I haven’t done one of these “book notes” type posts in quite a while, so I figure on this slow Saturday I can get away with it. I have lots of stuff I want to write about — my thoughts on Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children, more Boswell/Johnson quotations, and some other things — but tonight feels like a good time for a listy, pooterish post. So here goes.
- I’m listening to the audiobook version of Jennifer Egan’s novel The Keep and I’m not quite sure what I think of it yet. It’s bizarre in a way I didn’t expect; the main character is a tough New Yorker guy and he ends up in some castle somewhere on the border between Germany and some other country, where he meets a very old Baroness. This character is obsessed with staying connected to the world on his cell phone and the internet. It’s strange, but so far I’m enjoying it. I’m a little worried, though — I just read on Amazon that parts of the novel deal with claustrophia, and I can get claustrophic at times, so I’m imagining myself driving along to work, listening to this novel, and completely freaking out because I’m listening to some all-too-vivid scene set in a cave. I can feel my heart beat faster just thinking about it. The Amazon page I linked to has a brief interview with Egan where she discusses her influences, and they are great ones — lots of 18C novels, including, as you would guess based on a description of the book, lots of gothic novels.
- Last night I began W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. I haven’t gotten that far into it, but I can tell I will like it; it’s thoughtful and rambling and rich, and it makes me want to read some Sir Thomas Browne. I read him in a couple classes years back, and responded excitedly to my professors’ enthusiasm for him, but I’m not sure I really got what makes Browne interesting. I think that means I need to re-read him now that I’m older and probably not wiser, but at least better-read. He’s a writer I wanted to love and hadn’t yet found the right time to.
- The Hobgoblin and I stopped by one of our local used bookstores today; I went to find a copy of Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out which their website said they had in stock. I didn’t buy the book because it was in pretty bad shape, but I did spend some time looking around and came home with a Virago Modern Classic, Radclyffe Hall’s Adam’s Breed, which doesn’t appear to be in print anymore. I didn’t know anything about Radclyffe Hall, but I picked up the book because I like Virago books and this book looked interesting. It turns out she was born Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall and is most famous for her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness, which, because of its lesbian themes, was the subject of an obscenity trial in England and was published in the US only after a court battle. I found out Adam’s Breed was popular among critics and sold well, and it won two prizes, the Priz Femina and the James Tait Black prize. How quickly we forget so many of the authors that were popular in their day (well, I should speak for myself — perhaps other readers know who she is?).
- Back to Virginia Woolf: yesterday I came across Julia Briggs’s Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life on Book Mooch, and it will soon be on its way to me. I have no idea when I will read this, but I’ll be happy to have a Woolf biography on my bookshelves.