08 April 2007

Now that I've finished the final draft of my novel, I can read for my own pleasure for the first time in more than a year. I just finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was recommended here by Nat a while back. I was annoyed by some of the material about classical philosophy, especially the stuff at the University of Chicago, but overall, it's one of the most beautifully structured books I've read in a long time. Along with the first two chapters of Walden, I have a feeling that it's going to be a useful guide and resource for the upcoming year.

Next up, I'm hoping to read The Dyer's Hand by W.H. Auden and The Unquiet Grave by Cyril Connolly, which are two books of random notes and observations by a great poet and a great literary critic, and the novels Winter's Tale and The Gold-Bug Variations. That should take me to my upcoming trip to Europe, where I'm going to be visiting Dublin, Venice, Florence, Rome, Canterbury, and London, in that order. I'm planning to bring all of Montaigne, with Spinoza as a backup, along with the Italian original of Foucault's Pendulum, which I'm going to read cold.

My real discovery, however, has been John Updike. I'd been avoiding Updike for most of my life, and was less than impressed by the small amount I'd read (although his essays are excellent). Recently, though, during my stint on a Kings County jury, I decided to read through the Rabbit series, and my opinion of Updike has been rapidly revised upward. Rabbit, Run reads like a novella expanded to fill an entire book, with a few brilliant sequences and a lot of fussy writing, but Rabbit Redux is amazing, one of the best American novels I've read. (I even recommended it to Haiwen.) Many thanks are due to Nicholson Baker, whose book U and I (sort of a recasting of Pale Fire with Updike as Shade and Baker as Kinbote) got me back on Updike in the first place.

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