Current Reading

Teaching two online courses this semester is turning into a whole lot of computer time, which makes it hard to get other computer-related things done, since I don’t like being on the computer all day if I can help it. But today is one of those days where there was no avoiding being on the computer nonstop. This, by the way, is how I find time to ride my bike so much during the week — I spend my weekends catching up on work I neglected all week long. Often weekends mean long stretches of school work punctuated by occasional bike rides, with the evenings devoted to reading or friends. It’s not a perfect system, but it works okay.

So, I’m nearing the end of Margaret Oliphant’s The Perpetual Curate. It’s an engrossing story of the sort that’s anxiety-inducing because everything goes horribly wrong for the main character all at once, and I want to keep reading to see how he’s going to straighten everything out. He’s a victim of misunderstandings and petty resentments, and, since this is a Victorian novel, his honor, pride, and sense of propriety keep him from fixing things quickly. I’ve read enough 18th and 19th century novels to understand the exquisite sense of rightness and wrongness the characters have, but sometimes it’s just sort of hard to believe.

Next up as far as novels go is Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s Death Rites, which is the next book for my mystery book group — my choice. I picked it because I wanted us to read something not British or American and because several bloggers I know have enjoyed it, but other than that, I know little about it and so am curious to see how it goes.

I’m also in the middle of Lawrence Weschler’s essay collection Vermeer in Bosnia, which I remember hearing about on NPR quite a few years ago. I bought the book also a number of years ago, and am only now finally getting to it. There is a wide variety of essays in the book; my favorite so far has been the title essay, which opens the collection and is part of a group of three pieces on art and war. There are also essays on three Polish Holocaust survivors, or the children of survivors, and now I’m in the middle of some more personal essays on family. They are all thoughtful and smart, and I’m enjoying Weschler’s voice and sensibility.

And, as part of my on-going, life-long, never-ending quest to read tons and tons of essays, some of them in chronological order, I’ve picked up Francis Bacon’s essays. Bacon is not going to be one of my favorite essayists, I already know, but I want to read him for the sake of understanding the genre fully. So, Bacon it is, and then Sir Thomas Browne.

11 Comments

Filed under Books, Cycling

11 responses to “Current Reading

  1. Lol! I laughed at your comment about the exquisite sensibility of earlier times being hard to believe. I know! There’s always a point when I’m talking to the book and saying ‘Just be upfront and TELL her!’ but they never do. Two online courses must indeed be a lot of computer time, but glad you managed to find a moment to post. It’s fun to know what you’re reading right now.

  2. I will be interested to read what you make of Sir Thomas Browne. I recommend you first try a few short chapters from his encyclopaedia Pseudodoxia Epidemica as representative of his essay style in contrast to Bacon’s before embarking upon the densely loaded with esoteric symbols and imagery of ‘Urn-Burial’ and ‘The Garden of Cyrus’.

  3. I wanted to get The Perpetual Curate from our library, but there is only one reference copy. Eventually I will get an e-reader and when I do, I’m looking forward to downloading it.

  4. I laughed like Litlove regarding the Victorian sensibility being sometimes hard to believe. I’m so with you on that. Why did they have to make things so hard for themselves sometimes? Looking forward to hearing more about all the various books and essays. You have quite a variety going!

  5. Litlove — yes, it’s definitely an occasion for yelling at a book :) I do try to imagine what those people must be feeling, but it gets so absurd sometimes. I’m doing okay with the online classes so far, but they haven’t submitted long papers yet, so we’ll see how that goes!

    Kevin — thanks for the input. I have a Penguin edition called The Major Works, and I’m not sure I’ll read the whole thing, but definitely the selections from Pseudodoxia Epidemica in my book, and then Urn-Burial and Religio Medici.

    Lilian — that sounds like a good plan! I hope you enjoy it when you are able to download it.

    Stefanie — doesn’t it seem like they don’t WANT good things to happen to them? Because they have to happen under just the right circumstances, in just the right way. Thank God some things have changed, right?

  6. I used to spend about 16 hours on the computer each day, in a love-hate relationship. I understand your desire to control the amount of time on your computer.

  7. Death Rites sounds like an intriguing book; I hadn’t heard of the author but I am with you on trying some non-American and non-British mysteries to see how they compare. I’m hoping to find or mooch an Inspector Montalbano book this fall.

    I’ve re-started Ann Fadiman’s At Large and At Small essays, and despite what she and her brother used to do with butterflies, am enjoying them.

  8. verbivore

    I’ve never read Margaret Oliphant and am in the need for something 18th/19th century, must give it a try.

    Also, on essays, my brother-in-law sent me a link awhile back to a list of the 100 greatest essays of all time or something like that. If I can find it again, I’ll send it in your direction.

  9. I still love your essay project and tried to read one a week this year but sort of fizzled out. I am reading them occasionally as it was stressing me a little to read them on a schedule like I was trying to do. I still want to read a few more before the year ends. I have that same collection so will be interested to hear what you think of it when you finish. And I hope you like the Spanish mystery–I really liked it and the main character–I have another of her books which I will get to some time.

  10. Funny, I just asked someone for some book recommendations to challenge me a little, and he recommended both Bacon and Browne. I’ll be interested to hear what everyone thinks about Death Rites (keeping mum about it myself, here, until I’m done).

  11. Bikkuri — I think I might have a thoroughly hateful relationship with my computer if I worked that much on it! My eyes would be very unhappy about it at least.

    Debby — I’m glad you are enjoying the Fadiman essays! Violence to animals aside, they are really well-done, I think. I’m curious to see how the discussion of the Gimenez-Bartlett goes with my mystery group. I’m sure we will talk about comparisons to British and American mystery writers.

    Verbivore — it would be great to see the list! I’m curious to see what’s on it. If you do try Oliphant, I’m curious to read your reaction. I get that craving for something nineteenth century now and then, and it’s fun to indulge it.

    Danielle — I’m really enjoying the Gimenez-Bartlett right now, although the translation is a little strange sometimes. But I like the character. I would get stressed out if I tried to read essays on a regular schedule; as it is, I just read them when I feel like it, and that works pretty well.

    Emily B. — interesting that you got those recommendations! I’ve read some of each of them before, and I’d recommend beginning with Browne, as he’s a much more exciting author, I think.

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