First of all, a cycling update: it appears that I’m going to be racing more this year than I thought. Since I posted on the subject just a few days ago, I’ve had a conversation with a friend who is an awesome Ironman triathlete but who has never ridden in a bike race before, and she basically said she will race if I will. Now I don’t want to feel pushed into bike racing because of guilt, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. The conversation made me feel more enthusiasm for the whole enterprise than I felt before, and I do like the idea of helping other women get into bike racing (and will probably go on to watch them do better than I do, but that’s okay). If they need some moral support, I’m happy to help out.
It’s funny that female solidarity will tempt me to race much more so than the desire to win, but that’s just the way I am. The first race of the season is only two weeks from today, and I’m looking forward to much pain and suffering. Makes you want to race, doesn’t it?
Then I thought I’d tell you about some new books I’ve acquired. First, a copy of Rebecca West’s novel This Real Night recently arrived via Bookmooch. This is the second book in a trilogy that began with The Fountain Overflows, one of her most famous books (if not the most famous). I have a copy of the third in the trilogy, Cousin Rosamund, so, when I get around to it, I can read the entire thing. I suspect that the first novel is the best (although I have no real reason to say this except that the trilogy as a whole isn’t famous — only the first book is), but I’d like to read the whole thing anyway.
And then there is David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus Infinite Jest, which Hobgoblin gave me for my birthday a few weeks ago. This is not a book I’ll read very soon, as I need more time and energy than I have right now — and I’m in the middle of William Gaddis’s The Recognitions, and I need only one large, ambitious, experimental, monumental book going on at a time. Perhaps I’ll get to it this summer. At any rate, I love what Wallace I’ve read so far, so I’m eager to see if I like his fiction.
I also have a copy of Karen Armstrong’s spiritual memoir The Spiral Staircase, which a friend sent to me, also for my birthday. I’ve read this one before, but it was a while ago, and I remember really loving it and I’d like to read it again. Does anybody happen to know of any books similar to Armstrong’s they can recommend? I do enjoy a thoughtful, smart, idea-driven memoir now and then and would like to find more of them.
And then a few books I’d like to have (along with some unlimited time to read them, please):
- Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. This book seems to be very popular right now and it has a quirky title, both of which make me hesitate, but after reading Diana’s review of it, I’m curious. It seems like it might be exactly the kind of thing I like.
- Lydia Davis’s Varieties of Disturbance: Stories. I’m very curious about what this book is like; all I know is that the stories are very (very) short and that they experiment with language. And I know that Davis has translated Proust.
- Maria DiBattista’s Imagining Virginia Woolf: An Experiment in Critical Biography. Everything about this title sounds fabulous to me, from the Woolf reference to the words “experiment” and “biography.” Surely this is a book I will like??
- Hermione Lee’s Virginia Woolf. I’m reading a biography of Austen right now, and it’s high time I read one of Woolf. I’m slow to pick up biographies sometimes, but I really do need to read biographies of the authors that are most important to me, as those two surely are.
- Steven Nadler’s The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil. I don’t often read this kind of book, but I’m definitely attracted to it — the intellectual history kind about a particular moment in philosophy, science, or religion, the kind of book that’s interesting both for the ideas and for the historical background it offers.
- Marilynne Robinson’s Home. I loved Gilead, and this one is tangentially related to it, and besides, I think Robinson is wonderful.
Time to start reading!
14 responses to “Updates”
Are you going to come to the Woolf Conference?
Ok, I’m going to read. I PROMISE.
I have both the Woolf biography and ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog’ (which I enjoyed). If you want to borrow them I will bring them on Sunday.
To clarify, make that the Hermione Lee Woolf biog.
Looking forward to pain and suffering? I have to say that made me laugh.
You have some nice new books to read! I’d like the read The Elegance of the Hedgehog, it sounds interesting. And Imagining Virginia Woolf, read that soon and tell us all about it! 🙂
Anne — I don’t know for sure, but I would definitely like to go to the Woolf conference — I’m looking forward to seeing what will be on the program. Very exciting!
Musings — Very glad to hear the Hedgehog book is good and would be glad to borrow it on Sunday. I’d better hold off on the Woolf book, as it might take me a year or two to get that one finished … thanks!
