Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cleanup Reading

It goes without saying that I'm looking forward in 2018 to another year of great reading.  The thing is, I'm ending 2017 in a way that's rather sloppy, with, I see in Goodreads, seven books that I'm currently reading.  How did I let things get so out of hand?  To read this many or even more books at one time may be common practice for other people, but it's not for me.   I usually read one or two books at a time, at most three - let's say a novel, a non-fiction book, and maybe a collection of short stories - but seven, at least for me, is ridiculous.  It's probably silly (because it's not like I'm in school and must finish what I started or face a consequence), but I've decided that before I get into anything new in 2018, I'll finish the seven books I left unfinished from 2017.

Here's the list:

1) The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder by Patricia Highsmith: 25% done, says Goodreads
2) The Confessions of Arsene Lupin by Maurice Leblanc: 30% done
3) Four Novels: The Square, Moderato Cantabile, 10:30 on a Summer Night, The Afternoon of Mr. Andesmas by Margurite Duras: 50% done (in this case, two of the short novels, Cantabile and Andesmas, I've read)
4) Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre: 85% done
5) The Thefts of Nick Velvet by Edward D. Hoch: 51% done
6) Don't Look Now: Selected Stories by Daphne Du Maurier: 85% done
7) Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon: 54% done

A varied enough list, I suppose, with an emphasis, not surprisingly, on crime and suspense, though from various time periods.  Mystery in White is the only full-length novel of the bunch, a 1937 Golden Age era mystery set during Christmastime that I specifically picked up to read over Christmas but which, because of one thing and another, I didn't get through as fast as I thought I would. So here I am after New Year's feeling like a student overdue on an assignment. I shouldn't be reading this novel with the holiday season over. What's the matter with me? But I will read the rest of  the book since I need to find out the secret behind all the mysterious doings going on at the isolated house caught in a snowstorm. Naturally, a number of strangers are snowbound there together.

For sheer narrative pleasure, the standout among these books is the Daphne Du Maurier collection.  Her short stories are much tougher and darker in tone, and more varied in subject matter, than you might expect if you know Du Maurier from her historical novels and Rebecca.  She's a masterful plotter and knows how to take a menacing premise, a bizarre set-up, and milk every single ounce of possible tension from that premise. She is also, I'm realizing, quite modern in her takes on twisted psychology and sexuality.  And every story I've read ends on a strong note of discomfort.  That's discomfort both for you, the reader, and her main characters. It's great stuff.

Anyhow, that's my reading situation right now.  It's not a life or death thing, but something bugs me about having seven books sitting there started within the last year and yet still unfinished.  So, as I said, that's it.  I'll read all these books to the end before I start anything new.

Though, on the other hand, who knows?  There's that Sara Gran book I've been meaning to get to -  Come Closer - and Sweet Days of Discipline by the Swiss writer Fleur Jaeggy and that Cesar Aira book The Seamstress and the Wind, and what about all the 2018 crime novels coming, many by friends...

This is worse than being in school!


Art Taylor said...

You're much better than I am. I'm a slow reader with books often lingering for months on Goodreads (and I don't enter every one there, so I'm bad at Goodreads too). Plus, I don't always finish books I start. Basically I'm not very good at this whole thing.

BUT I love that du Maurier collection--you're spot-on about that.

Holly West said...

I tried the du Maurier collection after seeing the film version of Don't Look Now, which, oddly, I hated. I read the short story and *really* hated it (although I don't remember why). You've made me think I should revisit the entire collection.

scott adlerberg said...

Holly - Wow, I'm surprised. Du Maurier is such a strong storyteller, I think, though granted of course she does have a lot of macabre and unnerving stories. I would say she's definitely worth giving another shot!

Holly West said...

Okay, you've convinced me. :-)