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My wife was genuinely, beamingly happy when she woke up, and for the first time in I can't remember how long, and my response to this was to fall asleep for three hours, many knots having undone themselves. When I woke up she promptly fell asleep for probably similar reasons. So I read more Calvino.

I've been reading Calvino almost exclusively and have nearly run out of him, at least fiction-wise, though detouring briefly back into Borges last week:

52. The Humbling
53. The Path to the Spiders' Nests

Good, not great novel. Very first-novel. Earns your affection though.

54. Marcovaldo

Wonderful book; Calvino thought of it as for kids.

55. Borges' Selected Poems (1923-1967)
56. 24 Conversations with Borges
57. Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges

The latter, with Richard Burgin, I'd read before, but now realize Bloom got his "living labyrinth" phrase from there (first conversation). Though of course Borges may have also used it elsewhere that I also forgot about.

58. Difficult Loves (US)

Probably mentioned earlier that there's some publishing insanity going on with Calvino's stories of the '40s and '50s--the British editions have several the American ones don't and vice versa, and they're all hashed up among several volumes with content order only vaguely alluding to those of the original Italian ones. There's also about ten stories that were simply never translated--maybe Calvino's whim? but none of this looks very planned. Two of the volumes share the same title, too: Difficult Loves (UK) has only a little bit of content overlap with DL (US), while including a few stories it lacks, like the great "Adventures of the Married Couple" which I love, and the novella A Plunge into Real Estate which I'll get to shortly.

These stories are great, and a lot of them you need to read. The '40s ones are sometimes so good as much from the exciting period they're dealing with as what their young author does with them, but by the '50s Calvino is already firmly world class. Particularly amazing are the "Adventures of..." series of stories, which are tied together by method to some extent, but disparate subject matter of which may have prevented their getting the attention they deserve.

I loved most of all the Adventures of a Traveler, of a Reader, of a Near-Sighted Man. Bather I've long admired, and Clerk is wonderful too (as is its variant Wife in the UK volume). Photographer I'll have to reread, and Soldier since I was falling asleep at the time. Poet was just okay, but I may have been missing something there too. The UK volume retitles Transit Bed from the US one as Adventure of a Crook, despite it not really fitting the pattern. That story is amusing but little more.

Of the '40s stories Julie loved best Theft in a Pastry Shop, Big Fish Little Fish and Lazy Sons, and I agree, especially about the latter. I'd add Adam One Afternoon and the Enchanted Garden, lovely communist fables prefiguring Argentine Ant to some degree. One of the Three is Still Alive is the best of his war stories, worthy of Tolstoy but deeply Calvinian.

As for the others, Animal Woods, The Crow Comes Last, Dollars & the Demimondaine and Desire in November are all very fun. Crow in particular has some pretty amazing narrative momentum. Sleeping Like Dogs is another great insomnia story.

Fear on the Footpath, Hunger at Bevera, & Going to Headquarters are all good and exciting partisan stories, up with the better moments of Path to the Nest of Spiders. Mine Field is good too. A Goatherd at Luncheon was after some political subtlety that eluded me (self-castigation? Leaving Again Shortly, in one of the equivalent UK volumes, seems to be that, to which Lazy Sons is a sublime self-defensive rejoinder). A Ship Loaded with Crabs seemed to be just out for pointless fun. The House of the Beehives I didn't get either, but it was interesting and anticipated one of his late-phase narrative modes.
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51. Fiskadoro

I liked it.
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Trying to finish reading fifty books this year, since I noticed in recent years I've been averaging an appalling twenty, twenty-five. The conditions of my existence haven't actually changed, so this has meant (lamely) sticking to very short books. I count about 40 so far:


Novels: Explosion in a Cathedral, Suttree, Blood Meridian, Norwegian Wood, Notes from Underground, Watcher/Smog/Argentine Ant, Miss Lonelyhearts, Rasselas, L'ingenu

Story collections: This Is Not a Story, Universal History of Infamy, Ficciones, The Aleph (US), Dr Brodie's Report, Book of Sand, Extraordinary Tales, Invisible Cities, Cosmicomics, t zero, Mr Palomar

Poetry collections: The Maker, In Praise of Darkness, Gold of the Tigers

Plays: The Cherry Orchard, An Oresteia, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, Lysistrata, The Misanthrope, The Cid/The Liar

Non-fiction: Letters Concerning the English Nation, Phaedrus, Gorgias, Evaristo Carriego, Book of Imaginary Beings, Borges on Writing, Seven Nights, This Craft of Verse, Other Inquisitions, Borges' Selected Non-Fictions, River Out of Eden, The Greatest Show on Earth


As I age I turn a bit, I guess inevitably, toward rereading and toward non-fiction, both once aversions of mine.

