Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BOOKS | Books to Look Forward To

I've recently placed special customer orders for some books I'm interested in, because the bookstore I work for don't carry stocks for them. It's ironic, because I used to be the buyer for that section, but since my transfer, the people in charge of the buying have some difference of opinions with what should go on the bookshelves.

So, the choice is to buy the book elsewhere, or do a special order, like any normal customer. These are my orders:

  1. Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer.

    I read Dyer's Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It recently and I enjoyed his meandering style which can be insightful and funny, because he is blessed with occasional bursts of brilliant self-awareness. Out of Sheer Rage is his signature blend of memoir, travelogue and essay as he writes about trying to write a book on DH Lawrence. He traveled to some of the places Lawrence had been to, all the while meandering in his thoughts.

    What I like about Dyer is how he illustrates that the straightest, shortest route is not always the best way to a destination, and wandering off the straight and narrow path can often be a lot more fun and enlightening. I'm hoping for some entertainment from Out of Sheer Rage, but I also hope to learn a few things on the way.

  2. Daphne Du Maurier by Margaret Forster.

    The whole Du Maurier centenary and the various write-ups on her "Venetian tendencies" got me curious, although sometimes I wonder if human creativity can be so easily summed up with the modern psycho-babble: she wrote these dark tales because she was a repressed lesbian suffering from unrequited love. Huh?

    I'm hoping to read the biography after I finish some of her novels, like Jamaican Inn, My Cousin Rachel and of course, Don't Look Now and Other Stories. I've always been a fan of gothic novels, of books that explore the deeper horrors of the human psyche. Meanwhile, I've received a free copy of the Collector's Edition of Rebecca, published by Orion. I have all intention of reading Rebecca soon, but this hardcover edition is a little unwieldy ― not to mention a little too "girly" for my taste.

  3. Bound to Please by Michael Dirda.

    The paperback collection of Michael Dirda's book essays is finally released. It collects some of his better book essays published for The Washington Post where he was Book Editor for many years. Among his gems are the literary profiles from his reading of literary biographies ― what he wrote after reading the biography on Samuel Beckett inspired me to want to read all the Beckett works, and his treatment of Colette was wonderfully respectful ― which I appreciate. But my favourite essay in the whole collection is that very heartfelt admiration he expressed for A.S. Byatt's Possession. It's a great reminder that the best book reviewer is someone who is personally and emotionally engaged with books, and not just someone doing a job because he/she needs a paycheck. I want my book reviewer to be capable of geeky adoration, because it is true, that sometimes a book hits you so hard, the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about it is just "Wow".

    I'm waiting for my copy to come in, and the A.S. Byatt essay will be the first thing I will reread.

Meanwhile, some new releases I'm looking forward to:

  1. Away by Amy Bloom

    Another novel by the author who opened my eyes to the splendour of short stories. The truth is, I didn't like her last novel as well as I adore her short stories. Amy Bloom seems to work better when she leaves things unsaid with the brevity of her stories. But I am still looking forward to this novel, as she is still a writer capable of making me feel like her characters, even though I have never been in those situations myself.

  2. At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays by Anne Fadiman

    Everyone should be familiar with Fadiman's Ex Libris by now. If not, where have you been? Ex Libris is her paen to books and reading, and now Fadiman is tackling the art of essays. I am prepared to be dazzled.

  3. War and Peace, the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation of Tolstoy.

    One could say I waited many years for this translation. These translators brought Dostoevsky to life for me about ten years ago. Now I await the Tolstoy experience.

  4. Travels with Herodotus Ryszard Kapuscinski

    I have been reading Heordotus slowly these days. Kapuscinski had a copy of The Histories as a gift from his first boss, and he carried it through out his travels. According to Kapuscinski, Herodotus was the first "globalist" ― the first of the literary reporter.

This post was written while listening to Patti Smith's Twelve.


Anonymous said...

Last year we read Anthony Briggs' translation of War and Peace for the course. Before I started graduate school, I only read the Rosemary Edmonds translation (published by Penguins), which was very smooth and free of chunky phrases as you might encounter in many translated literature. I have yet to decide which translation I'll adopt for this summer.

My favorite novel of all time, The Master and Margarita, is available in at least 3 English translations. I favor the Burgin/O'Connor translation over the Pavear/Voloronsky translation for this title for the same reason I have mentioned above.

Imani said...

You have me curious about the Dirda essays. I'm mad for Byatt's Possession so I'll at least check the library shelves.

darkorpheus said...

Matt: Thanks for the comparison. It's difficult to decide which translations to pick, and not many people have actually made it a point to actually read and compare the different version.

Just thought of something I would like to share (this is from a New Yorker essay by David Remnick, "The Translation Wars" - you probably have read it):

Strangely, Pevear spoke readily, and with confidence, about Tolstoy's language. He said that the hardest part of starting a long project like "Anna Karenina" was "getting the voice," capturing the narrative tone that will run throughout the book. "Tolstoy's style is the least interesting thing about him, though it is very peculiar," he said. "It seems like most, translators included, are insensible to the crudeness of Tolstoy's style, but Tolstoy liked to be crude, he was crude provocatively. 'Anna Karenina' is interesting very often for how the prose is deliberately not smooth or fine. Nabokov apologizes for Tolstoy's bad writing. But Tolstoy himself said the point is to get the thing said and then, if he wasn't sure he had said it, he would say it again and again."

Makes me wonder how Tolstoy would read in Russian.

imani: I definitely recommend checking it out first from the library. It's quite hefty - lots of essays to suit a variety of reading taste.

Maybe you can read the essay on Possession first, then decide if it makes you want to read the other essays.

Carl V. Anderson said...

"she wrote these dark tales because she was a repressed lesbian suffering from unrequited love." yea, right.

I get annoyed that people are always trying to attribute things to people once they are dead. As if, in order to be creative and do something lasting you have to have some great affliction or torment or something. I just don't buy it.

darkorpheus said...

Carl: I agree with you, except it seems to be one of the more prominent angle taken when they write about the Du Maurier centenary. The UK Guardian and The Independent for instance - both respectable newspapers with decent book coverage.

Rebecca H. said...

I'm very curious about the Dyer book (Out of Sheer Rage) -- it's on my TBR list; it looks like just the kind of thing I like. And the new Fadiman book sounds great too.