I had a weird experience a few days ago - I got to the evening of Boxing Day and was conscious of a falling-into-an-armchair feeling, accompanied by an inward sigh of relief. Imagine my amazement when I realised I am "glad It's over". Never before have I been, and hopefully never again will I be, pleased to see the back end of Christmas while the calendar still showed December.
A low-key Christmas, of course, with bits of melancholia mixed in to relieve the near-total apathy. But, all in all, I believe it was no worse than expected, and maybe even a little better.
I was reading an old post the other day - the one about the 106 most unread books. I wanted to assess my progress through my self-imposed program of Improvement. And I've done okay - I have added five to my "Have Read" list, and I have added three to my "Have Started" list. (The library wanted them back.)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
Tale of Two Cities
The Once and Future King
Initially I was disappointed to see only five pins down, but two of them are Ayn Rand meisterwerke, so I shouldn't feel badly about that. I nearly went blind reading Atlas Shrugged in particular. It was during our June visit to Ontario, and I read that sucker in eleven days. About 1100 pages, in teeny print.
I had a lot to say about Atlas Shrugged after I read it, but that was six months ago and now I'm not nearly so motivated to talk about it. Plus, it's really long and preachy. But on the up-side, the sexual tension is handled brilliantly. If there's one thing Ayn Rand knows, it's timing. (Except "when to quit" - that part she struggled with.)
The Fountainhead made me tired.
Vanity Fair, it turns out, is a page-turner. It's one of my friend Bethro's favourites, and I can see why. I didn't LOVE it, but it's a good one for discussion. I personally think Thackeray likes Becky better than Amelia, but that's despite himself. Or maybe he's just being ironic - giving Amelia the rewards of virtue in the end although he, himself, values Becky's acerbity over Amelia's insipidity. Hm.
Anyway, a word on style: Vanity Fair is like a really long and rather slower-paced Georgette Heyer novel. If you have managed more than a handful of Heyers and enjoyed them, you will probably like VF. I did find, though, that VF is hard to read when spread over a long period. You have to concentrate on it, and that's easier when you read it in, say, two weeks rather than six.
Watership Down, on the other hand, is one of my desert island books now. I always thought vaguely that it was a gentle, pastoral children's book, on the lines of "Wind in the Willows" for a slightly older reader. I certainly wouldn't have called it "edgy", or anything.
Boy, was I wrong.
It's about animals, sure, but it's totally serious, not in the least tongue-in-cheek, not at all wry about the fact that these bunnies have their own myth tradition and none of them can count past five. The world they live in is masterfully set up. I can't say anymore, except that you should read it. If you find it a slow start (there is some background to get through), just at least finish off the first three chapters. If you're not hooked, you probably never will be and you can go on to something else.
Lastly, the self-effacingly titled A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And my only comment on that is: neither. It was good enough - certainly had its poignant moments. Lots of gratuitous bad language, which got annoying in a surprisingly short amount of time. So maybe I'd amend the title to "A Slightly Emotive Work of Mediocre Talent".
What am I reading next? I was thinking that maybe you should give me some recommendations. Pick something from the list, and leave a comment saying which book I should tackle next, and I'll read and review it.
If nobody expresses a preference, I'll go on to Anna Karenina, which has just been lent to me by a friend. I've ordered The Once and Future King from Chapters with Christmas money (thanks Mom!), for the #2 spot, and I believe after that will be Catch-22.
Here's the list of what remains unread. I have just counted, and there are 60 titles here, which means I've read 46. I'd like to get half done this list, which is seven more books, by the spring. Just for bragging rights, nothing important.
Tell me what to get from the library, and I'll get started. (Just please, please don't make me read non-fiction. I don't care much about Guns, Germs, OR Steel. And not that true crime one either. I don't like crime.)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
The Name of the Rose
The Tale of Two Cities
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (I do not want to read this.)
War and Peace
The Kite Runner
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books (I don't really want to read this either.)
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
A Clockwork Orange
The Once and Future King
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel
Angels & Demons
The Satanic Verses
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present (No. I don't want to read it.)
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything (It better be.)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (Uh uh.)
On the Road
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything (Nothing by an economist, please.)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences (Yuck. No.)
The Three Musketeers