Archive for January, 2007

Ahhh, the smell of a new book

One of my favorite obsessions is reading book reviews. Literary essays, the NYT Sunday book review, the Washington Post, Bookmarks Magazine, Book Forum…..the list goes on. Nick Hornby’s two collections of essays (Housekeeping vs. the Dirt and The Polysyllabic Spree) are two of my favorites, in part because I enjoy the format. For those of you who haven’t read his columns or these collections, Hornby begins each essay with a list of books purchased and a list of those read. I’ve long wondered how I would measure up if I took an honest look at the books I buy in a month and compare it to those I actually get to. So one of the primary tasks for this blog will be to confront my overwhelming addiction for the smell of new books and see how often I manage to follow through with my good intentions. Although, I have been making a concerted effort to visit the library more often, as the life of a perpetual grad student is (for some reason) not associated with a high paycheck (particularly if you are a grad student that isn’t yet officially affiliated with any department).

My two most recent acquisitions are Milan Kundera’s The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts and Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française. I have been looking forward to Suite Française for a number of months now (I seem to have a predilection for dark subject matter), and I can’t wait to get a start on it, although the list of reading for school must (ok, should) take precedence. I’m more inclined to dive into Kundera, however, having read and thoroughly enjoyed his recent essay in the New Yorker. Plus, the book is thin (I know, I know, it goes against my fat-book-love–although I’m partially redeemed because it has rough-cut paper) so there might actually be a chance that I will finish it in a reasonable amount of time.

As far as The Demons is concerned, things are off to a slow start…But I do carry it around with me everywhere I go, so that must count for something. Somehow I think i have a subconscious belief that merely carrying a book around will allow me to absorb its contents through osmosis….. although that plan doesn’t seem to be working too well.

The beautiful thing about library books, however, is that I am free to indulge my greedy book habits without any consequences (unless I fail to return the books, that is). So now, I have the guilt-free pleasure of walking past a stack of books (12 at the moment–WHAT was I thinking?) and not imagining all of the money that could have gone to things like….oh, I don’t know….rent?

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What the hell is a loose baggy monster?

I’ve decided that it’s about time I join this crazy world of blogging and create a chronicle of the books I buy/read/admire on the shelf (or the floor, or the pile by the sofa, or the stack by the bed). Besides, as I’ve enjoyed many hours of procrastination reading other people’s blogs, why not make the leap to a whole new level of avoiding my work? At least I can try to rationalize it to myself by emphasizing the creative nature of this enterprise.

So to start, I recently discovered the Chunkster Challenge. Although I’m too late to officially join, it got me thinking… This is a challenge that seems right up my alley, after all. I love the “loose baggy monsters” (i.e. Tolstoy’s War and Peace) that Henry James so disparaged. If the book is fat, has a “pretty” cover, nice paper, and can be mistaken for a doorstop (or a weapon if you’re so inclined)* then there’s a good chance I will contemplate reading it. Unfortunately, my good intentions often clash with the realities of work, school, and my unreasonably-expanding list of hobbies. So, seeing as it’s a new year, a new blog, and I am always looking for an excuse to buy more fat books (much to my husband’s dismay and aching back–he’s the one who carries the boxes when we move), I am going to give it a shot. Here’s a very early list of books I want to tackle:

1. Dostoevsky’s Demons

2. Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy

3. Cervantes’ Don Quixote

As it’s well into winter here in central New York, I think Dostoevsky is a good place to start. I don’t know about you, but snow, frosty windows, and words like “windchill” always bring Russian novels and hot chocolate to mind. (As a Russian major in my undergraduate years at a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin, this relationship has stood me in good stead). So wish me luck, while I try to find something else to prop open the doors….

*note: I would NEVER use a book as a weapon–it might hurt the book!