Thursday, December 31, 2020

Books and things, 2020 edition

Books and other things read:

The Penguin Book of Chinese Verse (Kotewall and Smith, trans.)
Late Renaissance and Baroque Music by Alec Harman and Anthony Milner
"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens
The Brandons by Angela Thirkell
Irisches Tagebuch by Heinrich Böll
The Landed Estates of the Esterhazy Princes by Rebecca Gates-Coon
The Hegel Variations by Fredric Jameson
The Art of String Quartet Playing by M.D. Norton
The Hapsburg Monarchy 1618-1815 by Charles Ingrao
Before Lunch by Angela Thirkell
The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning
The Spoilt City by Olivia Manning
Friends and Heroes by Olivia Manning 
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie 
Lexicon of Musical Invective by Nicolas Slonimsky
Arkady by Patrick Langley
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan 
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes
A Mariner's Miscellany by Peter H. Spectre
Marquee Moon by Bryan Waterman
The Seven Madmen by Roberto Arlt
Death Wins a Goldfish by Brian Rea
The Trojan War Museum by Ayşe Papatya Bucak 
Helen in Egypt by Hilda Doolittle 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight trans by Brian Stone 
The Danger Tree by Olivia Manning 
The Battle Lost and Won by Olivia Manning
The Sum of Things by Olivia Manning 
Miles From Nowhere by Barbara Savage 
Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather 
Arsene Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice Leblanc 
The Party and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov 
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare 
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen 
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler 
The Twilight of Equality? by Lisa Duggan 
Letters of Ludwig van Beethoven 
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol 1 by Edward Gibbon 
The Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch 
Cheerfulness Breaks In by Angela Thirkell 
A Friend From England by Anita Brookner 
After the Wake by Brendan Behan
Charis in the World of Wonders by Marly Youmans 
The Black Cloth by Bernard Binlin Dadié
The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien 

This has been a year of non-fiction reading, mostly, or at least more than usual.It's also been a year with a theme of classics, by which I mean myth and writing that spins out therefrom. All of it has been informative, entertaining, and otherwise entirely worthwhile. The semi-fictional WWII series of novels by Olivia Manning was a particular treat, highly recommended. I did not read nearly as much poetry in 2020 as I'd intended, but the HD book was disorienting in all the best ways. I hope to read more poetry in 2021, as well as more collections of letters, folktales, myths, and the rest of Mr Gibbon's Imperial Rome fantasy series.

Marly Youmans' latest novel, Charis in the World of Wonders, is a great book that I hope to write about soon. I confess that for some time I have been--am still, actually--ill and not thinking as clearly as I might like, so writing anything of any length is a bit of a chore at present.  So I'll just say for now that Charis is a rich tapestry of invention, a lovely long song of many overlapping themes. As with so much of Youmans' work, it is a myth writ on human scale, an instruction manual for discovering beauty and love in this fallen world. I do not exaggerate.

Things and other things done:

Novels pitched to publishers and agents. Once again, nobody in the publishing world has shown any interest in my work. I begin to see the vaguest outline of a pattern. I have poked at revisions to my most recent novel, but I have not written anything new this year. Vague plans, etc, for the future. We'll see.

Schubert, Dvorak, Mozart, and Bach played on the violin. Bach et cetera played on the piano. Some dusty old Sor and Tarrega studies played on the guitar. Music is always satisfying labor.