Another Five Books for 2011

Partially due to a conscious application of of grout, I was able to finish reading Jennifer Egan’s The Keep in five days, despite all the work that had still has to be done. Five days might seem too long to read a novel of only 250 pages, but as embarrassing as it may be to do so, I can deservedly call this a minor but undeniable achievement.

The other four books I listed are still there, as I expected, but I’ve also made progress with almost all of them, except The H.D. Book. That’s not bad, and I’m beginning to wonder if I should test myself by always keeping (at least) five books at hand. This may or may not work.

So since The Keep is now a title I can happily mark as read, it’s time for another list of five, one of which will take the place of the Egan novel:

  1. Blue Angel, White Shadow by Charlson Ong: From “embarrassing” to “downright shameful” characterizes my lousy record in reading contemporary Philippine literature. This novel entices me for being a detective story set in a contemporary Filipino-Chinese milieu by a writer whose way with words I find delicious.
  2. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry: I used to read a lot of fantastic fiction, and this one might be a good way to return to the genre, as it seems to me best described as “slipstream metafictional noir.” That said, I’m not sure I want to read this now instead of saving it for some other time.
  3. Making Love to the Minor Poets of Chicago by James Conrad: This is a novel I picked up for its title and for being about “love, ambition, poetry, and nuclear waste.” I don’t know why I haven’t read it, but it seems a matter of bad timing or fatal causality: whenever I pick up the book, work goes crazy.
  4. Five Stories by Peter Straub: This might be a good choice: it’s a slim collection of stories I’m sure to learn a lot from on the technical level (here’s a sample). I miss the old days when I’d do a marathon reading of Peter Straub’s novels. I don’t even have his latest novel, but at least I have 5 Stories.
  5. I’ll cheat and cite two collections under one number, only because I don’t plan to read these cover to cover. While Patrick McGrath‘s Blood and Water and Other Tales and Graham Greene‘s Complete Short Stories are collections by writers who often view life from a somewhat bleak and grim perspective, I’m looking for stories by them that show a (darkly) humorous side to their writing.

First Five (or So) Books for 2011?

resolve plan to not only read but finish more books this year, and I hope this includes some novel-length fiction. God knows how I plan to get this done, given how the holiday break from school and work has ended (not that I read much during Christmas vacation). In addition, not only do I need to worry about the regular work that has resumed and needs to be done, I also have to review and prepare for my foreign language exam.

Still, this is what I have on my plate at the moment. Having several books to read in one go is going to be either a good idea or a counter-productive one:

  1. The Keep by Jennifer Egan: It’s not the first time I’ve mentioned Egan here, but with A Visit from the Goon Squad still unavailable here, I’m pleased to have found a copy of her previous novel in the meantime.
  2. Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside, edited by Courtland Lewis and Paula Smithka: I claim it’s for class, but it’s really more for fun. My own take for the Doctor Who course I’m teaching, which is not as impressive as this by the way, is closer to…
  3. Triumph of a Time Lord: Regenerating Doctor Who in the Twenty-First Century by Matt Hills, which uses a Foucauldian discursive approach to discuss my own pet issues surrounding the program in particular and television studies in general.
  4. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry by Joseph M. Conte: It’s my first time in a long time to check out a library book, and I’m hoping this one can help me prepare for my thesis, in which I’m going to try a long poem.
  5. The H.D. Book by Robert Duncan: I want to know more about these two poets, so discovering this, given its recent reissue, is more than welcome. That said, I’m broke now, so I’m reading this version.

Irritatingly, only one of those books is a novel. I guess I should also mention that I’m trying to get into Hart Crane. I don’t presume to understand his poems well, but I love reading them aloud. Again, because I’m too broke to pick up the Library of America edition of his works, I’m working with this older collection.

Some Books I Want to Read

I plan to eventually read all of David Mitchell‘s books, but I sort of want to start with Black Swan Green, just because I want to push this envelope and write a piece entitled “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Swan.” (And speaking of Mitchell, the first pair of exchanges that begin this interview crack me up, in a good way.)

I plan to eventually read all of Jennifer Egan‘s books, but I sort of want to start with A Visit from the Goon Squad, just because it’s about punk rock. (And speaking of Egan, here’s a short essay she wrote about the literary Gothic for a home improvement magazine.)

I plan to eventually read all of Gary Shteyngart’s books, but I sort of want to start with Super Sad True Love Story, just because this excerpt had me laughing as much as the book’s title. (And speaking of Shteyngart, here’s the best book trailer I’ve ever seen.)

I plan to eventually read Rob Sheffield’s other book, but I sort of want to start with Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, because Duran Duran was the first band I ever loved. (And speaking of Sheffield, here’s his playlist of 80’s summer cruising songs.)