Sunday Salon: Un-

Although I quite like rainy weather, this week has been a bit of a slump for me in terms of books. Lately I’ve just been feeling dreary and dejected and unhappy, and I haven’t been doing much at all. With just six days left until the end of February, I’d hoped to have completed most of this month’s reading list by now, but not much hope of that. Not really in the mood for Tender is the Night or Metamorphoses or The Waves. Have been making steady progress through Orwell’s essays, which do make for interesting reading.

Actually, looking back, I’ve done a fair amount of reading this week. Finished Agnes Grey; more than halfway through the Orwell, and sort of getting along with Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion. I’m unconcerned about the quantity of my reading, though. What’s the hurry for? I’d rather soak up prose in long, languorous sips than choke. Reading, for me, is about escapism. Slipping into other worlds and other eras and into the lives of others. There’s something surreal and dreamlike in the way we immerse ourselves in books and I don’t want to lose that experience by rushing through them. What I mean by slump is that I’m not connecting very well with the books I’m reading.

Until the weather clears up, I’ll probably continue feeling unmotivated and uninspired, so it probably won’t do to expect coherency or anything optimistic from me. In fact, this entire post is a bit whingey in tone. And probably annoying to read, with all those un-‘s. I apologise. Anyhow, here’s a list of books. My wishlist, and excuses why I should buy them even though I promised myself no new acquisitions until I’ve finished what I’ve got already:

  • The Kreutzer Sonata, Leo Tolstoy: I like the cover
  • A Mere Interlude, Thomas Hardy: have been meaning to reading more Hardy after Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier: a book I’ve been curious about, but never managed to find a copy of
  • Ardor, Vladimir Nabokov: need to read Nabokov that isn’t Lolita
  • Night and Day, Virginia Woolf: do I need an excuse to read Woolf?
  • Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami: I like the title

Wait; I realised I already broke my resolution. Sort of. Went to the bookstore to buy a copy of Gone With the Wind for Matt’s read-a-long next month. Turns out I was looking in the wrong section (it was under ‘Fiction’, and not ‘Literature’). Anyway, the point is that I bought a copy of The Classical World as well, and that’s definitely not on any of my to-read lists. But I’ve decided to read it for the History category of the World Citizen project. And it’ll be good to read in conjunction with my books for the Really Old Classics project.

A ten day spell of grey weather and I’m already like this. How am I ever going to get through winter?

The weather is so uninteresting. I wish it would brighten up – though it is nice and cosy to be inside; though it is nice to watch the grey world outside, with the rain falling like a perpetual mist around us – it’s making me terribly drowsy. And restless. But I think I already said that. It’s unimaginably cold for midsummer, though I think this weather will be a consolation, at least, to those fighting fires in Victoria.


25 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Un-

  1. True, it may seem unwise to purchase more books when you’ve still so many unread, but isn’t it just unsurmountably unbearable and utterly unthinkable to force ourselves to be unmindful of our unabashed desire for books? I hope your week to come is not as unpleasant!

    P.S. I feel that way about Lolita, too.

  2. If only I could swap with you. We’ve been in drought conditions for years and haven’t seen a single drop of rain this calendar year so far. We’ve had the hottest temperatures ever and I am finding this unending heat and dryness just as draining as you are finding your weather. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a happy medium.

  3. claire – yes, utterly unthinkable indeed! I like your use of un’s very much :)
    Hope your kids get better soon by the way, though I totally envy you your snow. Sorry I don’t comment more often on your blog, but I don’t use my laptop that much when I’m at home, so yes. I still can’t leave comments from my PC. It’s very strange.

    bernadetteinoz – I sympathize completely! I hated when Sydney was in drought. As much as I hate to destroy the environment, I really love long steamy showers, hahah. The weather here’s quite extreme though. Before the rain, we had a month or so of unbearable heat. It would be nice to have a happy medium; I hope rain comes soon to you, wherever you are… Are you in Australia, by any chance?

