Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books and things read, 2015

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Krokodil
Angell & Marzluff In the Company of Crows and Ravens
Scieszka & Smith The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales
Marly Youmans Glimmerglass
Gene Wolfe The Shadow of the Torturer
Anton Chekhov Sakhalin Island
Anton Chekhov "The Seagull"
Anton Chekhov "The Cherry Orchard"
Lev Tolstoy Tolstoy on Shakespeare
Anton Chekhov "Three Sisters"
Anton Chekhov "Uncle Vanya"
Anton Chekhov The Notebook of Anton Chekhov
Gorky, Kuprin & Bunin Reminiscences of Anton Chekhov
Gene Wolfe The Claw of the Conciliator
Rosamund Bartlett Chekhov: Scenes From a Life
Anton Chekhov "Ivanov"
William Shakespeare "The Tempest"
Harvey Pitcher Chekhov's Leading Lady
Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited
Edith Wharton Ethan Frome
Walter Scott Guy Mannering
Mikhail Bulgakov Heart of a Dog
Franz Kafka The Castle
Yukio Mishima Spring Snow
Anonymous The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier (Jeff Sypeck, trans)
Anton Chekhov The Steppe
Fr Alban Butler Lives of the Saints
T.S. Eliot The Waste Land and Other Poems
Julie De Sherbinin Chekhov and Russian Religious Culture: Poetics of the Marian Paradigm
Heiko Haumann A History of East European Jews
Ezra Pound ABC of Reading
Alberto Moravia Contempt
Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales
Aeschylus The Oresteia (R. Lattimore, trans)
Sophocles, the Theban plays (var trans.)
Greek Tragedies, Vol. I, Richmond Lattimore, ed.
Greek Tragedies, Vol. III, Richmond Lattimore, ed.
Hesiod Theogeny
Tristan and Iseult as told by Joseph Bedier
Henry James New York Revisited
Aeschylus The Complete Plays
Sophocles The Complete Plays
Mikhail Bulgakov A Country Doctor's Notebook
Bertolt Brecht "Der Augsburger Kreidekreis"
Arthur Scott Bailey The Tale of Rusty Wren
Mikhail Bulgakov White Guard
Various Der Weg Zum Lesen
Thucydides The Peloponnesian War (Richard Crawley trans.)
Hesiod Works and Days
Äsop Fabeln
Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter, a Critical Case Study
Selected Essays of Samuel Johnson (W.J. Bate, editor)
W.B. Yeats "Cathleen ni Houlihan"
W.B. Yeats "On Baile's Strand"
W.B. Yeats "Deirdre"
W.B. Yeats "The Death of Cuchulain"
Selma Lagerlöf The Wonderful Adventures of Nils
Anton Chekhov In The Twilight
Lionel Terray Conquistadors of the Useless
D.H. Lawrence Lady Chatterley's Lover
Euripides The Complete Plays, Vol I
Edith Wharton The New York Stories
Gertrude Stein Three Lives
Gertrude Stein QED
Alexander Pushkin The Captain's Daughter
Isak Dinesen Out of Africa
Ernest Hemingway A Moveable Feast
Sandra E. Adickes To Be Young Was Very Heaven
Michael Smith Tom Crean
David Von Drehle Triangle
Virginia Woolf Selected Stories
Gunter Grass Katz und Maus
Angela Thirkell Wild Strawberries
E.R. Dodds The Ancient Concept of Progress and other essays
Marly Youmans Maze of Blood
Jennifer Niven The Ice Master

The surprise winner of all of the above books is Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War. What a great book that is. I'm usually not a fan of history, non-fiction in general not being all that well written, frankly, but this is a tremendous book. In 2016, hopefully, I'll read Herodotus and Xenophon, the bookends of Thucydides, so to speak.

I did not, I see, finish my Greek Tragedies Project, and have one fat volume of Euripides to go. Well, it'll be waiting for me in 2016, alongside the last of the Shakespeare and everything else I haven't read yet (an infinitude of literature, which is a good thing for me because one hates to run out of new things to read). I did manage to read more books in German this year than in years past, and that's likely a trend that will only increase, though I still read German fairly slowly, depending on the writer's vocabulary and use of figurative language. But I already have a stack of German novels waiting for my attention next year, another good thing.

I would like to take a moment to recommend Jeff Sypeck's The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier, a translation of a long medieval poem that starts with a tradesman slapping a king and goes on to incorporate ideas of nobility and then swallows the Crusades whole. A ripping yarn in a strange poetic form that Sypeck makes sing in colloquial English. Buy a copy at his Quid Plura? blog.

Marly Youmans continues to put out superb novels. Early in 2015 I read her excellent Glimmerglass, a book about life and inspiration. Very late in 2015 I read her latest, Maze of Blood, which is naturally getting good reviews and you should buy two copies, give away one and read the other. I will hopefully be able to write something both worth reading and coherent about this excellent new novel. I've twice already written incoherently about it. Go read the book, is what I mean.

