Thursday, April 14, 2005

So many books, so little time...

I finished Blindness yesterday while riding the exercise bike at the Y (thanks to Child Watch, the only way I could get some reading time this week!) There's a reason they give out the Nobel Prize for Literature. Blindness is not a book that I'll ever forget--some books can be perfectly pleasant reads and yet disappear from your memory almost instantly. This is one that is going to stick. Do you have a "stuck" book in your head? Let me know what it was (or they were).

Of course, there are also books that stick in your head that you wish you could get out. For me that book would be Jane Hamilton's The Book of Ruth which left me in such an intense depression I couldn't shake it for days. I don't care if the book was extremely well written, dwelling on perpetual misery is not my idea of a good book. House of Sand and Fog also falls into this category. It strikes me as a misuse of talent for the authors to have such a mastery of their craft and only able to communicate pain and suffering without hope. What do you other voracious readers out there think about misery and writing? I'm not a fan of the happy clappy read, mind you, but pure misery is something I'm not psychologically strong enough to take. I'd particularly be interested to see if anyone can help me reclaim the experience of reading the two books listed above so that whenever the title is mentioned I don't feel the need to groan.

I looked over the list of Nobel Laureates for literature (it's a pretty long list since the prize has been given out since 1901) and these are the authors I've read:

J.M. Coetzee
V.S. Naipaul
José Saramago
Dario Fo
Seamus Heaney
Toni Morrison
Derek Walcott
Nadine Gordimer
Octavio Paz
Wole Soyinka
Gabriel García Márquez
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Saul Bellow
Pablo Neruda
Samuel Beckett
Jean-Paul Sartre

John Steinbeck
Boris Pasternak
Albert Camus
Ernest Hemingway
William Faulkner
T.S. Eliot
André Gide
Hermann Hesse
Eugene O'Neill
Luigi Pirandello
George Bernard Shaw
William Butler Yeats
Rudyard Kipling

One thing that struck me in reading the complete list of Laureates was how many playwrights there were. I’m sure my MA in Theater from Northwestern helped me to identify some of them (it's nice to be able to put that degree to some use…). Also, among the “biggies” of 20th C lit (Hemingway, Faulkner) I saw many who I’d never heard of but who are probably immensely important in their own countries. Had I heard of Imre Kertész before looking at the list? Nope.

The Laureate that I really think I should have read by now and haven’t is Günter Grass. So I’m going to try to fit him into my reading schedule soon. However, as the Ann Arbor District Library is currently holding Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Peter Ho Davies Equal Love, Günter will have to wait his turn.


Edward Vielmetti said...

don't you love the library? for otherwise where would you put all the books

Annie said...

ah, the library. I make liberal use of the feature that allows one to request a hold from home. So convenient!