  4. I know what you mean about the weather. My kids wanted to go down the beach, but I can’t bear the cold weather. I just want to stay in and keep warm. I really hate the dreary weather.

  5. Hi Tuesday, that’s no problem at all. :) The boys are actually better now, thanks, and they’re outside everyday. I myself would rather stay indoors, what with the biting cold. Until it’s spring! I had fun thinking about un- words for you. :)

  6. Well, I can tell you that even without a pretty cover, Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata is an amazing read. It’s an incredibly well crafted short story, and I think you’ll probably really enjoy it.

    But I can sympathize with respect to the reading slump. I’ve been in much the same way for the past week or so, actually. I started a few books that I then had no interest in finishing, and it all wound up making me not want to read anything for a bit. Now I’m halfway through a shortish book that I will finish, even though I’m finding it fairly uninspiring too. Hopefully things will get back on track for the both of us soon!

  7. Btw, I did notice I have problems commenting on my own blog! I have to press twice, sometimes more than that, for it to go through. It’s a bit frustrating, knowing that it’ll take effort to import, so I just stay put where I am.

    I can’t wait for your thoughts on In the Skin of a Lion. I want to read more Ondaatje but not sure whether to do Anil’s Ghost or Lion first.

  8. Orwill has a famous essay called Politics and English literature, or something like that.
    Have you read it? I’d like to buy his essays, but they cost 25$, which is totally ridiculous, in my opinion

  9. I have Night and Day near the top of my bookstack…I’m about to embark on a journey into all things VW, and it’s one of the novels I’ve never read.

    I really loved Tender is the Night, and have read it several times over the years.

    1. Vivienne – I mostly worked through my summer holiday, and now I really regret not going to the beach as much, b/c it seems as though summer has come to a premature end!

      claire – I’m rather prejudiced toward Anil’s Ghost myself. Not sure if it’s b/c I read it first or b/c it really is better, but nothing I’ve ever read by Ondaatje lives up to Anil’s Ghost. Except maybe the English Patient, but I haven’t read that yet. Anyway, from what I’ve read so far, In the Skin of a Lion simply isn’t as powerful or as beautifully written as Anil’s Ghost.

      Steph – I hope I enjoy it too. I’m hoping no one noticed, but Anna Karenina has sort of slipped off my reading lists. I was so determined to finish it, but then I read a few pages of the Pevear-Volokhonsky translation at the bookstore, and now I can’t bring myself to finish the copy I have!
      Yes, hopefully both of us will get out of our slump soon.

      zawan – Is the Penguin Classics edition $25?! Usually, Australian books are really overpriced, but I still managed to get my copy for $19 AUD. I’m not sure which essay you’re referring to. There’s Politics and the English Language, and Politics vs Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels. Unfortunately, I have yet to read both, as I’ve only read the first half of the book, and those essays are near the end.

      Becca – I hope you enjoy your VW journey. I can’t say I’m enjoying mine all that much after the initial rush of excitement. I absolutely fell in love with Mrs Dalloway and Between the Acts. I loved reading her journals and essays. Then I progressed onto her other novels (Lighthouse, The Waves), but I just couldn’t connect with them…

      As for Tender is the Night, I opened it up again this morning, and although I can’t say I like the characters, I’ve just rediscovered how lovely Fitzgerald’s prose can be, and so that’s helping me along nicely.

    1. estelle – yep, that’s the one. I suppose it is overwhelming but it’s so deceptively cute and orange that I never realised how much they’d squashed into that one paperback. At least the last hundred pages are notes :)

  10. I’ve been a bit in a reading slump myself, but it’s not weather releated…at least I don’t think so. I’m planning a major trip this summer, and so have veered off into travel books as opposed to my usual novels or bios. However, I can’t agree with you more with regards to slowing down and savoring a book instead of feeling like you have to read a given allotment, or else! Some books are meant to be read slowly, and some are meant to be skimmed :)

    I still consider Gone With the Wind to be one of the most important books I ever read–while it’s basically propaganda for the 1930’s southern U.S. view of the American Civil War, it did nurture my then-adolescent love of history which has become a lifelong passion and joy, but it also helped me mature as a reader…that is, I can like a book/story without necessarily liking the protagonist. I’ll be interested in hearing what you have to say about it.

