May 3rd, 2012
I’ve been reading my bookshelves alphabetically for a while now, not consistently, if someone recommends a book to me or if I’ve got a book club meeting coming up, or if I’m particularly inspired, I stray, but I have managed to read many titles that have been sitting for ages this way, and I’m glad I’m doing it. I bought a copy of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch in 1992. That’s right — that book has been sitting on my TBR shelf for twenty years. I went through a phase in high school where I read all kinds of beat literature, Kerouac, who still remains a favourite, changed my world when I first read him. I didn’t know books could be like that — On the Road was the perfect book for me as a kid, it filled me with a wonderful sense of curiosity, spit me out into the world, on road trips, to different provinces, adventures away from home and I have such fond memories of the physical act of reading those books.
So, I bought Naked Lunch way in the way back from Pages on Queen Street and started it once, twice, three, times, read Junkie in between and loved it, and carted the battered paperback copy around to a half-dozen apartments. Then, when I finally gave in to the fact that I honestly just had to suck it up and read the damn book, it took me a good three weeks because, and I am saying this with all honesty, I could not understand what the heck was going on half the time. So, yes, I know it’s a moderately incoherent, rambling, deeply intense and evocative piece of writing by one of America’s most controversial figures in literature. I can see why it’s important. But maybe I’m so far passed the point now of looking at my life as a long list of the “cool” things that I have read that all I really wanted was the good junkie story and far less of the Interzone oddities.
I really, really liked the Appendix, where Burroughs outlines his drug use, all of the effects, and what worked in terms of him getting clean. His dialogue is terrific, and there are some amazing characters sprinkled throughout the book, but the whole “cut up technique” (as described in my 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die text): “which serves to render the reader equally unable to make full sense of the surroundings.” Indeed. “Narratives begin, interweave, become lost, and are found again; scenarios are glimpsed then vanish from sight.” Exactly. And then all I’m screaming in my head is “What on earth is going on and that’s a lot of naked peeps and body parts and excrement and swearing and shooting up and holy hell I am one tired mother right now.”
However, I did listen to a lot of Junkie via this great link that Brain Pickings posted via Twitter, and was reminded that it is, indeed a terrific book, especially when read by Burroughs himself. Really all I have to say about this in conclusion is that I am really glad to have finished it. That’s all.
Other books read: The Last Tycoon by Fitzgerald (#39).
December 1st, 2010
Instead of trying in advance and failing miserably to get through the books/countries on a predetermined list, I am going to simply keep track of the titles that fit this challenge and see if I make it to 52 — starting December 1, 2010 to November 30, 2011.
I wish I had a pushpin map where I could mark things off one by one, country by country, but I’m not sure Blogger has such a plug-in…
Around the World in 52 Books
Sweden: The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell.
England: Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
Ireland: A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry.
Norway: Calling Out For You! by Karin Fossum.
Zimbabwe, Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith
Nigeria, Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dominican, In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
The only reading challenge I am going to set for myself, with the exception of Around the World in 52 Books, because even if I never get there, I think it’s important to keep reminding oneself to read books by authors from countries other than one’s own, is The Off The Shelf Challenge. I have so many unread books lining beautiful bookshelves that I have collected, bought, got, asked for but never read, and always meant to get around to, that I am determined to try and read as many of them as possible, then pass as many of them as possible along to other people, throughout this mat leave year.
Instead of listing them in advance, I’m just going to keep a running tally here, starting this month of the books that came off the shelves vs. new books coming in that I have purchased or read for book club.
1. The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller.
2. The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell.
3. Little Bee by Chris Cleave.
4. The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver.
5. A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry.
6. Calling Out For You! by Karin Fossum.
7. Payback by Margaret Atwood.
8. Pearl by Mary Gordon.
9. Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout.
10. The Keep by Jennifer Egan.
11. Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout.
12. The City Man by Howard Akler
13. Weight by Jeanette Winterson
14. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
15. Emma by Jane Austen
16. Showbiz by Jason Anderson
17. Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden
18. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
19. The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes
20. You or Someone Like You by Chandler Burr