Getting Organised

It’s not often I make myself a reading plan, but October and November contain more challenges and commitments than I’ve made in many a year on this blog. I need to keep it all straight in my head, plus, I have suddenly been overtaken by a sudden passion for a topic which will knock my plans out of shape if I let it.

First of all, I have to finish off a couple of October reads, both review copies. One is the splendid biography of the Rossetti family, The Rosettis in Wonderland, just the most beautiful book and a very good read. The other is Night Soul and  Other Stories by Joseph McElroy. I didn’t get off to a great start with this because I was trying to read it when I was tired and hurried, and it’s the sort of writing that calls for steady focus from the reader. I’m interested in McElroy, as he is one of the most literary writers out there, and he calls forth adoration and horror, all over that vexed question of readability again. I admit I have a thing for books that provoke the love/hate reaction; they make me immensely curious, so I want to give this one some quality time. Both the McElroy and the Rossetti biography require concentration, and I’ve been low on that in the early part of the month. Time to pull my socks up.

I also want to finish off my participation in Carl’s RIP challenge. Having made a huge list of possible reads, I have of course finally plumped for a book that wasn’t on it, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, just because it’s what I feel like right now. I may even start that one tonight. I might not get a fourth novel read this month, but I’m sure it’s okay to extend the challenge a bit.

Then there’s always a book that drags over the line, isn’t there? This month it’s poor old Marguerite Yourcenar and her Memoirs of Hadrian. I’m reading this for the Wolves, who thankfully seem to have forgotten about it, too. In all fairness I enjoyed the start. But it’s written in dense, sophisticated French, very beautiful and all, but oh so slow. I haven’t reached the part where the plot begins, but given it’s a French novel in the classical style, it’s quite possible there won’t be one. Knowing this does not help. The poor book has been pushed aside by all kinds of showier, quicker, more gripping reads, which isn’t fair. I feel dreadful, like I’m condemning it to be the runt of the playground, but then pity isn’t making me pick it up either. I must just get back into it again, and all will be well.

And then… drumroll…. It’s November!

Two more challenges for me. The first is the ongoing Portuguese Literature challenge hosted by the man with the most unique perspective in the blogworld, Amateur Reader at Wuthering Expectations. I’m going to be reading Eça de Queiros’s The Crime of Father Amaro, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Then Caroline and Lizzy are hosting German Literature Month. I’ve quite possibly gone mad here, but I’m going to try and read Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. My copy contains 1,130 pages, but despite the mega-chunkster size, I have to say in all honesty, it looks FAB. Let’s be honest, when am I going to actually buckle down and read a beast like that, unless there’s a bloggy challenge to spur me on? But what to do – should I post in parts, or save it all up until I reach the end? Don’t know yet.

Couple of very intriguing review copies this month. The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie concerns a young boy sent to live with his grandmother in a small Welsh mining community, haunted by the collapse of a pit many years ago. I think it’s about the friendship the boy strikes up with the town’s storyteller and the way he gradually unlocks the secrets of the town’s past. The other book, The House of the Wind by Titania Hardie is a time slip novel centred on a villa in Tuscany, and what’s not to like about that?



Two books I have promised myself this month, simply because I’ve been wanting to read them: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. I just adore Forster. And Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Pastor’s Wife, which I picked up at the bookstore where I work. I just love von Arnim, so enough said there.


Finally, this project I have conceived a passion for (and you will probably all think I’ve finally lost it) but I’ve become very interested in American literature from the Depression years. It’s having to hear people on the radio go on and on about how the current economic situation is as bad as the Depression, and I think this is complete nonsense. Very few of us have to suffer the way people did back then, and we should all be jolly thankful about that. But I would like to write about the way the depression affected the literary imagination of America at that time. I’ve got Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, although it’s the book I’m least interested in reading because it focuses right on the experience of the Depression. What’s much more intriguing to me are the books that use it only as a backdrop. So I’ve got James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, and two novels by Nathanael West: Miss Lonelyhearts, about a man writing as an ‘agony aunt’ and corresponding with his suffering readers, and The Day of the Locust, about 1930s Hollywood. I also went to the UL and took out three huge brick-like biographies of Steinbeck, Cain and West.

I’m not going to get through all that in five weeks, am I? Still, the weather is always dreadful in November, so I’ll just hunker down with the books and see what I can do.

