Saturday, September 10, 2005

It has been my practice over the last several years to restrict myself from posting any comments on books I do not finish. I implimented this rule as a way of forcing myself to break a habit that I dislike, of starting many books but finishing few. As anyone who has ever lived with or slept with me knows, I've got a bit of ADD when it comes to focus. As a rule there are at least two or three books by my bedside table, and often I'll read a few pages of each before I go to bed.

Then there are those that I WANT to read, but just can't make myself finish. For the record, here's a list of books I'm either in the middle of, or have abandoned somewhere along the trail this week:

The Shadow Knows by Diane Johnson - (too neurotic, too boring, too self-absorbed)
Lust by Elfriede Jelinek - (too hateful in it's depection of sexuality)
Discipline & Punish by Michael Foucault - (I lack the background in psycho-analytic theory I fear, though I love the premise of this one)
Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan - (just sucks too bad to waste more time on)
Everything's Eventual by Stephen King -(already read it once, but wanted to re-read his tale of a haunted hotel room, as an interesting look at the single setting short story)
Collapse by Jared Diamond - (wonderful, just dense and requires focus. Can't read it while tipsy or stoned, or with music on.)
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pyncheon (brillant but too insane and too long to take in one sitting, or even a hundred)

Then beyond these, which are all on the nightstand, there are the books I look at for research. I tend to keep these by my computer, where I write or work. Right now, since I'm working on a western, I've pulled out and re-skimmed some of the better fiction that I think falls into the category. I've read all of these before, but am interested in looking at how these diverse authors use language, density, structure, etc.

The ones I've looked at and read at least in part this week are:

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walten Van Tilburn Clark - (a classic, but nothing stylistically very interesting here)
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy - (fascinating, beautiful, horrific, too overly stylized to ever be widely read. Try for literature, miss out on the mainstream.)
The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan - (really fun, mass-market historical fiction.)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck - (so beautifully written it makes me want to cry. I love this book and am working hard to resist it's siren song... I want to re-read it all again, but am trying to prohibit myself from doing so until I finish my current project, since I'm afraid it will "kill my self-confidence after posioning me with words.")
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - (In re-reading parts this week I am struck by LMMs ability to render epic through volume and character those stories which would otherwise fall into the stylistic realm of pure pulp.)
My Antonia by Willa Cather - (Loved this when I first read it, still think it's beautiful. It differs greatly from the rest of these mentioned for several reasons. First, though it is a western, it concerns itself with only small-group social themes, second, it it told in first person, thirdly, it is such a tragic bildungsroman that on this list only East of Eden can compete with it for epic beauty.)
Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver by J. Frank Dobie - (I wanted to go back and see how the original Texas folklorist wrote. Turns out it's more in the nature of campfire yarn spinning than in the vein of modern fiction. No wonder I loved this book as a kid in Colorado.)

All of these books when taken as a blend, a few pages from here and from there comprise a pretty delightful salad of "western fiction" -- does anyone but me care about the above? No, I don't think so. It would have been a fun undergraduate course-load in western fiction though.

This is how I spent my time this warm September in Burnaby, British Columbia.


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