1. Paris Review #201 (4/5) - In general, I was much, much happier with this issue than with issue 200. I read it cover to cover. I was especially intrigued by the Ann Beattie short story and a couple of nonfiction pieces, one about a pirate who was integral in the history of early New Orleans and another about a man who makes an ill-advised trip to see a girl he only sort of has a relationship with. The latter was especially excellent and could easily have passed for a short story. The only thing I can complain about is a somewhat iffy poetry selection and few things of the post-modern/hipsterish ilk that I recently ranted about.
2. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (5/5) - I read this purely because it shows up on the AP test a bunch and I wanted to see if I should teach it. I should. It’s great. I read drama so infrequently, but there’s nothing like a really good play. This one was enjoyable on such a visceral level. It’s so gratifying when a character ends a story by doing exactly what you want them to do and saying exactly what you want them to say.
4. 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (5/5) - Technically, I finished this on September first, but I wanted to go ahead and include it in August’s book log to bring a close to my summer reading. I understand, completely, why this book generated so much talk. It is, undoubtedly, a masterpiece. I don’t understand how it is possible to write something like this. Is it a novel? Yes. Does it bear any similarity to any other novel I’ve read? Not really. There’s so much here I don’t know where to begin. There must be three or four dozen fully developed characters and at least a dozen fully realized story lines.
And the things is, I don’t think I’ve come anywhere near understanding this book. I won’t say it scarred me, because that would be too dramatic, but it messed with my brain in a way my brain has not been messed with in a long time, if ever. This is the kind of thing I think everyone should read just so we can all agree we’ve never seen anything like it before.
Time for a new book queue. After the long summer reads, I feel, um, less ambitious. In any case, a massive professional undertaking means I’m probably not going to have nearly as much reading time as I’d like over these next four months, so I’m limiting this to five books by favorite authors and the three I need to finish from Cate’s list for me before the end of the year. Here it is:
Fall Book Queue (to be completed by the end of the year):
- Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (Can’t wait for this to come out next week)
- The Bright Center of Heaven by William Maxwell
- Songdogs by Colum McCann
- Taft by Ann Patchett
- The Keep by Jennifer Egan
- The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith