I’ve had heaps of time to myself lately. Since we moved, the whole making new friends/getting out there thing has been slow to start. Which is fine; sometimes you need some you-time, to re-evaluate, to examine the grooves made by your recent thought trains, and whether (or not) you like the picture they’re making. With all of this time, I’ve been able to do something I haven’t done in a while: leisurely enjoy reading.
For anyone who likes books, it seems impossible to match the rate of their consumption to that of their acquisition. I have soooooo many books sitting patiently, demurely, chatting amongst themselves on my bookshelf.
Moreover, it turns out that The Book Thing is only a few blocks away from my apartment. Ah bon…rien qu’on peut faire. Looks like I’ll never catch up. Woe is me, always something waiting to be read.
Anyway, I wanted to share with you some recent books that I’ve enjoyed.
In Love by Alfred Hayes
This short novel tells the story of a couple belligerently in love, though simultaneously not very sure what “love” actually means. It’s told as a confession, by the man to a stranger in a bar, and he is brutally honest about their misunderstandings as a couple. Some of his reflections are tremendously relatable to anyone who has ever found pain in love. Here are some of my favorites:
“I suppose no evening is ever again like the very first evening, the nakedness ever again quite the nakedness it is the first time, the initial gestures, hesitant and doubtful and overintense, ever again what they were, for nothing we want ever turns out quite the way we want it, love or ambition or children, and we go from disappointment to disappointment, from hope to denial, from expectation to surrender, as we grow older, thinking or coming to think that what was wrong was the wanting, so intense it hurt us, and believing or coming to believe that hope was our mistake and expectation our error…”
And on the denial of pain in love: “…it may be only that like a woman after childbirth we can never restore for ourselves the reality of pain, it is impossible to believe that is was we who screamed so in the ward or clawed so at the bedsheets or such sweats were ever on our foreheads, and that too much feeling, finally, makes us experience a sensation of unreality as acute as never having felt at all.”
Full of such nuggets of wisdom, I highly recommend In Love to anyone who has ever been.
Divertimento 1889 by Guido Morselli
Morselli shot himself in the head in 1973, after the brutal life of being a rejected writer. Of course, after his death, his novels were rediscovered and found to be of great interest to the Italian intelligentsia. Divertimento 1889 tells the story of one of Italy’s last kings, incognito on vacation from his regency. Enjoying the alps virtually unaccompanied, the king enjoys his escape from his duties and the petty dramas of the court. A critic quoted on the book jacket compared the novel to Nabokov, and from the embellished satire and amusing wit found therein, I’d say it’s a pretty apt comparison.
This book was a gift from my good friend Katie (who writes cool stuff over here), from the used bookstore she used to work for. I don’t know if I would have picked it for myself, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.
Collected French Translations: Poetry by John Ashbery
What could be better than one of the greatest living poets visiting some of the greatest French poetry of all time? This collection includes translations, as well as the poems in the original French. I’ve been going through slowly, covering up the English poem and trying to craft translations of my own, which I then compare to Ashbery’s. It’s been a fun way to practice my French, and if any of the poems turn out any good, I’ll be sure to share them here.
Next on my to-read list are Tao Lin’s Tai Pei, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and of course the new Bridget Jones novel.
What are you reading/excited to read?