Playing catch-up, part 1.

Here’s a list of lots of things I’ve seen, read and thought about over the past few weeks.

Spotted:

  • A girl reading Arthur Ransome’s Secret Water in the crêperie near my apartment. This made me really happy.
  • A Daunt’s book bag identical to the one I’ve got, slung over the shoulder of someone walking past the store where I work.
  • Multiple copies of Franzen’s Freedom being read on the T, in coffee shops and outside, when it’s sunny.

What I’ve been reading:

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, Murial Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (in the middle of this one), Shakespeare’s Henry IV part I, Nicole Krauss’ Great House, Bernd Brunner’s Moon: A Brief History (in the midst of this as well), Best American Essays 2010 edited by Christopher Hitchens, and some dabbling about in different collections by David Sedaris.
  • J.K. Rowling on “The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination,” poet Don Paterson (whose new book, Rain, contains some really beautiful poems, especially the title piece) on Shakespeare’s sonnets, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on metaphysics, and various pieces from recent New Yorkers.

Posts I’ve thought about writing but haven’t:

  • A post about dialogue and conversation, spurred by the fact that I think Shirley Jackson writes conversations really, really well, capturing the way speaking to other people can really be just a part of a full-scale psychological guessing game.
  • A post about characters in mystery series, spurred by reading Margery Allingham, who seems really gifted at creating characters in a line or two. In mysteries, character is often subservient to plot. There is usually only one fully developed character: the detective. And the detective’s character development is usually arched not just through a single book, but through the series as a whole. The other personages in a single book all function as parts of the game the detective is trying to solve, as suspects, red herrings, and distractions. So they get to be 2-dimensional, but often in flamboyant, deeply suspicious ways, and I thought this was interesting. Maybe I’ll come back to it.
  • Forthcoming: some thoughts on Nicole Krauss’ Great House and other contemporary fiction.
  • Multiple posts apologizing for the general lack of posts…
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