Wednesday, September 5, 2007

obooki's reading list

This is just my sort of thing. I seem to spend half my life tracking down obscure writers to read (mostly foreign). Just today I bought Ramon del Valle-Inclan's Autumn and Winter Sonatas and Harry Mulisch's The Assault - but no, however much I want to I can't read them now, I have to do this challenge instead.

My reading list:
  • Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano (1947). I was actually in the middle of his short story collection Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy DwellingPlace (he had a way with titles), so I'll post on the ones I haven't read yet. - I read Ultramarine a long time ago, which I remember being only OK.
  • Italo Svevo's Confessions of Zeno (1923). I've read As A Man Grows Older and A Life already (in fact, I read A Life this year), so Svevo isn't exactly unknown to me. I recommend A Life, though it may not be easy to come by.
  • Djuna Barnes' Nightwood (1936). I've had it on my shelf for a while.
  • Anna Kavan's Sleep has his House (1948). I've never read any of her books. People have recommended Ice before.
(Now those were the ones already on my shelf, but due to a tube strike this week, I wandered a different way home from work and - as usual with such things - discovered a charming ramshackle secondhand bookshop full of outmoded authors - all weathered orange penguins and virago modern classics).
  • Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819). I tried reading what I think is his first novel, Old Mortality, once and swore never to read any Scott again; but I'll give him one last chance.
  • Dawn Powell's The Golden Spur (1962). I'd never heard of her, but this sounds fascinating. A Virago book with an introduction by that arch-feminist Gore Vidal: "Powell was always just on the verge of ceasing to be a cult and becoming a major religion ... in her lifetime she should have been as widely read as, say, Hemingway or the early Fitzgerald or the mid O'Hara ... that unthinkable monster, a witty woman who felt no obligation to make a single, much less a final, down payment on Love or the Family; she saw life with a bright Petronian neutrality".
  • Christina Stead's The Salzburg Tales (1934). I keep buying her books, leaving them on my shelves and then giving them away without reading them. This is her first book, and seems to be a long Decameron-style festival of tales.
  • May Sarton's Kinds of Love (1970). This looks like the kind of book I would never buy and never read. A truly awful cover. The blurb: "Now in her seventies - with a disabled husband to care for - Christina has decided to spend her first winter in their summer holiday home". So it should be interesting.
  • Violette Leduc's La Batarde (1964). "You will be shocked and thrilled by her candour as she reveals the anguish of her illegitimate, poverty-stricken childhood", says the blurb.
I used to read books to the end whether I liked them or not, but as I've grown older (and a bit more frightened at the ever-increasing number of unread books on my bookshelves) I now tend to give up on anything that doesn't interest me within about the first 70 pages.

I think I'll start with Dawn Powell.

(p.s. I haven't read The Obscene Bird of Night, but I've been reading other books by Jose Donoso recently and he's quickly become one of my favourite writers).

Addendum: I do have one of the most extraordinary local library services in my borough and, from my investigations on their website, I reckon I should be able to track down Andrew Salkey, C L R James, E R Eddison, Freya Stark and maybe Orlando Patterson. (C L R James' book on Toussaint Louverture sounds really fascinating). So I may replace a few of the above with them. (They had Merce Rodoreda too, but only in Spanish).


Bybee said...

The more Anna Kavan titles I see, the more I want to read another by her!

Nic_C said...

I read _Ice_ recently and found it very striking:

Definitely looking to read more of her work in future...