Yesterday was Hobgoblin’s birthday, and we spent the day doing some of our favorite things — riding, reading, and buying books. We started off the day going on what we came to call the cupcake ride: four cycling friends and the two of us set off on a 50-mile ride that included a stop at a bakery that sells fabulous cupcakes of all kinds. I had what they call — with wonderful redundancy — a “chocolate cupcake with chocolate” and Hobgoblin had one with a pecan pie theme. The cupcakes were great, but the ride itself was even better. We had so much fun zipping around Fairfield county, sprinting at the town line signs, making silly jokes, laughing, and generally being kind of dumb. We rode fast but it didn’t feel difficult — at least it didn’t for me, since I drafted most of the time and there were four guys over six feet tall who provided awesome drafts.
Once we got home we hopped on the train for Manhattan and had a chance to read for a bit; I had the latest Maisie Dobbs with me, which provided excellent train reading. In the city, we headed straight for the bookstores, took a break to go see Star Trek (which I liked quite a lot, and I think that means something, as I generally find action movies dull), headed back to bookstores, got some dinner, and ended the evening at the bookstores again.
It’s a nice way to spend a birthday, don’t you think?
Here’s what I brought home, all from the Strand, although we spent time looking around the Union Square Barnes and Noble too.
- Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Darker Reflections. It’s the second volume of his Coleridge biography; I already had the first volume on my shelves. After Anne Fadiman’s essay on Holmes and Coleridge, I’m excited to start this one.
- Richard Holmes, Shelley: The Pursuit. Another very long biography that I’ve heard raves about. I couldn’t decide for a while whether to read this one or the Coleridge bio first, but I think I’ll go with the Coleridge. I think.
- Stanley Plumly, Posthumous Keats. It was definitely a day for Romantic biographies. After reading a glowing review here, I couldn’t resist picking this one up.
- Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room. This is the next book to read in my Woolf project, and I’d like to get to it this summer, if possible.
I’ve acquired a number of other books recently I think I’ll take this opportunity to tell you about:
- Vladimir Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature. I found a slightly beaten up but still impressive looking hardcover copy of this at a library sale, and have begun to read it already. I’ll report on how it’s going soon.
- Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History, in which he argues that literary scholars should “stop reading books and start counting, graphing, and mapping them instead” (quotation from here).
- Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos. At the retreat I went to last week, I had a long, fascinating conversation with a very open-minded, super-liberal Christian man who used to be a Unitarian and would probably still be one if his wife weren’t an Episcopal priest. We talked about church and theology and God, and I came away with a long list of books to read. I joked at the retreat that I’ve tried out many different versions of Protestantism and am now trying out agnosticism, which is pretty much true, but I’m still very much interested in reading about theology and church history. Here’s a product description from Amazon: “Reinterpreting the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes from the vantage of Middle Eastern mysticism, Douglas–Klotz offers a radical new translation of the words of Jesus Christ that reveals a mystical, feminist, cosmic Christ.”
- Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. Another recommendation from that conversation, this time about the historical Jesus.
Um, I think it’s time to stop buying books for a while.