What are you reading?

The current Booking Through Thursday question is this:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

The quick way to answer is to direct you to my list of everything I’m reading in the sidebar, but I don’t want to answer the quick way. So here is the long version. Two nights ago I picked up Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Because of busyness over the last couple days, I’m still only 20 pages in, and I’m wondering what I got myself into. There are a lot of pages in that book, with a lot of words on each page, and they are not all quite clear! But I need to give the book more time, of course, and the words aren’t that hard to follow, either. This will most likely be a book I will be reading for quite a while to come, which is fine. I’ll keep an easier novel on the go at the same time.

I’m nearing the end of Lawrence Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia, and just read a wonderful essay on the photocollages of David Hockney. There were also some good essays on California and one on Art Spiegelman I really liked. The subjects are varied, but the writing is uniformly good.

And then there are Bacon’s Essays. These are not terribly exciting, I have to say. But I can see that they are important, filled as they are with an attempt to use language carefully and precisely and to break the subject down into clear categories to capture it accurately.

I’m nearing the end of my collection of Ted Hughes’s poetry, which I have enjoyed all the way through. There have only been a few poems I have read quickly and dismissed; most of them I want to linger over to figure out how he’s using language. I first wrote about the poems here; they continue to focus on animals and landscapes, for the most part, and they still have the direct, forceful, unsentimental, colorful style I wrote about earlier.

And finally there is Sharon Salzberg’s book Lovingkindness, which is about lovingkindness meditation and Buddhism. I don’t meditate (I’d like to but haven’t found a way to keep a regular practice), but I’ve learned a lot from this book anyway. It’s full of wisdom about cultivating joy, compassion, and love, and breaking away from harmful habits of mind. I recommend it for anyone interested in spiritual reading.

And that’s it. I will pick up another novel soon, but haven’t decided what it will be.


Filed under Books, Fiction, Nonfiction

12 responses to “What are you reading?

  1. I have always been too scared of Thomas Pynchon to read him. His reputation daunts me, even though I have read my share of experimental and/or postmodern novels in my time! You continue to be a brave pioneer, Dorothy! 🙂


  2. I’m deep into Freedom as we speak and love, love, loving it. He is the king of subtext.


  3. Pingback: What are you reading? « Smithereens

  4. I’ve been wanting to read Gravity’s Rainbow for ages and it continues to sit on my shelf taunting me. I am curious to see how you get along with it. I hope you get along well because that means there is hope that I will like it too!


  5. Good luck with the Pynchon… he’s an author I know I need to try, but I fear I will likely not enjoy him very much. I figure that until I can shake that mentality, I should probably not even attempt him!


  6. Has everyone puzzling over Gravity’s Rainbow read The Crying of Lot 49? That’s the 180 page Pynchon Starter Kit.

    When I marvel at 17th century prose, I’m ususally thinking of the weirdos, of Browne and Burton and so on, pushing the limits of English. But Bacon is pushing, too, towards a concision and clarity that is unprecedented. I agree that his plainness can then seem a little dull.

    Dryden is a bit like Bacon. Nothing fancy, just clear thinking and clear writing. As if that’s not fancy enough.


  7. You’ve almost finished with the list on your sidebar–that’s really impressive. I’ve not been reading very challenging books lately, so I admire the fact that you are tackling Pynchon and working/teaching, too! I have the Weschler book of essays, too, which you make sound really interesting–I may have to dig it out soon.


  8. I’ve taken up your habit of more than one book lately, and I’m doing OK so far with reading a little out of most of them. It sounds like all of your current books are pretty challenging, so I think taking up a novel next would be a good break from the Pyncheon.

    I’m working on the Fadiman essays, a novel writing book, a new mystery about a haunted bookshop, and I’ve finally started the highly sensitive person book. The author talks a lot about Carl Jung, so I’m wondering what it might be like to read his work.


  9. Litlove — you would be totally fine with him, I’m sure! As Amateur Reader mentions below, The Crying of Lot 49 is an excellent starting point with Pynchon, and it’s short. So a low-risk way of beginning 🙂

    Charlotte — you are making me want to read that book! I loved The Corrections, so I was already tempted, but all the enthusiasm is hard to resist.

    Stefanie — I’m now on p. 30, I think, and it’s going pretty well so far. But still too early to tell. I will be sure to report on it as I go along!

    Steph — see Amateur Reader’s note below — I completely agree with him about where to start with Pynchon. It worked for me!

    AR — I completely agree about TCoL49. I read it a decade or so ago and thought it was great. I’m with you about 17thC prose — if only I could write that clearly. I had some experience of Dryden in grad school and found what you did, more or less. But Browne is where it’s at, and I’ll get to Burton one of these days.

    Danielle — I’m amazed I’ve been so motivated to finish that list up. It hasn’t felt like a burden, which is strange, because reading lists usually do. I’ll be taking Pynchon very slowly, so it won’t be too taxing. I hate the idea that work could keep me from reading what I want, so I plug away at it!

    Debby — it sounds good that your multiple-book reading experiment is going well! Your current books sound really good; it’s a mix of genres that works well for me — essays, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, maybe an easy novel and a hard one. Lots of variety. I’ve never read Carl Jung, although I’ve read about him. It would be interesting to see what he’s like!


  10. I liked Lovingkindness a lot. I just started The Road Home.


  11. What am I currently reading?
    William Trevor’s, Love and Summer.
    And before this, John Fowles’s, Mantissa.
    In both cases, enjoyment of their former works was the motivating factor.


  12. Lilian — I’m not familiar with The Road Home. I will have to look it up.

    Cipriano — I haven’t read much Trevor, but what I have, I’ve enjoyed. I’ll have to pick him up again!


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