" several books, just to jump-start a reading pattern that would kinda get me back to normal: I reread some passages from Lord of the Rings, a few chapters from some random Dostoyevsky, toyed with reading a Philip K. Dick novel, and even read a beautiful book by Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (which I have yet to also write about here, but I will soon). Nothing was grabbing me ...

... Until I started reading Orhan Pamuk's Snow. This was one of the most captivating books I've read all year, and I simply stumbled across the title via the College Board's listserv for A.P. English teachers. I'll finish the book in the next few days, and I look forward to writing about it here (as well as catching up on my other book reflections).

So, while I haven't read much ... I have read a lot ... much of it a strange collection of rereadings, incomplete readings, and two or three gems. I'll catch you up on the gems shortly. = )

1 comment:

James said...

Can't wait to see your comments about Housekeeping. I'm reading her latest, Home, over the next couple of weeks for a book group and plan to try to reread Housekeeping which I much admired when I originally read it a couple of years ago.