Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Reading Update of Sorts

I finished listening to The Gunslinger a few days ago. I enjoyed it, but as many of you said, it is not as good as the rest. That was quickly evident when I began listening to The Drawing of the Three the other night. Lobstrosities and finger and toe amputation. Yikes! There was certainly no gradual building of story to begin this one. There was a sort of prologue in which The Gunslinger was Explained. My Bookman informs me there were years between the first and second book, so I can understand a re-cap, but this prologue went a bit to far Explaining. It went over themes and major plot twists from the first book and who Roland, the Gunslinger himself, is and what his quest is and why. Too much information. Maybe it wouldn't have bothered me if the first book wasn't fresh in my mind. The one bit of information that was useful is that the Gunslinger is inspired by Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. It has been ages since I read the poem, so I'll have to refresh my memory on it and see if it adds any nuances to the story. In other reading, Elaine Scarry in On Beauty and Being Just is currently arguing that the idea that looking at something beautiful, especially a person, harms the thing being looked at is hogwash. I'm having difficulty following all of the ins and outs of her argument so I think I will have to back track on it a bit. Virginia Woolf's diary brought me to tears. I have read various accounts of Woolf's mental illness and never been satisfied with them. There always seemed to be something missing, something unsaid. But Woolf has now obligingly filled me in on what it was like. She wrote in her diary on September 15, 1926:

Oh its beginning its coming--the horror--physically like a painful wave swelling the heart--tossing me up. I'm unhappy unhappy! Down--God, I wish I were dead. Pause. But why am I feeling this? Let me watch the wave rise. I watch. Vanessa. Children. Failure. Yes; I detect that. Failure failure. (The wave rises). Oh they laughed at my taste in green paint! Wave crashes. I wish I were dead! I've only a few years to live I hope. I can't face this horror any more--(this is the wave spreading out over me).
She goes on another two paragraphs and ends the entry:
Does everyone go through this state? Why have I so little control? It is not creditable, nor lovable. It is the cause of much waste & pain in my life.
What amazes me is the immediacy and precision of her description, and that she also manages to distance herself as an observer so she can describe it. In book news, you may have heard the title of the final Harry Potter book has been announced: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. No word on the publication date. Syntax of Things has gotten together a list of underrated writers. Writer's names were submitted by bloggers. I am sad to say I know very few of the writers on the list. On the bright side, I now have a long list of "new" writers and books to investigate. And finally, at the Guardian, a list of smelly books. Topping the list is Proust!