Starting new books

I’ve been enjoying starting new books — what greater pleasure is there than diving in to a new book? One of them is Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness; I’m about 40 pages into it and think I’ve figured out what’s going on — it takes a while to get all the new names and new vocabulary and the rules of a new world when reading science fiction — or when reading any book, really, but science fiction especially. It promises to be fun. It’s the first science fiction I’ve read in, oh, probably a couple decades. Perhaps when I’m finished with this I’ll ask for more recommendations.

I also began Bruce Chatwin’s travel book In Patagonia. I’m still figuring out how this book works, too, although once I figure it out I think I’ll end up liking it. Actually, it’s not so different from beginning Left Hand of Darkness because I also have to figure out the “world” of the book — before I began it, I barely knew where Patagonia was. And I have to figure out exactly how Chatwin goes about writing a travel tale. It’s not exactly a straightforward narrative, but is made up of very short chapters, 1-2 pages long, each with their own vignette. So far there’s not much discussion of why he traveled and how he went about all the little steps of the trip — all the connective tissue of the journey; instead, he focuses on interesting people he meets and on the landscape, and he moves really quickly from one incident to the next. It’s amusing — he’ll mention walking down a road, running into a man walking the other direction, and next thing I know, Chatwin is visiting the man’s house, getting introduced to his family, and spending the night there. I’m not exactly sure how they got from passing each other to becoming friends. As far as I can tell, he’s a drifter who sleeps in a bed when he can get one, and behind a bush when he can’t.

I also began listening to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and oh, what a fun book! I love the reader’s voice and accent, and I find the main character so very appealing. Listening to it makes me want to meet him and show him that I get it — that I’m not one of those annoying people who uses sloppy language and tells lies. This book is so charming.

6 Comments

Filed under Books, Reading

6 responses to “Starting new books

  1. Oh, I so want to start some new books but I have a few to finish first. Though I will start in on the Makine book for the Slaves discussion soon so I guess that’s something. Hope you enjoy the new books!

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  2. There is nothing better than starting new books. I’m very good at it, but I need to be better about finishing them in a timely manner…oh well. 🙂 All three sound really good. I rarely read scifi either, I’ll have to see how you like the LeGuin. I have one of her books (but not this one). As much as I admire people like Bruce Chatwain–I could never travel in the way he does–it’s entertaining to read about though. And I mooched the Haddon book–it’s good to hear it’s as good as I’ve heard.

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  3. hepzibah

    Yes — i love to begin new books too! It’s like a new adventure, and today I finally was able to begin the American by Henry James, which I am enjoying a great deal. He reminds me a lot of Wharton!

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  4. Maybe the best way to describe Chatwin’s writing is “narratives in episodes”? And don’t take his stories too seriously. The man was a born liar — truth is subordinate to the story.

    Which version are you reading? In the Penguin version with Nicholas Shakespeare’s introduction, you get some background on how Chatwin “edited/censored” his stories. It is also helpful if you would like an idea of how Chatwin approached his writing.

    I always imagined Chatwin as a romantic drifter — except the man was well-to-do (former director at Sotheby), and he had these bourgeois affectations like only writing in moleskine notebooks, and only with a Mont Blanc fountain pen.

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  5. Wow – I never considered A curious incident charming…having just finished the Dogs of Babel and being really shaken by it I’m wondering if my “line” as litlove would call it is violence against animals. I LOVED Songlines by Chatwin and am looking forward to hearing further review of Patagonia…

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  6. It’s hard not to be able to start new books, isn’t it, Stefanie? I’ve got the Makine coming my way — I try hard to time the Slaves reading so I finish just in time.

    Danielle — I think you’ll like the Haddon book; it’s really quite wonderful. It’s very moving I think.

    Hepzibah — I love Henry James! He’s one of my favorites. I’m glad he’s written a lot, so even though I’ve read quite a few novels, there are plenty more left.

    Dark Orpheus — I know nothing about Chatwin, and my book doesn’t have an introduction, which is too bad. So thanks for your information, and I’ll have to seek out more! He sounds like quite a character.

    Courtney — I’m so glad to hear you loved Songlines; I’d like to read that one too. I’ll certainly have a review of In Patagonia when I finish. And I can see being shaken by violence to animals; for me, the pleasure of the Haddon book is in the narrator’s voice — he’s so appealing.

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