Sunday Salon – June 13, 2010


Last week was a total wimp-out (but hopelessly cute) YouTube video substituted for what should have been my Sunday Salon entry. Well, this week is a humdinger – a massive recap of where I am with reads, what I'm dead set on finishing within the next couple of weeks, and what there's no way I'll be able to finish within the time frame allotted.

All sound a bit crazy? But of course! When it comes to reading goals I always set the bar high. I don't always make it over that bar, but I can tell you it's really, really high.

I pretty much try to frame my monthly reading around my three book groups, two of which I run and one of which I attend. Next, the review and library books. They're lumped together because the review books should be read in as timely a manner as possible, and the library books are due by a certain date. No easy feat squeezing these in, which a lot of you will already know.

You must wonder, "When do you find time for LIFE with all of this going on?" My answer, "What life?" The toilets get scrubbed between chapters. Likewise the laundry. I do a bit of what I don't want to do (cleaning), then reward myself with reading. Thus you could walk into my house on a given day and never know what you'll find. Quite possibly I'll have a book in one hand and a toilet brush in the other. Not much of an exaggeration, either.

And socializing? It's rare, but it happens.

So, here's where I am with my various read categories:

Fiction Book Group:

Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch: A Novel by Dai Sijie (transl. from the French by Ina Rilke)

Barely started. Humorous and a good read so far.

Non-Fiction Book Group:

The Story of My Life (Restored Edition) by Helen Keller

Reading Helen Keller's story makes you stop and think about your own life, what you complain about that's essentially inconsequential in the big scheme of things. What are our tiny inconveniences next to the struggles of one woman struck blind and deaf at the age of 19 months?

Classics Book Group:

Pere Goriot by Honore de Balzac (transl. by Burton Raffel)

Probably my third read of this classic, at least my second of this particular edition. Ultimately depressing, but not without a few humorous jabs by Balzac. Haven't gotten very far into my re-read, but the book's pretty short at 217ish pages (plus commentary).

Russian Imperial Challenge:

(Rebecca Reads)

"The Diary of a Superfluous Man" by Ivan Turgenev

"Yes, I am soon, very soon, to die. The frozen rivers will break up, and with the last snow I shall, most likely, swim away… whither? God knows! To the ocean too. Well, well, since one must die, one may as well die in the spring. But isn't it absurd to begin a diary a fortnight, perhaps, before death? What does it matter?"

One doesn't exactly read the Russians for a light read, now, does one? As far as getting inside the head of a man waiting to die, this story is done beautifully. Enjoying it so far, if that's not an inappropriate comment regarding a 30-year old man's final weeks. Needless to say, it's full of regret for things past as well as an honest accounting of one man's life.

Review Books:

Old Filth – Jane Gardam

I love, love, love Jane Gardam. Why? Because she's a thoroughly British author with a bite. The scenery is bucolic, but the plots themselves aren't all tea and crumpets. Partially so, but not entirely. But they also don't dip too far into the grim, such as the thrillers by Barbara Vine (whom I also adore).In other words, they're realistic.

Gardam falls in between somewhere, featuring characters with pasts they have trouble dealing with, futures that are a bit uncertain. She's more Brideshead Revisited than P.G. Wodehouse. More serious than playful. I have the impression she's a woman undaunted by adversity, a strong, intelligent woman who knows her own mind. This I love, also.

Wolf Hall – Hillary Mantel

Struggling a bit with this one. I love the Tudors, and appreciate getting some of the background history, but to my mind it lags a bit. It's not just having to refer back to the character list to recall who's who (though I do an embarrassing amount of that), but also a rambling quality. Maybe it's too many sub-plots? Too much to throw at the reader in one book?

Disappointing I paid full cover price for this novel since it's getting harder and harder to pick back up. If it's within reach I'll stretch further to grab something else. Not a good sign. I bought it because the line for it was so, so long at the library, and it's winning awards left and right. I'll keep persevering a little while longer, but this one may remain unfinished.

Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon

Wowzers! Talk about shocking. Don't we all have the image of Emily Dickinson as the mysterious woman dressed in white, the demure spinster of Amherst? The misunderstood genius never appreciated in her lifetime?

Well, guess what… She was a saucy little wench, and within her household an affair went on practically under her nose. For once a biography of Dickinson written by an author not so in love with the poet she's willing to overlook some rather smarmy behavior on the part of her family members, and Emily's own condoning of the situation.

Just landed on my desk (library book):

Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor by Paul Stephenson

And I'll read this one WHEN?

Book on CD – in the car:

His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis

Certainly a detailed book at 13 CDs. I'm only on number three, in which George is a-huntin' for a wife. One thing they haven't mentioned is one of his lady friends was one of my Dutch ancestors. Weird, eh? I learned that when my son was doing a report on Washington.

Then there are the two "short extracts per day" that arrive in my inbox. These are short tidbits meant to be read in five minutes. One I have going is Montaigne's Essays, and I'm on about number 14 out of a gazillion. Also, Ben Franklin's Autobiography. I'm behind by WEEKS with both. Surprise you? Me either.

My ultimate dream would be to read two books simultaneously. I mean literally, holding one book in the left hand and one in the right, reading straight across – without muddling either of them. That, or placing books beneath the pillow at night and absorbing them that way.

Until that glorious day comes I'll continue what I'm doing – whipping myself into a frenzy, frustrating myself until I curl into a ball in the corner and cry.

I think I'm in
need of an intervention.

I thank you very much for stopping by. Have a wonderful rest of your Sunday. Tune in next week for either another adorable YouTube video or a report on my progress during the week.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Salon – June 13, 2010

  1. Hi Lisa – I had similar issues with Wolf Hall. Finally just finished it after much perseverence. I just couldn’t keep up with who was who, in the end I stopped referring back to start just surrendering to the characters I could actually remember.


  2. Keren, I’m almost at the point of just giving up on it. I wanted to read it because I heard it was book one in what would become a trilogy, but it’s just so boggling.


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