Saturday, October 23, 2010

Siberia, Lucky to Be Here, and P.S.

Don't get up.  I'm writing this in lounge position.  See all those pillows?  I'm pretending I'm Oblomov.   Every time my husband sees me, he says, "You're still in your pajamas."  Yup.  There are days like this.  You read and sip tea and finally jump into your shoes just to go downstairs and do the laundry. Then you recline again. I was supposed to make squash soup, but in the end I didn't feel up to it. 
I have four books going, three of which are classics, and I'll report on them later.  One is a real classic (NOT Madame Bovary; I've already given up on that, and, alas, find Lydia Davis's translation even clumsier than Alan Russell's); a 1980s novel by a Big Name; and one extremely good contemporary novel by a little-known English writer.  The fourth, alas, I can't recommend:  a Y.A. paranormal romance I was suckered into buying after it somehow got the lead review on the L.A. Times Books Webpage.  

Because of my susceptibility to well-reviewed bad books, I've begun a moratorium on book-buying.  I'm lighting a candle and flashing the peace sign to publishers in hopes that they'll "release" better books next year.
But here are some books, recommended by various reivewers, that I do want to read.  Perhaps they're good.  

1. Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. We love Sandy Frazier's books. He's intelligent, funny, and does good research.  Of course, he doesn't know us, but we call him "Sandy" because I interviewed him once and that seemed to be his name.  I obtained his autograph on a copy of Family, a memoir of growing up in Hudson, Ohio, combined elegantly with his family history, which I highly recommend.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle,  "Frazier was in his early 40s when he became 'infected' with a love for Russia. (He is now 59.) After meeting the Russian conceptual artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, Frazier became friends with Melamid and his wife, Katya. They invited him to accompany them on a 1993 trip to Moscow - their first trip home after a 15-year exile - and Frazier found Moscow to be merely a gateway drug to Siberia, where he would return time and again over subsequent years, like a hopeless years, like a hopeless addict. "At what point can you say you have traveled in Siberia enough?" he writes.

2.  Keith Richards's Life.  I didn't know who Keith Richards was till I heard that a friend of a friend had had an affair with him. I love the Rolling Stones, never followed any rock stars' lives, and didn't know any of their names (except Mick). I am, however, interested in the survival thing after the deaths of so many:  Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Keith Moon, Kurt Cobain, and surely one of the Rolling Stones. In the Martin Scorsese film about the Rolling Stones, Richards said he felt lucky to be here.  (And don't I know what he means, in a different way?)

The New York Times  says: "He’s been through quite a lot of phases. And they’re all on the page in “Life”: the Boy Scout (really); the tyro rocker; the lovestruck kid (mad for Ronnie Spector, unbeknownst to Phil Spector); the astonished new star; the heroin-addicted older one; the jaded veteran of countless world tours; and the longtime sparring partner of Mick Jagger....All of this is recounted with straight-up candor, and some of it is easily sensationalized. But the book’s single biggest stunner is a hand-written note on its jacket flap: 'Believe it or not, I haven’t forgotten any of it.'”  I'm quite a bit kinder to memoirs than I am to paranormal romances, so I might like it.  

3.  P.S.  Iowa City, UNESCO City of Literature, celebrates Tolstoy, Chekhov, and the UI Russian program this month.  You can attend a public reading of Anna Karenina by the fountain downtown Oct. 27-30, Wed. and Th. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.  There are also many, many other events, like a staged reading of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and an exhibit of Mauricio Lasansky's "Tolstoy."  I'm cyber-inviting A Work in Progress (who inspired me to reread AK last spring) and Dovegreyreader might as well come, too, since she's reading War and Peace.  I don't live in Iowa city, but it's a lovely town.

No comments: