Friday, October 18, 2013

Readings and Themes 2013

The year started with the New York books. I admit that, with guilt and pleasure, I have been watching Gossip Girl, which references a great many books about trust-funded young people, living in Manhattan. Hence, I read:

  • The Bonfire of the Vanities
  • The Beautiful and the Damned
  • Rules of Civility

And with the new version of The Great Gatsby, I also added a re-read to my list. First, I watched the old Robert Redford version, then went to see the new version with Leonardo di Caprio. I thought they did a great job with it. Now, I've always had a problem with Fitzgerald. I've read The Great Gatsby at least 3 times in the past, and found it like choking down dry, stale bread. I think the book had been assigned reading for some class or another. I just didn't get it. But, after watching both movies, I saw some commonalities that could only be based on the writing. And I had found the writing in The Beautiful and the Damned sometimes breathtaking. So, I opened The Great Gatsby with a shifted focus. This time, the characters came alive, and everything around them breathed some underlying truth.

One scene in Gatsby that especially struck me is the first scene where the women appear. They are lounging in a white room, a breeze from outside, and perhaps from the women, sets the gauzy curtains dancing and brings the room to airy, diaphanous life. When the men enter, one of them shuts the doors, everything stops dancing and tinkling. To me, the scene illustrates that women are so different in the presence of men as to be unknowable whenever a man enters a room. But, when men are not present, women possess a beauty men may never glimps.

This is the year I discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald. To him, I apologize for my shortcomings during previous readings. Continuing the Fitzgerald exploration for the year, I am currently reading This Side of Paradise.

In addition to the New York stories and the Fitzgerald, I went on an Alfred Hitchcock bender due to the coming out of the movie, Hitchcock. First, I watched both versions of Psycho. Then I saw the movie, Hitchcock. I did a little research on Ed Gein, who the book was loosely based on. Such a gruesome true story, surpassing anything that has ever been written to fictionalize him. To compliment the movie, I read the book it was based on, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, and, of course, read Psycho, itself.

Theme reading is fun, and I love a good tangent, but some really good stuff has come out this year. Gone Girl is one of the most engrossing reads of the year, with twists and turns I didn't predict. Then, Natsuo Kirino came out with a new book this year, The Goddess Chronicles. This book was so good, it will keep me looking for anything new she writes. John was taking an online class, which assigned Madame Bovary, so I read it with him. I'd never read it. Serendipitous mentions of Carson McCullers on three separate occasions forced me to pick up The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. How did I miss reading this great book all these years? Other goodies in my bag include:

  • The Burgess Boys (Emotional and subtle)
  • The Orchardist (Haunting, beautiful, tragic)
  • Farewell, Dorothy Parker (How can I not read a book with a Dorothy Parker ghost?)
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice (mentioned in Hitchcock)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (only YA for this year, thank you, Jay)
  • Flight Behavior (Another goodie by Barbara Kingsolver)
  • W is for Wasted (Got to continue through this alphabet series...wonder what X is going to be)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some.

Getting caught up in a reading frenzy this year feels especially good. I loaded the Kindle app onto my iPhone, and now always have a stack of books with me wherever I go. I find it easy to shift to electronic media and don't understand people who resist it. I love that I can hear about a book and have it on my electronic bookshelf within a minute. Damn you, Amazon, for that one-click thingie! I still love the feel of a book in my hand as much as the next guy, but now I reserve paper books to things that have art or drawings. Usually, non-fiction and reference books are shipped in physical form.

I haven't written anything creative in over a year, but my mind is sniffing for a story. I dream writer dreams and describe the world to myself with a writer's music. I am close to catching the scent of a story that will send me off.