Thursday, November 02, 2006

Reading, etc

1. I finished reading Patrick Hamilton's The Slaves of Solitude. I don't have any more to say than what I've already said. I recommend it highly, if you don't mind bleak and claustrophobic. The writing is exquisite and the observations sharp.

2. I ducked into a used books shop earlier this week, and there was Patrick Hamilton's Craven House, just waiting for me. It's his first novel, published when he was 21 years old(!). Like Slaves it centres on a boarding house and its motley inhabitants, but it's evident from the first few pages that Hamilton did not yet have the mastery of language and character that showed itself some 20 years later in Slaves. In the introduction to the 1940-something reissue of Craven House, Hamilton admits to it being flawed, unpolished: sentimental, wordy, and perhaps needlessly dating itself; but also that "if it can still find readers, I should still like it to be read." So read it I shall.

3. I'm about to place an order for books: something for Helena for her birthday, some Christmas considerations for others, and a little birthday treat for myself. I'm treating myself to Patrick Hamilton's Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky. Do you detect a new obsession?

4. I've been slogging through Umberto Eco's The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, when I'm not being distracted. It started off promising enough; I'm nearing the end and I do want to know how things are resolved; but the middle? The middle 200 pages were mostly boring and gratuitous, and I have the distinct impression Eco is shitting on his readers, but more on this later, when I've actually finished reading it.

5. We've been watching Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace. This of course has me going back to the novel, checking the scenes and checking over characters' words, but more importantly going over it again in my mind. Reading the book I picked bits of it apart; watching the movie is helping me put it back together again, reintegrate all the pieces. The movie's war bits are spectacular, the peace bits are rather harder to decipher (which is opposite to my reading experience). It's all very beautiful. We're about halfway; I'll say more when we finish.

6. I've been poking around the internet looking for some background material on Stendhal and the writing of The Red and the Black, and coming up short. Its plot is based on a real-life incident, and to share any details of it seems to give away the book's ending. So I've got nothing — I'll have to wait until Monday to talk about the actual text.

7. Do you think I should write a novel? I've been thinking about writing a novel. I suppose actually I've thought about it for many years, but never said it out loud, because that would signify some sort of commitment on my part. So I guess this is me saying it out loud. I'm ready.
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