Can't beat Borges and Calvino for sheer number of great, short volumes. Read a lot else by them, too, scattered across their collections. In fact--books I didn't read through but remember reading some significant amount of/around in (mostly in the last few months, since before that I blank):


Novels: Pamela (grueling 60pp so far), Persian Letters (c. 60), Rameau's Nephew (30), Gravity's Rainbow (150 in blue one), Inherent Vice (50), All the Pretty Horses (50), Moby-Dick (30)

Story collections: Selected Stories of Kafka (several, tr. Michael Hofmann), Kafka's Parables (I think all), Cronopios and Famas (almost half), Numbers in the Dark (several), Difficult Loves (a couple), Marcovaldo (several), Selected Stories of Voltaire (several, tr. Frame), The Complete Cosmicomics (all but one of the eleven new ones), Difficult Loves (2 or 3), and everything in Labyrinths, the Borges Reader, and A Personal Anthology not included elsewhere

Poetry collections: Bishop's Collected Poems (most), Palm at the End of the Mind (some, incl. the 3 long late ones), Preambles (most), Borges' Selected Poems (both versions, many), Another Republic (maybe 1/2), Merwin's Purgatorio (to Canto 7 I think), Merwin's Translations '48-'68 (maybe half), Frost's Collected (some), Dickinson's Collected (some unknown number as always), most of Seidel's first volume (don't know what to make of him)

Plays: Hamlet (most, back and forth in it to teach), Glass Menagerie (same)

Non-fiction: Walden (around incessantly for Masters, still probably missed over half), The Maine Woods (around but much less so), Fuller's Summer on the Lakes (skim-read), Conversations with Joyce (same), Crowley's In Other Words (several essays), The Selfish Gene (several chapters), The Enlightenment (overview and anthology, most of it), American Transcendentalists (anthology, many pieces), Philosophical Dictionary (bunch of entries), The Social Contract (20 pages), Conversations with Borges (much), 8 Conversations with Borges (same), 24 Conversations with Borges (same), The Uses of Literature (several essays), A Hermit in Paris (skim-read), Hume's Human Nature Enquiry (several chapters), Aristotle's Rhetoric (skim-read), Emerson (several essays & also around), Hazlitt (same), Thoreau's essays (same), Kafka's Diaries (as always)


As usual I don't count literary criticism or theory. That isn't reading. Except Bloom, but I don't keep track with him.

Recommendations for final ten welcome. Well, final several--I'm going to have to read Hamlet and Glass Menagerie in order to grade fairly, and several class texts look exciting enough to not skim, or central enough to not avoid writing on: Caleb Williams, Paine's Crisis, Jefferson's Autobiography, Bartram's Travels.
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Books read recently that were not by Borges, Calvino, Kafka or McCarthy:

Notes from Underground: Had previously only read the first section, which I'd liked. I'm now very bored by it, and instead delighted by the second. I think he must have intended to Christianize it but ran out of time. Great luck, it stays human.

Norwegian Wood: Reads like the day content, unanalyzed, that he eventually obsesses into Wind-Up. He seems to know it, since the protagonist's first name is the same there, and there's several passages about both wells and winding up in this earlier one. Likable book, the way "Summer of '69" is a likable song ("Norwegian Wood" not so much, for me). Book and its hero have a curiously passive quality that seems to be common in Japanese fiction, e.g. Soseki's intolerable Kokoro. That too gets explained and battered into something new in Wind-Up.

Miss Lonelyhearts: Yet again, because other books were reminding me of it, like Calvino's Smog. Struck this time by some of the startlingly weird metaphors and a few other cryptic passages. And by its unstated conviction that the suffering of others is too painful to contemplate straight, hence all the ways of going crooked. Its comedy is so strangely pitched between sadism and sorrow, in a way picked up on later by Heller and Pynchon I guess.

An Oresteia: I love Anne Carson. Her Agamemnon I read with respectful interest--it's not really a play I like, in isolation from its sequels. She wakes it up but I wish she'd translate those others. She's always hilarious and provocative with Euripides, though. Her very painful, impressive Elektra I read a couple years ago, published by Oxford, who should be given props for letting her reprint it. Her profile doubtless helped--Zenith's Pessoa and the Blackmores' Hugo, ongoing but cohesive projects, are unhelpfully strewn across different publishers and journals and may never be assembled.

The Cid: Wilbur just translated this. He's still in great form with the rhyme and all, but like the lion's share of pre-1800 classics Corneille doesn't really climb past 'amusing' for me. I reread Wilbur's Misanthrope too and felt much the same thing. Perfectly executed, sure, entertaining, reasonably insightful etc. but I'd trade pretty much all of French drama for anything by Shakespeare or Ibsen. Probably even for Titus.

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