Monday, March 23, 2009

Choosing one book among the thousands

Oh, what exciting blog posts I come up with. This one is just me thinking out loud about what I'm going to read next, as I just picked up a couple of requests from ye olde library. In addition to the books I have in my home stash just waiting for the right moment, I've also been thinking of going on a tear through the Victorians (again).

From the library, I just picked up a brand new title that I saw reviewed in last week's NYTimes, Angels of Destruction, by Keith Donohue, whom I haven't read before; and also, Brian Hall's novel about Lewis and Clark, I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, mostly on the strength of how much I loved Hall's The Saskiad. I connected with that book in a way that I've done with very few novels. While I wasn't reared in a hippie commune like the protagonist Saskia, I did have the same freedom of movement growing up in the country with lots of time to myself and indulgent parents who just let me lay about reading and fiddling with words. Like her, I was totally immersed in mythology and lived in my imagination, feeling like an outsider most of the time. I thought Hall completely nailed the funny inner life of an awkwardish, teen girl with a balance of humor, seriousness, and poignancy. It's been several years ago that I read it, and I would have to resort to my old-timey, handwritten book journals to fill in more details.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about Dickens and the Victorians, in general, after reading Eminent Victorians last fall. It's one of my favorite literary periods, home to one in my triumvirate of writer-goddesses, George Eliot (the other two being Austen and Woolf). I've read quite a lot of that company, yet with some rather enormous gaps -- not much Dickens (only A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations) and no Trollope at all. So, first on my list is Bleak House, which I was assigned to read way back in a "rise of the English novel" class in college, but skipped out on -- I was just too overwhelmed at the time to plow past that first twenty odd pages about the fog in London. But when I finish it, I can say it took me twenty-five years to read Bleak House!

I really cleared the decks to read War and Peace over the winter and didn't get distracted, but like most serious readers, I always have so many candidates crowding their way to the front! I'm usually interested in about fourteen things at the same time, but I've learned that I don't really enjoy trying to read more than one book at a time. (I might make a teensy exception, since I'm currently re-reading Little, Big.) So, I think I'll try the Donohue, which will go fast if I like it, and might fall off the list if it doesn't grab me; then Hall and finally, Dickens.

And dear God, if you have any other recommendations, don't tell me about them!

(Just kidding.)

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