Reading

I’m reading:

“Mr. Bones,” a collection of short stories by Paul Theroux. An excellent writer, not that he needs me to tell him that. Very perceptive descriptions of characters, drawing a profile of them from their actions, but often the person describing the character is seeing what they want to see, not always correctly identifying the intentions – a spectacular way to present characters and a complex method to attempt. He succeeds. You’re in the hands of an authority here. His novel “Blindness” was also fantastic. There are  few phrases here and there that could have been edited down to be more precise. They have that feel of Defoe’s style in Robinson Crusoe in which he describes something for pages and then proceeds to summarize what he just said. I got it. But the wisdom of an expert author such as Theroux is bigger than any editor. I prefer his novel writing because I get to spend more time with it. The short stories often end abruptly.  (Early 2015)

“Tao of Jeet Kune Do,” by Bruce Lee (on and off 2014)

Completed:

March 2013: “Here and Now” – a collection of letters between J.M. Coetzee and Paul Auster

Book cover for "Here and Now"

Book cover for “Here and Now”

Dec 2012- Jan/Feb 2013: “Who I am” Pete Townsend’s autobiography.

June 2012: Lots of Sherlock Holmes.

April 2012: Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson

December 2011:

I received a Kindle and like it better than expected. I’ve downloaded some classics that are free to try out the Kindle. I’ve now got Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace (books that are so heavy, they’d be hard to carry together but here they are!), as well as some Plato, E.M. Forster, Jane Austen, and others.

August 2011:

Will in the World – How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare – a book by Stephen Greenblatt. This was a gift from my friend Rose who knows how much I love Shakespeare. The book has an excellent discussion of the early players and shows that came to Stratford and surrounding towns and their importance to the culture.

The section on Shakespeare’s father and his financial decline is not as enjoyable. There is little documentation to present as evidence for the decline, so nay discussion is speculation. I’m not reading the part about how Shakespeare got to London in the first place, and that chapter has more factual evidence to back up the statements. I look forward to reading more.

I have not finished the Shakespeare book.

New J.M. Coetzee:

In Summertime, his new novel, J.M. Coetzee has chosen to write about himself as if he’s died and a biographer is trying to piece together a vision of the man from fragments.

I’ve only just started reading it, but so far it starts with some excerpts from notebooks he supposedly kept in the early 1970’s while living in South Africa. At the end of the notes are other notes in italics beginning with phrases such as “expand upon this…”. The following chapters are named for people who “knew” Coetzee. The first person is asked questions by the biographer about Coetzee, but the person interrupts him to ask about these notebooks. The biographer sent the pages from the notebooks to the person for them to read and comment on. The first woman asks about the italicized notes, wondering who wrote them. The biographer says that Coetzee wrote them in 1999-2000 because he was considering making a book from the notes.

Why would anyone write about themselves as if they were dead? It’s not an obituary by any means.

How odd to write now about yourself by creating notes that you supposedly made in the 1970’s and then “added” more notes to in 1999, and then to have a biographer attempt to piece it all together.

One clue (I think) is in a scene from these notes in which he is describing himself pouring and mixing concrete and thinking about how the concrete slab and bricks he is making will outlast him, how they are a type of immortality, and he wonders if men who work in construction think of having monuments to their own immortality all over town in the form of the buildings they worked to build.

Not that Coetzee needs me to decode anything he writes, but perhaps this format of retelling your own life is constructed in such a way as to create some form of immortality for himself. Although of course there is much more going on here than that.  Instead of the quick retelling and summarizing of a life in an obituary, here is this puzzle, skewered through with these fictionalized people’s lives like the rotisserie spit through a pig over a fire.

I don’t how I would retell my own life, fictional or real tidbits, no matter which.

This novel is a fiction. Coetzee made all of this up. This is what he’s been doing the past few years. While I was reading his other works, trying to figure them out, he was making more enigmas. But I’m happy to live with the unanswered questions. I think he is mountains above all other living writers today. He has more than a mastery of language and form; he has courage.

As of September 2010:

  • “Chef MD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine” by John La Puma, MD
  • “Inflammation Nation” by Floyd Chilton
  • “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan

Books I read:

November and December 2009

  • Aleksander Hemon’s “Love and Obstacles”
  • Wells Tower “Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned”
  • Vaclav Havel – “Disturbing the Peace”

All time Favorites:

  • Rumble Fish – by S.E. Hinton
  • A Room with a View – by E.M. Forester
  • The Heart of Darkness – by Joseph Conrad
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Le Roi  |  November 21, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Heart of Darkness? Ugh.

    Reply

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