Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading woes

Picking up a book by an unknown writer ( for myself) is not without hazards. The expectations are as vague as the feelings of expectancy. Behind the written words, we want the un-nameable, the most perfect of lines, the point of return, fiction showing us its way to what we can name, touch and feel. Below is a numerical catalogue of my reading woes.

The number of unread books is increasing. The rate at which I buy them is a bit manic too. Just started reading The Second Book by Muharem Bazdulj, a Bosnian writer. Have finished reading some 20 odd pages. The style is influenced by Kundera. Let's see.
Reminds me of the mess of unfinished, half-read and nearly read books. This year has been a slow reading one, with my mind fixing on how to read, questioning the very concept of reading and thinking of that novel read.

Waiting for Bolano's 2666 and his Romantic Dogs. Have also started reading Junot Diaz's The Brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao. Now, here is a note of caution. Don't always trust your instincts. Should have read it last year. It was compared to The Savage Detectives, which I, foolishly, took as a personal insult. The novel rocks!( What an expression, let it stay) Then there is his Drown, but I haven't bought it yet. But aim to, soon. And bought Cortazar's Autonauts of the cosmoroute.( What a name!) And his Final Exam.

Now, for Eastern European fiction, my reading has been limited to Kundera ( even the most un-read people have read Kundera and Marquez).
I have been reading Danilo Kis, with stuttering starts. But, I think I will like his novel A tomb for Boris Davidovich. I have liked his Encyclopedia of the Dead. My personal favourite is Gombrowicz of course, and his Cosmos and Pornographia are quite good. Nobody seems to be bothered about his Possessed, which I think is first rate. On ghosts, I am reading Henry James' Ghost Stories, which are very unsatisfactory, even as psychological parables. However, I will begin reading his The wings of the Dove soon, I hope.

Have left Cendrars' on the shelf. Intention is to read his novels with attention. Surrealism bothers me. How will I finish Antonin Artaud' Selected Writings? It might not allow me to read anything afterwards. Also unfinished is Doblin's, Berlin Alexanderplatz.

I have also bought Alain Robbe-Grillet's novels, Djinn, Jealousy and In the labyrinth. I intend to read Djinn first. Next to these lies Five Women by Musil ( I have never written about Musil, there is no need, to write about him would be an affront to his genius).

Books that I bought recently and am not likely to begin reading soon are:
Victor Pelevin, 4 and Omon Ra ( Marta recommended him)
Pasolini's Petrolio
Sorrentino's Aberration of starlight ( My first American fiction in years)

The book that has bothered me the most this year is Dostoevsky's Diary. He is a modern neo-conservative, and the diary is written in the style of a new-labour pamphleteer, his opinions worrying. Why did he have to write his brilliant novels, and how did he? ( with so much hate inside him, against everyone, including Muslims and Jews and all things Eastern). But I intend to finish it. And then read Bakhtin carefully.

The above mess does not include Political or Philosophical books bought recently. However, I do declare that I intend to read at least a few volumes of Al-Ghazali's Revival of religious sciences (40 volumes), and have acquired 3.
This post thus gets listed amongst disquiet thoughts.


Alok said...

goodness... that is certainly a few books far too many!! I haven't been able to read much this year too but have spent a lot of time watching films...for some time I felt alienated by words and language but that seems to have passed. I am right now reading posthumous memoirs of bras cubas... really hilarious, you must have read it already.

Does that Ghost Stories contain "The Turn of the Screw"? That is one astounding work I thought... he has been on my to-read list for a long time.

From Five Women I read only one story "Tonka" which Coetzee praised in his essays but I found to be too morbid and somewhat even ugly.. don't know there was something rotten which put me off.

About East european writers have you read Bohumil Hrabal? I have only seen the movie "Closely Watched Trains" based on his novel and it is absolutely marvelous, these east europeans had a truly unique sense of humour.

Kubla Khan said...

I agree, words can be tiresome. but, eventually we return.
yes, i have read Bras Cubas. it is quite good. and, turn of the screw yes, i agree, it is brilliant. i want to read his other fiction and so thought of The wings of the dove. Zizek has written about that and on his The Golden Bowl.

no, i have not read Hrabal. i have noticed the number of movies you have been watching but have not commented because i have not seen them.

Will said...

Oh the reading doldrums. Luckily I've been okay for a few years, but in the past when this happened I would turn to Calvino's soothing Six Memos for the Next Millenium (which would then send send me excitedly to another work).

For ghost stories, try another (unrelated) James: M. R. James. Also de la Mare's story "Seaton's Aunt." Or how about Jekyll & Hyde, which I somehow didn't read until last year -- it instantly became a favorite book.

Good luck.