Here they are then, laid out on my bed this morning, the things I’ll be reading in the next six months or so. I used to be a fast reader, but children, job, and editing The Secret War into something that resembles a novel takes all the time I used to devote to reading. I don’t lament the loss of all that time I used to have. This decade is simply for other things. Still, I look forward to these books:
- Letters of Wallace Stevens. I’ve read these before, and loved them, written as they are by a man who was in full control of himself and his life, and his poetry. I’m wondering, this time around, where the cracks are in the persona he displays in these letters — the fault line that runs through the image he creates of the bluff lawyer, man of the world, and seasoned poet. I have another motive for reading these letters: there’s a character like Stevens in the novel I’ll begin this year, so the letters will be useful in filling in the outlines of this man.
Peter Hennessy’s Never Again. A book about post-war England. The novel with the Stevens character is set partly in post-war London. I’m not going to read a ton of books, but this one looks quite good.
- A Woman in Berlin. A memoir about post-war Berlin. Can you see a pattern emerging? I’m curious about this time in general, and have heard this is well worth reading. Last summer I read Philip Kerr’s great series of mysteries set in Berlin (Berlin Noir), and wanted to read more about this time and place.
- The Aeneid. This new translation, by Robert Fagles who did wonderful translations of the Odyssey and the Iliad, is a handsome book. And I’ve wanted to re-read this for some time. As I’m driving to San Francisco for the next five weeks every day for radiation treatments, I’ve checked out some books on tape about the Greeks. I’ve loved hearing the bits from the Odyssey and wondered how the Aeneid would read next to those.
- Stories, Katherine Mansfield and Collected Stories, Dorothy Parker (the Modern Library edition from the lovely Ella’s box of books). I want to read more short stories this year. These look terrific.
- Richard Ford, The Lay of the Land. I liked Independence Day and although I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, I’d like to read more this year.
- Joyce, Ulysses. I picked up this wonderful Modern Library edition at the San Francisco Public Library Book Bay a few weeks ago and began looking at it this morning. As I read it, I’ll be thinking about how Virginia Woolf called Joyce “underbred” and looking with glee for those underbred bits to share with all of you.
- Poet of the Appetites. A biography of M.F.K. Fisher, whose work I like very much. This biography looks well-researched and isn’t that book jacket beautiful?
- The Three Musketeers. I began this over the summer, got distracted and want to get back to it. It’s a terrific translation, and a ripping story. Maybe I’ll try reading it out loud to my boys. When they’re not playing nintendo.
- Charms for the Easy Life, Kay Gibbons. I think I read Ellen Foster, but it made absolutely no impression on me. Remember that thing I said about not reading very many contemporary writers? (Except mystery writers, come to think of it.) I’ve got to do something about that this year.
- The Elements of Style. This was a Christmas gift. It’s illustrated! I can’t wait to write about it. In simple, clear sentences, of course.
- Proust. Swann’s Way. We’ll see. It took me six years to get through this the first time around. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’ll be easier in a different translation.
And William Boyd’s Restless — I’m reading it now, so it didn’t make it into the photo.