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.


Anonymous said...

I am now eager and chomping at the bit to read Hamilton, a writer I've overlooked to date. I do sense a bit of an obsession, but how can an obsession with a great writer ever be wrong?

As for the writing of a novel - if you are putting it out there, saying it out loud, you are ready. You have much groundwork already behind you. You have many excellent books under your belt -- you know what good writing is, which books move you and which ones don't. You also have a lovely way with words, with capturing the small but beautiful moments in life and making them bigger. Much bigger. I can't think of any better preparation than that.

Very exciting, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Yes, You should!

amcorrea said...

I hear you on the Eco. I've been stuck in Loana (Spanish trans.) for over a year! I really like him, but this one is a bit excessive. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Is it worth it to stick it out?

And yes, you definitely should. Even if it's just a bit a week--"work in progress" is a lovely phrase.

Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed in Loana. I'm afraid it doesn't get any better. Eco did indeed shit on us.

But on a much more positive note, I am thrilled to bits about your declaration! Yes! Write that novel!

Suzanne said...

Yes, definitely write that novel.

(Notice how easy it is to exhort someone else to do so? So much less effort than actually writing a book yourself.)

Anonymous said...

Write it, wench. Come to the dark side. Er... that's DORK side, I meant.

Diana said...

Yes! Write a novel!

Stefanie said...

Queen Loana does bog down a bit in the middle. The end picks up though. I'm interested to here more of your thoughts on it when you're finished.

Cipriano said...

Well, so much I want to say.
One is, if you do write a novel, I GUARANTEE you I will buy it. I will read it.
Secondly, it is so nice to hear so many "we's" in your blog. Nice that you have someone to share the best parts of you with.
Thirdly, I too have The Red And The Black on my shelf, and want to read it.

About your novel, I ask you only two things.
1) Do you have the big story?
2) Is it big?

If you do, write it. Oh yes. Please write it.

All the best to you,
Me. Waiting for the big story.

Raehan said...

Of course you should write a novel, silly girl.

Stop playing around with all these other books.

Tim said...

Having a story and wondering if you should put it on paper is always the first step to writing. The next is to sit down and write.

litlove said...

I'm very interested in what you have to say about the Eco, Isabelle (and the commenters too). I've picked up and put down that book so many times in the bookstore. I get very fed up with dreary middle sections in books, however, so I might just leave it down. And yes, you should write a novel. It would be fun!

SFP said...

Yes, you should write a novel. :)