« At My Kitchen Table: Tomato Soup | Main | Here and There »

The Pile: an Update

Here's how my reading is going these days.

The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian, by Robin Lane Fox. It didn't take long for me to realize that I haven't read an overview of classical antiquity since the sixth grade. I'm familiar with almost everything that Mr Fox writes about, but not in anything like this extensive context.

There are two ways to approach a book of this kind: read it all at once, to the exclusion of all others, or peck away at it deliberately by reading a chapter a day. I'm trying the latter. The book is divided into six parts, three for the Greeks (Archaic, Classical, Alexandrian) and three for the Romans (Republic, transition, Empire). I've reached the third of ten chapters about the Hellenistic world.

A Hall of Mirrors, by Robert Stone. This is Mr Stone's first novel, published in 1964. It is not an appealing book. It's about the gritty lives of Rheinhardt, a gifted but sodden DJ, and Geraldine, a sweet girl with a slashed face. It is set in a New Orleans that no tourist has ever visited. Most of the time, A Hall of Mirrors seems to take place in another century, but there are moments of immediacy.

The Raw Shark Texts, by Steven Hall. What prompted me to buy this book? It's the sort of thing that I wouldn't order from Amazon in a million years; there had to be a stack of books on a bookseller's table, calling out to me, "Hey, handsome, read me and you'll be cool."  I am such a sucker! This is why I avoid bookstores.

Two impressions - suspicions, really - one much worse than the other: the title sounds a lot like the way an Englishman might say "Rorschach Test"; and, having reached the midpoint, I'm horrified to think that what I'm reading is just a high-concept version of The Da Vinci Code. Noooo! Do I put the book down now or see it through?

Peasants and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov (translated by Constance Garnett). I'm reading these stories because James Wood, in his essay on Virginia Woolf (in The Broken Estate, which I've pulled down from the shelf), claims that Woolf's writing changed after she read them, in 1916 or so. The book is a NYRB reprint of a Doubleday Anchor edition of 1956, introduced by Edmund Wilson.

Books on which I have made no progress lately include The Label, Gary Marmorstein's book about Columbia Records, and The Ambassadors' Secret, by John North. Books that I have not begun to read include Voltaire's Mahomet le prophète, Hermione Lee's Edith Wharton, and Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End. I'm dying to read the last.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

I am a kottke.org micropatron

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2