Tell Me What You're Reading!

In the interest of maybe inspiring some more discussion around here, I've decided to open the floor to any readers who happen to pass by.

What are you reading this month? Is it for business or pleasure? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it to anyone? What are you going to be reading in the near future?

Depending on how much time I have in a given month, I'll also be giving updates on my own reading, so you'll have a somewhat better idea of where I'm at in List progress (not that anyone's holding their breath at this point), or just to talk about stuff that I'm reading that I won't be reviewing "formally."

In October...

Sorry, no time! :(

Read-a-Thon Post #3: After the Fact

In case you couldn't tell based on my complete lack of posting throughout the day, the Read-a-Thon was basically a bust for me. Maybe I'll do better in April!

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
    Probably the one that I spent at the theatre watching Gravity. Oops!

  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
    Not really. Song of Susannah isn't off to an extremely exciting start.

  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
    Make sure my family doesn't schedule a Thanksgiving event that lasts the entire day oh my God. Also change my work schedule so I'm not constantly exhausted.

  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
    Sadly I was barely able to participate, so no feedback on this one, either.

  5. How many books did you read?
    Just one complete one. I got through a total of about 160 pages (hard to say exactly since I did read a bit of To Be or Not To Be and was skipping all over the place.) Pretty pathetic considering the amount of reading I usually do over my Christmas holidays.

  6. What were the names of the books you read?
    Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is the one book I finished reading. I also read most of one of the "sketches" in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, and a tiny bit of To Be or Not To Be, and the first "stanza" of Song of Susannah, which is the book I'll probably stick with for the rest of the weekend. (I'm still not finished reading Quicksilver, which I started in August, because I keep taking breaks between the different "books" in that novel.) Lots of quotation marks here, sorry.

  7. Which book did you enjoy most?
    To Be or Not To Be is off to a great start.

  8. Which did you enjoy least?
    I was reading Sunshine Sketches to my sister while she drove us out of town, and unfortunately since it was the beginning of the story, there were all kinds of establishing details, and then I couldn't finish reading because I didn't have anything to drink to hydrate my vocal cords, or however that works. Awful.

  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
    I'd definitely like to read for it again, without having to spend approximately ten hours in the middle of the day doing everything other than reading.

Read-a-Thon Post #2: Hour 1

Whaddya know, I'm actually awake at the correct time. In fact, I woke up this morning sans alarm at about quarter to 6, and decided I might as well jump back into Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. It's a much more mournful book than I was really expecting, and I'm currently 63 pages in.

Here's the Read-a-Thon intro meme:

  1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
    A couple of places in Saskatchewan.

  2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
    I'm actually really curious about all of the books. I keep going back to To Be or Not To Be, though. I'm beginning to think that Ryan North might be another author who can "have all of my money." Read his Back to the Future novelization review tumblr if you want to know why. Seriously.

  3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
    I ... haven't really prepared any snacks. I might starve.

  4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
    Not sure what to say about this one so I'll just rehash my blog gimmick for the benefit of any new readers who stop by during the event: I'm an engineer who loves to read, which seems to be quite a rare combination in the profession. All of the books I'm reading today are random rather than List books, although I do have Of Human Bondage on my bookshelf and thought of adding it to the pile.

  5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
    This is my first and I'm just happy to be here, really. I won't actually be able to do much reading today because we're interring my Pépé's ashes out of town and then I'm spending some time with the family afterward, but I'm definitely going to try to read as much as I can anyway.

Read-a-Thon Post #1

Welcome to my first ever (but maybe not last) Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon! Due to some scheduling conflicts, I won't really be able to read as much as I'd like today, and can't even actually do this post at the correct time i.e. you are reading this in my future. I'm excited anyway, though, and will be trying to participate as much as possible. For now, that means starting to read one of my books (Zombie Spaceship Wasteland) a little bit early... as soon as I finish writing this post.

I originally wanted to go and get books from the library to read, but then reminded myself that there are over twenty books on my own bookshelf that I haven't read yet, so decided to limit myself to what I have at home. I also wanted to choose fairly short books, so I wouldn't get bogged down and just read one. And so, my stack for the readathon, from smallest to largest:

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
191 pages
Some CanLit! This book belonged to my Mémé from when she went to university to get her degree in French (obviously this book isn't from one of the French courses). A quick skim of the author's introduction says I may like his style.

