Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Which books to take?

As for reading matter, now that is another story. To tell the truth, that caused a lot of last-minute problems when I was already ready to go out, with the taxi at the front door and the elevator waiting at my floor. As if, instead of a conference, was going to a desert island for the rest of my life. Novels by Wiener and Walser, to start with. Three masterpieces of the novella — Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's, Twenty-Four Hours in a Woman's Life by Stefan Zweig, and Hotel Savoy by Joseph Roth — and a good book of short stories to read on the plane, The Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schulz, a book with Jewish themes, which I have been reading very slowly for years in a 1972 edition by Barral Editores, and the wonderful Closely Observed Trains by Hrabal, an something by Philip K. Dick, perhaps The Man in the High Castle, and another SF book, a rare pearl, We, by Yevgeny Zamiatin, and The Elephanta Suite, the latest by Paul Theroux, the best storyteller of his kind in the United States, and the latest by Thomas Pynchon, the best storyteller of his kind in the United States, there are many "best storytellers," and of course, A Tale of Love and Darkness, the memoirs of Amos Oz, the contemporary Israeli storyteller, and the work of St John of the Cross, the father of all poets, and Lost Illusions by Balzac, the father of all novelists, and something light, my God, a travel book, yes, that little book by Pierre Loti on the Middle East, where is it? and again the entry phone rang, and the Fascist caretaker cried, signore, if you don't come down now the taxi will leave, hurry up, do you want me to come up for the bags? and I said, no! wait a minute, just a minute, I would never have agreed to that horrendous caretaker coming into my apartment, I know he would like nothing better than to spy on me, to sit down and ask me where I am going and for how long and then tell everybody, exercising his panoptic control over the lives of his tenants, so I took a last glance at my library and still found room in my baggage for a book of interviews with famous writers first published in The Paris Review, and at last I left, double-locking the door, and ran down to the street, regretting that I had not taken anything by Stifter, which would have been ideal for a journey, although I consoled myself with the thought that you never get time to read at conferences anyway. Apart from the heaps of novels you are given by colleagues, you never get to the hotel early enough or sober enough to read.

— from Necropolis, by Santiago Gamboa.

Do you think that's enough for an eight-day stay? Is it all name-dropping or does is sound like a legitimate list to you?


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Completely legitimate - any excuse to read Schulz and St. John of the Cross. I took Stifter to Japan with me a few years ago.

And also name-dropping - look at my sophistication and good taste in literature!

To whom is the narrator talking or writing?

Stefanie said...

I agree with Tom, completely legit. It is a good mix of titles and genres that doesn't appear designed to impress but does reveals a the taste of a certain reader suffering the dilemma of what books to take along on a trip. Always more than actually needed because you just never know!

Isabella Kratynski said...

The narrator is a writer on his way to a conference, to which he's not sure why he's been invited. And he's been ill and not writing for some years. So he's definitely trying to establish some credibility with the reader, but also, I think, trying to prove something to himself.

I do think it's the list of a genuine book lover, though. His choices are all over the place! I know many of these (took Stifter on vacation myself) and am looking to get my hands on the Zweig now.

I'll let you know if the narrator actually gets around to reading anything (I'm 70 pages on from this quote and he hasn't yet).

timesflowstemmed.com said...

Before popping here to comment I read that excerpt in Mr. Reader and thought it was your musing about a holiday books dilemma. I thought it a wonderful selection.

I once ran out of books on holiday at a resort, and had the choice of the selection at the resort shop, or slowly making the Observer last four days. I chose the latter, but vowed never to underpack books.

Dwight said...

Well, considering I've read books by Roth, Schulz, and Hrabal this year, I'd consider it legit. But it sounds a little forced.

Isabella Kratynski said...

Oh, Anthony, poor you! I dread running out of reading material on vacation. I forget sometimes how things look through Mr Reader, but I tend to be a little more realistic than this narrator when packing. I'm coming up on a 3-day cottage weekend. I'm bringing this novel (I'm only half way), 2 other paperbacks, and my ereader, fully charged and loaded.

Dwight, at first I thought it a bit forced, too, but the more it goes, the more it's perfectly in tune with the character. He's one of us.

Dwight said...

Heaven help him.