Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reading list for December 2006

Currently reading
Basho, The narrow road to the deep north and other travel sketches
Petra Hammesfahr, Mit den Augen eines Kindes
Vladimir Nabokov, Ada oder das Verlangen

Previously read
Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
Terry Pratchett, A hat full of sky
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, The science of Discworld II: the globe
Various, Kaschkul: Geschichten aus Persien

A mixed month, from very light to extremely deep and heavy. I'd forgotten just how relentlessly grim Farenheit 451 is, it reminds me of Orwell's image of Fascism as "a boot stamping on a human face, forever." Very nasty indeed; what a marvellous book. Highly recommended, almost compulsory.

A hat full of sky is probably my favourite Pratchett to date (at the considerable risk of starting a comment war with the Lioness and Zhoen). Readers of my reading lists have probably worked out that I prefer dialogue to plot and internal development to external action, and there's plenty of the former here. Science... is an odd thing, half vaguely unsatisfactory novel and half metaphysics: popularized evolution and genetics; the latter half is the better. Not for the first-time Pratchett reader, you'd get a false and poor impression of him.

Kaschkul is an oddity, a collection of (mainly) Persian tales collected by Sheikh Baha'i in the sixteenth century. I found it by accident when looking for Rumi's poetry (which I didn't find). It's a mixed bag in many ways, and I am disappointed to say that Rumi's contributions are among the weakest: didactic, narrowminded, humourless; imagine a "Tales of the Hodja" without the jokes or the wryly-amused tolerance, and you'll be in his neighbourhood. The other contributions are better.

Basho was one of the form-givers of the art of Haiku, and one of the finest Japanese poets (it says here). He was also restless, walking (!) the length of Japan for up to eleven months at a stretch on four occasions, during which he wrote journals and many poems. This is a favourite book, one that I return to infrequently and at long intervals; I presume that I was reminded of it by watching Rashomon recently.

The delight of the month is Nabokov's Ada, which is just wonderful. I'm loving it, lauging out loud on every page. It's very dense, not for speed-reading: It's like a roman a clef encoding the whole world, every casual adjective is to be savoured and interpreted, even the names of incidental people and places must be pondered over. This could be annoyingly precious and pretentious in the wrong hands, and I'll admit that your suspension of disbelief must have good springs if you're going to read to the end. Mine does, and I find the book very funny and very tricky; I imagine Nabokov laughing himself into hiccups while writing it. Recommended, with a certain amount of hesitation.

Next month's list
Last month's list



Blogger Antonia said...

Ada is one I once started but then somehow did not continue to read....all the beautiful you have this german beautiful hardcover edition with the little butterfly?

January 6, 2007 at 2:53:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

Unfortunately no butterfly, it's hardcover but quite ugly.

January 6, 2007 at 4:06:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Anonymous antonia said...

sad, Nabokov writes so beautifully, the outside should look also beautifully.

January 7, 2007 at 7:22:00 a.m. GMT+1  

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