No Reverb10 posts this week, but before 2010 is over I want to write about my year in reading. I used to look forward to writing about my year in music, but as time goes by, what I read is much more interesting than what I listened to. I read a lot this year, and because I was fortunate enough to travel, most of the reading was done in places that weren’t home. The books I remember most vividly are tied to the places I visited; I can’t help it. This entry is not comprehensive, but it’s what I remember most.
At the beginning of 2010 I didn’t read many books, but I read many short stories. I was looking for tips, reassurance, kicks in the ass. I wrote this entry in December 2009, but it pretty much applies to the first few months of 2010 as well. Related: I read my book so many times during editing/rewriting that it’s hard to look at it anymore. I finally had to crack it open when deciding what to read at launches, and it was a bit painful at first.
I read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and loved it so much, but I’ve been saving the sequel, Home. She only has 3 books of fiction and I didn’t want to read them too quickly, I guess. I’ll read it in 2011. But I read Housekeeping in the summer, finished it while on vacation in Rome, and waited a bit before moving on to something else because I didn’t want to wreck the feeling of having read a beautiful, devastating book in a beautiful, ancient city. I read Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean during my first week in Agistri and felt the same way.
I read 2666 and it took forever because I had to take breaks in between all the murders. You read that many graphic descriptions of women being killed and they start to blur together; you find yourself looking forward to something even more gory so that it will distinguish itself. I didn’t like that feeling, so instead I read it slowly, was shocked by every one. I finished the book on the ferry back to Athens, at the point in the trip where you start seeing the smoggy, flattish sprawl of the city reaching the edges of the land and butting up against the sea.
I started Moby Dick and it was amazing and then half-way through I hit a wall and couldn’t read anymore. And then Andrew started reading my copy. And then the book was so big and our suitcases were so full, I didn’t pack it when I returned to Canada. I’ll read the rest of it one day, promise. I also didn’t read any of the classics I’d hoped to read in Greece, like Ovid’s Metamorphoses or whatever. I’m bad at reading important books.
I read Andrew’s photography books when I didn’t feel like fiction. Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment was my absolute favourite and I keep telling myself to read more of his books, but I always forget. Remember, self.
I read The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook in Paris by the window of the tiny apartment we rented on Rue Rambuteau.
During the heat wave in Athens I read all of Vendela Vida’s books in a row, mostly laying in bed, trying not to move.
I realized I knew very little about Greek literature. Sometimes I’d have dinner in Athens with Christianna and we’d talk about books. I got her reading Roberto Bolano and she gave me a list of essential modern Greek literary fiction. I’m going through the list very slowly, mainly because it’s hard to find the English translations. But I read The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamandis about a murder on a small, poor Greek island and am saving Myrivilis’ Life in the Tomb for Christmas vacation. I read lots of poetry and still like Seferis best. I read Rien ne Va Plus, an unsettling, but gorgeous book by Margarita Karapanou. I still have a lot more to read.
I’d read some Stephen Elliott in the past, but it didn’t really click, and then I started subscribing to the Daily Rumpus, and whenever I get those emails in my inbox, I stop what I’m doing to read them. They’re so good. Then I finally bought The Adderall Diaries in NYC, and it was amazing.
Finally, I got Joe LeSueur’s memoir, Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O’Hara, at a bookstore in Berlin. We’d read good things about the store, but it was dusty and dirty in a non-charming way and the book selection was just okay, and we were all a little disappointed. But I got this book here, and it was gossip-y and interesting and funny/sad. I wrote about it in my last zine, how Frank O’Hara’s epitaph is a line from one of his poems. It says: Grace to be born and live as variously as possible. It’s basically the best advice ever.