Hotel by Arthur Hailey
408 pages
I guess this might qualify as CanLit as well, since apparently Arthur Hailey was a Canadian citizen. The book is about a hotel. I dunno.

Song of Susannah by Stephen King
540 pages
My reading of the Dark Tower series continues! (You would have no reason to know this yet, but I actually reviewed The Gunslinger, and it'll be posted eventually when it comes up in the schedule.)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
269 pages
A scary story (?) in anticipation of Halloween. I've heard this book is unbelievably good.

Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford
214 pages
The first of the non-fiction books I chose, about the joys of manual labour, sorta.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
189 pages
Non-fiction by a comedian I super love.

To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North and William Shakespeare and YOU
727 pages
I know, I know. But very few of pages are actually covered in text, and you don't read every single one of them. I plan to break up the rest of my reading with a few Hamlet-based adventures!

The Last Plague by Mark Osborne Humphries
195 pages
A book about the Spanish flu and public health in Canada, as part of my ongoing quest to learn more Canadian history.

70. The Alexandria Quartet: Justine by Lawrence Durrell

(I'm dropping the "Uncomfortable Plot Summaries" because I'm terrible at them. -M.R.)

Year Published: 1957
Pages: 203
First Sentence: The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind.
Rating: 3/3 (read it!)

The List has several cheats like The Alexandria Quartet, which is to say items that are not actually novels, but rather a series of novels. This particular instance is definitely not as egregious as A Dance to the Music of Time, coming up in the 40s (so about a decade from now), which is twelve books long. Ha! So what I'd like to say right now is that I reserve the right to quit any of these series if I'm not enjoying them, but I do have to read at least the first book of all of them.

So, then, Justine.

I'm reading The Alexandria Quartet in one big, nearly-900-page volume, partly to enhance the sense of cohesiveness and partly because that's what was at the library. I had essentially no expectations other than extreme arduousness, but I ended up hooked to this book right from the beginning.

The plot is buried under a young Englishman's non-chronological narrated reflection. To quote him:

What I most need to do is to record experiences, not in the order in which they took place—for that is history— but in the order in which they first became significant for me.

This is precisely what he does. In the most basic, crude sense, Nameless Narrator (I love it when first-person narrators don't have names, and I can't explain why) becomes involved with Justine, a married woman who is... well, it's hard to explain. To call her a femme fatale would be to incorrectly state the case, but that's about as close as I can get. There's a lot of discussion of what love is, what we want from other people, what we can give them. The plot, such as it is, involves the couple's efforts and struggles to elude their respective primary partners' notice of their affair.

This sort of dithering and obtuseness would probably frustrate me if not for the fact that Durrell's prose goes down smooOOooth. It's poetic without the obtrusive metaphors that I hate so much. His observations are sharp and meaningful. I found myself sliding over (not skimming, but not paying close attention to) the denser bits with the feeling that I'll have to come back to this book sometime, and that when I do, I'll get something completely different from it.

The weakness of the book is maybe the characters, whose relationships with each other are clear but whose individual personalities are murkier. That's kinda one of the themes of the book, though, so I'm not sure it's actually a weakness.

Balthazar (the title of Book Two) and Clea (the title of Book Four) are both introduced as characters in Justine. They're mostly peripheral to the main action, although I assume several dangling threads will be picked up in the rest of the books. The most mysterious book so far is Mountolive, which comes third, and that name hasn't come up anywhere yet.

- - - - -
She would come a few minutes late of course, fresh from some assignation in a darkened room, from which I avert my mind; but so fresh, so young, the open petal of the mouth that fell upon mine like an unslaked summer. The man she had left might still be going over and over the memory of her; she might be as if still dusted by the pollen of his kisses. Melissa! It mattered so little somehow, feeling the lithe weight of the creature as she leaned on one's arm smiling with the selfless candour of those who had given over with secrets. It was good to stand there, awkward and a little shy, breathing quickly because we knew what we wanted of each other.
- - - - -
...'Comment vous défendez-vous contre la solitude?' he asked her. Melissa turned upon him an eye replete with all the candour of experience and replied softly: 'Monsieur, je suis devenue la solitude même.'
- - - - -