    1. JaneGS – it’s interesting how perspectives can change over time. I’m not sure if I grew throughthis book, but re-reading it, I can definitely see how I’ve gronw as a reader. When I first read it, it was for the thrill of reading a book that was marked as ‘Senior Fiction’ in the school library, hahah. And I’d watched the movie so many times that I sped through it without much thought. I actually didn’t care about the war; all I focused on was the relationship between Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable – uh, I mean, Scarlett and Rhett :)

      ps. wow, a major trip? Sounds exciting. Where to, may I ask?

  11. I have Le Grand Meaulnes on its way to me from bookmooch – I’ve also always wanted to read it but never got around. We can compare notes once we’ve both finished.

  12. I remembered reading The Kreutzer Sonata all in one sitting while I was in Hong Kong last year. The book muses on unhappy marriage that was quite an accurate reflection of the state of people who strolled into the coffee shop where I read.

    I hope you will recover from your reading block. But I agree that you that quantity of reading is not what really matters.

    I need to get a copy of Gone With the Wind myself. I’ve been procrastinating. Ha!

    1. Matt – oh, one sitting? Is it a short novel then? Or a short story perhaps? I assumed that it would be a large book, like War and Peace or Anna Karenina.

      To my horror, I’ve recently begun to enjoy watching reality tv, which has led to a lot of mind-trash devouring. So thanks, I hope I recover soon too!

  13. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been down in the dumps, hope you read something soon that will cheer you up.

    Gone with the Wind is a real page-turner, but definitely more appropriate in the fiction than literature section. A bit disturbing in it’s whitewash of history too. (That said, I love Rhett and Scarlet in a trashy melodrama sort of way).

    Personally, when it comes to buying books, I can resist everything except temptation to steal from Wilde. I’m a Hardy fanatic, so would heartily recommend you read some more. Under the Greenwood Tree or Far from the Madding Crowd for a happy ending, A Pair of Blue Eyes or The Mayor of Casterbridge (which Woolf loved) otherwise. As for Nabakov- why not try his comic novel Pnin or his wonderful lectures on literature?

  14. The Kreutzer Sonata is a short story/novella, not a lengthy novel like Anna Karenina or War & Peace. It shouldn’t take more than an hour to read, if I remember correctly. Maybe 2 hours… It’s really good though. One of Tolstoy’s best short stories, I think. Also, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, is quite good, too.

    1. adevotedreader – definitely agree with you about Gone with the Wind. It’s funny (maybe I’ve become more of a snob), but I never realised how flowery and melodramatic the language was the first time I read it.

      Ooh, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been looking around for Hardy, but haven’t seen much of him at the bookstores (only a few torn copies of Tess). Same with Nabokov! I’ve got a few of his books on my to-read list, but haven’t been able to find copies.

      I think it’s time to visit the Book Depository again.. hahah :)

      Steph – oh okay. Then I think I’ll be reading Kreutzer Sonata and Death of Ivan Ilyich before AK. Taking Tolstoy in small doses first sounds like a good idea. Thanks!

  15. Yep, The Kreutzer Sonata is a novella. Penguin released the single volume as part of the Love series. It’s named after Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. I enjoyed the investigation in the possible co-existence of love and monogamy.

  16. When I took a course focused entirely on Tolstoy during my undergrad, we warmed up with his short stories, then did Kreutzer Sonata, and then did Anna K. I think it was probably a good progression, though I didn’t go on and take the course offered the next semester that focused entirely on War & Peace. ;)

    1. I’m actually more excited about War and Peace than Anna Karenina! I think it’s because I dislike the protagonist, and everything she does. While I’m all for reading books with unlikeable characters, this particular instance just…

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