The State of the (Reading) Lili


It was a long weekend, my friends. The best part was Quasi-Surprise Houseguests, and the kids got to go see Fantastic Beasts. I did not want to go–I’m all Pottered out, I think. Besides, putting Eddie Redmayne (and his lips) in everything is beginning to wear on my nerves a bit. He’s a good actor, but I’ve reached full saturation on him for a while. But hey, the kids liked it! I’m told it’s very visually stunning.

Instead, I spent the movie evening at home with Mann’s Death in Venice, finishing it the next morning as I stood in my office, spellbound. I’d never read any Mann before, and this was the Heim translation, which I’m told differs significantly from an older one. Now I suspect I’ll have to compare/contrast translations. It’s sad that I can’t read it in the original, a German-speaking friend tells me the sentences are marvelous bits of architecture.

I went straight from that into a book on the Korean War, but I bounced off that pretty quickly. There was a passage of breathtaking racism, not from an interview but from the author, and that killed it for me. I’ve moved on to Reza Aslan’s Zealot and Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed; the former is extremely readable and I’m hoping the latter will scratch my itch for something similar to Sir Walter Scott.

My bedtime reading, however, is Schom’s The Eagle and the Rising Sun, which is also eminently readable. Schom has an eye for human details, and though at least one reviewer got snitty about it, I enjoy my history with such little pleats and finishes sprinkled through. I hadn’t quite realized what an asshole MacArthur was in the Second World War. In the First he was a hero, there is no doubt. In the Second, well. Schom is clear about the old-boy network that protected MacArthur from the consequences of his actions, compounding the error and basically spitting on those who died as a direct result of his malfeasance and arrogance.

My Civil War research for Afterwar has reached a bit of a snag. I was halfway through Stampp on slavery in the antebellum South, but I had to lay that aside for a little bit. Current events make it even more stomach-churning than normal. Maybe when I finish the Manzoni I’ll be able to handle it emotionally. I think I have enough stuffed in my head that I just need to let it bubble and start finding my handholds inside the shape of the story itself. Later I’ll research for specifics and work my way through the backlog, but I need a breath or two before the plunge, so to speak.

I started logging my reading in an Excel spreadsheet a couple years back. It sometimes provides a necessary spur, but my inability to make charts of the information is maddening. It’s not Excel’s fault, it’s a function of my own complete non-understanding of even the most basic spreadsheet things, which drives me even crazier. I dislike being awful at things (who doesn’t?) and it would be nice to see, for example, how male and female authors stack up in my yearly reading total. So far this year, I’ve only finished forty-four books, but in my defense, that includes monstrous ones like War & Peace and Foote’s Civil War trilogy. I’d love to go at the moderate pace of a book a week, but life interferes. *sigh*

For now, it’s Monday, and that means a run and the creation of more words. I was able to luxuriate in reading for the past two days, but now it’s back to producing. Fueled, the engine inside my head is already at a high rev. It’s time for Callas singing Medea and some initial wordcount before I run to jar the rest of the day’s work loose.

Over and out.