Tuesday, April 04, 2023

March, 2023 Reading

 March is a long month, and yet I only completed five books. When I'm having a bit of a struggle, I wonder whether to blame it on age. Being online too much is much more likely the culprit. 

Digression: Funny thing about that word, "culprit". Long ago, in a rare, dyslexic moment, it entered my brain as "curplit". I pronounced it that way in a roomful of English majors and you should have heard the sharply inhaled silence before they all burst out laughing. Embarrassing. I'm much more careful now, but at any given moment, I could still curplit. End of digression.

Then there's my harsh inner critic who tells me it's not age, it's not being online, it's that I'm an imposter. A poser bookworm. That I've never been much of a reader. Dim. Lazy. Unmotivated. Mean adjectives are her stock and trade; I told you she was harsh!

But never mind her. Instead, let's talk about something that really made my bookworm heart happy this month: While I was on Twitter one day, a guy named Ben from Australia posted pictures of excerpts from his 94-year-old grandmother's reading log. She's been keeping track since she was 14 in 1943. 80 years! Her entries start out in German and switch to English in the late 1940s. I fell into a daydream about spending my life in a clean, well-lighted room surrounded by other people's book journals that go back decades, reading and enjoying endless spooling lists of books. (How could I get people to send me their book logs, and what's an intelligent excuse for wanting them other than I would find them both comforting and thrilling?)

Okay, I think I've driven around the block enough now that I'm ready to post my five reads for March:

1. Young Man with a Horn - Dorothy Baker. Novel. A short 1938 novel about a young musician, loosely based on Bix Beiderbecke. The music itself seems like one of the characters. Baker writes so well about technique that the reader feels as if they also know about the intricacies of music. Sort of like chess and Walter Tevis and The Queen's Gambit. When Baker veered into the romance part of the story, the book seemed to lose some of its oomph, although I think the female interest is meant to be fascinating. Luckily, that was a brief sidebar. I was going to complain a little about not being able to figure out just who the narrator of the story is supposed to be, but since the book is about jazz and jazz is about improvisation, I'm just going to mellow out and not get too exacting. I really loved the atmosphere of Young Man with a Horn. As I read, I felt as if I were in a nightclub, music and smoke wafting through the air and ice tinkling in glasses. I want to read more of Baker; her 1962 novel, Cassandra At The Wedding is the one I've got my eye on now.

2. A House Divided - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. So glad to finally finish the House of Wang trilogy! Many hours of pure listening enjoyment. Audiobook was definitely the way to go. Buck writes in the cadences of ancient storytelling and as it washed over me, I was mesmerized. As far as the individual books go, The Good Earth is a solid and illuminating look into agrarian life in China, Sons has the most action, and A House Divided conveys the tension of past and present colliding.

3. Sooley - John Grisham. Novel. This was a book group read. I was engrossed in the story of the young South Sudanese basketball player/refugee, but Grisham's writing style is so bad. Yet, I couldn't stop reading! So bad it's good? Really baffled about my love for this one. I'm thinking about trying another of Grisham's sports novels like Bleachers or Playing for Pizza.

4. Who Was Alex Trebek? - Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso. Nonfiction. It's about time he got his own book! I miss seeing Alex Trebek so much on Jeopardy! Smart, witty, erudite -- the man inspired a girlish crush across generations in my family -- my grandmother, my mother, and me.

5. Who Was Maria Tallchief? - Catherine Gourley. Nonfiction. This biography of the first Native American prima ballerina is beautifully, almost lyrically written.

And now it's April. The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction will be announced soon, and this year, my money is on Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. My sentimental choice, as always, is Joyce Carol Oates.


Jeane said...

there's some words I mispronounce all the time! Mostly I think because I've read them, but never heard them spoken aloud. So my brain makes a best guess, and then I keep thinking that's just naturally the way to say it. Got a family member who calls me out on it pretty regularly though, so I'm starting to say them all right now. I especially get hung up on 'melee' and can't think of the others now.

Bybee said...

I'm not sure if that's bad or good that you have a family member who calls you out on your mispronounced words. I mean, it's good to have the 'right' information, but boo hiss about being corrected when you land one 'wrong'.

Sam said...

Keep plugging away at it, Susan. I find that my reading habits change from year to year but that my yearly average number of reads over a lifetime really doesn't change all that much over time. My big distraction these days is streaming...so many good movies to catch up on these days that I never knew existed before streaming. Theaters are a joke these days, all showing the same old comic book movies and thrillers.

I've kept a concise reading journal since just before I turned 22 years old, so it's been over 52 years now that I've kept it. I doubt seriously that it well ever approach an 80-year point, but it is interesting to me to go back and review it every so often.

Bybee said...

Can I see some excerpts, Sam???