Once again I’m between Pushcart and BASS, and so have several months to devote to reading other things.
Somewhere within this year bouncing between anxieties about pandemic and elections, I remembered all the re-reading I used to do. I had a whole list of books I reread every year (given how long that list was, I’m surprised I found time to read anything new). When I started blogging, re-reading stopped. That means it’s been well over a decade since I’ve read some of my old favorites. And, of course, it’s been many more decades since I read some literary standards in high school and college.
So I’m devoting this In-Between year to re-reading. Not entirely; I have quite a few new (or at least new-to-me) books on my TBR shelf. But I want to re-read some of those old-friend books (I had to buy new copies of some of them, they were so tattered from their annual outings), see if any of them look different given all the focused reading and study I’ve been doing. Do I see flaws I never noticed? Do I see more depth than I did before I started concentrating on reading for subtlety and nuance?
I’m starting with a couple of literary standards:
- Pride and Prejudice, which crops up so often in mentions I wanted to refresh my memory;
- The Great Gatsby, which ended up on the list because someone mentioned a theory in which Gatsby was a black man passing for white. That would give a whole different read, wouldn’t it.
Then, one of my all time favorite science fiction collections:
- The Past Through Tomorrow, Robert Heinlein: in recent months I’ve thought of several of the stories from this book, such as “If This Goes On…,” “The Logic of Empire,” and “The Man Who Sold the Moon.” I’ve also been thinking about The Crazy Years a lot lately. It’s possible this may lead to other Heinlein collections, like The Menace from Earth, since “By His Bootstraps” is maybe my favorite SF story of all time (and by the way it’s pretty amazing that Heinlein wrote the ultimate teenage romance as the title story).
In historical fiction:
- Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk. World War II in 1600 pages, and the only thing he left out was the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent for no good reason.
- And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts. This was spectacular journalism, following AIDS from The Feast of Hearts to Rock Hudson. For obvious reasons this has been on my mind lately: the government ignoring a health crisis for political reasons, the people most at risk unwilling to change their behaviors in the name of freedom.
And a religiously themed novel for those who can’t take religion too seriously but don’t let that stop them from contemplating the nature of God and how it all works:
- Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt. Every time I come to the end, I miss God.
- I may re-read Jo Walton’s Lent as well, though I read it not so long ago, just because it was so interesting (for those of us who find Renaissance humanism vs the Church to be interesting).
As for my “new” books:
- Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam; so many people raved about this, I had to get it.
- The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans; typically I wait for paperbacks, but I really want to read the title story (I’ve encountered two of the other stories in BASS).
- A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders; I know very little about Russian stories, so this is like taking a class.
- The New Order by Karen Bender; inspired by her story “The Shame Exchange” from Pushcart 2021, and a tempting description of the title story.
- The Chain by Adrian McKinty; every Saturday, Five Books asks, “What are you reading this weekend?” and someone mentioned this in a way that sounded terrific. An impulse selection.
- The Last Samurai by Helen Dewitt. This has nothing to do with the Tom Cruise movie, but was listed as one of the best novels ever by… I don’t remember, someone somewhere; I’ll figure it out when I get to it.
I have a couple of poetry chapbooks that I might slip in as well:
- The Book of Fly by John Phillip Johnson, bought because of his poem of the same name in Pushcart 2021.
- Gallimaufry & Farrago by Kathleen Balma; there’s a long story behind this, since I first encountered her several years ago and then just recently came across her work again.
That doesn’t sound like a lot for seven or eight months of reading. However, remember that some of those re-reads are pretty massive. And I can always get more books if I start to run out!