Since Christmas I’ve had the chance to read quite a bit. My college has a one month break over January, which I should be using to write senior papers, but that pursuit has been delayed by my reading list.
A Widow for One Year, by John Irving
This novel is really long, but worth every bit of time it requires. Its plot is exciting and endearing, with highly developed central characters and a great balance between situations that are foreign, odd, and exciting, and situations that hit powerfully close to home. There is a lot of sex, but its existence in the novel is tasteful and very important in the end – go John Irving! Themes include parent/child relationships, storytelling, writing fiction (all three main characters are fiction writers in one way or another), dealing with the past, sex, marriage, and of course (here comes the most vague word in existence) – love. Those themes probably cover most of life in general, but like I said, its a long book.
The Polysyllabic Spree, by Nick Hornby
This book is a collection of about a year’s worth of Nick Hornby’s contributions to The Believer. I got The Polysyllabic Spree as a gift with the first issue of my subscription to The Believer. Each month he writes about the books he bought and the books he actually read. He diverges from the subject pretty often to discuss subjects like his autistic son and his favorite football (soccer) team, but the divergences were fun and usually tied back to books in interesting ways. For those of you who don’t know of Nick Hornby, he wrote some highly entertaining novels including High Fidelity and How to be Good.
I enjoyed the book quite a bit, though I’m glad it ended when it did. It was the perfect length for a book of its kind, and didn’t drag on until it started to get redundant and/or boring. I liked hearing his take on the books he read, and added a few to my reading list. His philosophy on choosing books to read in the little time adults usually have for such things was both informative and at times comdedic in a post-modern way.
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
This book is OK, but probably only worth reading if you consider yourself a Jane Austen fan. Its plot is somewhat bare, its hilights often too quaint, and its lessons not unique or in need of much foregrounding. Odd that it came out only four years after Pride and Prejudice (perhaps the best book I have ever read), since Austen’s mind seems to have aged 30 years between the two novels. Pride and Prejudice contains fascinating characters and a lively, captivating plot, but Northanger Abbey lacks all such recommendations. Still, the prose is pleasant and the thoughts it inspired were often enough to make me smile.