Lists for 2007

Apologies for the hiatus; busy is as apt a descriptor I can think of without sounding whiny. So, for your reading pleasure I’m going to post the reading lists for two of the three literature courses I’m taking in the spring.  I’m not sure how I’ll actually get all the reading done (not to mention all the inevitable papers, etc) but I am looking forward to reading all of these books.  I used to be able to study any subject, read anything at all, without disliking it, but as my schedule has become more hectic over the last couple of years I’ve become more picky. For example, I might die if I have to sit through an entire course on Milton, or Chaucer.  A few years ago I would have done it cheerily.  Not anymore!  This is what I’m looking forward to:

Contemporary Fiction (focus: the role of history)

  • Robert Penn Warren, _All the King’s Men_ (1946)
  • Thomas Pynchon, _V._ (1963)
  • Ishmael Reed, _Mumbo Jumbo_ (1972)
  • Louise Erdrich, _Tracks_ (1988)
  • Toni Morrison, _Beloved_ (1988)
  • Julia Alvarez, _In the Time of the Butterflies_ (1995)
  • William T. Vollman, _Europe Central_ (2005)

The Craft of Contemporary Fiction

  • The Ecstatic, LaValle
  • Motherless Brooklyn, Lethem
  • Dangerous Husband, Shapiro
  • Jimmy Corrigan, Ware
  • The Devil’s Larder, Crace
  • Magic for Beginners, Link
  • Home Land, Lipsyte
  • The Intuitionist, Whitehead
  • Best Seats in the House, Morris
  • The Virgin Suicides, Eugenides

I’m also taking a single author study on Eudora Welty. I started Europe Central and am sufficiently intimidated. I have no idea what’s going on, and it might be the longest novel I’ve ever attempted to read. If you have any opinions about any of these books, please send them over.

12 thoughts on “Lists for 2007

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  1. General thoughts and comments:

    All the King’s Men: Classic novel. Very rich if you know about the life and death of Huey P. Long.

    V: Spectacular. Probably the greatest debut novel of the twentieth century.

    Tracks: A group of short stories that functions like a novel.

    Beloved: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, won Morrison the Nobel, and basically the most beloved (har har) and touted book of the latter 20th century.

    Europe Central: Ugh. Only slightly better than reading “Rising Up, Rising Down.” A much better introduction to Vollman would be “The Atlas” but it’s not history-oriented.

    Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Boy in the World: Here comes the Graphic Novel!

    Also, you forgot to list Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides on the Craft of Contemporary Fiction list.

  2. How quickly we become out-of-date. There was a time I knew who was writing Contemporary Fiction, but your list is an utter mystery to me. I wasn’t sure for a while which were the titles, which the authors names. But I will do you a favor, if you like. Assign me a book from the list and I’ll find it, read it before you do, and let you know what to expect. Really.

  3. My pleasure. In fact, I read that one when it was new and while I don’t have a copy any more, I think I know where to find it. (That first list is the one I DO know something about. As for the nine names on the Craft list, I’m at an utter loss.)

  4. Well, if you want a really new one, how about Home Land? I haven’t gotten my hands on that either. I’ll post on the titles I have managed to read in the last week, shortly.

  5. OK, ambergeek! I’ve been to the Barnes and Noble and it is good. Came back with Home Land by Lipsyte and read two chapters last night. You’ll enjoy it, I think. It’f funny and sharply written. I don’t know your taste, but it’s very light. There may be a dark deep underbelly that hasn’t started to appear yet, and, granted, the author is not leading a well-ordered enviable life, but the tone is anything but serious. Depending on whether you like it or not, you’ll describe it as either bitingly satirical or snotty, maybe snarky splits the difference. As a stylist, our author doesn’t waste much time searching for the perfect phrase, he’s happy to toss off half a dozen one-liners and let the chips fall. As a result, the tone of voice is wildly inconsistent, but there’s plenty of language to enjoy. Plenty. Of. Language. It’s fun and funny and probably best used intermittently for comic relief between long sittings with your Robert Penn Warren.

    Just my first impressions.

  6. Back again, ambergeek! Home Land is a hoot all the way through. It took me a while to find a level on which to appreciate the voice, but the man can write. He never drops the snarky tone, despite dark details in the plot, but that’s probably the point. Or, knowing how well he does this voice, he spun his tale oblivious to my impressions and let me do the work of deciding what he was up to. There are novelistic triumphs and disappointments all along the way. Should I send you the book? You’re welcome to it. You could send me a paperback you’ve already read. We’ll trade. I could mark up my copy, or send it along with some notes to guide your reading. I promised to help and I have you to thank for turning me on to a new talent, so I consider us even already. Let me know.

  7. Thanks davidbdale–I have good recommendations from several sources now. Everyone has been talking about Lipsyte forever and I can’t wait to get on that boat. Nah, I don’t need your copy. I’m well-stocked for the semester. Thanks for the offer though. You should check out The Intuitionist if you want something really original.

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