Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July Update

A List--Baudelaire--Les Fleurs du Mal...131/229

B List--Hervey Allen--Anthony Adverse...68/1,224

C List--Salman Rushie--The Ground Beneath her Feet...87/575

I am reading Baudelaire in (or from) French, for what it is worth. My favorite insight so far that I can fruitfully apply to my own life is that our own personal Paris, the Paris of our youth, and probably that of any great city that means something to us, is always dead and gone by the time we are thirty-five, if not thirty.

Le vieux Paris n'est plus (la forme d'une ville
Change plus vite, helas! que le Coeur d'un mortel);

It is becoming evident to me that my primary obstacle to finishing the "B" list before I shuffle off the old coil here is that its lineup is heavier than I realized on 1,000+ page books, one after another after another, leavened with the occasional 2,500 page trilogy. I like reading these large books, especially if they are good, of course, and I suppose I feel a certain pleasure at coming to the end of something that took a month or two to finish that I don't feel in finishing something shorter, though this is silly from any kind of serious or intellectual standpoint. It is going to be hard for me to make much headway towards getting on pace to finish the whole list prior to entering my 80s for a while though.

Anthony Adverse is a category of book that I suspect may be the weakness of the IWE list, giant, mega-selling (loosely) historical fiction from the 30s and 40s, of which Gone With the Wind is the primary exemplar, though it actually is not on the list.  Forever Amber is on the list however, as is So Red the Rose and I am not sure if there is anything else from this school, but there is probably something I am forgetting. I am guessing whoever was in charge of creating the IWE canon had a fondness for these books dating from youth that he or she was not able to put by. Adverse is not completely unreadable to me, and it has the elements of what could be an interesting book in places, but it isn't literature, and if I were younger and still had hopes of developing into a serious person, I would feel that I should be reading something else. It's the kind of book where the amusing lines are things like (when the hero's mistress offers to sell her jewelry for him) "One can take a man's wife and remain a gentleman, but taking his jewels would not do". The women characters are all straight clich├ęs from the romantic school and are beyond redemption, the pace is slow, the descriptions are probably overdone...all that said, I am looking forward to going home and reading my ten pages before bed, so strong is the nostalgia and romanticism of the List with me as to overrule any sense of taste.

The Rushdie book is not Anna Karenina, I suppose, and I don't remember it being lauded as a great book when it came out (in long-ago 1999), though maybe it was and I missed it, but so far I find I am liking it. I am already nostalgic for 1950s Bombay, something I never thought about before taking up this book. There have been a few episodes where the narrative appeared to be tottering dangerously close to the edge of magic realism, but it pulled back just enough to remain in the realm of literary fictional plausibility. So far so good on this one.

I don't have time to do pictures this month. Maybe I'll put a literary girlie picture up tomorrow or something.

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