Odyssey Online

Entries from July 2013

Books We Pretend to Read

July 31st, 2013 · Comments Off on Books We Pretend to Read

…the folks at Book Riot have put together (with interesting graphics!) the list of the top twenty books people pretend the have read.  It’s based on a survey of 828 readers, and, full disclosure, number 9 is one that at least someone here has claimed to have read when it’s more likely it was more a matter of borrowing it from the public library in Manchester New Hampshire and carrying it around.  Life includes episodes of pretending out aspects of our relationships with other people, life with books would, by virtue of being life itself, include episodes of pretending out relationships with stories we haven’t actually read.  It only follows…

Tags: Books · Recommended Book

Summer Reading

July 19th, 2013 · Comments Off on Summer Reading

This wonderful graphic that accompanied a lovely short piece in the New York Times Book Review titled “What I Read that Summer.” We have not explicitly written much about summer reading this summer, although to my mind summer reading is a thing apart.  Words in the warm months are seeds, the long days are gardens for books to make a memory, not memories, a memory–the one you’re working with.  This particular piece is made up of reflections by a dozen contemporary writers on “their most memorable summer reading experience.”  This excerpt is from Louise Erdrich’s response:

And then I found “The Nylon Pirates,” by Nicholas Monsarrat. I thought it would be about pirates stealing women’s nylon stockings, which seemed shockingly tempting. It must have been the last straw, because the librarian refused to check it out for me. Instead, she gave me”Animal Farm.” “Let me know what you think,” she said. I loved it. “Well?” she said when I brought it back. “A great pig story!” I told her. She renewed the book with her special red stamp and handed it back to me. “Read it again,” she said.

This is very much worth a read…a short elegant appraisal of summer reading that captures what summer reading is…


Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…

July 12th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…

Creation is uncertainty itself.  “Is this going to work?” maybe the great human question–and the history of literature is filled with poignant tales of authors doubting themselves and their work, years into a particular project.  Alex Belth has lovely short piece on “I also appreciate people who push themselves and risk failure,” in which he uses Faulkner’s doubt about The Sound the the Fury as his example.   A book that many would argue is the quintessential Faulkner novel.  Readers also have their moments of doubt–GoodReads has a fun graphic on why people put books down, and which books people have quit the most.  Amongst contemporary books Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the top “didn’t finish” books, and the five most abandoned classics are Catch-22, Lord of the Rings, Ulysses, Moby Dick, and Atlas Shrugged. I have a didn’t quite make it through a re-read of Ulysses story (I couldn’t finish the second book of the Game of Thrones titles either).  A very eloquent new book on “reading in electronic times” is Book Was There by Andrew Piper.  Very thoughtful stuff, and a particularly engaging part of the book is Chapter 4, “Of Note,” where Piper ponders the relation of notes and notebooks to finished manuscripts, and the relationship between handwriting and reading: “When we write with our hands we are also learning to draw, just as when we learn to draw we are learning to think more complexly with words.”  The poet Ted Hughes also observed that “Handwriting is drawing.”  We have a number of titles on handwriting has a study, notably, Handwriting in America: A Cultural History by Tamara Plakins Thorton, and The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting by Philip Hensher.

Oh, I’ve finished Andrew Piper’s book and will be returning it soon…


Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

July 5th Blogging

July 5th, 2013 · Comments Off on July 5th Blogging

…a day late perhaps, but not short of books!  A while back I posted about American books, here to Odyssey Online.  This is a short list of books that simply struck me as being definitively American, books that spoke directly to the American experience. It is not a list assembled in a particularly systematic way but I could argue the case for each inclusion.  Paula Marantz Cohen has recently published a piece in the American Scholar about the value in talking about literature.  Her point being that reading is self discovery, and sharing this discovery in a conversation a release, a knowing of oneself.  I’m not sure I agree with all of her conclusions, but having a summertime conversation about books in the evening over a picnic supper is not only self discovery, it is frankly a patriotic thing to do.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

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