Currently Reading

I don’t have much experience, but it seems that part of the process of expecting a baby means learning to do everything slower: walk, work, do chores… but also read. I often find myself daydreaming in front of a book now, or sleeping over a book (with the deep, red crease mark on the cheek that is so unglamorous when you wake up, you know?) Or is it maybe the book’s fault for not being griping enough? No less than 4 books are now on my bookstand, and as I am no closer to finish any of them soon, I thought I’d better mention them right now: 

I took My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain, because I have fond memories of her Chicago May, that I read last year. I understood that My Dream of You was her first novel, and I find some proof in the book, as Chicago May seems a lot more accomplished. There are some common points between the 2 novels, among which the Irish background, the feminine point of view, and the weaving of past historical events with a narrator that also interrogates her own personal past.  

While Chicago May’s narrator could well be O’Faolain herself, in My Dream of You, it’s distinctly an imaginary narrator, a middle-aged, unattached single Irish woman named Kathleen De Burca who goes through a midlife crisis when her gay best friend and colleague suddenly dies. She decides to resign from her job as a travel writer and go back to Ireland she left after high school, to investigate an obscure love affair during the Potato Famine (around 1845) between an Irish servant and an English married woman of the gentry. Because information is very lacking and her investigation turns disappointing, De Burca turns to fiction to imagine the feelings of the two historical characters, soon to be contradicted by facts. It was also a strong point of Chicago May, to blend, as honestly as possible, fiction and facts to make historical figures more real. In this novel, the balance is not yet completely achieved, as De Burca’s personal story takes the foreground while the affair sometimes feels like a mere pretext to historical consideration on Irish history. I may sound harsh but I don’t intend to. It’s quite nice to read really, although at the beginning, I didn’t find myself very engaged by her main character. 

I also have James Salter’s memoir: Burning the Days. For the moment, I can hardly imagine that the author is the same person who wrote this magnificent short story collection: Last Night. I’m now following Salter as a young student at West Point, where he tries his best to fit in, but I still have my doubts. Also, as I am reading it in French translation and Last Night in English, his voice is completely different and has thrown me off balance. I’m not too sure yet if I’ll finish it, considering I very rarely read memoirs. 

In a sudden foray into SF, I took Philip K. Dick’s Man in the High Castle from the library. I have heard of it for quite a long time, because I’m loosely interested in alternative history (I’ve never been a great fan of SF anyway). The hypothesis is that WWII was eventually won by Germany and Japan and the US are occupied by Germany on its East Coast, by Japan on its West Coast. We follow different people living in the Japanese zone, where the I-ching book of divination is widely used to take decisions. 

I find this one very difficult to immerse into. After more than 2 weeks, I haven’t yet crossed the page 50 threshold, because characters are very diverse and huge paragraphs of information have to be absorbed before feeling at ease with the alternate historical background. As much as I would like to read this book to its end, I’m feeling a bit discouraged by now. Did anyone of you read it? Is it worth it? I discovered that for some stupid reason, I’ve confused Philip K. Dick with Philip Kerr, the author of Berlin Noir, a very dark and brutal thriller in pre- and post-Nazi Germany. It sometimes frightens me how distracted I am getting. 

I’m also reading Iris, the memoir by Iris Murdoch’s husband. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult to read, or that it’s not good, but I find it quite sad (memories alternate with the evocation of Iris Murdoch Alzheimer disease). I’ll post quotes soon, because there are very good paragraphs about marriage and love, especially as Murdoch and her husband had a very personal conception of marital bonds. 

I’m sorry I don’t have as much time as I wish these days to write and read blog posts, but as soon as I’ll be in maternity leave, I’ll have plenty of time to catch up. I miss you guys! I wish you all Happy Easter!

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7 thoughts on “Currently Reading

  1. Happy Easter! It sounds like you haven’t had good luck in the books you’ve chosen — sometimes it just works out that way, unfortunately. Can you turn to something tried and true?

  2. Hi! I’m doing my phd on Iris Murdoch and that’s how I got google-transported to your blog – lovely site, congratulations!!!! Lots of luck for you and your baby.

  3. Happy Easter to you as well! Perhaps you need this time to daydream? Once you have your baby it will probably be more difficult to drift off with a good book, at least for a while…

  4. How interesting to read two Salter books in two different languages. I always wonder about translation and how it changes the author’s voice. I have been avoiding reading Iris because it seems like it would be a sad book. Enjoy the daydreaming. Consider it resting up for the big event. Hope you had a happy Easter.

  5. Dorothy, yes indeed, I’m considering starting a fifth one, but I find it most unreasonable!
    Maria, thanks for visiting. I’m blushing with your compliment!
    Courtney, I sure need a little rest… I hope to take advantage of baby’s naps in the future too, but maybe only for short stories!
    Stefanie, it’s indeed quite strange to read an author in different languages. It practically changes everything, depending on the translator’s skills. I’ll follow your advice and daydream a little more!

  6. Hello again.

    I’ve not read Bayley’s Iris…although I’ve read all of Murdoch’s own work and much of it many times over. My favorite is still the first one I read–Under the Net, closely followed by The Sea, The Sea. I did my Master’s Thesis on her work many years ago and her novels still take up the most room devoted to any single author on my shelves. That Murdoch’s engaging spirit, novelistic vitality and mental acuity should have been zapped so cruelly at the end was too much to bear. I never could bring myself to read her husband’s book detailing all that. But maybe now I can come to it.

    Deborah@ Exuberant Reader

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