The Brothers Karamazov I first read in Lent of 2011. Anthony had just been born and I finished the whole book that Lent, as I recall. And that’s about all I recall (and I needed help from my blog post at the time to give me those details.) Even though I know I read the whole book, I don’t think I absorbed much of it at all. I didn’t have any way to process it. I wasn’t talking about it with anyone or writing about it. And so very little of it settled in long term memory. I remember the fact of having read the book and some of the details are familiar. But in many ways I feel like I’m reading it for the first time.
This time I’m getting a lot more out of it. Reading with a Facebook group has been fun. I’ve often been a week or two behind the group’s schedule (I finally caught up.) And that’s actually not been a bad thing. Reading other people’s comments has given me a sort of scaffolding as I read, questions to ponder, hooks to keep my attention.
Also, I really like this translation. Last time I used the Constance Garnett translation that I bought for my Russian novel class back in college– I dropped out at midterm because I was overloaded and I couldn’t handle reading both Anna Karenina and Brothers Karamazov while also juggling Shakespeare and my Junior Poet Project. But I was very sad at dropping out because that class was taught by the redoubtable Dr Cowan. So this time I’m using the translation that several people had recommended, by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I’ve been finding it very readable, much more engaging– and I don’t think it’s only that I’m not fighting against newborn mommy brain this time.
I still don’t think Brother’s K is going to be among my favorite novels, but I’m glad I dove in to this reread because I do appreciate it much much more.
This is my first time reading Can You Forgive Her (I’m reading the free Kindle version) and my first Trollope novel and I had no idea what to expect. Actually, I still have no idea where this book is going. It’s quite fun to read a book like that. My main problem here is that I want to leap far ahead of the group and I’m having to restrain myself a bit to keep from gobbling it up.
I’ve been occasionally dipping into Chernow’s Hamilton. It’s a book that works well at a slow pace. I know the broad outlines of his life well enough (thanks to the musical) that I can pick it up and put it down without losing the thread of the narrative. And yet it’s new and interesting enough to keep my attention when I do pick it up. I expect at some point I’ll pick up the pace and focus only on Hamilton for a while when my reading slate is a little clearer. Maybe.
This is part of the reason I fell behind in Brothers K. Several people have been talking about Hill House lately and my curiosity was piqued. When it came up for sale on Kindle I snatched it up and then I read it in a couple of bursts. I probably read it too fast, but I wanted to just get through it. I didn’t really savor the horror of it properly. I might come back to it again later. I want to go back and read what people were saying about it, too.
The Sayers is part of a larger attempt to re-read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey books. A friend has newly discovered Sayers and I realized I hadn’t read most of them in over twenty years. So it was time to cast a fresh eye on them. So far I have not been disappointed. I wish I’d picked them up in order, but oh well.
In addition to all the above, I’ve been reading books about poetry/prosody: dipping into Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield, which is lush, but required a bit more attention than I can spare it. It feels like a book that wants to be read at a cafe on a long sunny summer day with a notebook and a pen beside me and no interruptions from anyone. Rules for the Dance by Mary Oliver, which turned out to be not exactly what I was hoping for, too much like every other book about prosody I’ve read and not really as much of the author’s presence as I’d hoped. The Hirschfield is much better in that regard. I’ve been very appreciative of The Practice of Poetry by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell eds. It’s a collection of writing exercises and the prompts have kept me busy. I’ve written a bunch of exercises and had a few poems come from them that I’m actually quite pleased with. Even though I’m a little disappointed in the prompts in the section about form, they really don’t offer the insights into how to approach form that I was hoping to find, still, the book has been very useful in other ways.
I started reading The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis with a friend’s reading group and after the first chapter realized I really wanted to outline it and write about it and engage with it in a much more focused way and not just whiz through it. But… I have all these other books vying for my attention. So poor Lewis has slipped onto the very far back burner. Oh well. I did think it was rather ambitious of me.
I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time with the kids and began reading A Wind in the Door. They are just as satisfying as I remember and the kids have very much enjoyed them. Dear Meg. I wish L’Engle and other writers didn’t beat quite so hard on the brown hair is unattractive drum– that was one lesson I absorbed as a child. Between Laura Ingalls Wilder and Madeleine L’Engle, I learned that my brown hair– and later glasses and braces– meant I was plain and unattractive. Sigh. I like my hair now, but as a child I learned that it was not an admirable color. I hope that my commentary counteracted that a bit. I want to write more about how well Wrinkle stands the test of time, but I think that may be a blog post for another day.
I found a Kindle sale on Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which my sister recommended to me years ago. I read a few chapters and decided to come back later when I’ve got less on my plate.
Audiobooks: I’ve been listening to Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey in snatches here and there, often when I’m in the car alone or with just one of the kids. I figure since they know the story they can stand to jump in and hear a bit here and there– it’s the kind of story that you are meant to not hear all in one go, but to listen to in snatches. Anthony thought the Cyclops scene was unnecessarily gory and gross. When all the kids are in the car together we’ve been listening to The Saturdays, which is such a delightful novel.