Sunday, December 03, 2006

"I want my ham!"

Literature and current events: Jenny Diski blogs at Biology of the Worst Kind about polonium 210 and the lessons of fairy tales.

On a different literature/news note, I was sort of disconcerted the other night to find this New York Times story about burial insurance immediately after getting home from seeing August Wilson's Two Trains Running, with its running insurance theme (that word insurance is accented on the first syllable, by the way). These Signature Theatre Wilson revivals are awfully good, the production in this case is absolutely impeccable: funny (my favorite character is Hambone) and interesting and highly watchable, too, although I feel that for various reasons it is a considerably less appealing play than Seven Guitars, which I saw in August and found absolutely magically transporting.

And I even had a tiny bit of light reading, but I feel I have built up a considerable light reading debt that will have to be redeemed in the nearish future or else I will implode: Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize, an appealing young-adult vampire novel with a culinary theme. I'm also halfway through the also very appealing Fangland, by John Marks, but it got buried beneath a pile of work-related books: I will report on it more fully once I have a chance to finish it, but for the meantime I would say it's strongly recommended. I am not sure why it is that when I only have time to read a very few (non-eighteenth-century) novels they are so likely to be about vampires, I am not particularly vampirish in my normal tastes, reading or otherwise....


  1. Interesting you bring up Fangland and I'm curious what your take will be once you finish it. I thought it was a really interesting idea but took some issue in how the story was told - a bit too fragmented for my tastes for some reason...

  2. I have a rather strange question:

    In reading, do you ever... bored.. just.. can't go on anymore for whatever reason? Recently, I've experienced this... that I feel I need to read to educate myself.. to broaden my horizons or whatever else.. but frequently, I shudder at the thought of slogging through 400 pages of a novel.

    Honestly, would you say the ratio to what's interesting in a book and what isn't is about 1 to 4?

  3. Even my friends--people I once respected--are now speaking of INsurance. I think that pronunciation is taking over.

  4. Alan Gurganus has a wonderful novella called Blessed Assurance about burial insurance. In Granta #32 and also collected in a book of his short stories. Some have said it is sentimental--oh horribly overused dismissive word--but I think not.

  5. Sarah: I'll let you know--I'm definitely liking it, though. But of course I really wish all vampire novels were the insanely & perfectly gratifying thing that is Robin McKinley's "Sunshine"! You must read that if you haven't already...

    Anonymous #1: If I find myself bored, I put the book down. Seriously. At least when I'm reading for fun. It's different when it's something that you think you should read--and certainly there are novels that you need to push yourself through the first part of because in the end the rewards will repay the effort. I remember reading "Gravity's Rainbow" as a teenager for instance with a huge amount of effort, but it was well worth it in the end. In this case, though, I wonder whether you're choosing your books wisely: I think the ratio should be better than that....

    Ryan G.: In a word, YES!

    Anonymous #2: Oh, thanks for the rec, I'll totally check that out: haven't read much of his stuff, but what I have read I like very much (and I also like it that he wrote the introduction to the posthumous release of Heather Lewis's novel, she's a particular favorite of mine).

  6. Thank you for responding jenny. My difficulties with reading more center on my perfectionism... where I'll be reading a sentence.. and if so much a single word-choice seems odd to me.. or I don't quite understand the purpose of a particular paragaph in the boko as a whole, or the page, or the chapter, or the particular passage of description, I will wrack my brain to the point of overload trying to recreate what I imagine was the exact thought process of the writer when he choose to do this or that.

    It's insane I know, and it drives me crazy, and good books, which hide their art from the reader, prove particuarlyl impossible for me to read beacuse I'm constantly trying to analyze how everything is being achieved.

  7. Wow, strange you refer to that article.

    I had this same conversation with a friend the other day, after reading the New York Times article.

    He had bought Burial Insuranceyears ago, when he was about 22 years old. (example highlighted)

    When I asked why he bought burial insurance instead of life insurance, he told me that the rates, were the most important part of the decision, even though times have changed, he didn't regret what he picked. For some, its part of their culture, for others, its just part of planning for the future.

    Anyways, thanks for the interesting tidbit.

  8. BTW - to the comment above about 1/4 ratio of books -

    you just havent found a book that you like yet!