Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kara v. Book #1: November 2010

Nick Hornby writes a column for "The Believer" in which he lists all the books he's bought and all the books he's books read in a given month. It is subtitled "A hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read". Now, I know I am not nearly so awesome as Nick Hornby [1], but I am surely not a stranger to the battle of the books (as anyone who ever seen me flip out in a bookstore can attest to). And so, though I know my book reading habits are not nearly as intriguing as those of a nationally known author, I thought it might be fun to give this a go. Anyone with a violent opposition to literature or reading-related auto-immune disorder is advised to turn back now.
Barley Bear protects (and sometimes samples) my Rilke
I would like to start off by pointing out one key aspect of my book buying strategy, which is this: If I think I will read a book quickly and never look at it again (for example: fantasy novels, mysteries, bestsellers, etc.), I will generally get it from the library. If, however, I believe I will read a book slowly and refer back to certain passages in the future (for example: philosophy, "literature", poetry), I will generally buy it. This leads to an automatic (and somewhat unfair) disparity between the books I buy and those I "complete" - because "completing" a 300 page book of collected poems or a 500 page philosophy anthology in less than one month is paramount to mental suicide, and, in my opinion, ruins the experience of an art form that must at times be savored slowly. So, please have mercy on me for the all the glaring discrepancies - they are there for a reason.

So, with no further ado, here are my lists:

Books Bought:
  • Kierkegaard, a very short introduction, by Patrick Gardiner [2] 
  • Swann's Way, by Marcel Proust (translated by Lydia Davis)
  • Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
  • The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, by Albert Camus [Used]
I bought the 1991 Vintage edition of Sisyphus particularly for it's cover

Books Completed:
  • Darkness Visible, by William Styron
  • Gathering Blue, by Louis Lowry
  • The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde [Library]
Darkness Visible is currently loaned out to a friend
 Books Read in Part: Kierkegaard: A Short Introduction (30 pages), Swann's Way (10 pages), Considering the Lobster (60 pages), The Myth of Sisyphus (60 pages), A Kierkegaard Anthology (30 pages), and The Elegance of the Hedgehog (30 pages).
    Yes, it has happened! Grad school has turned me existential! In the words of Camus: "If I see a man armed only with a sword attack a group of machine guns, I shall consider his act to be absurd." [3, pg. 29] And who, as a graduate student, has not felt exactly like a lone man battling a barrage of machine fire with nought but a dull machete? - if you don't believe me, just imagine your last meeting with your advisor!

    Whether or not I am in an "existential crisis", whatever that means, I have been finding a great deal of comfort in Camus and Keirkegaard. These two philosophers double as authors, and so bring their thoughts closer to real life then some of the big boys like Hegel or Kant. For example, a quote by Camus:

    "At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous and multicolored universe can be reduced to an atom and that the atom can be reduced to the electron. All this is good and I wait for you to continue. But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this worl...d to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry: I shall never know" [3, pg 20]

    I started this entry too late - I must be getting to bed. But if you would like to know my thoughts on any of the books I mentioned, please let me know in the comments section. I am happy to discuss books at length with anyone with the patience to put up with me.



    [1] In case you are not familiar with Nick Hornby, he wrote "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy", which have been made into Hollywood films starring John Cusack and Hugh Grant, respectively. He has written a number of other novels, which in my experience are quick and breezy yet still well-written and intelligent - in other words, perfect novels to help you take your mind off of grad school or a depressing job. You should check him out!

    [2] I actually bought this book on October 31st, Halloween night, at the Harvard Coop while dressed in my costume! See, I took a picture:

    [3] Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays.Vintage International Edition, New York: 1991.

    1 comment:

    1. I LOVE THIS. I feel like you took a big long look at the giant stack of books by my bedside and wrote a blog post about them, and why some are at the bottom of that stack and why some are at the top.

      Somehow, my man is a book monogamist, sticking with one until he finishes it. Not I!