I am here and still blogging, and thinking a great deal about ways that I could refresh my aims and intentions on this site. I know I want to move back closer to the books again, and to writing in more detail about fragments of books, but I need to think a little more about it. I miss most teaching literary criticism at the moment, and the blog has always been the place where I indulge what I’m missing, but on the other hand I don’t want to teach a course here; that wouldn’t work at all. So, it will all come clear in time.
In the meantime, I noticed a new challenge going around: the ’10 Books To Read Before You Die’ challenge. I don’t want to commit to anything that might turn into a prophesy, but I did become intrigued to put together a list of ten authors I’d like to spend more time with over the next year or so.
Jorge Luis Borges – I’ve only read a little Borges but I would like to work my way systematically through most of what he’s done. His inventiveness is astounding and it’s the kind of work that cries out to be properly read. You can’t have a simple emotional reaction to Borges, you have to think about him, and I do like that.
William Maxwell – The Chateau has long been a favourite of mine, and I also loved Time Will Darken It. But he has written several other novels, not to mention a host of literary essays. I’m keen to find out more about his life, too.
Angela Carter – I found Nights at the Circus a linguistic delight but also the kind of word banquet you can’t partake of every day. That’s made me slow to return to Carter, but stylistically she is amazing and an author I want to study in depth.
Robert Musil – The Man Without Qualities has been on my shelf for a while now, but it’s huge and requires forward planning. I’d be keen to have a German season, as I’ve long wanted to read more Hermann Hesse, more Christa Wolf and more Elias Canetti.
Iris Murdoch – In my early twenties I read one of her more mystical novels and really loved it until the ending went a bit mad. I get the feeling that Murdoch is often like this, mixed and unpredictable in her work, even over the course of each novel. But again, she’s an ideas person, and a great literary figure. I’m interested to see how she will read to my older self.
Gabriel Josipovici – You know I love this man. I’d like to read everything he’s ever written. Simple as that. I’d like to write about him in an academic capacity too, if possible.
Louis Aragon – One day I will finish the great beast that is my academic book on fantasy and dream, and when I do, it’s the works of this man I’ll turn to next. He is sadly unavailable in translation, or else I would talk about him more. He belonged to the Surrealist group, but also wrote a series of huge novels focused on romances and family stories, blending history, psychology, war, artistic ambition, changing culture. Oh they don’t write them like that any more.
Vladimir Nabokov – Okay, so it’s finally time for me to read Lolita. I will do it. Nabokov scares me, although he is always on my to-read list. I really fear I may find him overly pretentious in his language use, but there’s only one way to find out.
Drusilla Modjeska – I loved, loved, loved The Orchard when I read it almost a year ago, and then I went around and bought whatever I could find by Modjeska. She hasn’t written so very much, but I adore her combination of academic writing, biography and life story. No one else does that.
Sinclair Lewis – I think this is who I mean. I get confused and suspect that there was once a writer called Upton Wyndham Sinclair Lewis who had a triple life. I read somewhere that Sinclair Lewis lived with Upton Sinclair for a time in his artist’s colony, but the question is: did anyone ever see them together? How sure can we be they were not the same man? But this is an era in American literature that I’d like to read more about.
And while I’m in list-making frame of mind, the following ten titles are all books I’d like to read before the end of the year:
William Dean Howells – Indian Summer
Wallace Stegner – Angle of Repose
John Wyndham – The Day of the Triffids
William Fiennes – The Music Room
Willa Cather – A Lost Lady
Sara Maitland – A Book of Silence
Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall
JMG Le Clezio – Wandering Star
Alexandra Fuller – Don’t Let’s Go To The Dog’s Tonight
Sarah Waters – The Little Stranger
What’s everyone else going to read before the year is out?