Thursday, January 07, 2010

Looking Forward, Back

As this opening week of 2010 perhaps suggests, things may be quiet here over the next few months. Not by design or desire but only because of other things. Like, life. I'm a little busier at work than I've been for years; I still have the lengthy commute, which, though it allows me to read a fair amount, does not allow for much time in the evenings. I'd rather take my time on writing than whip something off. But I make no predictions on how much blogging I'll actually end up doing. I do have a few things on my mind that will need some time to tease out into something coherent. I suspect I'll have even less to say about buzz or news than usual.

Looking back over the last few months, it's a bit hard to believe I blogged as much as I did. We had a lot going on. We moved, fixed up the house we had been living in, fucking sold it. (There were a variety of factors leading into this transition. One was the desire to escape the bind of home-ownership.) But anyway: we were extremely busy. I had no business blogging in the evenings, and I pretty much didn't (when do people blog? follow-up question: how many of you bloggers are academics or students in some capacity? am I the only one who wants to do it more but can't?), unless I was by myself for whatever reason, or there was downtime during naps on the weekend. This explains the silences followed by flurries of activity. (I'm sure that same general pattern will obtain now.)

But, hey: reading! I received a nice stack of books for Christmas this year, so I should be set for a while (not likely). Plus, with the sale of the house, and the ensuing debt-cancellation (yay!), I won't be as constrained from acquiring a book I really want (but still, let's not go crazy).

The gift books, then:

First, the three highest on my short list:
The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940
The Journal, Henry David Thoreau (the nice new NYRB edition)
After & Making Mistakes, Gabriel Josipovici

Then the pleasant surprises from my longer list:
The Infinite Conversation, Maurice Blanchot
The Moral Economy of the Peasant, James C. Scott
Weapons of the Weak, James C. Scott
Our Horses in Egypt, Rosalind Belben

The total wild card:
The New Literary History of America, Greil Marcus & Werner Sollors, eds.

This last item was brought to my attention a couple of months back. I wouldn't have bought it for myself (not least because of Greil Marcus, who I have very mixed feelings about), but I have to admit it looks very interesting, and I look forward to reading much of it (it is like 1100 pages or something obscene like that; it's fucking massive). At first glance, I already know I have some criticisms of it, but I'll hold off on saying anything till I've had a chance to read more into it.

I was also given two gift cards to book stores. To date, I've picked up four books with one of them:
Short Letter, Long Farewell, Peter Handke
Wittgenstein's Nephew, Thomas Bernhard
Doctor Faustus, Thomas Mann
Summertime, J.M. Coetzee

With a such a bounty, there is always the problem of what to read next. I feel the compulsion to read several of them all at once. One can only pick one and begin. I expect to be, and in fact have already begun, dipping into Beckett's Letters and Thoreau's Journal over the course of several weeks, if not months. The others as the occasion strikes. I've already read the Handke, and though it's nothing like as great as Slow Homecoming, it was nonetheless a fascinating read, as ever. I feel an intensive period of Handke reading coming on--perhaps Repetition soon? And a pile of others. . .

I'm currently in the middle of Our Horses In Egypt; a peculiar book. It's very English and compressed. The combination of dated English slang and horse and military jargon makes for some unexpectedly thorny paragraphs. And yet there's something charming about the tale, a bit old fashioned, if also not quite like anything else I've read.

I don't really have specific reading goals for the year. Looking back over my list from last year, I see that only one or two of the novels I read even approached 400 pages (I believe Augie March was the longest); most were well under 300, if not under 200. But I have sitting on my shelves many long books I'd like to get to before too long: 2666, The Kindly Ones, um: Don Quixote, er: Ulysses (really!), The Aesthetics of Resistance, several Henry James novels (I forgot to mention that I'd started reading The Wings of the Dove last year; wasn't up for it), even Marguerite Young's enormous Miss Macintosh, My Darling. It remains to be seen which if any of them I find time for.

My non-fiction reading will probably continue to be a rough course through philosophy, political economy, Marx, anthropology (cf. James C. Scott, etc), evolutionary bases for cooperation, arguments against the teleology of progress, and so on. And every year, and at various points within every year, I say to myself, ah, yes, now I will begin to systematically read the classics, Plato, Aristotle; you know, that crowd. I still have this strong desire to become more acquainted with that tradition. We will see how it goes.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

I got that Greil Marcus book for Christmas too. I'm kinda stalled on it now (got about 1/3 of the way in), but what I've read is pretty compelling. Excited to hear what you think of Summertime eventually.

As for this question - "how many of you bloggers are academics or students in some capacity? am I the only one who wants to do it more but can't?" - I was a student up to May of 2009, got my MA in English and now I'm killing time at a relatively dead-end job till I enter another (hopefully more lucrative) degree program. When I was a student I had plenty of time on my hands for blogging, but now it's hard to find the energy.