I’ve read several good books lately: I recently finished Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (who wrote The Time-Traveler’s Wife), a sort of modern-day ghost story set in London, featuring two sets of twins, long-buried family secrets, and a sprawling Victorian cemetery famous as the final resting place of Karl Marx. I also read Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell, a Victorian-era writer who is vaguely reminiscent of Jane Austen. Cranford is a slight, gentle tale of the goings on a small English town that is chiefly ruled by a group of middle-aged women. It was the basis for two miniseries that aired on PBS, Cranford and Return to Cranford. I highly recommend it. Finally, I discovered the Stanza app for my iPhone, and have been downloading free public-domain books. I read The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, which I’d never read as a child (though I was a big fan of the 1996 live action movie featuring several Monty Python veterans). I just love Mr. Toad (I even love the ride at Disneyland!).
Next up on the iPhone is something a bit more intimidating – George Eliot’s Middlemarch. From what I’ve heard, this is one of those books you either love or hate. I remember not being a big fan of the author’s Silas Marner , which I read in high school.
I was actually inspired to read Middlemarch by an essay in another book I’m reading, Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind, a series of essays she’s written on books and writing. Smith wrote one of my favorite fiction books of the last few years (well, I read it in the last few years; it was published in 2000), White Teeth. I liked it so much I can almost forgive Smith for publishing her first novel to acclaim at age 25 and being gorgeous to boot. Changing My Mind is a bit of a mixed bag, so far, as essay (or short story) collections tend to be, but it’s making me think, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s occasionally over my head, mostly in that literary criticism way where I have to remind myself that the point eludes me not because I’m dumb but because lit crit is a whole ‘nother language and I shouldn’t feel any more stupid for not understanding it than I do for not understanding Swahili.
I also just started The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2007. I haven’t gotten more than five pages in, so I can’t say much about how I like it, but I’ve heard lots of good things about it, so I’m hopeful.
What is everyone else reading?