- Open Secrets by Alice Munro
- The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
- Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
- A Relative Stranger by Charles Baxter
- The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
- Adam Bede by George Eliot
- The World According to Garp by John Irving
- The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 by Mark Twain (with a whole bunch of editors, but to be honest I read only the 400 pages by MT and skipped the 500 pages of endnotes)
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Snagged the last armchair at my favorite coffee shop. Yesssss.
I finally got a library copy of the new Mark Twain autobiography. When I’m not reading it I’m using it to tone my biceps. I’m not sure what to think of the structure of the volume; for now I’m just enjoying Twain’s writing and ignoring the 500 pages of endnotes.
I think I’d like to own a copy and stick post-it notes all over so I could handily revisit his thoughts on religion, plagiarism, slavery, the hilarious response he wrote to this guy who tried to edit his writing, his descriptions of childhood…
For now I’ll just be posting favorite quotes here as I read them.
I could post this quote every morning.
I checked out The Wings of the Dove because I wrote a paper on A Portrait of a Lady in high school, and I remember thinking at the time that Henry James was crazy awesome, and somehow in the intervening years I haven’t read anything else he wrote.
Then I got bogged down in the PREFACE to this 450-page novel, and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, and I’m pretty sure the Internet is to blame. I’m constantly feeling distracted by this overwhelming urge to make sure I’m not missing anything important on the Internet. This is really making it hard for me to absorb serious literature. Much as I <3 serious literature.
So anyway, I’m reading this preface Henry James wrote, and I’m thinking I might as well just abandon it and move on to the novel itself and write a blog post blaming the interwebs for my laziness, BUT THEN.
Henry James straight up REACHED HIS BONY HANDS OUT OF THE BOOK AND SHOOK SOME SENSE INTO ME.
I’m pretty sure the gist of it was: “Suck it up and read — no, not like that, not while playing with your phone, not with one eye on the TV, but really, for real, DIG IN, or you will totally miss out.”
See, he’s talking about some plot point that I didn’t understand because I hadn’t read the book yet, and he says something like, “Did I make a mistake writing this bit this way? No, I didn’t, because if you pay attention in the first two books you’ll see how I set up this very plot point.” What he literally says is, “I had definitely opened the door, as attention of perusal of the first two Books will show.”
Then, in parentheses, the part where he reached out of the book and strangled me:
“(Attention of perusal, I thus confess by the way, is what I at every point, as well as here, absolutely invoke and take for granted, a truth I avail myself of this occasion to note once for all — in the interest of that variety of ideal reigning, I gather, in the connexion. The enjoyment of a work of art, the acceptance of an irresistible illusion, constituting, to my sense, our highest experience of ‘luxury,’ the luxury is not greatest, by my consequent measure, when the work asks for as little attention as possible. It is greatest, it is delightfully, divinely great, when we feel the surface, like the thick ice of the skater’s pond, bear without cracking the strongest pressure we throw on it. The sound of the crack one may recognize, but never surely to call it a luxury.)”
Whoa. I had to read that seventy bajillion times.
Enjoyment of a book = “the acceptance of an irresistible illusion” = the biggest “luxury” but NOT when you can read the book without paying any attention to it. You have to throw the strongest pressure/attention at the book’s skating rink/illusion, and if it holds up, your experience will be “delightfully, divinely great.”
Can’t argue with that.
- Terry Gross: Now, I read that when you were young, you were good at competitive hog calling and I'm not even sure what that is, having grown up in Brooklyn.
- Walton Goggins: You guys didn't hog-call in Brooklyn?
- Gross: No.
- Goggins: That's not how you got your pork in Brooklyn?
- Gross: We got our pork in Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood.