Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Current Reading

I’m usually juggling several books in a given time. I try to make sure they’re different enough that I won’t get them confused. Here’s the current lineup:

I’m roughly halfway through Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is my fourth book by him and the one I had the hardest time finding its wavelength. It honestly took me 70 pages to figure out how to read it, but now that I have I think it is very good. I will likely have to reread it in the next couple years, but I expect to finish my first pass this week or weekend and will get a full review up at that point.

Caitlyn R. Kiernan is quickly becoming a favorite author. I read at least one short story by her, years ago, in the Sandman inspired anthology that I read shortly after my first time through Sandman. I really don’t remember much about that book. It really deserves a reread, especially since it has not only a Kiernan story but one by Gene Wolfe. I may have read other Kiernan stories at some point, but I discovered her in a real way for the first time last year. I’ve now read 5 of her novels including the masterworks The Drowning Girl and The Red Tree. Others could join that category with rereading. I’ve got 6 more stories to go in her collection The Very Best of Caitlin R Kiernan. So far this has been great. Some really fantastic stories here, including The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean which is among the best stories I’ve ever read. It’s included as a story written by the narrator of The Drowning Girl and it works equally well in that context and on its own. It also includes The Ammonite Violin, which is one of the most messed up serial killer stories I’ve ever encountered in any medium. It’s incredibly well done and I haven’t been able to shake it. I hope to finish this collection over the next couple of weeks and will get a full review up then.

I’ve started my annual reread of Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. If my canon could only contain one work, this would be it. It works on several levels, but on this time through, I’m thinking of Kinbote’s obsession with the poet John Shade and his insistence on reading his own, perhaps delusional, story into Shade’s final poem as a great metaphor for toxic internet fandom. I expect to finish it this weekend. I will attempt a review. Even though this is, I think, the ninth time I’ve read it, I still feel sheepish about writing about it. I’ll give it a shot, though.

I’ve got a longer term plan to reread the Essays of Montaigne. I read them back in 2013, but I burned through them way too quickly. I’m reading  more slowly this time,a few each week, and hopefully will be able to get more out of them. Most recently I read “A Trait of Certain Ambassadors”, “Of Fear” and “That our happiness must not be judged until after our deaths.” The Ambassadors essay had a good insight to not trust people who opine too heavily outside of their areas of expertise. It did have a little too much of a capitulation to authority for my taste, but it subverted that by the end by talking about how certain ambassadors were able to essentially manipulate the experts and their bosses. The biography of Montaigne that I recently read talked about how he often undercuts himself with uncertainty and saying seemingly conflicting things even in the course of one essay. That was certainly on display here. “That our happiness…” was essentially a restatement of Solon’s axiom “Call no man happy until he is dead.” A uncertain essay on stoicism. This is definitely not a work to read quickly. I’m satisfied with my current pace, at which I expect to finish the Essays sometime next year.

I’m still enjoying In Defense of Sanity, an essay collection by GK Chesterton. His essay “On Running After One’s Hat” is a clever, perhaps too glib, meditation on making the best of a circumstance. He’s really on to a good idea, though, in that the stories we tell ourselves can really affect our wellbeing. Still, it does seem a little insensitive towards people who can’t just cheer up, or have been through some kind of disaster. That being said, it is funny and has some good insight. The next essay, “Woman”, is definitely a head scratcher. It is of its time in the sense that Chesterton seems to be saying that women belong in the home. Even on a point that I disagree with him on like this one, he has some interesting things to to say. In this case, that essentially no one is really free except the very rich. I don’t always agree with Chesterton, but always find reading him agreeable, He always gives me something to think about in a slightly different way. I suspect I’ll work through this collection over the next month or so.

I’m trying to work my way through Learn Python the Hard Way, but honestly I haven’t made progress in it in a while.

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