Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Remainders of the Day

Some time ago I read a post on Alison Bechdel's blog where she referenced the Clive James poem 'The Book of my Enemy has Been Remaindered.' It's a great poem, a lot of fun. I tried to find the post on her blog, but my 1337 search skills failed.

This is on my mind because today I finally picked up a copy of Bechdel's memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. The paperback has just come out, so the hardcover was remaindered. The result was that I picked it up for an exceedingly affordable amount at Shakespeare & Co. my favorite local bookstore chain. It's proving to be just as good as I thought.

I'm happy to have my hardcover copy, because graphic novels are strangely the one type of book that I really prefer in hardcover. It's probably not really that strange. Still, my best wishes for Alison that the paperbacks sell astonishingly well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Interview with Alaa Al Aswany

Salon has posted an excellent brief interview with Alaa Al Aswany explaining something of his craft, and his life as a writer in the Arab world. It's not very long, and very much worth a glimpse. Also, if you haven't read The Yacoubian Building, you should.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Driving Mr. Paterniti

Michael Paterniti, the strange man who decided to drive across country with Einstein's brain, does a brief interview with the NYTimes Book Blog. In it he mentions that he's working on a new book about a small village in Spain that seems to be about cheese and murder. I'm looking forward to it. You should to, also you should read Driving Mr. Albert, his book about driving cross country with Einstein's brain. That book was the first thing that made me really want to drive across country.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Late to the Party: Man Booker Edition

I just finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize. I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that, when the prize was announced, I recall seeing a great deal of anger and disapproval of the choice. Perhaps, for those who read all of the books on the short list, there were other, better books. Still, The White Tiger was a powerful and fascinating story.

I've previously mentioned my fondness for first person narration, and the narrator of this book is an excellent example. He is not entirely trustworthy, but at the same time his story contains enough elements to point this out, while he insists otherwise. I'm also a fan of epistolography, or in smaller words, the study of letters. I got into this by reading Ancient Roman Letters, particularly Cicero, Pliny the Younger, and Fronto. Fronto is the best, he mainly writes letters about how his stomach is bothering him, but he's writing these letters to a Roman Emperor. Hilarious.

Anyway, the narration in The White Tiger takes the form of letters being written to the Premier of China, to teach him about India and entrepreneurship. The didactic, self-important tone brings the narrator immediately to life.

This was the first Booker winner that I've read, and I probably wouldn't have picked it up if I hadn't heard of it through it's nomination for the prize. I've read other books by Booker-winners, but not the books of theirs that won. This makes me hesitant to say too much about the prize as a whole, and Adiga's place within it. I do have The Siege of Krishnapur sitting on my shelf waiting for me though. Once I've read a few more maybe I'll change my mind about Adiga's relative merit, but I doubt it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Reading

I've seen a few lists out there for holiday specific reading. It's a strange idea to me. I don't really pick what I read based around the holiday season, I don't really do summer specific reading either.

Does anyone out there do holiday specific reading? What kind?

Monday, December 1, 2008

December Reading

As someone who maintains yearly lists of what he reads, December is an interesting month. You notice how many you've read so far (a career low 108), and think about how many you feel you need to read to reach an acceptable total. 2006 is my lowest total so far, at 118, and I feel a strong desire to at least match that, which means that I would have to finish the two books that I am currently reading as I write this, and read 8 others, to tie 2006. I think I can do that at least, but we'll see.

Of course, I've only been keeping track of what I read in such a detailed manner since 2005, so I'm sure there were years when I read less. Physics isn't the only place were the act of observation changes the nature of the thing being observed.

Being this close to the end of the year though causes me to really anticipate one of my favorite recent New Years Day traditions, looking through my most recent book list to remember what was going on in my life that lead me from book to book, and generally noticing what my reading habits were like at the time. Then I compare it to the earlier lists. It may not be your idea of a great time, but I enjoy it.

I also like remembering books. For example, in just skimming the 2005 list, I'm reminded that I promised myself I would read more Plimpton after I read The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair, I still have to get on that. Of course, there are hundreds of things I have told myself I'd read, and still need to get to. Still, it's nice to stroll down memory lane.

Also from 2005, I have a wonderful memory of sitting at my desk on a particularly sunny day, reading A Room With A View and remembering my own experience in Italy.

Another great thing about December, and books, is contemplating books as presents. The one thing I like better than getting books from people, is giving people the right book. I have some shopping to do.