Summer reading 2013.
All of these books were originally published in 1975 (the year I was born). Curtain was written circa 1940 when Christie was afraid that she might die during World War II and leave Poirot's life unfinished, but was then locked away in a vault until she was actually nearing the end of of her life and authorised its publication. The rest were (I believe) all written in the early '70s.
There are 11 novels and one collection of short stories. They total 3902 pages.
Four authors are Brits, four Americans, one Finn, one Pole, one Argentine, and one Mexican. The books are organised here (and as of now, this is the order I intend to read them) alphabetically by the original title—it is merely an odd bit of chance that the four books in translation all fall at the end.
Four of the books are used copies, eight new. One used book and two new books were purchased at the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan. Four new books were purchased at the very local Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Green, Brooklyn. One new book was mail ordered direct from the publisher. One new book was mail ordered from the UK because I like the British cover better than the American one. The three remaining used books were ordered from used bookstores in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and England.
All books were purchased in the last six months, though one is a replacement for a book that I had previously owned (and before that had read the first few dozen pages in a library copy, some 10-15 years ago).
My final pre-summer reading was Agatha Christie's The Curious affair at Styles, the first Poirot mystery, the setting of which is revisited in Curtain, the last.
Curtain. 3 June – 5 June
Dhalgren. 7 June – 25 June
Dead babies. 25 June – 29 June
The dead father. 29 June – 3 July
Galaxies. 12 July* – 22 July
[ Cats†. 13 July ]
Hello sailor. 22 July – 23 July
High-rise. 23 July – 29 July
JR. 29 July – 1 October
The year of the hare. 1 October – 9 October
The chain of chance. 9 October – 4 November
The book of sand. 4 November – 19 November
Terra nostra. 20 November –
So this was more of late spring/summer/fall reading than simply summer, but I did make it through nearly the entire stack.§
I absolutely loved Dhalgren and JR. I thoroughly enjoyed Curtain, The dead father, and High-rise. I thought there was some good stuff in Galaxies, The chain of chance, and The book of sand. And I was disappointed with Dead babies, Hello sailor, and The year of the hare. My thoughts on Terra nostra will again have to wait.
In reading many of these books, as I am wont to do, I began making films of them in my head. Not simply seeing them acted out, but thinking about them technically: sets, camera shots, casting, abridging or adapting the text. By the fourth or fifth book I had concocted the idea of making a 5-10 minute short for each book, that could perhaps be strung together into a strange sort of anthology. Maybe that could be a summer project for some future year.
*I rushed through The dead father—a hardback book—perhaps a little quickly in order to pack the next three slim, softcover novels along with me to San Francisco for a week's vacation. I made a stab at starting Galaxies on the plane out, but it was a 5AM flight, and I was too exhausted to retain much of what I read; and similarly with any downtime on the trip, or on the red-eye flight back east and so I began again upon our return.‡
†A short, silly, later addition to my summer reading. Bernard "Hap" Kliban's Cats, a book of sketches and cartoons, which Megan had thought to maybe buy for me as a birthday gift, but then thought maybe it was too silly, was first published in 1975. (Aaron has given me a calendar of Kliban's cat cartoons each of the last two years for Xmas.) Megan showed it to me as I was waiting for her to close up the toy store the other day, and I read through it in about half an hour, then purchased it.
‡Having now finished Galaxies it seems it might have been strangely more appropriate had I in fact been able to tackle it on the flight. The book is a postmodern meta-novel and discourse on the state of American sci-fi in the greater landscape of literary fiction of the 1970s disguised as a typical pulp sci-fi novel of the era. Toward the end of the book Malzberg creates and addresses a hypothetical "reader" who has chosen the book to read on a six-hour cross-country flight from New York to California.
§This was my second, or perhaps third, dive into Terra nostra, and although I made it further than previously, I did put it down toward the end of 2013 to move onto other things.