Reading Again

A few weeks (months?) ago, I was reading a lot of poetry and even managed to write a couple of reviews. Then I got busy with work and life, and reading took a backseat to other things (ahem, like TV and stuffing my face with snacks). While I was traveling last week, I took a couple of books with me and managed to read most of one on a plane.

Ray in Reverse by Daniel Wallace was a perfectly pleasant book to read but was sort of ho-hum. I don’t know if bathos is quite the right word for the ending, but I felt like the ending, which I think was supposed to be poignant, wasn’t worth the rest of the book, and it was a little trite. Still, I was very comfortable with the prose style, and I decided to continue with The Watermelon King, which was a much better book. It touches on all the major Southern themes and is an engaging (if not utterly realistic — which is part of its charm) tale. I gather the first part of the book recalls Faulkner in As I Lay Dying. Again the prose is very comfortable, and I thought it was a solid read. A friend had also recently read the book, and he tells me that Big Fish, which I was reluctant to read because I had already seen the movie a few years ago, is really an outstanding book, the best of the three, so I’ll plan now on getting over my reluctance and picking that up. And as of this morning, on order from Amazon is his forthcoming Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician. Wallace is a North Carolina author, I believe a graduate of and currently a professor at my alma mater in Chapel Hill, so his work has a particular appeal to me.

As I don’t have a copy of Big Fish yet but am still in a reading mood, I picked Gravity’s Rainbow back up the other night. I’ve started it a few times over the last decade and have never managed to finish it. I had the same experience with Pynchon’s V and finally got through it a few years ago (which is what provoked me to try Gravity’s Rainbow again. A year or two ago, I read maybe 650 of the 775 pages of my copy but then had to put it down for a long time because work and other things got in the way. Sometime last year, I picked it up again and decided to start from scratch, and I got 550 pages in before life got in the way again. This week, I decided to start from that point again rather than from the beginning in hopes of making it to the end. It’s not an easy book, but my interruptions these last two times haven’t been because of a lack of interest. It’s a very good and engaging book. I think I’ll finish it in the next couple of weeks (it’s rather more slow-going than Daniel Wallace’s books), and the next time I read it, I’ll do so with a reader’s guide so that I understand more than 2% of the historical and literary references.

I started rereading Gravity’s Rainbow a few months ago because Pynchon had a new book (Against the Day) forthcoming, and I wanted to get through his older stuff before trying that one. After GR, I’ve got Mason & Dixon still to plow through (it’s another one I got through a hundred or two pages of a few years ago and put down — lots of people have this experience with Pynchon, I’ve learned). To spur myself on, I did go ahead and order Against the Day this morning (Amazon had it in hardback for $7, a savings of $28, so I couldn’t resist).

I’ve also got Delillo’s newest (Falling Man) ordered, along with a book of poems published by a small press the aforementioned friend runs.

All of these purchases are made with “free” money courtesy of my Amazon credit card. It turns out that I’ve spent enough money lately on things like computers and playgrounds for Lennie and business trips that I had $125 in rewards coming to me. Spending money hand over fist has never been so fun.

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