Breathing and Looking Ahead

I’m under a lot of stress at work (luckily, it’s only work, Baby Smithereens is well and kicking, thank you very much), but I decided this morning to take the necessary time off to write this post. A kind of mental hour off, if it ever exists. 

To beat stress in the evening, I find a powerful tool in the delightful collection by James Salter, Last Night. My own anti-stress prescription reads: “Read one story a day at bedtime, do not overuse, pause and meditate on each of them”. For the moment, I can’t really decide which I love best, because they are all so good! The writing is sparse and you need to concentrate to get the details of what’s going on, because otherwise, you miss the whole emotion. This definitely will put me on track to find out more on James Salter. I hadn’t heard of him before, but it’s never too late. Any suggestion? 

On the side, during my commute, I’m reading a fascinating book on Paris that mix literary masterpieces (Balzac, Hugo, Zola, etc.) set in the city with the history of the place itself. I’m learning a lot about the neighbourhoods that I have always taken for granted. It’s interesting to see how the city dynamics changed from one century to the next. I’ve never been a fan of local history but this one is special and makes me want to go back to a great Balzac book. Or maybe Danielle’s challenge to read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables? I admit that I recoil at the huge number of pages. 

Mr. Smithereens also contributed his 2-cents by offering me “Iris”, a memoir by Iris Murdoch’s husband, John Bailey. The tone is very intimate and loving. I’ve never read any Murdoch before either, so it might be the right time. 

I’m also contemplating 2 books that sit in my TBR pile for quite a while. The first was last year’s unexpected literary bestseller in France: L’élégance du Hérisson, by Muriel Barbery (The hedgehog’s elegance? I think it’s still un-translated), the story of a gifted child in a privileged family and that of the also very gifted yet underestimated superintendent of the building where she lives. I usually don’t follow the moment’s literary fad, but I’m curious about this one. And that would go well with my 2008 resolution to read more French novels.  

The other book I’m thinking about is very different. It’s Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis, because I still don’t know whether I like or hate BEE’s works. It might be worth trying. He has been accused of misogyny, but I think that there is more to it. Did any of you try this novel? 

Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it comforting to have that many good books around the corner, waiting for me. I’ll maybe throw yet another Vargas thriller for good measure? No, that would be overusing my anti-stress prescription. Better keep it for later…

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9 thoughts on “Breathing and Looking Ahead

  1. I’ve been wanting to read L’élégance du Hérisson as well. It looks really interesting, despite all the raving. And after reading about Salter on Litlove’s blog a few months ago I’ve been trying to get a copy of something by him. I like your idea of reading as an antidote to stress, that sounds just perfect!

  2. I love James Salter and must get hold of this book. And what’s the book about Paris – sounds fascinating!! So sorry about work, but babies are good for reminding one how very unimportant work is in the scheme of things.

  3. Courtney, Charlotte, Iris is starting off quite well indeed. I’ll let you know more later on.
    Verbivore, Litlove, I’ve the idea that you both would love Salter’s stories. They’re wonderful.
    LK — I must definitely check on that other Salter title.
    Dorothy — I try to keep my TBR pile not too high, but it’s true that some titles get burried at the bottom!
    Matariki — I’ll check on Murdoch’s titles at the library next time around.
    Stefanie — after the week stress, the weekend break is always welcome to catch up on reading books and blogs! That is a good prescription too!

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