Friday, May 2, 2008

So...Read any good books lately?

Meg has graduated from college. Meg works 7:30 AM--3:30 PM. Meg is single and lives alone. Meg has time to read.
Blissful sigh.

No more third-person, I promise.

This post concerns what I've been reading since I got here in San Diego. Prior to moving out here, I hadn't read a book from October 2007 to January 13, 2008. I was wilting without my leisure reads, but I had to focus on school (taking 15 hours all in the Spanish language didn't help me concentrate on fun, first-language reads either), and I was so busy being with the people I love. It was a great season in my life, but I'm glad I'm not in it anymore.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is such an important book. I could tell you a lot about it, but honestly I'd rather refer you to my friend Peter's blog to read what he had to say about it (the post isn't hard to find, it's basically the only one he's ever written).

Next book was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, probably one of my all-time favorites to date. It took me YEARS to commit to reading this book, I'd started it numerous times and put it aside after the first 10 pages. But this Gothic novel has all the richness of language one would expect from a Bronte sister (although I hated Wuthering Heights), high drama, and wonderfully realistic yet sweeping romance. It's a long one though, I'll warn you. I read an illustrated copy given to me as a gift from my mother, the illustrations were quirky and added a lot to the book for me (illustrations by Dame Darcy). Also, for all its merits as one of the greatest Gothic novels, this novel is cherished by the fairer sex with good reason, any woman would swoon under the gaze of Mr. Rochester's hooded eyes, and melt as Jane did in his big all-encompassing embrace. (Bonus: just when you think it's ended and you eye the last third of the book with skepticism, the book offers a wonderful and unexpected addition to the story)
I followed up this last read with The Wide Sargasso Sea, which is loosely based Bertha and Mr. Rochester's characters from Jane Eyre when they met in the Caribbean. It's very dreamy, almost hallucinogenic and it's positively dripping with symbolism which isn't my style. I appreciate subtle allegory and tend to go for novels that limit the number of symbols to less than 5 per page (it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't good). Decently written, but the flimsy copy of this (200 pages tops) I carried around for two weeks seemed as long as its predecessor of about 500 pages. Overall, interesting idea, poor result.

Next I read The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. It was my first Hemingway novel yet, and I wasn't that wowed, overall. I recognize that it is a well-written piece, but I prefer more. Just more. His descriptions are almost like those of a child (albeit intentionally so), his dialogues meandering, and it's difficult to discern what the point of the plot is. I described it to others as, "like Fitzgerald, without the rich descriptions or vision." I will say though, that having attended a bullfight before, the whole novel was worth Hemingway's 25-page scene of the matador and his bull. I was transported back to Madrid, sitting in the stands watching something that was at once barbaric and beautifully artistic. I plan to read more Hemingway, but he's not a favorite.

Finally, my last read was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I read for a book club in town whose meetings I continually miss due to hostessing visitors from Nebraska (a very happy conflict of schedule). If you read the back cover of this book, Stephen King sums it up nicely in his review, that this book is many things at once: sensual, mysterious, scary, suspenseful, and engaging. What matters most, is that it's written very well. It's a modern novel (published in the last decade, but written in the style of a Gothic novel. It's unapologetically melodramatic and over-the-top steeped in mystery, but it's so well put together and the characters are so endearing that you'll forgive the author for his cheesiness. The momentum of the book is great, it reads quickly and though it's totally not my kind of novel, I enjoyed it immensely. Note: one thing I'll say against it, I never read mysteries and I stink at knowing what comes next, but anyone with any experience in the genre will undoubtedly be two steps ahead of the plot at any given time.

So what's next? I'm currently reading Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which is proving to be a pleasurable and unique fable. Next on my list: Water for Elephants (thank you Heather), We Are All the Same, Catcher in the Rye, Kite Runner (thank you Gina), finish Aztec, finish Aura (in Spanish--it's short, don't be that impressed), A Heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius (thank you Tiffany), The Picture of Dorian Gray, have about 20 pages left in Mere Christianity, and Screwtape Letters. Those are the immediate ones on my list. I can guarantee you I'll read one that hasn't even showed up on my radar yet, and I am going to purchase and read Everything is Illuminated (thank you Ben) as a reward to myself after I've read my tenth book this year (five to go, hurrah).


G said...

Blue Like Jazz: I like it
Jane Eyre: Don't like it
Screwtape Letters: good
Picture of Dorian Gray: I didn't like it. The concept is great and interesting, but it reads like a collection of personal essays instead of the novel I was looking forward. He does a lot more telling and a lot less showing than I would have liked.

I say read:
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress (if you like memoirs)
Everybody Wants to go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die (I'm reading this now. I like it a lot.)

Benjamin said...

Meggit! I'm so excited you're finally reading Dorian...I really hope you like it after all of my insistence over the past 4-ish years.

We need to catch up soon, and I need your address. Let's work on that, shall we?