Saturday, June 05, 2010

Trying to read

(Not to be confused with trying to blog, which is an altogether different, but perhaps related, sort of problem.)

Somehow, and I think this is out character for me, I've been reading myself into a hole.

Book I'm desperately trying to finish:
The Manuscript Found at Saragossa, Jan Potocki.

It's big! I didn't realize just how big, because I'm reading it as an ebook, but the print version comes with 656 pages. You kind of lose sight of your progress through a book when it's electronic. Yes, there are page numbers (which I haven't entirely figured out — numbers corresponding to, I believe, the print edition's page numbering appear in the right margin (522 now), but there's another set of numbers at the bottom showing that I am currently at 544-545 of 654, which numbering must include, I'm guessing, the print edition's table of contents, introduction, etc), but your progress isn't tangible in the way your finger measures what's been read versus what's yet to be read when it holds your place as you carry your book from one reading spot to another. This really does bring a new dimension to losing oneself in a book.

Books I'm also reading, but no, not really; I stopped reading them so I could finish Potocki:
Parrot & Olivier in America, Peter Carey, which I was really quite enjoying.
Granta: Sex, which I was also enjoying in rather a different way (I'll be writing more about this).

Book I bought (in eformat) because I couldn't help myself, fully intending to devour it straight away, but which is sitting patiently awaiting Potocki's completion:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Stieg Larsson.

Books I've "temporarily" set aside:
The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann. I love this book! I just need time to read it. I think I'm about halfway. I've been reading it in spurts, and that mostly seems to be working, if you think dropping it for 2 months at a time is OK (which I'm not sure I do).
Memories of the Future, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. I loved the first story, but I broke off during the last, longish story when I realized I was reading the words but none of them were making any impression on me. This book deserves better from me.

Books I'm considering reading in the near future, like starting tomorrow:
The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson, which is fucking huge. I've had these books forever, and they've been propping up my tenuously attached bedside shelf, but now Girl Detective is reading them, and while I can't really get excited about them, I kind of feel like this is the right thing to do, to take advantage of a group reading (and thereby morale-boosting) opportunity — it's now or never. Is anyone else reading along? Has anyone previously read this trilogy? Advice, strategies, warnings are welcome.

Books that I am allegedly still reading; no, I could never abandon them!
The Adventures of Amir Hamza: Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction, Ghalive Lahnavi and Abdullah Bilgrami. I started reading this in January 2008. And I think it's amazing. And the flavour of the Saragossa manuscript puts me in mind of it.
The Collected Poems, 1956–1998, Zbigniew Herbert. Well, poetry. I'm just not trying hard enough.
The Last Supper, Paweł Huelle. I'm in the wrong headspace for it, but I don't know what the right headspace might be, nor where I could find it.
A Perfect Vacuum, Stanisław Lem. I couldn't help but dip into it once I'd finished Imaginary Magnitudes, but then I restrained myself, thinking that, as an anthology of reviews of nonexistent books, it would make a great companion read to Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas (also sitting on my shelf for well over a year now), if only I could clear sufficient mental room to tackle them both in tandem.

That's not to mention the other various books lying round the house that I have not started and which I fully intend to get read this year (including, for example, the dauntingly large Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day and JG Farrell's Singapore Grip).

Observation:
Five of these books are Polish, in one way or another. Krzhizhanovsky wrote in Russian but is considered ethnically Polish (a typically Polish surname rendered in Cyrillic and then into English); Potocki, a Polish nobleman, wrote the Manuscript in French. (The three others are Herbert, Huelle, and Lem, in case you're wondering.)

Book that I'm craving:
Something small and light and finite.
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