Tuesday, 25 November 2008

A literary hunkering down for the winter. . .

Is it because the first cold snap has hit Toronto - it feels like January out there - or is it worries about the world economic crisis that has me predicting that I'll be cocooning at home a lot in the next few months? I've been stockpiling future reads and am finding myself irresistably attracted to long and challenging (not just in length but style and subject) books that will keep me happily engaged for days and days of intense reading. Here's what's on my-to-be-read-sooner-than-later, pile.

Starting with Alfred Döblin's monumental 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz about a small-time criminal in the 1920s Berlin underworld, with a narrative style reminiscient of Joyce. This is the one I'll probably start first in preparation for Cinematique's December showing of all fifteen hours of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1980 film adaptation. Yes, most of my friends think I'm nuts, but it's going to be shown over three days, so hardly unbearable, and it so rarely comes to the theatre that I can't miss the opportunity to see it on the big screen. I'm up for the marathon challenge and I have a few weeks to finish the 600 plus page novel first.

Then there's the hottest book being reviewed in blogworld right now - Roberto Bolano's novel 2666 (900 pages), available for the first time in English translation. The publishers have simulataneously and sensibly issued it as a hardcover and as a three volume paperback edition in a slipcase. This latter version is the one I bought and since the reviews have been stellar - it's definitely one I'm anxious to dive into.

Another 1920s modernist novel I've long had my eye on is Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter about a Scandavian woman's life during the Middle Ages. It's also part of my ongoing project to read at least one work by every Nobel Prize winner (she won it in 1928). My edition is over 1000 pages. And then there's Hermann Broch's trilogy The Sleepwalkers, which The Complete Review calls, "one of the towering achievements of 20th century literature." It follows characters from 1880 to the end of the First World War using a variety of styles and pastiches of styles. It clocks in at 648 pages.

Other books I'm dying to read:
Summer in Termuren by Louis Paul Boon (one of Belgium's greatest novelists)
The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell (this isn't out in Canada until March, but I've gotten hold of an early galley)
New Lives by Ingo Schulze (about East Germany after falling of the Berlin Wall)
And maybe it's finally the perfect time to get around to Robert Burton's 1400 page Anatomy of Melancholy. Or the other classics I've always been meaning to read - Dante, Paradise Lost, The Decameron, etc. Recession, what recession? My bookshelves at least are rich.

4 comments:

Rose City Reader said...

Kristin Lavransdatter is top on my New Year reading list as well. I gave it to my sister for Christmas last year and she loved it.

I like to read some big, chewy novel to start the year off right. And I am also trying to tick those Nobel winners off my list.

Blithe Spirit said...

Yes, the colder weather just invites a longer stay in some fictional world. I like to brew a very large pot of tea and read for hours in my favourite reading chair.

Stewart said...

"Other books I'm dying to read:
Summer in Termuren by Louis Paul Boon (one of Belgium's greatest novelists)"

Have you read Chapel Road. Apparently Summer In Termuren is a sequel, of sorts, to it.

Blithe Spirit said...

No I haven't - and I didn't know that Chapel Road was a prequel - I guess I should read that one first then. Or does it not matter? At any rate, I'll look for a copy. Thanks!