a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

What’s your summer reading?

Deborah Eisenberg

Addictive: Deborah Eisenberg

Simple question for this blog post, but you have to participate: what are you going to be dipping your noses into this summer, besides sunblock?

Summer is a great time to catch up on reading: let’s face it, the movies suck. All 0f them. TV’s no better. And even if you’re going on vacation to the most fun place there is, you need some down time with a book.

A friend of mine asked for some reading suggestions on Facebook and started compiling a list, and that got me thinking along the same lines. My list is very long—too long. I’ll never finish all this in the summer, obviously. I’ll never finish all this in a year. But I firmly believe one should bite off more than one can chew. This explains my behavior with hoagies.

My first candidate is a novel I’ve already started, so maybe it doesn’t count as summer reading. On the other hand, it’s (seriously) 1,700 pages, so I deserve a break. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil is considered by many the greatest novel in the German language. And even at that length, it was left unfinished at the time of his death. Set prior to World War I and depicting the gradual decay of refined 19th century Austrian society, t’s a novel of ideas, with very little plot, but what’s striking so far is how those ideas sound so contemporary and relevant. I think it would have been fun to sit in a coffee house and listen to him talk about the world.

I’ve also fallen in love with Deborah Eisenberg. She’s definitely an acquired taste: her stories are more about voice and nuance than plot and action. Many, in fact, feel incomplete. But that’s okay—I’ve never been much of a plot person. I don’t care if you tell me the whole story before I read the book or see the movie, and people often do. Recently her entire short story output has been released between two covers, and it features some of the leanest, cleanest writing being done today. I’ve been dipping in and out of The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg for weeks now, and expect to do so all summer.

Finally picked up a really good translation (so I’m told) of Flaubert’s Sentimental Education.  This book isn’t well-known in the U.S. but supposedly it ought to be, so I look forward to that.

Anna Karenina sits haughtily on my shelf, taunting me, but I don’t think I’ll get to her yet. Instead I’ll revisit To The Lighthouse, because I love Ginny Woolf, and she manages to be great in fewer pages. I still haven’t read Franzen’s acclaimed Freedom, but honestly, after being disappointed by The Corrections and How To Be Alone, both of which I found to be a mile wide and an inch deep, I may pass here.

In the non-fiction realm, I got a book on string quartets for Christmas that I may finally break open.  And an oldie, Six Great Ideas, by Mortimer Adler, sits on my shelf from the nineties, still unread. Having just watched Ken Burns The Civil War for the first time (really!), there are also some writings of Frederick Douglass I want to revisit.

How about you?  What are you reading, and are you doing it on Kindle, iPad or the old fashioned way. I still haven’t taken the plunge to eBooks yet. I just like rows of books staring at me across the room, luring me over. I’m old fashioned.

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3 responses

  1. Dana

    I don’t plan what book I’ll read next very often, expect I’ll pull at least one book off the shelf this summer just because it’s staring at me. Since I just finished reading the book I stole from you – it’s back on your bookcase if you want to add it to your list. I think the next one will probably be the Borther’s Karamazov though. I may steal some of your VW to see what all the fuss is about. I can actually see a reason to own a Kindle – looking at those covers – comoflage. People could walk around with flower covered books, or ones with covers that would scandalize parents and not have to worry about being stoned.

    Like

    May 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  2. (Is it summer already?) I’m like Dana. I kind of see what shows up instead of planning ahead. In general, though, I like to read 3 or 4 things at once. Usually I’m reading at least one novel, one nonfiction and often I have a book of poetry that I’m exploring, too. This way, depending on my mood, I always have something to read.

    Also, my mother-in-law gave me a 2 year subscription to the New Yorker for my birthday, so I am constanting trying to catch up with those. I stay at least a month behind….

    Great question. Thanks!

    Like

    May 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

    • I often deviate from my plans. :-)

      Dana just got The Bros Karamazov and believe or not I’ve never read it. So after Anna Karenina maybe it’s that.

      Like

      May 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

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