Distractions, Distractions, but Reading Nonetheless

Keeping the commitment to my 100-novels reading project (see here for explanation) seems harder than I thought it would be when I first began the project in 2006, especially when it comes to writing about the books I’ve been reading. Always, distractions.

If you’ve been following the blog lately, you’ll see one distraction has been an experiment, a six-part post, a personal essay about my recent appendectomy and its effect on my reading and writing. Writing that essay (which I’m revising and hoping to submit) led me to a renewed interest in another favorite genre — creative nonfiction — and along with rereading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I’ve also plunged into a classic of creative nonfiction, Joan Didion’s The White Album.

Lady Chatterley I first read in graduate school when I was in my early twenties and more apt to accept fiction as a source of secular scripture; I needed something to replace the vanishing evangelical Christianity I had been reared on (that upbringing was nowhere near as frightening as the one Julia Scheeres describes in her memoir Jesus Land — another nonfiction read).

I’m no longer seeking salvation in fiction — I’m a confirmed and devout agnostic — and Lawrence’s views of sexuality are less interesting, and the sexually explicit language of the novel is hardly explicit at all now.

Another distraction has been Good Reads, a sort of literary MySpace, where I have made some comments about the books I’ve been reading, and have been searching the site to put books in my “Read,” “To-read,” and “Currently reading” bookshelves. At the site — where you can submit reviews — I was harsh about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, saying of the classic, “It’s too much people sitting around talking.”

That’s not the whole review of the novel, and I didn’t dislike the book:

Austen is a brilliant psychologist and the relationships are dynamic. It also reveals something about writing:There’s so very little description in it, a lot of dialogue, and a lot of telling instead of showing through dramatic scenes, that it violates all the ‘rules’ of creative writing, and seems to prove that there really aren’t any rules for writing. Each book creates its own rules.

At the same time that I was reading Pride and Prejudice, I was also getting “unstrunkified,” reading Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style, and noticed as I was finishing Austen how contemporary and bold Austen was when she used the phrase “oppressively high” with ironic bite to characterize Mrs. Bennet, whose chief pursuit in the novel was to get her daughters married, even if it meant one of her daughters married a scoundrel under scandalous circumstances.

Despite the distractions, I do plan to keep up the 100-novels project. So, gentle readers, keep reading, and I will keep reading, too.


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