Another mishmash of books, but I did say I would be back with a few decisions. No dithering. I've made a few reading selections and I am going to stick with them. Actually I am very pleased with my reading choices, one I have already started and one is waiting for me and one is a readalong book I was uncertain I would have time for. I've dived into that latter book as well and am now pleased I did so.
One small plug into that gaping hole that is contemporary literary fiction. One very small plug considering the mental list of books I was contemplating. In the end I have chosen (drum roll please, this feels almost momentous, or at least hopefully a move in the right direction) Pulitzer Prize Winning Philip Roth's American Pastoral. The cover blurb from New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani (who I believe is a hard sell on a good day) is quoted as saying "one of Roth's most powerful novels ever . . . moving, generous and ambitious . . . a fiercely affecting work of art."
American Pastoral has long been on my shelf and it seemed as good a place to start as any. I was reaching towards Jane Smiley, but then my hand grabbed Roth and so I cracked open the book and started reading and didn't come up for air for a good thirty or so pages. That seems a good sign. I've never read Roth and I know he is considered a biggie when it comes to American literature. I think I will have to alternate. When I finish with Roth it will be Smiley's (or some other female writer's) turn.
I will say, Roth is quite engaging from the get go. He certainly writes with an assuredness that I like. Often you can tell from the start when a writer has a knack with their abilities to write beautiful prose and I do like how Roth's flows so smoothly. When you open a book and are faced with solid pages of text with what appears little dialogue I get a little nervous. I wonder if it's going to be so slow going as to make it impenetrable to read and make me not want to pick up the book. I don't think it will be the case here. I don't think I will say anything more about it right now other than his characterization is excellent. I have finally met Nathan Zuckerman (I know little about Roth, but I have heard about this Zuckerman fellow--what do you think--perhaps the writer himself is an influence on the character?). I'm sure I will have more to say about this one along the way.
Now for a classic? I am planning on returning to Isaac Bashevis Singer's Enemies, A Love Story. I was very much enjoying it before I had to set it aside. As an aside, he is also Nobel Prize winner. And it makes me feel good to rescue a book from the languishing pile. But first I want to read Leo Tolstoy's short story (or is it a novella?) The Kreutzer Sonata. I borrowed a library copy, an Oxford World's Classics edition which is translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, which I have mixed feelings about--am wondering if the translation will feel dated? I'll soon find out as I plan on beginning reading today or tomorrow. I am reading it in anticipation for reading another book (I love reading books in tandem like that). Sayed Kashua is going to be in Omaha in February and I hope to hear him speak. I'll be reading Second Person Singular sometime after the holidays, and his novel is a reworking of Tolstoy's story. It all just seemed to fit into place.
I've done a pretty miserable job this year of reading the books in Caroline's Literature and War Readalong. I had such high hopes and was so looking forward to the books. I have (thus far) only managed to read five of the dozen books on the list, though I might at least get in a sixth with Letters from A Lost Generation edited by Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge. I was thinking I would let the last book go at this point and save it for some other time, but then looked longingly at the book and decided why not.
I may not finish it before the end of the month, but after reading the first section and introduction I am so happy to have picked it up after all. This is a collection of letters written between Vera Brittain, her bother, fiancé and two other schoolfriends. All three men died in the war and you are likely familiar with Vera Brittain. I only know about her by bits and pieces I have read about her life--I have never read any of her books or a biography of her, but I feel like going directly to my bookcase and grabbing my copy of Testament to Youth or a biography of her and reading it alongside this book. Who knows, maybe I will do just that. I want to (already) tell you more about the book, but as this post is getting a little unwieldy I think I will save it for another day.
Although these are my newest additions to my night stand, I do have a number of other books on the go that I am reading on a little rotation. Lots of good stories that I am greatly enjoying (including another from the languishing pile). I've given up trying to reach any last minute goals and am just living in the worlds of my books and not stressing over what I am not reading. In a couple of weeks I'll see what's left on my night stand and clear away whatever I need to and prepare for the coming new year. But these are the books that will see me through the last few weeks and my forthcoming break!