Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I have to admit that, bookwise, I’ve been sort of in the doldrums lately. The old question arises – what to read now?

I was all primed for Pynchon’s latest, Against The Day, especially since I really enjoyed Mason and Dixon (itself coming at usual glacial speed after the disappointing Vineland). Maybe it was my state of mind, but rather than another masterpiece along the lines of Gravity’s Rainbow, the new novel seemed like Pynchon was just trotting out his old bag of tricks (silly names, absurd situations, bad puns) without having any real sense that this was a necessary novel. The Webb Traverse plotline is interesting enough, but the “Chums of Chance” are simply grating. I gave up, for the time being, around page 139, and I am someone who almost never gives up a book once I start reading it.

I moved on to Nicholas Basbanes Every Book Its Reader. Basbanes is a journalist who has written about book collectors for years now. He used to have a column in the old Biblio magazine, and now writes for Fine Books and Collecting. His first major book, Among the Gently Mad, was a classic text about book collecting. Unfortunately, it got him started on a series of books about collecting that have lost their punch with each successive iteration. As a confirmed bibliophile, I dutifully read each of them and generally have no quarrel with them, but I pretty much do it out of habit. This latest tome is a series of chapters (which read like expanded magazine pieces) about readers and the books they love. The chapters on Harold Bloom and Elaine Pagels were particularly interesting (Bloom reads at a rate that would put Evelyn Wood to shame), and it’s the kind of book that you can get through really fast. So that’s that.

And now I have moved on to Stanislaw Witkiewicz’s Insatiability, an avante-garde novel first published in Warsaw in 1932. I am a big fan of decadent fiction (one day I should do a piece on the Daedalus series), so I thought this one would be a winner. I’ve almost got the first 100 pages under my belt, but can’t say that I’m fully engaged yet. But it seems to be getting better. Let’s just see how it goes….