I did read a few things intended for grown-ups, because I am, in theory, one. My slow survey of Mark Twain continued with The Prince and the Pauper. It’s lighter than some of his other work, his critiques funnier and less skewering.
The Nicholson Baker phase continues. The Fermata was disturbing. I was sometimes too shocked to laugh. The premise of a man who can stop time for everyone else is interesting and the idea that he uses his power mostly for sexual play is funny, but the issues of consent, among other things, bothered me. The writing, as always, is lovely and smart. Checkpoint, by contrast, perhaps didn’t disturb me enough. I found the relationship between the friends hilarious and was not creeped out by the assassination plot. The Everlasting Story of Nory entertained me. I spent a little time thinking about what it is like when adults write in the voices of kids for adults versus for kids (If I had been doing all this reading for some English class, I see a compare and contrast paper on the subject using Judy Moody, Clarice Bean, and this book.) and concluded that what kids like is consistency and adults at least pretend to like the randomness of kids’ views.
Someone I know recommended The Ice Soldier to me. I don’t remember who that was, but I thank him or her. It’s a great book about redemption with mountain climbing. Even though I figured out the Big Revelation early, the story carried me through. I told both Brent and T. that they would probably like it.
Roia the Wonderful loaned me Girl Trouble, a collection of short stories that knocked my tennies and socks off. What writing! The stories revolve around scary topics like teachers who get students pregnant, rapists, jealous onlookers, and torched bodies of college girls, but the writing compelled me to keep reading.
Almost everyone I knew in high school read The Red and the Black in French. I had independent study, so I didn’t. I have had a sense of slight guilt ever since. My mom had a copy that I adopted (probably from that same European novel class that brought me some Kafka and Mann). I have now read it. What a slog. Boring, boring, boring. Did I mention that it was boring? Only in the last quarter of the book does anything really happen and the exciting bit lasts about a minute until Stendhal plunges back to exhaustive analysis of the contents of people’s heads. Maybe it’s better in French, but I’m not going to find out.
Finally, I had two books on my list that were religious/inspirational. The first was The Words of Peace, which I bought at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm and it was excerpts from the speeches of Peace Prize winners over time. It was surprisingly depressing. The unity of thought in the speakers made it clear that it’s not lack of understanding that keeps us from peace. Unless all those people were entirely wrong, but that would be even more depressing. We seem to know what to do and to suck at doing it. I also read The Interior Castle and I’m not sure what to make of it. I’m not particularly mystical by temperament, so I wandered lost through the rooms of St. Teresa’s castle, occasionally caught by an amazing detail or view, but mostly confused. I would, however, read it again.
Phew! Time to start building up the new list!