To Shake the Sleeping Self 3/7/2021
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I try to read twice as much as I write. That doesn't always work out.
I spent six years in a PhD program for French literature. Some of what I read was strange and some was dreadful. A lot was challenging. Most of it was interesting. Here are some of my favorite books from those years.
- Perceval, ChrĂ©tien de Troyes. Note to self: if a guy walks through the house with a bleeding lance, ask someone what's going on.
- Le quart livre, FranĂ§ois Rabelais. Among other things, a fat flying pig shits mustard over an army of sausages. Love it or leave it.
- La princesse de ClĂ¨ves, Madame de La Fayette. One of the first modern novels in the West, published in 1678. It's difficult for us to understand how revolutionary it was.
- La vie de Marianne, Pierre Marivaux. Style so perfect - or precious - that le marivaudage was coined to mean "light, seductive, gallant language."
- Les liaisons dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. An astonshing novel to which the excellent films don't do justice.
- Splendeurs et misĂ¨res des courtisans, HonorĂ© de Balzac. Nothing short of a masterpiece. So often, I shook my head: Oh Lucien! Lucien! What are you doing?!?
- SalammbĂ´, Gustave Flaubert. Taking the city via the aqueduct - and the battles! They didn't make a graphic novel out of L'Ă©ducation sentimentale, I can tell you that.
- Le balcon, Jean Genet. This play is like Jaws: it's most spellbinding when we don't see the shark.
There are many English language books - classics and contemporaries - that I "should have read" but haven't. My knowledge of Shakespeare is meager. I've read no Whitman, Keats, or Yeats, Tom Wolfe is a void, nothing by Toni Morrison. Etc, etc.
I will never get around to them, and every once in a while that embarrasses me.
Travel writing is easily my favorite genre.
There are many English language books - classics and contemporaries - that I "should have read" but haven't. I will never get around to them... Sometimes it embarrasses me.
In grade school, Miroslav Ĺ aĹˇek's "This Is" series enthralled me, in particular, This is New York, and This is London.
Later, I read Kon-Tiki, which I found captivating and scary. It was all the sharks they pulled onto the deck of the raft. And the whale shark, of course.
As an adult, the first travel book I remember picking up for pleasure was in late 1991, Keath Fraser's anthology Bad Trips.
Since then, I've read hundreds more. I started working my way through the travel section of the Westerville Public Library, an award-winning institution in my hometown, but then I decided to focus on my own curated list.
I'm also writing my own travel book, Backseat Cities.
I also read historical novels, spy novels, and some police procedurals (mostly Wetering and Simenon) as well as history, biographies, and intelligence community memoirs.
Recent non-travel literature I have enjoyed:
- Grant, Ron Chernow. Definitive. Grant was almost certainly not drunk all the time.
- Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell. At the very end, Napoleon still could have won the battle, but a final unclear message sealed his fate.
- A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers. Content was good, form was perfect. Every single sentence was butter.
- A Woman of No Importance, Sonia Purcell. Virginia Hall was a fascinating woman and tremendous spy.
- The Big Burn, Timothy Egan. Some incredible scenes about a horrifying fire. Starts enthralling, then peters out a little. Still worth it.
- Good Kids, Bad City, Kyle Swenson. A crazy story. This is exactly why we should abolish the death penalty.
Note to self: if a guy walks through the house with a bleeding lance, ask why.
Newspapers and Magazines
My subscriptions, FWIW:
The Sex Lives of Cannibals 2/17/2021
Confronting Insanity 11/30/2020
Postcard: Yellowstone 11/17/2020
Mirzapur Season 2 10/22/2020
The Woke and the Bourgeois 10/16/2020
A Better Loyalty Program 10/8/2020
Postcard: Rockland, Maine 9/15/2020
"Hidden Gems": It's Mortifying 9/1/2020
- November 2020
- October 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- June 2020
- May 2020
- December 2020