Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April Book Fool.

I'm not EVEN going to apologize for not updating. You don't care, and I don't either!

Here are the things I read in the cruelest month. Literally, not one was for fun. Although some of them were fun.

Frank Norris, Vandover and the Brute
Incredibly depressing and sad. Possibly the most depressing book I've ever read. I don't know how in the world Norris does it, but by the end of the book he has you feeling tender pity for the horrible, horrible main character.
Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware
Also depressing. What is WITH these 19th century American literary naturalists?
Pauline Hopkins, Of One Blood
Not depressing in the least. In fact, hilarious. Like a combination of a Gothic tale with a Rider Haggard novel. There's mesmerism! And incest! And miscegenation! And hidden civilizations! Really very interesting from a critical point of view as well as a popular one.
Henry James, In the Cage
Story of a telegraph operator who meddles with the affairs of her clients and marries an ambitious grocer. (But, as always with HJ, it's really about FAR, FAR more than that - it's about discontent, and perception and imagination, and social class, and about a million other things.)
Henry James, The Jolly Corner
I'd never read this before. I heart Henry James. Creepy tale of a doppelganger (imaginary? No way to know with HJ!) Exploration of identity and roads not taken.

And a bunch of articles on these works (I'm not going to synopsize them because I can't imagine that anybody else really gives a shit.)
John Nickel, “Eugenics and the Fiction of Pauline Hopkins”
Thomas Otten, “Pauline Hopkins and the Hidden Self of Race”
Laura Briggs, “The Race of Hysteria: ‘Overcivilization and the ‘Savage’ Woman in Late Nineteenth-Century Obstetrics and Gynecology”
Richard Menke, "Telegraphic Realism: Henry James's In the Cage"
Pamela Thurschwell, “In the Cage, at the Ouija Board,” from Literature, Technology, and Magical Thinking, 1880-1920
Semir Zeki, “Neural Concept Formation and Art: Dante, Michelangelo, Wagner,” from Neurology of the Arts: Painting, Music, Literature

Gillian Beers, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter
Started about 3 days ago. FASCINATING study of how science and culture interact in the 19th century. Beers is a fabulous close reader and extremely erudite (I think she's actually Dame Gillian now, in fact.) Highly recommended to those who are at all interested in the 19th century or in the interplay between science and culture. Not too abstruse; I think it could be read for pleasure by somebody only relatively geeky.
Robert Loewenberg, "Darwinism Comes to America" and "The Reaction of American Scientists to Darwinism"
Bob Richardson, William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism
Started and have been treating myself to a few pages a night. Bob Richardson is a fantastic writer who really makes his subjects come alive. He's married to Annie Dillard, also a writer of lovely and luminous prose, and he's written the definitive intellectual biographies of Emerson and Thoreau. I believe that this will become the definitive intellectual biography of James. Could absolutely be read for pleasure by any non-geek at all (and in fact was intended for a lay audience; he even refrains from excessive footnoting!) I took a class from him and he's simply amazing.
Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity
Started, didn't finish, only because I ran out of time before class. I will finish this eventually (along with all the OTHER books I didn't get to finish.)
Richard Rorty, "Postmodernist Bourgeois Liberalism," "Ethics without Principles" (from Philosophy and Social Hope), "Dewey Between Hegel and Darwin," "The Consequences of Pragmatism for Literary Study," and "Pragmatism as Romantic Polytheism"
Rorty's an entertaining polemicist with a vivid writing style. He pisses a lot of people off, and I like that in a philosopher. He's not super rigorous philosophically, which I'm actually fine with. Actually a pretty fun read.
John McGowan, book on liberalism in America (no final title as of yet.)
Another professor's book. Really, really concise and interesting treatment of liberalism in America. He creates a genealogy of liberalism going all the way back, and then brings it to the present-day crisis of liberalism. He marks out a pragmatic vision of what a democratic society can be. Very, very good (and John's a very, very interesting thinker/teacher as well as a lucid writer.) Any avid reader of the New York Times political editorials would love this book; it's written for a lay audience. Highly recommended. Coming out from UNC Press (I think) in 2008. Look for it!

There's my list. Isn't it the ultimate irony that one goes to graduate school in English literature because one likes to read, and then is not able to read for pleasure again for at least 7 years? :( But most of these books were pretty awesome, actually.


Blogger Mama Monster said...

Hey, I was inspired by your blog to start a blog. It's not interesting, but it is fun. I'm such a copy cat.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous MaryP said...

I'll have to look into those Henry James. I haven't read anything by him in years and years and years. I could feasibly have read one or both of the two you list and completely forgotten!

As I approached my graduation (with a mere BA in English), I plotted my small act of celebration and defiance: for a full six months, I would read nothing but pulp and fluff. NOTHING! Bwah-ha! Imagine the freedom!!

I don't know if I made the full six months before a severe case of literary indigestion and mental starvation sent me to meatier pastures (how's THAT for a mixed metaphor??), but the attempt was fun!

10:54 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Hi, Heath-I forgot you were doing this book project, but have you heard about this website called Library Thing? It's my favorite new time waster, after food blogs, of course. Here's the link: http://www.librarything.com/

12:15 PM  

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