Excerpt – The End of Mr. Y

Real life is letting men fuck you over their desks (and enjoying it, which is somehow the worst thing). Real life is regularly running out of money, and then food. Real life is having no proper heating. Real life is physical. Give me books instead: give me the invisibility of the contents of books, the thoughts, the ideas, the images. Let me become part of a book; I’d give anything for that.
– Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr. Y, p.117

The Akron Art Museum

My wife and I, while visiting her parents in Ohio this weekend, took a short trip up to Akron to visit the Akron Art Museum. This is quite a gem of a museum.

The building itself is an architectural marvel. There’s a gallery with a bunch of photos documenting its construction.

Of course, the most important thing about a museum is what’s inside it. This museum does not disappoint. They have a handful of significant piece’s like Chuck Close’s Linda, Harry Callahan’s Eleanor, and Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo’s Atrabiliarios (Defiant). My wife and I took in the current exhibitions. The one we liked the most was A Shared Vision: The Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Photography Collection. There wasn’t a dud in the collection. I should have brought a notebook to write down the names of the artists and photographs. though my words couldn’t do the photos the justice they deserve.

Anyway, if you happen to be near Akron, I highly recommend taking a jaunt over to this museum.

Book Meme

via Transient Reporter

According to LibraryThing, these are the top 106 books that are marked as “unread.” Bold is for read, italics for half-read, and regular for unread.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude – I was in undergrad, and I didn’t read everything as attentively as I was supposed to.
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel .
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice – high school and I remember little of what I read.
Jane Eyre – high school and I remember little of what I read.
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations – high school and I remember little of what I read. You’re starting to see a pattern here about just how dedicated a student I was in high school…
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked
The Canterbury Tales – high school and I remember little of what I read.
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise) – high school and I remember little of what I read.
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon – the first half is great (the Morgan LeFay parts). When I got to the part narrated by Guinevere, I couldn’t stand it and gave up.
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion – Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye – the only assigned book in high school I can honestly recall reading from beginning to end.
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Valerie Hemingway at the Library of Michigan

I’m late in posting this. Nearly two weeks ago I attended the talk and book signing Valerie Hemingway gave at the Library of Michigan in Lansing as part of the The Great Michigan Read program. (The Nick Adams Stories is the book.) She read excerpts from and discussed her book Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways.

She met Ernest Hemingway when she was 19 years old in Madrid while working as a freelance journalist. She became his secretary, typing the manuscript for A Moveable Feast, and friend. Five years after his death she married one of his sons, Greg. Valerie’s memoir is about her life with the writer during the last two years of his life, and her later marriage to Greg, who suffered from manic depression and had difficulty coming to terms with his need for a sex change operation. The book is never dull. Ernest was a heavy drinker until the end of his life. I haven’t yet read any biographies of him. I’m more interested now than I was before.

The Ernest Hemingway Valerie encounters is old, highly knowledgeable, and gregarious, but also very depressed and vulnerable. The family he left behind was in complete disarray.

Henry James and His Style

Henry James was one of the Writers You Really Should Read that I, for one reason or another, had not read until now. I had picked up a copy of his “The Portrait of a Lady” at a used book store awhile back. I wasn’t sure whether I would like James’ writing, having heard it was Literary for the sake of being Literary. Others gushed about his writing and it’s High Artfulness.

So I finally dived in…

And I found that I liked his writing quite a bit.

In “The Portrait of a Lady,” originally published 1881, someone could make the flippant critique that James is merely writing about the Idle Rich. The people seem to have gobs of two things: money and free time. (Yes, as a middle class, stay-at-home dad and budding writer it did make me a bit envious.) But that ignores his very careful style. It is overtly Literary, but his third-person omniscience allows him (and the reader) to have both distance from the characters but also to often get deep inside the minds of those characters. Some say “not much happens” in a Henry James story. Action-wise sorta no. A lot takes place inside the minds of the characters so that when an action as small as a half-smile takes place, it is imbued with loads of meaning. The most important chapter, 42, concerns Isabel Archer sitting in a chair, thinking about her marriage.

Isabel Archer is a sympathetic heroine, sheltered, who is given a fortune upon the death of her uncle. She turns down a couple of marriage proposals from wealthy men, citing her desire to be free. She is then, unbeknown to her, maneuvered into a marriage with Gilbert Osmond who has a daughter Pansy. This has a number of consequences, which I won’t detail here. You’ll have to read the book yourself.

At any rate, because I liked “The Portrait of a Lady” I ordered a copy of James short stories that includes The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller, and a copy of “The Aspern Papers.” The latter was referenced in “The City of Falling Angels” by John Berendt, a book that is an excellent, fascinating look at the power brokers in Venice, Italy.