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It Crushes by Grinding

Occasionally I fill dead spots in my afternoons by updating my Amazon recommendations. If nothing else, it’s a slight boost of pride when I already own six of the ten items on a given page. But this item, however, I do not own. “Recommended because you said you owned Punch-Drunk Love” is 1989’s Going Overboard, which I have, in fact, not seen, an amazing feat given its positive reviews and box office success. This is not an isolated incident, but the cover just seemed so out of place amid my other recommendations. Amazon, just because I own a James Joyce biography from the Penguin Lives series does not mean that I would be interested in a similarly profile of Pope John XXIII.

As for my summer reading, I’ve finished the following books (in this order). I decided to start with some shorter novels to build momentum and to largely disregard sticking to my initial list in favor of new purchases and library loans.

Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire. 315 pp.
Beckett, Samuel. Watt. 255 pp.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Bend Sinister. 241 pp.
Bulgakov, Mikhail. Heart of a Dog. 123 pp.
McGahern, John. The Dark. 191 pp.

Out of these, I think the Nabokov novels are the most compelling, and if pressed to pick a favorite, I would probably choose Bend Sinister. Unsurprisingly, I’m already onto my next Nabokov, Pnin, and have Despair in the queue. The Bulgakov doesn’t quite match The Master and Margarita, but it has some particularly funny moments, unlike the unpublished Flann O’Brien television plays that I read yesterday. (I’m not including school-related readings or research.) Watt courses with dark humor, but the iterations of every conceivable logical end wore thin and reminded me too much of Gertrude Stein. I also picked up Murphy, but at this point I’m more interested in re-reading his postwar “trilogy,” so it may be a while before I get to it. Finally, the McGahern is an interesting coming-of-age narrative and I certainly grasped what controversial elements led to its banning, but it lacked the comforting rural insularity of By the Lake (That They May Face the Rising Sun abroad).

My goal by reporting these isn’t necessarily to impart any academic insight (I’m actually trying to avoid doing this) or to puff out my chest in a “Look what I’m reading” manner (if anything, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read most of these yet), but more to have something to report and to keep pushing myself to get through my initial list this summer. Between reading, the NHL and NBA finals, and the World Cup, I haven’t had much time to watch any movies lately, my vocal malaise over this year’s musical output has limited record reviews or summaries, and there’s almost nothing worth watching on television in the summer.



On Jun 15, 11:31 PM Sebastian said,