18 thoughts on “Getting Organised

  1. Oooh, the Rosettis biography sounds just like my kind of book. Looking forward to your thoughts on that! Also very curious to hear what you think of Father Amaro. Good luck with all your projects! You’re right, challenges and readalongs are perfect excuses to pick up books we’d otherwise never get around to.

  2. Unless I lost count somewhere, that is 16 books in less than two months? Whew! I could see where you might need a plan to prevent you from becoming too overwhelmed. Other than “A Passage to India” (loved) and “The Day of the Locust” (eh), I haven’t read any of them and as always, I look forward to your posts. I agree with you that bad weather can be conducive to good reading. Best of luck in your endeavors.

  3. Great-sounding plans, Litlove! You’ll be reading several books I have my eyes on and a couple of books I’ll be reading as well, but I’m kind of most curious about what you make of the Musil (which I own but haven’t read) and the two West novellas (I loved them when I was, ahem, much younger than I am now). Poor Yourcenar, half abandoned by both of us at the moment… 😦

  4. I’m like you – don’t really make reading plans. I prefer to add books to a massive “to read” list, and then always end up reading something else instead, so that the list just gets longer. I generally avoid challenges and readalongs for that reason, but was intrigued by German Literature Month so signed up for that, my first readalong! Now I have to be at least a little organised. And on top of that, I also plan to do Ghanaian Literature Week: Enjoy your reading! Look forward to seeing the reviews.

  5. If you’re going to go mad, that’s the way to do it. I love the little Depression project, too

    I have started Padre Amaro (barely, and I’m in no hurry) and certainly feel like I am in good hands.

    Thanks for the blurb – I should post it on top of Wuthering Expectations.

  6. So much here but above all, applause! This seems/is an immense undertaking at least at first blush but look forward to hearing about your adventures in these hundreds of pages. True confession: The Haunting of Hill House is a movie, too, and it scared the heck out of me. And it does every time I see it (the older one; not the newer one with Owen Wilson.)

    Oh you are gonna like Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. It is as soft and remarkable as it is gritty and raw-edged.
    I’ve read Nathaniel West but uite honestly, have forgotten them…which only means that I read them too fast or when I wasn’t paying attnetion to what he said rather than what I wanted him to say. I like your approach on taking out tomes from the library to read about the authors. Excellent plan.

    Looking forward to hearing more…and oh, to work in a bookstore, as well! Keep us posted!

  7. Totally impressed by your reading plans for November. Really looking forward to your Musil review, in bits and parts — or as a GesamtRezension.
    I must say I find it rather intriguing how you “saunter” (or it might be more correct to say “run” here?) between genres in your reading. It makes it very interesting to follow your blog, I never know what to expect, but I know that whatever it is you present, it will be uncommonly well written.

  8. That is definitely ambitious planning, but luckily you’re accountable to no one but yourself in terms of getting it all done.

    I do understand what you mean about getting an idea for reading about a certain thing…I’ve been thinking about reading Southeast Asian authors. We’ll see how far I get with that!

  9. Thanks for mentioning our event, Litlove and foir joining of course. A series of posts would probabaly be quite appropriate.
    I remember reading Yourcenar and finishing it almost in one sitting. I thought it was extraordinarily well written and fascinating. I paired it with Artaud’s book on Héliogabale and it was an interesting pairing… I’m also tempted to read her L’oeuvre au noir.
    The depression project sounds interesting. I read Cain but not Hawthorne but have always felt intrigued by Miss Lonelyhearts. Thanks for reminding me.

  10. Oh, I love this post. You have so many great books listed here, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on them! The Rossetti biography sounds fantastic, and you have mentioned so many books that I am going to write them down, check them out on amazon, and figure out which ones I want. And I thought I was done buying books for the month of October! By the way, I am about 40 pages from the end of Trauma, which you had suggested in an earlier post. Can I just say that I love it! Your recommendation was spot on, and I seriously have not been able to put it down! Oh… and I finished the book of Acocella essays on Friday, and they were simply marvelous!

  11. A reading plan? I’m impressed, especially as I know that I’d be terrible at keeping to the schedule. I’m always getting sidetracked by interesting looking books. I promise not to tempt you with any books whatsoever until at least the New Year!

  12. Oh, Haunting of Hill House! You are going to love it! As for the Yourcenar, there is no plot at all. Grapes of Wrath is a fantastic book. I read it in high school and it still hangs with me after all these years.

