Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

I Now Proclaim This the Summer of . . .

Finish that quote.

Never mind, I’m just going to tell you. It’s from the finale of the eighth season of Seinfeld. George is fired from the Yankees but receives three months of severance pay, so he declares it “the summer of George,” in which he will do all the things he has always wanted to do. Somewhere in his rant he wildly proclaims that he may even read a book from beginning to end, and in that order. Through a convoluted turn of events (what else?), he winds up in the hospital fighting for the ability to ever walk again.

In the spirit of George Costanza’s frenzied declaration, I have decided to proclaim this the summer of . . . well, fiction. Not very exciting, but I take what I can get. From now until Labor Day, I am only going to read novels (with, of course, a few exceptions). No theology! no philosophy! No, um . . . theology! And to whet my appetite, here’s what’s on the docket. None of them are a surprise considering my usual fiction habits, but that’s just fine with me of course. I won’t get to all of these, but I will get to most of them.

Some Russian classics:

Dostoevsky.

The Idiot (I’m starting this one tonight.)

Demons (This book, by Rowan Williams, has provided the final impetus for getting to these two. Not that one should need impetus to read Dostoevsky. Maybe Williams’s book is just an excuse to read more Dostoevsky.)

Tolstoy.

Anna Karenina (This one’s a maybe. I started it the summer after I graduated from college. Then I got a job. It still beckons me from the shelf.)

And then some more recent classics (or at least standouts, if not classics)

Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (I’ve been dying to read this since it came out but just haven’t gotten around to it)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (for somebody who loves Michael Chabon, I have not read much Michael Chabon.)

David Guterson (I read Snow Falling on Cedars in the first weeks after I moved to the Pacific Northwest and loved it but have failed to get around to more of his work since.)

East of the Mountains (I picked this up for $1 yesterday!)

Our Lady of the Forest

The Other (brand spankin’ new!)

Richard Ford (On a fine early summer afternoon in Vancouver, recently freed from the constraints of a semester of grad school, I stood in a used bookshop and deliberated between a book by David Guterson, since I had read and like Snow Falling on Cedars a year before, and a book called The Sportswriter by a guy I had heard about named Richard Ford. I chose the latter on a whim and he has since become far and away my favorite novelist writing today. These are his earlier works, which I am ashamed not to have read.)

Rock Springs (This one for sure, the others if I happen upon them in some dusty corner of a bookshop.)

The Ultimate Good Luck

A Piece of My Heart

Wildlife

Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian

Any of his earlier stuff (i.e., pre-Blood Meridian) if I get around to it.

How exciting! If I get to half of these I’ll be happy. Heck, I’m happy just to let fly and read some fabulous novels for a couple months straight.

My Fame Spreads

“My book” (see here) continues to garner deep praise and admiration from reader-viewers:

First, the Cover is amazing. I know, I know… I was taught by Mr Rogers and Elmo and company not to judge a book by its cover just like you were, but gosh… iIt [sic] looks like a leftist field manual from the sixties or something like that. The image of… well I don’t know who these guys are on the cover but they look like people I’d like to hang out with! For some reason it conjures images of the Beats. It could be Jack, Allen and William sitting around drinking too much wine, smoking marijuana cigarettes discussing the deep things of the world. [from here, originally here]

For the record, he said it and not me. And I didn’t inhale. Also for the record, I don’t go searching this stuff out online. Seriously. A friend — actually the guy to my left on the cover — brought it by my desk this morning. Honest. Don’t give me that look. I’m telling the truth.

Edmund Wilson on the Pleasures of Literature

With how sure an expectation of solace, amid the turmoil and perplexities of our time, do I turn, when the fires of evening are lit, to my silent companions of the library! Here the din of the city dies away; here the feverish antagonisms of men reveal themselves sub specie aeternitatis. . . .

What a sovereign remedy is a book for the distempers both of the mind and of the body! How it protects us against sordidness and boredom! . . .

O indispensable books! O comforting alternative worlds, where all discords are finally resolved, if not by philosophy, then by art — how without you should we reconcile ourselves to this troublesome actual world?

–from “The Pleasures of Literature,” in The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties and Thirties

Mark Jarman, Unholy Sonnet 9

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open,
All throats, all voice boxes, all inner ears,
All pupils, all tear ducts, all cavities
Inside the skull inside the trick of flesh.
To you the face is like a picture window,
The body is a door of molded glass,
All lengths of gut are pasture, all membrane
Peels back and off like ripe persimmon skin.
And every wrinkle folded in the brain
Runs smoothly through your fingers and snaps back
Into its convolution. Even the blood
Is naked as a bolt of oilcloth.
You touch the working parts and track the thought,
A comet on your fingertip, and squint.

©Mark Jarman, 1997