As Another Year Fades Away

download-1.jpgWell I’m walking well but my eyesight sucks. Thank goodness for electronic manipulation of the text (bigger and more distinct) otherwise I’d be back to the curved page of an actual book and the further distorted view through even the best magnifying device held in my shaking hand.

This last month of the year I have a rather diverse pool of proposed reading. I started with the Oasis trilogy which I finally got the order of the books right and just to keep up with the idea of a trilogy opted for the three collected short novels of Gina Berriault. I almost went back to three novels by Kurt Vonnegut but instead filled in the list with a scattering of previously suggested novels or books I have been wanting to read for some time.

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Lesser Known Classics

An interesting article appeared in The Guardian promoting some lesser known classics published by Penguin Classics. I admit to having read only one of the selections but I do have a couple of the titles hanging around my bookshelves. Which titles do you consider adding to your reading list in the next few weeks?

download-1.jpgYou might ask whether a book can justify the term “classic” if it only has a handful of readers. I believe it can. There are three essential criteria for defining a classic: it must have endured a number of years; it must have intrinsic literary quality; but, most crucially, it must still be alive, to be able to connect with readers, thrilling them with flashes of recognition and revelation. This is the brilliant paradox at the heart of a classic: it may have been written centuries ago, but its kernel of truth still feels startlingly contemporary. So it doesn’t matter how many people admire a classic; the important thing is what it can do to you. There’s even a particular pleasure when you make a literary connection and you know you’re among a limited number of initiates. “Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne,” wrote Virginia Woolf, for example, about the esoteric 17th-century essayist, “but those that do are the salt of the earth.” So I recommend striking out and investigating those more shadowy shelves. What follows is a personal selection of some less well-known classics. I hope you enjoy these and that they lead you to other lesser known passages in the marvelous library of world literature.

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But You Do Read Simenon

images-3.jpgOctober was a messy month and I’m thinking that all the months from now on may be messy (although not every month will have a hurricane pointed right at me). At the start of October I convinced myself that there were no more books to suggest. In some ways this might be very true: it’s often leaked into my gray cells that I should just recommend reading Ulysses once a month and ignore all the other entertainments.

But that would immediately reduce the regular visitors to this website to just one or two. Even I seldom reread Ulysses more that two times in any given year and even the suggestion of once a month has me climbing my bookshelves for that new edition of Proust I bought a few years ago.

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Blame It On Michael

images.pngI sit here in my library/office/sunroom at a built-in desk with a large screen tracking news or showing movies and a smaller screen displaying my current reading and an even smaller screen flashing notifications and announcements. But then on the wall on ether side of my desk there are hundreds of real ink and paper books I want to read but my aging eyes balk at.

Often I just sit at my desk and, like circling wishes in the Sears Christmas catalogue, mentally adding books I want to take down from the shelves, open flat on the desk, adjust my desk lamp, and absorb myself in the text.

On any month I have several disturbances to my regular reading plans, some I fight off and others I give into.

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