October 18, 2010

More reading than writing

There's more reading than writing going on here just now. I'm still editing the novel-known-as Ann and did some research in the library the other day, which involved reading Dennis Glover poems in the New Zealand section. He sure wrote some odd poems as well as some terrific ones. I think he had a talent for making unlikely rhymes work. It reminded me what fun doing the research for writing can be when you get off the internet. (Not that the internet isn’t most useful for research.)

My recent reading has involved some heavyweights as well as catching up with New Yorkers and copies of the London Review of Books from when I was away. (Interesting issue about plurals here, which I avoided. I suppose it would be London Reviews of Books. Or not. Or LRBs to cop out.)

The Books
On Being Ill by Virginia Woolf, reprinted by with an introduction by Hermione Lee. A small book, but perfectly formed, with a facsimile of the original cover by Vanessa Bell. (I was going to add a photo of the cover but blogger has changed something and what was really simple is now impossible unless you have files on picasa, which I don't. Grrr.)
Room by Emma Donohue. Shortlisted for, but not the winner of, the Man Booker. A compelling read of a book that is my book group choice so I can’t say more until after we have talked about it.
Freedom by Janathan Franzen. This book is being much-discussed on a number of the erudite blogs I read and was reviewed in LRB. I think it’s a dish with too many ingredients, used too cleverly by half; kind of up itself. It has many characters, much plot, and a large bunch of issues. The theme about wanting to be a good person was one of the most interesting, and ‘goodness’ or lack of it was a big deal for the three main characters, Walter, Patty and Richard, who were all in love with each other one way and another. Another theme is that of title - what does freedom mean, if anything, in America today? It’s clever and very contemporary and has some very quotable sentences, such as: “When you think about it, for a mature organism, growth is basically a cancer, right?” So why didn’t I like it more? As the LRB reviewer pointed out, there’s a lot of sobbing
Self by Yann Martel. He wrote this way before The Life of Pi, which I loved. It’s a self-indulgent, memoirish, sort of travel book and I didn’t finish it. That hardly ever happens.
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobsen. This is the one that did win this year’s Man Booker, against the odds, literally (the UK bookmakers stopped taking bets on another book). I’m only a little way into it, and it’s challenging and takes concentration and even then I think I am missing a lot of allusions. And yes, it is funny. And it is shaping up to be well worth the effort.

Out To Lunch the book of writings by my writing group
We meet on Sunday and will plan the launch in late November. There’s varying degrees of excitement and nervousness among group members. I’m enjoying working with the group on the project.

Nanowrimo (write a first draft of a 50,000 word or more book in the month of November) is about to start. I’m not taking part this year. Doing it last year was how I turned a short story into the-book-known-as-Ann. There are thousands signed up worldwide and over a hundred from New Zealand. Online forums and various encouragements are on the website all the way through the month. Here’s the link if you want to find out more: http://www.nanowrimo.org

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