Friday, January 30, 2015

The Sun Also Goeth Down


“It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”   --from The Sun Also Rises

This week, I had to shelve David Copperfield to read with my daughter.  As this is her last year at home, and one of our favorite things to do is co-read, I decided I would try to keep up with her AP English reading.  It's like having homework.  I don't like someone dictating my reading choices and schedule (that's why I don't join book clubs). The sacrifices we make for our kids!

Don't tell the teacher, but I am behind.  I'm about half-way through what is a re-read of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises for me, and so far I am yet again underwhelmed by Hemingway. I read an assertion once that readers like either Faulkner or Hemingway but never both.  Well, I LOVE Faulkner, so you see where that puts me with Papa.  I need someone to tell me what is so great about Hemingway.  I'm trying to keep an open mind here.  I'm trying to like his work.   I even went into this reading determined to like this book.  I just don't get it.  Maybe I'm not hip enough.  Maybe it's my small-town naivete, my lack of cosmopolitan flair.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I see no value in it, and I'm not saying it's not good.  It's just not great to me, and I really want someone to explain to me what I am missing.  The dialogue is abrupt, terse, even brusque and disjointed.  He writes like drunk people think...scattered and overestimating their own wit.  Reading Hemingway makes me feel like the only sober person at the party.  Maybe that's the problem.  Maybe I need to be drunk to appreciate it.  I'll try that with the second half of the book and report my findings next week when I wake up.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

David Zhivago and Yuri Copperfield

photo by Anna Reavis

"I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see." John Burroughs

I’m sure some of my blogging friends think I’ve fallen prey to the dragons at the edge of the world, but I promise I have been reading.  I just haven’t been finishing anything.  For some ungodly reason back in December, I thought it would be a good idea to read David Copperfield to myself concurrently with reading Doctor Zhivago aloud with Ken...because the plethora of characters in either of these novels individually wasn’t challenging enough, I guess. 

Shortly into this literary equivalent of scaling two sheer granite facades at the same time, one with one half of my body and the other with the other half, I realized I would have to study character maps and make profuse notes on each novel to maintain some semblance of clarity.  (This was soon after I imagined David Copperfield heading toward Yuriatin to help Lara hide after she shot Mr. Murdstone.)    So, as if the reading of these two door stops wasn’t enough of a time suck, now there were the notes to make.  Then I got the flu.  Then Ken went into atrial fibrillation for a week and ended up in the hospital.  Let me just say that sickness and hospital stays do not, in fact, lend themselves to reading.  I spent a lot of time staring out the window like someone in need of a lobotomy.  Or a strait-jacket. 
And now we are both on the mend so it's time to head back to London to see how Pasha is getting along with Mr Spendlow.  One day I will finish these books and actually write about them.  In the meantime, I’ll just complete novels vicariously by reading book blogs at work.  (That is NOT true, Mark.  I do not read book blogs at work.  I only work prodigiously on insurance matters at work.  Except at lunch.  At lunch I download porn.) 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Will I Read All of Willa?

photo by Anna Reavis
What was any art but a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself -- life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose. 
Willa Cather

Let me begin by saying I love Willa Cather.  But I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say about Sapphira and the Slave Girl.  Maybe part of the problem is that I dislike so many of the characters.  And while there is some element of redemption in the fate of one of the main characters, Nancy, there seems to be no change of heart or growth of character in the others.  It's really strange to me that the same person who wrote this also wrote My Antonia.  Some of Cather's works seem more simple and entertaining, while some transcend entertainment and become art.  I have also read Death Comes for the Archbishop and O Pioneers!, and while I don't remember loving them as I did My Antonia, I do remember them as more complex and more...literary?  Is that the word I'm looking for?  Sounds so pretentious to pass judgment on the "literary merit" of a work, but I guess that's what I am doing. 

As a rule, I shy away from using the phrase "favorite book," as it would be impossible and I think unjust to choose a favorite, but My Antonia is certainly one of my favorite books, and it was pure serendipity that I read it at all.  I had read Sapphira and the Slave Girl at Wake in some upper level English class (maybe Literature of the South), and I had read O Pioneers and Death Comes for the Archbishop at some point along the way on my own.  Because I had not remembered loving any of the three, I may never have sought out more Cather.  But...when travelling, I usually read some or all of a random book I find in the house or condo I am in.  On a trip to Alaska in 2000, I found an old, slightly battered copy of My Antonia in the house I was in, started reading it, and fell in love.  I have since shared it with my daughter, and it is now also one of her favorite books.  I'm almost afraid to re-read it.  What if it doesn't live up to the hype I've created in my head?

What I would really like to do is find out more about Cather and her life and then read all her works in order of publication to see if I can gain some understanding of the variance in her work.  Maybe that can be a summer reading project.  January will be spent finishing Dr Zhivago and David Copperfield, both of which I am loving, but neither of which is a quick read.

How to Save a Life, One Day at a Time

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