Because it's traditional for these obligatory "what I read this year" posts to also say something about what I wrote this year, I will tell you that I completed a first draft of a novel called Antosha!. It used to be called Antosha in Prague, but I have decided that an exclamation point is necessary for this one. It is some of my finest writing, some of my best thinking. Clearly unpublishable. I also have revised, for the nth time, a novel called Mona in the Desert. I am working on the pitch letter, so I can query the novel to literary agents in 2016. Mona is a nonlinear narrative about women and love, spanning 60-odd years, with large doses of literary theory and philosophy. Clearly unpublishable. Currently I am drafting a new novel, called Nowhere But North, a book about a fictional American expedition to Antarctica in 1914. It's about Emersonian ideals versus human decency, by which statement you can tell I think the two are opposed. The book is in three parts, which overlap and tell the story in sideways-reverse chronological order. Clearly unpublishable. I expect to finish the first draft come spring 2016, at which point I'll go back to Antosha! and revise that MS. I do not plan to write any more novels after I complete Nowhere But North. I do plan to buy more hats.

The German-language blogging seems to have been a mistake. I will do more English-language blogging. Possibly a foray into Esperanto at some point, too. Has anyone written a novel in Esperanto? Yes, I see that lots of people have.

What else, what else? In 2016, I plan to read more poetry, more Ruskin, the rest of Euripides, whatever Aristophanes I haven't read, more theology, more Melville, the final six (five?) books of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, more Virginia Woolf, more Shakespeare, more early 20th-century British women novelists, a lot of Chekhov, and I don't know what else. That Le Guin trilogy, certainly. Max Frisch's Homo Faber. The German-language edition of The Hobbit I picked up a few years ago. More Henry James. I might read Middlemarch and the epic of Gilgamesh and The Long Ships finally. I'll come up with plenty of things to read, I always do.


  1. If "Mardi" could be published in the ninetieth century (which it was), surely the Bailey manuscripts are not unpublishable in the 21st. "And that is an encouraging thought," says Gandalf.

    I'm glad to appear twice on your list. You are a grand reader.

    1. Thank you, you are a grand writer! Thank you also for the encouraging thought.

      Do you have something coming in 2016?

    2. Thank you in return! Writers who do not have lead books can always use an encouraging thought, I expect.

      No, I haven't submitted anything book-length lately. I have a lot of near-finished poetry manuscripts (at least three) and enough stories for about the same number of books. Then I have a novel I wrote for my youngest (I suppose it would be called a middle school novel, or maybe y.a.) that has been sitting around for years. I am going to take a break and get some of these things organized, as I have been lazy about collecting and getting shorter work out.

      I have a request for a novel from a big 5 publisher, so I'm thinking about whether I want to write one and, if so, whether I want to write the idea in my head or something else entirely.

      And I'm looking forward to reading more again when the eye trials pass.

  2. It's an honor to garner your recommendation in a year when you've read so much good stuff. Thank you! When I'm sitting here in front of the computer late at night, it's often blogging writers and artists like you who keep me going creatively. Thanks for that too.

    Nowhere but North intrigues me!

    1. Ralph was a very pleasant surprise. I want to read Becoming Charlemagne this year. By the way, I've been enjoying your ongoing poem series about moving to the country.

      In a couple of weeks, I hope, I'll be working on the midsection of Nowhere But North.

  3. i admire your excellent taste and your constancy in pursuing "good" writing and literature. i think the blogs in german a laudable exploration of the venue; challenges are always intriguing even when they're difficult...

    1. Why was the German blogging a mistake?

    2. The problems with the German blogging are many. I read German much more slowly than I read English, and I write German even more slowly. I can read without the intermediate phase of translating into English (most of the time, anyway), but I can't write that way in German, because writing about books is more difficult than conversational speech, quite a different thing that I've little practice at. So it's a process of figuring out what I want to say and then actively translating it into my clunky German, and it's not a pleasant activity. It's also hard to write about these German-language books in English, because I think about the texts in German so in order to write in my native tongue, I have to translate the texts into English first, so it's all a lot of work and because I lack real fluency in German, there are too many painful stages of translation involved. I don't know it any of this makes sense. Anyway, to top it all off, after all that work to write 300 words in German about a German novel I'm slowly reading, I don't know if anyone actually reads the posts, so that's all time I could spend otherwise, by reading or working my way through my book of German grammar and sentence building exercises, or just walking around outside looking at the world. So maybe not a mistake so much as a poor use of my hour.

    3. i've never understood how any human person can become bilingual, anyway; i think you do real good...

    4. Thank you for explaining that.

  4. Happy New Year from R.T./Tim at the new and improved

    1. Happy 2016, Tim! Good luck with Don Quixote!

  5. Tremendous and meaty list, Scott, and your 2016 plans look to be tantalizing as well. I have the Thucydides as a priority for 2016, as a friend was so absorbed by it that he canceled plans on several occasions just so he could stay home and read. All best with your reading - and especially your writing - in 2016!

    1. If someone wants to see a good list, they should go to your blog. I'm going to poach some of those books for 2016, though I doubt I can devote myself to Italian literature they way you did.

      The Thucydides is a mighty book, a truly great book. It might reinforce Vico's ideas about history, which is disturbing.

  6. I also hope to read a lot of Chekhov and more Henry James, or is it the other way? Both, I guess.

  7. Did you see that Michel Tournier has died? So maybe we need to read more Tournier, in remembrance.

    1. I hadn't seen that. I wonder if I still have my copy of The Ogre? I've always meant to read The Four Wise Men. Maybe now I finally will remember to do it.