22 February 2014

Am I really taking 15 books to Hawaii?

In a word: no maybe.

But you can bet I will be taking far more than I need to take for ten days. I will probably end up taking nine in total. When I travel I like to take editions that I don't mind getting damaged or leaving behind. So the pile of mass market books on the right is all likely to go--except I will only take one of the V.S. Naipaul novels--so that is eight books right of the bat. And I'll take at least one of the trade paperbacks, more likely two. Except while I was just typing that sentence I thought "What if I took them all?" Hawaii is easy to pack for, I can carry this many books. I realize this makes me certifiable. But my normal tendency to worry about not having a good selection of books on a trip is amplified because of my recent difficulties finding things I want to read. It was that same worry that made me decide to add the trade paperbacks. I thought I might need something more contemporary to break any potential logjams created by the pile of ratty old vintage paperbacks.

The thing about this vacation is that John will be working for half of it. He has a conference in Honolulu for the first part of the trip that will keep him busy during the day and in the evening as well. So I will have lots of time to myself. And even though I lived in Honolulu from 1995 to 1997, I know very few people there.  Plenty of time to read. And, our flight from DC is almost 11 hours non-stop. Usually we connect in San Francisco which breaks up the flying time.

So let me break it down.

In a Free State - V.S. Naipaul OR
The Mimic Men - V.S. Naipaul
My experience with Naipaul has been a bit mixed. In my younger days I found him a little dry and somewhat challenging to read, but there was something about his books I liked. More recently, in 2006, I read A House for Mr Biswas and found the experience more enjoyable. I think I am also drawn to him because his books take me out of the US and the UK. My reading can be dangerously limited geographically.

The Black Tulip - Alexandre Dumas
I've had this one for a while. His other books have been quite quick and enjoyable reads despite being a gazillion pages each. This one is short and about tulip industry intrigue. I have high hopes for it.

Sweet Danger - Margery Allingham
There is something about a trip that makes me think I should take along a green Penguin. Maybe because they are mystery/thrillers and most people find those escapist and good vacation reads. I don't necessarily feel that way, but am going to try again nonetheless. The last time I read a green Penguin (The China Governess also by Allingham) I was also on vacation. Although now that I say that, I did read one late last year (Nest of Vipers by Tod  Claymore) and didn't really enjoy it. So then my twisted thought process moves to "Well, if I get this one out of the way it will no longer clog up my TBR."

Heritage - Vita Sackville-West
Her first novel. Expecting to enjoy this one.

Those Barren Leaves - Aldous Huxley
For me there are two Aldous Huxleys. The one who writes books I have enjoyed Point Counter Point, Brave New World, Chrome Yellow) and the one who writes books that I had too hard a time getting into (Antic Hay). I'm hoping this one falls into the former category. If not, another one off mys shelves.

Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
I have read the first hundred or so pages of this TWICE. For some reason, despite taking my 'life is too short' pledge a while back, I am going to start this one over and see if I can't make it all the way through. If I try and it is a no go, I will forever remove it from my TBR.

Scarred - Monica Dickens
I know I should love Persephone author Dickens, but I am not sure that I do. And I am not even positive this is the same Monica Dickens. We will see.

The Groves of Academe - Mary McCarthy
I loved The Group and am excited read something else by McCarthy. I only paid 48 cents for this ratty copy yet it is the one book in this pile I am somewhat anxious to leave behind while travelling. I don't see her titles around much and I begin to think maybe I have the last existing copy.

When it comes to the trade paperbacks I only know that everyone seemingly loved Ella Minnow Pea and I am a little intrigued to find out how he does it; I tend to love Meg Wolitzer; and Mary Gordon has given me some good reading moments. Don't know anything about the other two, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be annoyed by the Ellis.

16 February 2014

Bart, we would like you to see a special talking doctor...

With these words, Marge Simpson convinced Bart that he should talk to a psychiatrist. I could use that right now.
My streak of not being able to finish books continues. For some reason it doesn't feel like a typical reading rut. It feels more complicated than that. I have some thoughts about why I am having such a difficult time.

I have too many books started. Normally this isn't an issue for me, but for some reason when I think about picking up one of the books I am currently reading I am overwhelmed by the need to make progress which paralyzes me somewhat.

I took on too many worthy books. Middlemarch and Out of Africa are both good, enjoyable books, but their literary 'importance' has fooled my brain into thinking they are challenging. Like telling a kid that a food they would otherwise love is good for them. Suddenly they don't want to finish it.

I accepted an advance review copy that I no longer care much about reading. I almost never accept advanced copies of books from publishers. The only one I have ever accepted was a Maggie O'Brien novel. In that instance I couldn't wait to read the book and ended up loving it. But then recently I was approached by a publicist for a Real Housewife of New York. Being a RHONY fan and the novel being written by Carole Radziwill, easily the most intelligent of all the Real Housewife shows--I know that is a low bar, a really low bar--I thought I would find it a bit of a romp. Candace Bushnell gave it a blurb. I figured it would be an easy read in any case, and it is, but just the fact that I am somewhat obligated to read it makes me a little nutso.

