Monday, March 11, 2013

Winter Reading List Wrap-up

The days are getting noticeably longer. The sun gets here a little earlier each morning. The flowers are becoming widespread now, and obvious. Spring is here. Although in Portland, it does not mean dry weather or even sunshine. The days are longer, and there are more flowers, and that is saying something. The long nights of winter are behind us for another six months.

Before I really joke about it, here is my winter reading list:
1. What Am I Doing Here Bruce Chatwin
2. Under the Ribs of Death John Marlyn
3. Brazil Jesse Lee Kercheval
4. One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest Ken Kesley

And here is what I actually read:
Keret, Etgar. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door. FSG: New York, 2012.
Marlyn, John. Under the Ribs of Death. McCelland & Stewart: Toronto, 1957.
Keret, Etgar. The Nimrod Flip Out. FSG: New York, 2006.
Lemony Snickett, book 6. If you have kids, go buy the series. Wonderful stuff.
Akhmatova, Anna. Requiem and Poem Without a Hero. Ohio University Press: Athens, Ohio, 1976. D.M. Thomas, trans.
Basho, Matsuo. The Narrow Road to the Deep North & Other Travel Sketches. Penguin Classics: London, 1966. Nobuyuki Yuasa, trans.
Kercheval, Jesse Lee. Brazil. Cleveland State University Press: Cleveland, Ohio, 2010.
Chatwin, Bruce. What Am I Doing Here. Viking: New York, 1989.
Kesey, Ken. One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Viking: New York, 2012.

I blame the long nights for the expanded reading list. It's strange, when in graduate school I was forced to write out a much larger reading list than I would have been able to read each semester. I was lucky to read 15 books, and I would make a list of 30. And for whatever reason since grad school, I have made very small reading lists and read more.

I suppose the very notion of creating a reading list is silly. Why bother, right? When you are a reader, it's all about reading, and why follow a list? This all goes back a few years when Mark Dragotta and I decided there were some books that are better to read during the sunnier times of year. I suppose I still agree with the conclusions the two of us came up with in the early fall of 2010. And I suppose there are books worth reading when the weather gets cold and the nights become long.

For me, I decided to read something things I have not read in a long time. The poetry namely: Basho and Akhmatova are both old acquaintances. In the years between the last time I read Akhmatova and now, my understanding of world events, namely of the Soviet variety, made her poetry mean more to me. Not only that, I read the introduction, and I did a little research. These are things I never bothered with doing before. Incidentally, my appreciation for Akhmatova has increased. Likewise, with Basho, I spent some time researching the text. I have loved Basho since Rebecca Brown introduced me to his work while I attended Goddard. NobuyukiYuasa's introduction made all the difference to me.

John Marlyn's book, Under the Ribs of Death was perhaps the biggest surprised. Admittedly, I chose the book late one night at Powell's only because of the title. I choose a great number of books only because of the title. There have been occurrences where choosing a book from the title has turned me on to an entirely new writer, genre or literary period. This was not the case with Marlyn's book. The novel is set between 1913 and 1933 in Winnipeg, Canada. The main character is the son of Hungarian immigrants. I know the book has several historical, cultural and social connotations to it. I also know that the book is held in high regard in Canada. Truth is, all that stuff aside, it's a great story. Great characters, great scenes, great use of dialect and great images of immigrant life.

Etgar Keret is always a favorite here and in our house. I read his stories aloud sometimes, both at home and at the bar. Reading Keret's stories aloud make me popular. Should you want to popular too, I recommend reading Keret aloud wherever your people gather.

Some people here in good ol' Stumptown have trouble with the wintertime. They have trouble with the rain. I don't think I do. Drink a lot of coffee. Read a lot of books. It's not so bad.

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