The Sunday Salon: the Indulgent Post
Considering that I didn’t have a weekend last week, I resolved that as soon as I got off work on Friday, I was going to come home and not worry about anything but reading until Sunday. I skipped the school happy hour, because as much as I enjoy socialising and think that my best friends are one of the most important things in my life, sometimes a girl just needs some quiet time. ;)
So, here’s what I’ve been bookishly up to this week:
On Wednesday, I found myself with some unexpected free time, so I decided to do a little bit of library catalog exploring! We have a very small, very specialised library at my grad school, which while awesome in some respects (Newsweek in five languages, anyone?), does not seem to hold much promise in the fiction category. However, I discovered that they do have quite a nice collection of international fiction! Yay! I limited myself (since we only have books for two weeks) to getting Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: I loved The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies, so I’m excited to finally read her new collection! I also got an autiobiography called Behind Embassy Walls by Brandon Grove. Since I want to join the Foreign Service, I’m always interested in books by FSOs, so this book by a career service ambassador was right up my alley! I’ve been wanting to read it for years, but the my various libraries never carried it and it’s quite expensive even on Amazon.
Right, so then on Friday I started the Great Reading Retreat!
First, I finished The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner. I really admire the way Gortner brought 1500s Spain and Flanders to life! Apparently, he’s a medievalist, so it makes sense that he’s able to create such an authentic-feeling historical novel. It was neat to enter such a different world for awhile, even if Juana left me continually frustrated by her inability to see through people! I’ll have the review up on the 26th, which is next Friday (it’s part of a tour).
In between, I continued Behind Embassy Walls (I like to switch back and forth between fic and nonfic). I had gotten to read the first fifty pages on Wednesday, and Grove’s style impressed me; fortunately, the book just got better as it continued! I ended up finishing it yesterday, on Saturday, and I’d highly recommend it to people curious about international relations-but not too curious. There’s a good blend of background for each of his posts (Cote d’Ivoire, West Germany, India, Panama, Israel, and Zaire), personal discussions, and short chapters on significant people (i.e.: “Around the World With RFK”) and events (Jonestown, Somalia, etc.). His writing style is intelligent and informed without being pompous, and he lead such an interesting life the autobiography can’t help but be interesting as well! Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to give it a longer review soon, since it definitely deserves it. ;)
On Saturday, I was trying to decide what fiction book I should pick up when I suddenly realised I had one more book for the Novella Challenge, which ends this month! So of course, I went for “Oroonoko” by Aphra Behn, which at just over seventy pages took me about an hour to read. I decided to read it all in one sitting, since novellas work best for that way. Frankly, I’m still not sure what I think of this one: it’s one of those cases where I’d actually like to read some literary criticism. It was published in 1688 by an Englishwoman; I assumed Aphra Behn was a penname, but the introduction seems to imply not. Anyway, she was the first professional woman writer and well-known in her time, though later her works dropped out of anthologies for being too erotic (if I’m wrong on any of this, please let me know; the introduction wasn’t the best). So, “Oroonoko” is the story of a ‘Royal Slave’: it begins in Africa, where Oroonoko is prince next in line for his grandfather’s chieftanship and follows as classical tragedy Oroonoko’s eventual slavery in the West Indies and downfall. I’m going to reserve my real thoughts on it for a longer review, after I’ve found some other interpretations of it. Suffice it to say, it’s definitely an engaging and quick read (not at all boring) and one that will raise lots of questions in your mind. And, you should go read it now so that I have someone to discuss it with! :p
The final book I read this weekend was Wintersmith, the third in Terry Pratchett’s children/YA series (I don’t know the difference!) about Tiffany Aching, a young witch (this fits into his larger Discworld series). I loved The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, so I couldn’t wait to read the next one! I did really enjoy it, but I don’t think it quite lives up to the first two; there were certain parts that felt just a little off. That isn’t to say I didn’t still love it! In fact, I’ve been inspired to try out some of the other Discworld books: I’ve avoided the series for a long time because it’s so long, but I love Death and the witches so much, I think I’ll read the books focussed on them.
So it’s been a great weekend! I did manage to get through about twenty more pages of A Sport of Nature, but it feels like slogging. I’m contemplating just cutting it out of my Orbis Terrarum list and adding another Latin American book at the end (I want to read the books in an order that would make sense if I was actually travelling around the globe). I dread picking it up, which I think is a good sign that this isn’t the right time!
Oh: I’ve also gotten back into short stories. I read Adichie’s “The Headstrong Historian” yesterday and loved it (of course!). Then, this morning I realised that an ‘A-Z’ short story challenge would be much less time consuming than an ‘A-Z’ novel challenge. And my poor little short story review directory looks starved. So, I spent some time researching and now have a list to read and review that will get me A-Z titles and authors! I tried not to double-up, and to get a mix of classic and contemporary, so it should be an interesting experience over the next few months. :D
Well, there you go; now I’m off to actually do school reading. But I have a feeling a few of Lahiri’s stories will slip in on the sly. ;)