Monday, June 13, 2011

The Spring Reading List Wrap-up

As spring winds down and fades into summer, I wonder how long the rains of Portland will last. Yes, if April showers bring May flowers, what will the rains of June, July and August bring? And really, what does it matter? When Janice and I moved here in November, we had no idea what the springtime would bring. We had no idea of the details brought on by time. But I feel inclined to recap the events of spring.
We got jobs. Jobs. Oddly enough, we both went right back to the work in the very (respective) industries we were both so desperate to get out of in Denver.

We moved. As I told you last week.

We're getting into a new life that seems strikingly the same as the old life. The view out the window has changed.

But the spring reading is something altogether different. My spring reading list involved the pre-move days, my working days and the Blue Max line commute. In fact, a busy schedule during the spring took its toll on my reading time. I found I could read on the train and I did so for weeks. I only stopped reading on the train when I found I could write well enough and make the time go by quicker.

I've said this before and I still have to ask: why aren't more people reading on public transportation? With Poetry in Motion, I still find public transportation to be a very literary place to be. There certainly are people reading, but something tells me that those people would be reading anyway. Perhaps those people, like me, have very busy schedules and reading on the train is the only true free time for reading.

The spring reading list:

Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

The Glass Door – Dashiel Hammett

Howard's End – E.M. Forster

50 Great Short Stories

What I read:

In the Cut – Susanna Moore

O Pioneers! – Willa Cather

The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

Factotum – Charles Bukowski

Our Man in Havana – Graham Greene

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson

Gentlemen of the Road—Micheal Charbon

Looking at this list now, I feel almost embarrassed by how few books are there. I don't know why, I just feel like I could have read more. I didn't as usual read as many of the books as I had listed, but that seems to be pretty common with my life as a reader. But, that's life, that's always life, there will always be change, things to do and time will always be at a premium.

First, we lived in Wood Village up until mid May. I began working downtown in March. At least I was able to read during the two hours on the train daily. Needless to say, I did do some of my reading on the train.

On my list: Aimee Bender's book was a treat. Her work is, and has always been a treat to read. I think about Aimee more often when I walk by the nail shop on NW 23rd Avenue in Portland's Knob Hill neighborhood. What does Aimee Bender and the nail shop have in common? The nail shop was once Books on 23rd, and back in 2000 when she was promoting An Invisible Sign of My Own, I met her there. So, I like Aimee Bender's work. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake was a wonderful treat to read. I feel, in a way, like I grew up with Aimee, me as a reader and her as a writer. Lemon Cake was not outside of her former work, the narration was still solid, the point of view still first person and somewhat detached, and a little alienated. The flow of this book, if this means anything, was so much stronger than her former novel, and so much richer than her short stories. Her books are well worth the of characters' histories.

Our Man in Havana? Graham Greene. Catholic. Juxtaposition of culture: Cuban, American and British. It had a fun espionage twist. Cultural juxtaposition books: That Sheltering Sky and The Stranger.

Gentlemen of the Road? Micheal Charbon. Fun. Funny. Epic. Old worldly adventure type. Originally written in magazine serial form.

The Reader: confessional. Great themes of crime, punishment, ethics, emotional connection and emotional detachment. If grouped with other holocaust/WWII books imagine it pared with The Accident or The Monkey Wrench Gang.  Talk about a well rounded view of similar happenings from different perspectives. I still hold fast to the belief that fiction is closer to real life than anything else. It does speak to us of the events and what a person (character) may be inclined to do. I found The Reader to be an easy read and a very compelling story told by a tragic if not damned narrator.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Best fucking book ever written. Funny, satirical, pertinent, wise. If lumped with other “drug culture” books like The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley or even Burrough's Naked Lunch, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has won out. Thompson pokes fun at the drug culture as well as the mainstream. He hates Nixon, excesses and racism. But the historical context is beautiful. The haunting comparison between San Francisco in the middle 1960s and Las Vegas in 1971 makes the work itself worth reading. That, and it's funny. Thompson, himself, considered Fear and Loathing a failure. I don't agree. It didn't invoke in me a desire to soak carpets with ether, but it did make me question my ability as a writer and as a thinker.

Last, Factotum. Reading Bukowski is like watching a dog kill a pigeon. For as brutal and gross as it is, I think I'll read more of his work before I claim anything more.

That about wraps it up. I'll admit that I chose thee books almost at random. They were fun to read. I never forgot why I was reading them either, to grow as a reader and as a writer. I hope you can wrap up your spring reading list with the same feelings.

No comments:

Post a Comment