Stefanie — you know, all joking about pain and suffering aside, I’ve been thinking about how working really, really, really hard on the bike becomes more and more fun the better the shape I’m in. If I’m in really good shape, I don’t actually experience much pain and suffering, even if I exhaust myself (if I set out to ride, say 24 hours or something, I would feel pain, but I’m not talking about extraordinary efforts like that). When I start the season, there is some suffering, but what’s great about getting in shape is that it makes the really hard efforts a lot easier and a lot of fun.
I think female solidarity is an excellent reason to do anything. Much better to go through a race encouraging and supporting one another than feeling aggressive or not good enough. I loved that Rebecca West trilogy. I thought the first book gorgeous, the second (once I’d got into it) was also delightful and the third I’ve yet to read. I must also read David Foster Wallace one of these fine days!
I think it’s great that you’ll have a cycling friend to help out–somehow helping someone else tends to reinvigorate me when I’m trying to go something (especially when it has to do with exercise). Good luck getting ready for your race! I have the Hedgehog book on my library list. It seems very popular–my library only has three copies and I am something like 17 on the list! I have plenty to read in the interim, though. I had no idea that The Fountain Overflows is one of three books–I am really enjoying The Soldier Returns so will have to look out for those other titles!
I’m glad that you’ll be racing with a friend! The camaraderie of pain makes things a lot easier and more fun than either going alone or with people too competitive. Just knowing you are racing makes me want to at least ride my bike even more. 🙂
I have DFWallace on my BookMooch list based on your recommendation. It sounds like a great read! Must get reading my other books now too!
Lydia Davis is great. I haven’t read that particular collection, but the others are all first-rate. Her novel, The End of the Story, is interesting, too.
Home is not quite as good as Gilead, I didn’t think, but definitely worth a read.
My book group is reading the Elegance of the Hedgehog in May, so I’m also looking forward to that. And I’ve got Robinson’s Housekeeping on my shelf, since I too loved Gilead. I’ve heard wonderful things about Home, so can’t wait to hear what you think. She is such a wonderful writer.
When I saw the Elegance of the Hedgehog at my indie bookstore a while back I immediately put it on my list because of the title. Just sounded so offbeat.
And best of luck to you and your friend as you train and race. I think it definitely will make all the “pain and suffering” worthwhile 🙂
Glad to hear you are getting back in the saddle. And ‘solidarity’ trumps ‘desire to win’ any day. In that case, win or lose, you will still have the shared experience that motivates you. All the best.
Litlove — I’m very glad to hear you enjoyed the second West book! That makes me more eager to get to it (which will probably happen about ten years from now, alas). And you know, a lot of races I’ve ridden in have had a supportive and encouraging atmosphere, in spite of the fact that we were out to beat each other. That’s true with men as well as women.
Danielle — it definitely helps to have a training friend. I have no trouble motivating myself to go out and ride, but I do have trouble motivating myself to ride hard and to practice my sprinting, and this friend and I are pretty well matched, so it worked out perfectly. I may ask her if she wants to do hill repeats with me one day, which is the workout I dread most (and need the most).
Debby — if you want to borrow my Wallace book, that would be fine (I have a warning about it — it might not be something you’ll want to read in its entirely, but there are particular essays I think you’ll like). And I’m so looking forward to riding together this summer! If not at the Blooming Metric, then on other occasions.
Richard — very glad to hear that about Davis, and also glad that Home is worth a read. I think it would be hard to match Gilead.
Verbivore — well, how convenient that you will be reading the Hedgehog book soon! We can compare notes, then. I liked Housekeeping but not as much as Gilead; it didn’t quite have Gilead’s magic.
Iliana — it certainly is a memorable title, isn’t it? The pain and suffering of training really is always worth while, and the truth is, the pain and suffering isn’t so bad after all. 🙂
Bikkuri — thanks, and it really is all about the experience. I don’t care about winning; I just want to have a good time.
If you get any suggestions or find anything for similar titles to A Spiral Staircase, please let me know. That was a memoir I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed. Meanwhile, if I find/can think of anything, I’ll let you know.