1. I just read Bennett Sims’s beautiful new novel, A Questionable Shape. It deals with the undead, relationships, and the private chaos that follows public chaos.
2. I’ve been reading, for months, Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse. I’m reading the sections out of order. It’s got me thinking about the telephone and form and desire.
3. My friend Miguel bought me a copy of the epistolary novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen, which I’ve just started. Lady Susan, evidently, is a beautiful and cunning seductress.
4. I’m rereading Nadja by André Breton, a book I love, and a study in narcissism, idealization, and obsession, a few of the subjects that interest me most.
5. I’m slowly reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, also a study in all of the above.
Since I have a three month old baby, I tend to have a book or two I’m in the middle of in almost every room in the house, something I can pick up and dive into either when I have a free moment or when I’m on bottle duty at 4 in the morning and we’re both pretending that if I’m just quiet and composed enough he’ll go back to sleep.
In his bedroom I have a copy of Maurice Level’s Tales of the Grand Guignol. I’m in the middle of the first novel in that, The Grip of Fear. It’s macabre, weird stuff, surprisingly gory for something written in 1908, and he’s the kind of writer who goes from being brilliant to pulpy and back in a few sentences, which makes him a lot of fun to read. The book I’ve just finished there is Joseph Roth’s Leviathan, which is a short, nicely sharp novella whose pace changes as it reaches its end.
In the living room is Iain Banks’ novel The Wasp Factory, which I’m close to finishing, and which is an obsessive murderous first person narrative. I admire Banks as someone able to switch back and forth incredibly ably between SF and literary fiction, and like what he does in both. Knowing that he’s terminally ill has given the reading a strange and melancholy quality; I’ll be very sorry to see Banks go. There’s also Ivy Compton Burnett’s 1925 novella Pastors & Masters which I’m about a quarter of the way through and liking very much. I feel with Compton-Burnett that I’m almost taking the narrative in by osmosis than following a plot (though that may be partly sleep exhaustion from being a new parent). Under that is Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero, which has been a great anatomy of a crime.
Upstairs, I just finished Hugh Kenner’s Chuck Jones: A Flurry of Drawings, which is a concise and smart book on the animator. I’ve been meaning to read it for years, and finally did, mostly between 2 am and 4 am. Finally I’m in the middle of James Salter’s All That Is, which isn’t my favorite Salter novel (that would be Light Years) but is a mighty book nonetheless. Next up, I think, once I finish one or two of these, will be Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon, which I’m very much looking forward to.