The TBR Triple Dog Dare is kind of kicking my butt. Even though I have over 300 books to choose from, I think my participation in the TBR Triple Dog Dare has me feeling somewhat trapped in my reading choices. I think I need to shuffle my stack and pull out something that makes me squeal.

I'm having a bad reaction to last year's competition to read 100 books. Last year the contest with my friend Roz to see who could read 100 books first is haunting my reading pattern this year. Since I am racing no one this year, I think I have gone to the opposite extreme.

Life is happening. I have been busy for the past month and half, but I'm not sure that is much of an excuse.

Now that I have all that out of my system I see two ways out: Either 1) choose one book that I have already started and put the rest away until it is finished; or 2) go find something fabulous that I know I will enjoy and put the rest of them away.

Thanks for listening. The patient always has the cure within.

14 February 2014

The most overrated author opines about overrated authors

If you are annoyed by Jonathan Franzen as much as I am the short video that Steerforth links to on his blog The Age of Uncertainty will drive you around the bend. What a pompous idiot.

Click here to be annoyed.

05 February 2014

Giving up on books

Thirty-six days into 2014 and I have only finished three books. I can't remember the last time I was doing this poorly with my reading plans at this time of the year. Normally January and February are very productive months. I do feel like I have a bit of an excuse. Getting ready for our house renovation has been a fairly time consuming series of tasks. (For those interested in such thing, you can keep up with house progress on Lucy's Forever Home.) But still, three books? It isn't like I don't have anything to choose from.

Low lighting conditions and a shaky arm make for a bad photo. This is the giant stack
of books I have for my TBR for the next year. With no book shelves they will remain stacked on
top of boxes of other books while we live in our temporary apartment.

Even packing most of my library into boxes and having taken up the TBR Triple Dog Dare is no excuse. I kept out at least 300 books out of storage and that is certainly enough to choose from for the next year or so. Part of my problem are the books that I am reading.

Books I just don't want to finish
Normally if I get past page 50 and still want to read something I see it to the end. But lately, eh. I have three books that I feel are just weighing me down and for no good reason.

Solar by Ian McEwan
I am hot and cold on McEwan. For a good hundred pages of this book I was hot. Then in the closing pages of Part One I just didn't like the turn it took and almost instantly lost interest in continuing. So great was my change of heart that I didn't even feel bad tossing it aside.

Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford
I am starting to think that I don't like Nancy Mitford as much as I thought I did. I thought The Pursuit of Love was pretty delightful. The follow up Love in a Cold Climate was just okay for me. Don't Tell Alfred started out really strong but then it started to dawn on me that the narrative was turning into a succession of madcap situations about which Fanny couldn't dare tell her husband Alfred. After 134 of 223 pages I decided that this one was taking me way too long to read and what was far worse is that I just didn't give a crap.

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon
I read Michael Chabon's first novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh when it was first published (when I was in high school). I think the only reason I persevered then was the promise of a gay character at a time when they were few and far between in the literary world. Since then I have never been able to get into any of his other books. This 131-page novella seemed like it was a chance to break that streak. Wrong. Forty pages in not only don't I care about the plot, I just don't find his prose enjoyable to read. His is the kind of writing that isn't difficult but I still find myself constantly rereading paragraphs because nothing sinks in.

Books I am reading slowly but enjoying

Middlemarch by George Eliot
I have always meant to read this novel and I have a  lovely copy of it but what finally got me to pick it up was seeing Amanda's progress in reading it. Her Goodreads progress kept getting posted to Facebook and that made me think it was time. I am enjoying it, but I haven't picked it up in a few weeks.

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixon)
I've wanted to read this one since we visited Kenya in 2008. Quite enjoying it. But given my somewhat distracted state of reading these days: is the narrator a male or female?

Books that are helping me over the hump
On the last episode of The Readers Simon and I discussed at length his challenges finding time to read with a new full-time office job part of his life and no good commuting time for reading. One of things I suggested to him was to read nothing but books he knows he will love (in his case, Agatha Raisin mysteries). My theory is that if he can find time to read those than he really does have time to read he just doesn't want to read what is in front of him. Well, I have been relying on trusted authors to add some brilliance to my otherwise dull reading of late. D.E. Stevenson's Still Glides the Stream I gobbled up in no time and I am loving every word of Barbara Pym's Quartet in Autumn. If you ever wanted to read Anita Brookner with a sense of humor, Quartet in Autumn is for you. So bleak, but being Pym, still so delightful.

02 February 2014

What a Super Bowl!

I posted this on Super Bowl Sunday in 2011. Seemed like a good time re-post it. 

If you are like me you couldn't care less about football and the Super Bowl. So I thought I would try a different kind of super bowl Sunday. Also check out this week's Sunday Painting, and my TBR Dare update.
Footed Bowl by Frances Palmer

Hammered Stainless Steel by Simon Pearce

Ceramic bowl made by a friend.

Urchin Bowl by Element Clay Studio

A bowl in the spa at our hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Basalt bowl by Wedgwood

Ancient Celtic bowl

Beautiful, simple ironstone bowl found on Faded Plains

Lots of bowls at John Derian

And how could I forget hotty Jeremy Northam holding this golden bowl from
the movie adaptation of Henry James' The Golden Bowl