Monday, October 26, 2009

What I'm reading on Monday


"The Afterlife": Nine months after Updike's death, I find myself reading at last this collection of short stories I received as a gift when they came out, in 1994. When I read Updike, I find myself starting to narrate my own life as if I'm an Updike character: "Richard sat down in his large gray reading chair, like a chunk of plush rhyolite, the puffy throne of the house; the small, yellow book with pages just slightly turning to brown, felt comfortable in his hands, and the prose threw waves of sensuality on the rocky, barren shores of his consciousness..." and so forth. In these stories, Updike thoroughly explores the death of his mother and the disposal of her property, coming up in several stories. Probably the best is "The Black Room," when the narrator and his mother return to a home sold by the family in the early 1940s, where the narrator finds out a girl he played with still lives, singly, next store. The funniest is "Farrell's Caddie," about a caddie in Scotland proves to have advice ranging far from golf. But all these stories have Updike's full sense of wonder and perplexity with life, particularly death and sex. Of course, the adultery is too easy and a tad repugnant.

"House of the Seven Gables": I probably should not have listened to this novel on CD; a lot of other books work very well, but Hawthorne's narrative voice carries on and on and on, and you wish he'd get on with the plot, which hinges on people dropping dead conveniently for no reason, to expurgate a curse, I suppose. But the characters are great, even the idealized Phoebe. And, of course, I've been there. But the chapter in which Hawthorne narrates the possible futures of Judge Pyncheon, who's sitting dead in a chair, is pure, over the top, camp.

Reading now:

"Manhood for Amateurs": This is quick reading, as Michael Chabon's essays are short (and frequently end too soon) according to the format they were written for. He says a number of things I can provide counter-examples for, but I'll elaborate in a future Blog post. (With this volume, I'm ditching my promise not to read library books before I read 20 that I own, but it's a quick read.)

"A Confederacy of Dunces": I've started listening to his, and it's SO different from what I expected; certainly a lot more scatological. But the New Orleans (another place I've visited recently) atmosphere is great.

"All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner of Things Shall Be Well": This one by Tod Wodicka is a lot of fun, at least through the first 70 pages or so. It's about a 60-ish medieval re-enactor who heads to Europe in search of the Middle Ages and his son.


Tea said...

"Scatological?" This word isn't familiar to me. I hope you will define it on Wednesday at Wondrous Words hosted by Bermudaonion. I'm so glad men are joining us.

Anonymous said...

"Manhood for Amateurs"

Love that title! Gave me a chuckle.

Marie said...

I remember reading the House of Seven Gables when I was doing my Masters degree -- I really enjoyed it.