Tuesday, April 29, 2008


It's too soon to write this, but oh, well.

When I was twenty years old, the writer Harlan Ellison ordered me to read Remembrance of Things Past and threatened never to speak to me again until I'll at least read the first volume of it, Swann's Way. All these years later, I haven't read so much as a chapter of Proust. I don't know whether to be ashamed or perversely satisfied about that.

But I do feel a little embarrassed reading over everyone's Weekend Assignment entries this week. Most of you seem to have a broad range of reading interests that put mine to shame. I haven't read a biography in several years, haven't read any Jane Austen except Pride and Prejudice (and that was in college), never got through Tom Jones, and when was the last time I read an entire Shakespeare play? As far as genre stuff goes, I've never read Christie or Grisham, Le Carre or King. The closest I've gotten to reading horror is Buffy novels, and a few non-Xanth offerings by Piers Anthony. And what am I reading right now? A 1997 Doctor Who novel, The Well-Mannered War, by the guy who wrote the 2007 tv episode "The Shakespeare Code."

And yet the Museum of the Weird is filled with books, many of which I've read or at least perused. I have a fairly large collection of children's classics, every L'Engle novel and most of her non-fiction, a lot of Thurber, and quite a few poetry collections and anthologies. I was starting on a nice little collection of Holmesiana when I married into John's more substantial one. My reading includes fantasy, sf, nature guides, tv tie-ins (obviously), Disneyana, Peanuts, and books on writing, midcentury modern design, and the history of technology (James Burke rules!). Put like that, I guess it's not so one-sided, but I probably need to expand my horizons.

Earlier this evening I happened to think of the book that first introduced me to the Bard, Tales From Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. I dug it out tonight to have a look at it. My edition is copyright 1924 (1925 in the Philippine Islands; how does that work exactly?), and was illustrated by Frank Godwin. Unfortunately, the book, which probably belonged to my grandmother, is in fair-to-poor condition. The binding is torn and loose; John, who took classes in book repair in his librarian days, says it should be reglued with acid-free glue. There are also signs that something chewed the edge of the first forty pages or so. I blame Eowyn, the gerbil I had in college in 1976. I can live with the fact that it's almost impossible to read a 1990s Doctor Who novel without the cover coming off, but I don't think I dare read this. Fortunately, it's available online, having been digitized by Google Books and the Gutenberg Project and other entities, in a couple different editions. Yay. Maybe a downloaded version of this 1807 book will serve as a warm-up for renewing my acquaintance with the real thing.

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Speaking of renewing my acquaintance with books online, I looked up a Sherlock Holmes quote last night and ended up reading the entire short story "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" on someone's blog. Any you know what? I loved it just as much as I did thirty years ago. ("Strange the way the brain controls the brain!") I went to dig out the story in book form tonight, but my beat up copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes is hiding from me, as are the reprints of the later Holmes books with the original illustrations. Drat. I really don't want to disturb our copy of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Guess I'll do any further reading of the later stories online.

Hmm. Maybe I should download some Jane Austen while I'm at it. And The Tempest.



DesLily said...

reading is all about enjoying what we read... it doesn't matter what the subject matter is.. (fantasy/ biography).. just that we enjoy it!

Becky said...

I'm in a genre rut too...but my MIL may have just forced me out of it. She gave me a biography and a work of fiction by the same author for my birthday. She loved them and thought I might as well. Apparently she read about the bio in an article about black authors during black history month. It's so far outside my normal rut that I'm curious to see how I'll like them. I'll let you know. LOL

Kiva said...

I am always envious of people who read one genre or about one subject. If you need to know an esoteric fact in their expertise, all you need to do is call and ask. Usually they don't even hesitate. My Hubby is like that... if he can't find a new book on naval history (especially British), he'll read the ones he has over and over until we have to buy him new ones. Yet outwardly, he appears normal...

Florinda said...

In a way, I'm on the opposite side of this; I really don't read in particular genres, and I find that it makes it more difficult for me to answer the basic question, "What kind of books do you read?" "So, what's that book about?" is even harder to answer sometimes, especially when the story doesn't have a simple plot summary.

I got my first real exposure to Shakespeare via the Lamb book; I think I was about eleven or twelve years old at the time. I've thought about reading through it again, just to refresh myself on what various plays are about.

Anonymous said...

It's both a terrible and wonderful feeling, to think I will never get to all the things I want to read or should read, in this lifetime.

Enjoy The Tempest and Jane Austen. One of these days I'll get to Sherlock Holmes. . .