Vincennes Review of Books 2007
Throughout 2007, I felt like I wasn't reading enough. In the end, I read only slightly less than I did last year - 53 new books as opposed to 56 - although significantly fewer re-reads - 3 as opposed to 8. Reasons for this include getting heavily into spacing out on the Tube on the way home and no longer having access to a fiction library, which means I had fewer ideas about what I wanted to read.
On the plus side, I seem to be reading a lot more that I like; 87% of books I read I rated as good, and only one book was rated as bad. This was, incidentally, Scarlett Thomas' Going Out
, which was stinkingly awful.
My aims for the year were to read Don Quixote
, Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace
, Barry Unsworth's Losing Nelson
, Nicolas Royle's Antwerp
, and Ovid's Metamorphoses. I read all of these except for the Ovid, which I didn't really think about until it was too late in the year to read all 700-ish pages. I also intended to read more history, but given the angst I was having about not reading enough at all, I'm not going to worry unduly about that one.Don Quixote
was a struggle until the second half, by which point people in the book had read the first half of Don Quixote
and responded to the protagonists accordingly. I struggle with episodic fiction that is set in a world entirely like ours but without that fiction (I'm looking at you
, Doctor Who) and the way Cervantes dealt with this problem felt gleeful.
What I remember the most vividly is the American literature - although I enjoyed them individually in varying degrees, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle
and Bret Easton Ellis' Lunar Park
all felt like they were linked by a shared idea of what the American grotesque is. The dissolution of families as a result of pointless cruelty formed a great deal of all of the narratives; certainly, the Ellison and the Sinclair were the most challenging books I read this year.
Re-reads were Lolita
, David Lodge's The Art Of Fiction
and Iris Murdoch's The Bell
. Lodge was fun, but I'd forgotten how much he wrote about his own novels, which I haven't read. Still, I've read more of what he talks about since I last read it, so it was rewarding from that point of view.
The best book I read this year, as last year, was an American novel - Hemingway's Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises
. I read it around March, my marginal note was "Best I read this year" (they're small margins) and it's not been bettered. I've read quite a lot of Hemingway and never quite got on with him; but the damaged narrator and the little bits of tragedy that are never spoken about quite directly were exactly what I was expecting and never found in his other books.
Aims for next year are Ovid's Metamorphoses
(again) and reading more from the library at work. Also, re-read at least one F Scott Fitzgerald, probably Tender Is The Night
. Anything else I should read this year?