Saturday 31 December 2016

2016 in reading

It's that time of the year again. I'll now write about 2016 in reading.
It wasn't much. This year I spent more time living, experiencing, exploring, experimenting, absorbing "all the vast range of impressions that life could offer", then moved to Leeds and became extremely busy with studies. Over the past months I've mostly read non-fiction books in or for my course.
I read 2 new books: ****: The Anatomy of Melancholy by my blogger friend Matthew Selwyn, and the Pulitzer prize winner The Sympathiser by Viet Thanh Nguyen, who is in my facebook friend list. I don't think very highly of the latter, which deserves a long essay/ review, but by the time I finished reading it (which took a very long time), I was tired and just wanted to move on with my life. My thoughts summed up in 2 words: "too American".
Let's look back at my reading ideas for 2016
I didn't read more Russian literature- no Dostoyevsky, no Turgenev, no Gogol, no Nabokov... Highly interested in Vasily Grossman at the moment but unable to find time for Life and Fate. However, I did read another Tolstoy book, consisting of "The Cossacks" and "Hadji Murad" (speaking of which, a rather good-looking guy started a conversation with me online a few days ago, but I lost interest the moment he said Tolstoy's a misogynist that was also a bad writer and his wife rewrote all of his novels).
I didn't read more Dickens. Gave up on Bleak House. Instead was another Victorian writer who never seems Victorian- Lewis Carroll. People who associate Victorian literature with social realism and thus tedium should read the 2 Alice books, or someone like Robert Louis Stevenson.
Recently I've just read an Edwardian writer, E. M. Forster's A Room with a View. A rather thin book, enjoyable enough but not great, and maybe this reader was in the wrong mood to appreciate it.
I neither reread Madame Bovary nor got acquainted with other French writers of that period.
I didn't read Norwegian literature.
I didn't read Faulkner or Woolf. Nor early James Joyce, though I did borrow Dubliners in Leeds.
I didn't read another Henry James. Nor Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edith Wharton. 
Looks like a year of failures. 
Except that it couldn't be a bad year, as I discovered Moby Dick, a masterpiece, a novel unlike any other, a book that had a profound impact on my views on literature as well as on my life like Anna Karenina previously did; fell in love with Herman Melville; revisited "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and spent time with the other 2 great Bs "Benito Cereno" and "Billy Budd, Sailor"; read the wonderful "The Encantadas", at least twice, and a bunch of Melville's short stories; and again went to sea with Melville with The Confidence-Man
That, I suppose, isn't too bad. 
Reading ideas for 2017? I'm going to be more busy, not less. There's 1 book in the list: Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Anyone's in for a read-along? 

As I'm in Vienna, and have just gone to a concert, here's some music: 

Sunday 25 December 2016

The jump in A Room with a View

I've watched James Ivory's film adaptation about 3 times or more (mostly because of Daniel Day-Lewis), and have always had a problem with it- or rather, there's always a feeling that something's missing and I don't quite get what's going on and why the characters act the way they do. 
That's why I picked up the book, hoping it would clear a few questions on my mind. 
It didn't. 
After the incident in Florence, Lucy Honeychurch, together with her cousin Charlotte Bartlett, decides to go to Rome to see the Vyses. In the next chapters, we're with other, and new, characters- Lucy's mother Mrs Honeychurch and Lucy's brother Freddy. They're talking, and discussing Lucy and Cecil Vyse. A few pages later, Cecil, whom the readers have never before seen, now appears, and announces that he and our heroine are now engaged. Episodes are cut off. The entire courtship with the 3 proposals is left out. A huge jump in time. And space. 
What does that remind you of? 
The Portrait of a Lady.
The difference is that the engagement news in The Portrait of a Lady produces a shock, puzzlement and a sense of outrage, whereas that in A Room with a View takes us aback because there's hardly any warning but we know nothing about Cecil to know whether or not it's a right choice- other than surprise, there's nothing else. 
I don't mind the jump. What bothers me is the feeling that something's missing- I'm on chapter 11, and I still don't quite understand the relationship between Cecil and Lucy, specifically how she really feels about him, what has happened between them, why she rejects him twice and accepts him the 3rd time, why she thinks she loves him and how she really sees him. I feel cheated. 
My general impression is that E. M. Forster can be rather observant (it's very good how he writes about Charlotte playing the role of a "prematurely aged martyr" to control Lucy and persuade her not to tell her mother about the kiss), and there's a quiet humour about him that can be amusing, but that's it. The kiss between Lucy and George is, I have to say, rather disappointing. Too abrupt.
There are readers out there who enjoy The Room with a View more than I do. 


PS: There's a book that I really, really want to read right now- Life and Fate (though of course not "right now", I don't have time for such a big book). Several people have made me believe that I'd like Vasily Grossman. Thoughts? 
PPS: Oh and I'm in Vienna, by the way. Having a good time. 

Thursday 22 December 2016

Greetings, etc.

Hello there.
I know, I know, it's been a while.
If anyone cares, I'm all right, alive and kicking- just busy and, as usual, tired, slightly sick and a bit heartbroken. But this too shall pass.
A few months ago I started the A Room with a View read-along (Tom was part of it) and failed miserably, because of studies and everything, but now I've picked it up again. 
2016 has been an interesting and eventful year. In terms of world politics, yes, but not only so. So many things have happened that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that I'm now a different person. Is it a good thing? Or a bad thing? Hard to say. Both, perhaps. But there have been significant changes- 2016 me is not the same as 2015 me. 
So, yeah. 
What can I say. 
Merry Christmas, though. And Happy New Year.