  13. Nymeth – a little chill of delight ran down my spine when I read your comment and I thought, oh yes! The Rossetti book is perfect for Nymeth! I would love to know what you think of Father Amaro when I review it, too. A friend and colleague of mine is a specialist in Eca de Queiros (I probably won’t give her my post to read!) so have been meaning to read him for years – thank goodness the blog world gives me a nudge towards these authors!

    Ruthiella – I’ve been keeping a reading diary for the first time ever and I read more than I thought I did – 12+ books a month, so I should be able to do it, except of course that Musil is three novels in one! I’m sure I won’t get all through the list, but I’ll do the best I can. So pleased you loved Passage to India – I don’t doubt I’ll get to that one.

    Lilian – any other activity and I would be pruning back like mad – but reading I don’t mind being ambitious! 🙂

    Richard – I can’t wait to get to the Musil and the West myself! But you, too, with Yourcenar…? Ach, and yet, I appreciate the solidarity. I really do want to get back into it, but some books do just fall by the wayside, alas.

    Andrew – don’t you just love the blogosphere? Ghanian literature is something I know nothing about, so I will look out for your post with great interest. And so glad you are joining in for the German literature month. All the German authors I like date from the 1930s, so I’m hoping the challenge will bring me up to date with lots more modern Germans in translation!

    Amateur Reader – you are welcome to use the endorsement! And I’m glad to know where you are with Father Amaro. I would so like to be able to readalong in your posts, fully up to date with the material for once.

    Oh – bless you, you are so kind. Reading is the only place where I am wildly ambitious – but then it’s also okay if I don’t make it through. I’ll just enjoy doing the best I can. The Haunting of Hill House is one of the few books I have ever found genuinely chilling (I began it last night and am having trouble putting it down). I should think the film is terrifying! And I’m so glad you enjoyed The Grapes of Wrath – I wasn’t looking forward to that one much, but you have put a little spring in my step as I head towards it – thank you!

    Sigrun – what a lovely comment, thank you! I do like variety in my reading, I admit. I find it impossible to read the same sort of book twice in a row, and I enjoy both highbrow and lowbrow, so… that’s how it all falls out. I can’t wait to get to the Musil. I’m really excited about it.

    Harriet – oh do! Join me – I’d love to know what you think of them.

  14. Becca – I just love it when I get a little idea for a project – Asian writing of any kind is a shameful gap in my knowledge. I’ll watch out for any recommendations you come across. And you’re so right; the joy of a reading project is that I’m accountable only to myself, which makes it much easier to take on!

    Caroline – well that’s good news about Yourcenar and I will take it as an encouragement. I am so looking forward to the Musil; I’m actually excited about it. And I would love to know what you think of the Depression era novels – they correspond to the height of the Modernist era in Europe, so I’m interested to see how that will all pan out.

    Ali – yay! So very glad about Trauma and Joan Acocella – delighted that they hit the spot for you! I’m committed to most of the books I’ve detailed above, so for once, my plans really should correspond to real reviews. As for buying books – don’t! I was in the bookshop today and noticed several I was really interested in: a golden age crime novel, a book of essays about writers’ lives, and the non-fiction book about Virginia Woolf’s relationship to her servants….. I might not mention them to Mister Litlove just yet….!

    Ms Thrifty – lol! That is very kind and restrained of you, only I now realise I will need to add Geraldine Brooks to the early December reads, yes? Normally I am rubbish at following plans myself, but this month it’s a necessity. One of the nicest kinds of necessity though!

    Stefanie – you are right! I AM loving The Haunting of Hill House – it is amazing! As for Yourcenar – ack! It is as I suspected. I will need to be in a digression-loving mood when I next pick it up, I can see….

  15. It’s good to have plans–it helps you stay focused, right? And the more books you have to choose from the easier it will be to find the right one for your mood at the moment! I really like Depression era lit, too, and go in phases where I like to read it or read about it (or maybe lately I just liking thinking about reading about it–you know how that goes). I’ve read the Cain twice and listened to it on audio as well–it’s good but bleak. I really wanted to read Steinbeck this year, and maybe I still will, but I think I won’t start with The Grapes of Wrath (classics are appealing to me lately). Ooh, and EM Forster and E von Arnim–maybe I should read Your books next month rather than the ones I picked out! 🙂

  16. What wonderful-sounding plans you have! I need to get to Jackson and von Arnim both, and both sound appealing right now. I had a tough time with the Hadrian book when I read it quite a long time ago. I wasn’t quite in the mood and didn’t do it justice. I think knowing there is no plot helps when you are heading into it. There’s nothing good about waiting for plot that never comes!

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