ms_bracken (ms_bracken) wrote,

Vincennes Review of Books 2009

I read a total of 36 books this year - 32 new, 4 re-reads - which is slightly disappointing. For those of you who think that this is not a bad total, here is a graph to illustrate why I am slightly disappointed. New books are pink, re-reads are blue.

This year, I re-read The Great Gatsby, Lolita, and Wonder Boys, which are the books I would describe as my three favourite books ever. And The Complete Yes Minister, not in my top fifty but always fun.

Last year started with one young adult book - Twilight, a plague and a pox on society and all it touches - and ended with another - Holes, which is essentially My First Prayer For Owen Meany and which I enjoyed a great deal. (Technically, the last book I read in 2009 was Freakonomics, so imagine that I am talking, here, about the last book with content that I read last year)

2009 was the first year since 2005 that I have read three Iris Murdoch books in a single year. This is a lot of Iris Murdoch books. The last one I read, The Unicorn, felt sort of monged off, which might be an unfair judgement based on the fact that I was pretty in tune, by that stage, with how the plot was likely to unfold. This means that I have now read exactly half of the novels she has written, so let's take a look at the Iris Murdoch runrate to see when I am likely to have finished reading the complete works.

You will note that doing this before I am 30 will involve reading five of her books this year, working up to six next year, and then one before my birthday in 2012. There is no way I am going to do this. It would be a fairly miserable exercise. 2016/17, based on current averages, seems reasonable.

I finally read Metamorphoses, and do not know why I delayed that so long - it is terrific fun, way easier than I thought it would be, and made me want to read more Ovid. On the other end of the spectrum, I did not expect to like The Devil Wears Prada as much as I did, although that was me literally judging a book by its cover - I love books that are set in offices and moderately well written, and this is both of those.

By contrast, I expected to love Possession, and it ended up being a bit of a slog - I think the turning point was when it is noted that the "bad" character's numberplate was [something] 666 (why not just give him horns as well, AS Byatt) and it ended very, very abruptly given the 475 pages of what was, basically, just buildup.

Also worth noting is Nabokov's Laugher In The Dark, which works superbly as a precursor to Lolita - if you have not read the latter, read it and then read Laugher In The Dark, if you have, re-read it and then read Laugher In The Dark (I can lend either or both, obviously). It's a lot like reading the story of a minor character in Lolita, specifically the prostitute with whom Humbert sleeps at the start of the book - Margot's story in Laugher In The Dark could easily have been Monique's backstory in Lolita. It's good in its own right (Nabokov didn't think so, but ignore him), although more interesting as part of the canon that also includes Pale Fire and Pnin.

To read this year -
i) 2666 - I enjoyed The Savage Detectives a great deal! I am told this is better!
ii) Moby Dick - because I haven't read it before. awesomewells and slightlyfoxed - both of whom have read it - screwed up their faces like socks when I stated my intention to read this, but I own it now and should not wuss out.
iii) More Patrick Hamilton, Hangover Square was great.
iv) More Lee Child, I've let that slip recently and could, actually, read all the Jack Reacher books before I'm 30 if I want to.
v) Also, sort of want to reread Anna Karenina, it is lovely and it's ages since I last read it.
Tags: vrb
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