Wednesday, December 12, 2007

STL #63: A Year in Reading

I toyed with the idea of incorporating other "texts" into my review of my 2007 reading, but nixed the idea at the last second. While an interpretation of Bleak House draws on similar skills as one of The Sopranos (and some point in a hierarchy of skills anyway), I'm ultimately partitioning the printed word for somewhat political reasons. Traditional reading is beset by a tangle of cultural forces, though not to the degree some would think. I'm including online reading in the following list as well as other non-book reading. As with my music list, I'm doing away with canonical form, in this case the "book." Unfortunately, my records of what I read are spotty, so I'm relying on memory in the following alphabetical list of notable reading experiences.

  • "A" I begin each year by reading a "big book," sometimes for the first time and sometimes not.* To focus my energy toward completing my dissertation, I read this huge poem entire for fourth time.
  • Assassins The Nicholas Mosley books I've read remind me of Graham Greene. I may have read Greene's terrific Haitian novel
  • The Comedians this year, I'm not sure. Greene's better than Mosley, who I'm including so I can talk about Greene.
  • Epileptic Twenty pages in I knew that David B. had created a unique perceptual world. At this writing, I've only read the first volume.
  • Freakanomics This book shows how economists think. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but the idea that their are modes of thinking about idea is crucial to education, which is what I do.
  • Google Reader has changed how I read blogs. No more aimless clicking, now I get to scan my 25 feeds several times a day, marking some for later reference and letting the rest slide into the dustbin of my subconscious. There are problems with this model of reading to be sure.
  • Iron Fist is my monthly comic of the year, edging out JSA and another Matt Fraction book, Casanova. Fraction's work deserves a longer consideration. Maybe after the current IF and Casanova arcs are done.
  • Love and Hate in Jamestown I don't read much history, but bought this on my house-hunting trip to Richmond to learn a little of Virginia history. There is, needless to say, much more to learn.
  • Letters of James Laughlin and Guy Davenport. Not italicized because I'm not sure of the volume's proper name. I selected this to note the manner of reading rather than the matter. I read this over several afternoons while waiting for my wife to get off work at the bookstore. The fact of its presence there symbolizes the kind of refuge a bookstore can provide. Two relatively unknown carrying on a conversation in face of general disregard. The book is actually quite chit-chatty and even embarrassing (especially for JL), but it marks my general pursuit of Davenport ephemera.
  • Party-Going. My first take on Henry Green is as a funny Virginia Woolf. I think I'll stick with that for the time being.
  • Portable People (Which I finished the day before Freakanomics while housesitting in Austin this spring). Wonderful, short sketches of artists and the ilk in a fat, square volume.
  • "Projective Verse" by Charles Olson. Which I've read many times but really resonated during a recent rereading. There will be a post on Olson soon. (I'm publishing a piece on Olson next year, BTW)
  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight Wonderfully enjoyable, especially the ending with the narrator listening to his brother breathing. The last novel I read.
  • What the Best College Teachers Do. A great tool for thinking about my own practice.

*I originally intended a history of my "big reading" project to be the topic of this STL, but along the way I got sidetracked. I do at least want to record the list:

1995 Ulysses
1996 Swann's Way
1997 Poetry of William Carlos Williams
1998 In Search of Lost Time
1999 Don Quixote

2000 The Divine Comedy
2001 The Cantos
2002 Middlemarch
2003 Bleak House
2004 Paradise Lost
2005 The Recognitions
2006 The Odyssey
2007 "A"

On 1 Jan 2008, I began rereading Anna Karenina. Not counting 2008 (since I'm only 100 pages in), I've read 13 works, including 7 novels and 6 works of poetry. Since the split will grow after this year, I should read poetry in 2009, or perhaps branch into drama or nonfiction? (I once planned 30 years of reading while working at Boeing. That was a fun diversion, but I don't want to be so strict as to plan my reading years in advance.)