Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Summer vacation?

I've done some fun stuff this summer and traveled over a few long weekends, but I haven't had a chance to have one of those lay-about extended vacations, sipping cold drinks by the water and catching up on my reading. It's been very active -- squeezing in chores between dashing in and out, picking up food on the way home, and not having nearly as much of a social life with my pals.

We had two major music festivals in Louisville in July, both of which I was covering as part of my side job as a music writer/reviewer for Louisville.com. It's usually much more loose, where I can spread out the shows I'm going to see, but last month everything was packed together. The highlights have been getting to see The Flaming Lips, She & Him, Dwight Yoakam, and Loretta Lynn -- plus interviewing one of my favorites, Tift Merritt (below). I've got a little breather to gear up for a sprinkling of fall shows and the upcoming Arts season. After scrabbling around, dirty and sweaty in the outdoors, it will be paradisical to sit in cool, comfy auditoriums watching the opera and the orchestra.

Meanwhile, I had the Amen corner of family birthdays to attempt to remember -- two nieces, my husband, and both my parents. Whew!

Reading and everything else has taken a hit. I started Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, but bogged down somewhere in the Second Part. When I get distracted from a book for so long, it's hard to get back into it. Plus, I get bees in my bonnet about other things in the meantime. I've been learning about telescopes and trying to brush up on astronomy, so I was in the mood to read something related. I found Simon Singh's Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe and zipped right through it. It was really fun to read, but very thorough and methodical at the same time. I have a hard time wrapping my head around a lot of the math and science -- not to mention the mind-blowing concepts -- but he actually did a fine job of boiling it down to my level. Thank god for people who know how to use analogies, graphics, and charts to explain things to people like me.

Time. Space. Space-Time. It kind of makes the stupid crap I wade through on the Internet and TV everyday seem...well, like the stupid crap it is. I think that would be notated Stupid12.

Next on my reading list are books picked up from the library today: Farenheit 451 (which I don't think I ever read -- or I will remember on approximately page 112 that I read it in 10th grade) and some Kipling -- The Light that Failed and Kim, which takes places between the 2nd and 3rd Afghan Wars (the British version). Those Afghan wars just never seem to go out of style.


TheBob said...

I really liked Winters Tale when I read it, but that was long ago, and I wonder if I'd like it as much now. Have you ever read Helprin's "Ellis Island and other stories"? The Schreuderspitze is pretty great. I saw you like WWI fiction -- Helprin has one -- "A Soldier of the Great War" -- I remember liking it when I read it, which again was a while ago.

I went to download Crowley "Little, Big", and apparently that's the only thing he's written that's not available on the kindle. Ugh! So I downloaded Eliot's Romola instead (thank you). Middlemarch has always been one of my favorites, looking forward to this.

Along the lines of WWI fiction, have you ever read Robert Musil, "The Man Without Qualities"? He ranks with Mann, Joyce, and Proust. Story takes place in Vienna, just before WWI. His outlook is startlingly modern, and he has the knack of knocking you out with some insight every page or two.

One more WWI thing -- "The Great War and Modern Memory" -- literary criticism, some interesting insights into the WWI authors (Owen, Graves, etc) -- the author is a WWII infantry combat veteran, and he brings particular perception to those works.

Selena said...

Thanks for the Musil recommendation. I know I've read about it before, and it seems like one I would like. I did read Soldier of the Great War and enjoyed it, so I'll eventually go back to Winter's Tale.

The Great War and Modern Memory is one of my all-time favorites; in fact, it inspired my M.A. thesis and all my later WWI lit reading.

TheBob said...

Ha! Somehow I knew I'd be trying to teach the horse how to eat grass with that GW&MM recommendation :)

Musil is truly amazing -- I think there might be two English translations -- the only one I've read is by Sophie Wilkins -- I understand the other is inferior (or maybe you read German).

Romola is fun -- Eliot's clearly having a good time with the Shakespearean idiom.

Selena said...

I'm definitely putting the Musil on my Fall/Winter reading list (I'm dorky that way). It looks like our library has the Wilkins translation. I like to tackle my "big" novels when the weather turns.

TheBob said...

Good plan -- if I remember right, the novel starts in the fall. I sort of let external forces suggest my reading choices, which probably sums up my life.

Anyway, thought of you this morning -- interview with Tina Brown on NPR, talking about a WWI book, "The Great Silence", by Juliet Nicolson. Sounded really interesting. I have to admit, when NPR first said they'd be talking to Tina Brown regularly, I had this impression of her as being glossy and not too interesting, and I was skeptical. I've found, though, that I've been enjoying the interviews with her -- she usually discusses pretty serious things -- maybe a cultured British accent just makes everything charming.