Monday, February 18, 2013

I've been reading...



As light snow swirls in a heavy wind, I try to imagine the vastness of Siberia, a place fraught with meaning and legend. Yesterday I finished Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert Massie's biography/history of the last decades of Russian Imperialism and now I'm embarking on one of my occasional theme reading binges. I bought Nabokov's Lectures on Russian Literature, lectures he gave when he was a professor at Wellesley College and Cornell University in the 1940's. I haven't decided which of the books in the lectures I will read, or re-read, but I look forward to imagining myself in the classroom with Nabokov.




I next plan to read Gulag, Anne Applebaum's history of the Soviet labor camps, a book that I've wanted to read but been terrified of. Historically it picks up where Nicholas and Alexandra left off, so I've decided to tackle it. Needing a quick break from the heaviness, I am now reading The Dogs of Rome, an Italian crime novel. (That a murder mystery is light reading gives you an idea of how I feel about approaching Gulag.)



Let's talk flowers for a minute. I really cannot pick a favorite, but if you made me do so today it would be the sweet pea. So delicate, so lyrical. Are they hard to grow?

As for non-Russian books, I've finished and recommend Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, which you will love if you are a fan of Chabon or Jonathan Lethem*. If you haven't read Chabon before, I recommend starting with The Yiddish Policemen's Union or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I also recommend Dennis Lehane's Live by Nightmy favorite of all his books, and one of the best non-genre, a/k/a literary, crime novels I've read.

*I've never laughed out loud as much as when I read Motherless Brooklyn.

This blog's been drifting a bit since I closed the store, and since I read so much and you seem to like when I write about books, I'm going to do so on a regular(ish)basis. Okay?

Jen

25 comments:

  1. Russian literature, a genre I have never dabbled in. Probably because it requires total immersion.

    But when the time is right I'll follow your path.

    Sweet peas, easy to grow in England. We have to plant them early spring, and hope to get the blooms before the heat comes. That gives us about a month of growing time here in Virginia.

    I love your book reviews. More please.

    xo Jane

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    1. I've never loved the Russian novels I've read. I hope if I go back, at this time in my life, with some historic perspective and guidance from Professor Nabokov, I'll get there. And if not, that's okay too.

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  2. Good book reviews!!! Your reading list is daunting! I'm still slogging through The Fifth Woman by Henning Menkel.. Wallander. I'm referring back to this post when I have more time.

    Those sweet peas have legs! Not hard to grow, but start early before it gets hot. Score the seeds and soak them overnight before planting.

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    1. Oh, don't be daunted. My reading is all over the place. I read a couple of Menkel books, but didn't love them as much as I wanted to.

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  3. Jen... I am daunted by your reading list! I love to read, but it's usually the mindless stuff (fluff) that requires little from me other than to turn the page. I took my 15 year old granddaughter to see Les Mis (movie) the other night. I encouraged her to read the book! I must have been her age when I first tackled it. With a bit of optimism I downloaded it for free from Amazon to my kindle/ipad... now getting the courage to begin it for another reading... that's the trick! Oh, my husband often calls me "sweet pea"... I don't think he would know one if he saw it, but it's sweet to hear! Stay cozy, please do share your book reviews, and happy reading!

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    1. I like fluff too. I like almost every kind of book.
      Sweet pea is such an endearing nickname!

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  4. Amazing list of reading! You have a lot of concentration and it always makes me surprise.
    It's snowing here as well and I've got cold, so slow life...but your blog is like a light.

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  5. thank you for your book reviews!
    I will follow them if you added this to your blog.
    Here in Spain is not easy to find sweet peas.

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    1. Oh, Spain. I need some Spanish (from Spain, not Latin America) authors (translated into English). Poets I know Lorca and Machado. Novelists I can only think of de Cervantes. Any exciting/interesting contemporary novelists?

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  6. Jay spent three days trying to get into War and Peace (I read it in the 8th grade and the incestuous love between Andre and his sister were over my head),but now Jay has declared life too short, so has gone on to a mystery. My friend Mary in Laramie, who is 82, has just finished David Copperfield and declares she will never read another book over 800 pages. Moral: Read the thick ones while young before considering every day precious.

    Sweet peas like rich dark soil and cool weather - I've never been very successful, but may try again. They are heavenly. Great photos. And yes, that's my very own bathroom, though the cats have a litter box in it.

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  7. Great to read your book reviews Jen.

    I love the photo of the flowers,
    so pretty...

    Have a great week

    x

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  8. Jen,
    that sounds like a pretty heavy reading list, way over my head!
    I love books too but haven't read much lately. Dean Koontz is more my style, got a new one for xmas from my sister and just started it. That's about as deep as I go right now. Your reviews were interesting, wiil absorb it all thru you!
    Rebecca
    PS. sweet peas are one of my favorites too, such sweet flowers.

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    1. I've never read Koontz--I think he's a little scary for me!

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  9. Hello Jen, I like your book discussions, but I like all the other areas you cover, also. Please don't specialize at the expense of your nature musings and photographs, art projects, collecting, posts about your house, etc., etc.

    Don't forget that Spring is around the corner, and I am hoping to enjoy it vicariously through your pictures and observations.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Thanks for your input--I hope to do what you suggest; just put more books in the rotation. Can't wait until I start going back to the country!

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  10. Some serious reading going on... I just started Dog Stars and bought The Light of Falling Stars, after reading your post on same. Looking forward to them! As for sweet peas, they are my favorite!! They were my Mom's favorite too. SO easy to grow from seed. My favorite supplier is Rene's Gardens but they're all usually dependable. Just soak the seeds overnight, plant and keep moist. They start off slow but then should explode around April. Enjoy!

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  11. That is some heavy stuff. I read Anna Karenina what seems to be a milion years ago and Crime and Punishment. My favorite was Solzhenitsyn "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". I read it in high school and thought it was the most incredible book I had ever read. Don't think I could get into the Russian Lit now. I'd rather look at those perfect soft pink sweet peas and your kitty.

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  12. Hello Jen:
    We, clearly as you, rather enjoy 'themed' reading particularly where biography and autobiography are concerned. 'Nicholas and Alexandra' we remember as being a fascinating read and we are sure that you will find anything about post revolutionary Russia of enormous interest if not a little harrowing. As you will of course know, many thousands of Hungarians were sent to the Gulag during the Communist period which, later than in Russia, began after the Second World War.

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  13. My goodness, your reading choices are far too heavy for me right now. I have just finished 'The Secret Life of Bees' and am now reading some sloppy chick lit that I am too ashamed to even name!!
    Sweet Peas are really easy to grow - my little man grows some every year! Just pop in some seed (along a trellis ties to a wall or around a wigwam trellis - they need to climb) and keep cutting them as they flower ... the more you cut the more they flower.

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  14. some serious russian stuff there.

    i've not read chabon, but have come across him now and then. i've added him now to my tbr pile, thanks.

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  15. I always read Russian Literature in winter as well.

    Just finished " August 1914 " by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

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