Saturday, August 23, 2014

Light reading round-up

I haven't had a huge amount of time for light reading as I am still ploughing through Clarissa! About 70% through, and quota (in the form of notes rather than draft in this case) is piling up nicely* - I am sorry to say that I resolutely ignored various other work-related imperatives until they became so strong that I could no longer postpone them....

Had a useful day Friday sorting out a lot of the remaining stuff for my new lecture course - it is the sort of thing that will take up as much time as you let it, the only way to hold on to real writing time in August is to put this stuff out of mind, though I felt very guilty leaving it so late (it is inconvenient and stressful for the seminar leaders I will be working with!).

Hoping to finish with Clarissa before I return to New York on Wednesday (I have it divided into ten sections for teaching purposes and am following those divisions here too, reading a chunk and then typing up notes while the thoughts are fresh in my mind), but I also still have three more tenure letters that I'd like to get done before school starts (have done most of the work on one, but since it is not the one due this coming Monday, that's not as useful as you might think).

The Swift conference paper is clearly not going to get written this month, but that's OK, have been reading Anthony Grafton on footnotes and thinking about various things to do with Swift and commentary. Can do this after my classes are underway and I have done both of my September triathlons: it makes sense for me to choose races for early fall, as I have much more training time over the summer than during the school year, but it is a pity to have the attention divided between starting school and big races - it will be good when I am over that particular hump!

A couple highlights of recreational reading around the edges:

First of all, Kipling's Kim. It is such a strong source of inspiration for so much contemporary genre fiction (Tim Powers' excellent Declare was the one that most recently brought it to mind, but it's hugely important for Laurie King's Holmes books and crops up in all sorts of other places as well). I must have read it once or twice as a child, but it's not one of the ones I know really well (that would be the Just-So Stories, from early childhood, and then the glorious Puck of Pook's Hill and Rewards and Fairies, which I reread every two years when we visited our English grandparents' house). It is amazingly good, so much so that I think I might need to start rereading a lot of Kipling and Chesterton in lieu of sometimes mediocre recent stuff. Most eloquent and evocative object/image: Kim's "little Survey paint-box of six colour-cakes and three brushes"....

Judy Melinek and T. J. Mitchell, Working Stiff - very good book by a former NY medical examiner about the work she does. I love this stuff, and the book's gripping and worthwhile in any case, but the account of the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks is especially interesting - would be worth reading the book for that alone, I think. (I am laughing, this one also called my thoughts back to another favorite book of childhood: Mostly Murder, the autobiography of pathologist Sydney Smith!

A couple other novels worthy of note: Marcus Guillory, Red Now and Laters, which I acquired because of the title and very much enjoyed, especially in its account of childhood in Houston in the 1970s and early 1980s - it is overwritten/lyrical in parts, but I am willing to forgive that when there is so much else to like; and the long-awaited last installment of Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy, The Magician's Land.

These can really only be described as "fodder": Patrick Lee, The Breach (not sure about this one, a bit too grandiose for me in its schemes, though he is certainly a good storyteller); and Melissa Olson, Dead Spots (nothing wrong with it, an enjoyable read, but I fear it is rather the sort of book that makes me feel I am rotting my brain!).

* Tracking quota August 2014

8/8/2014 2194 words (lost a few?)
8/10/2014 7687 words (through end of ONE)
8/11/2014 reading day
8/12/2014 12628 words (through end of TWO)
8/13/2014 reading day
8/14/2014 18117 (through end of THREE)
8/15/2014 reading day
8/16/2014 20217 (through end of FOUR)
8/17/2014 reading day
8/18/2014 23474 (through end of FIVE)
8/19/2014 26599 (through end of SIX)
8/20/2014 reading day and first half of typing
8/21/2014 31752 (through end of SEVEN)
8/22/2014 LTCM work

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