Six Books


  • MFK Fisher, A Cordiall Water (1961)
  • Auberon Waugh, Will This Do? (1991)
  • Jay McInerney, Bacchus & Me (2000)
  • Theodule Ribot, Essay on the Creative Imagination (1906)
  • Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams (ed.), Meeting the Shadow (1991)
  • JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)

I’m always vaguely aware that I have a few books going at once, but I was a little surprised to discover how many I’m reading right now. Six. See, it’s all about the different reading circumstances: the bedside books, ones on my work table at home, things to read on the bus. It’s also a fact that I ordered way too many books from the library in a gout of bibliophilic enthusiasm, and when they—naturally—all came at once, I faced a task requiring disciplined, dedicated readership. I am very good at that; it is one of the few personally useful skills I picked up in grad school. Not to say I don’t enjoy it–I could read all day.

As you can see, there is a refreshing variety in my reading material. Fisher is warm and chatty, sharing her experiences and research into old “cures,” while Waugh’s biography is cynical and amusingly self-deprecating. Both would have been great dinner guests, full of humor and stories, quirks and preferences to keep conversation flowing across a long, leisurely meal. Or so I imagine it…

McInerney writes in such a boisterously poetic way about wine with metaphors that come alive for me. I’m too much of a novice to do much with apricot fruit, tar and leather undertones and long finishes, but when he described one wine as the Catherine Denueve to the other’s Baywatch blonde I knew what he meant precisely. Art, poetry, literature all are part of his metaphorical mix. I enjoy that he will describe the rare, “life-changing” treasures you’ll likely never taste while giving practical advice on where to find an exquisite experience for under $20 a bottle. I haven’t read his novels, but maybe I should; he seems to have a unique vision.

Ribot’s book is in the line of fin de siècle books on art and creativity I have been consuming this year. There is a particular flavor to the works of that time, of people meeting their lives and their work in clean open air, with the sun about to rise and nothing to stop them from joy and achievement. I intend, one day, to write an essay about this sense of life—to steal a term from Ayn Rand, who, whatever you may think of her philosophy and politics, captured this sense of élan in her novels—especially as embodied in illustration, Frank Capra films, and the early writing of Sinclair Lewis. One day I will, definitely. Ribot is serious and scientific in that “we now know everything” way of the 19th century that makes Sherlock Holmes so much fun. One of my favorite things is tracking down his casual references to men of letters and science strewn throughout his book, men mostly long-forgotten. Without the Internet, it would be impossible…or really really frustrating.

The essays about confronting the Shadow elements of one’s personality was taken from my shelves during my dismally depressed summer, as was Harry Potter, who always cheers me up. (Though anymore, it’s mostly the fandom that makes me merry.) I’m still moving steadily through both works, though my mood is much improved. I’m sure they are both partially why it is much improved, though other elements, personal, cultural and bibliophilic, all have done their work.

I have a few more Fishers and McInerneys on the shelf to read and I am looking forward to getting my hands on Tom Spanbauer’s new book, I Loved You More. It’s been out since April! How in the world did I miss that fact? I’ll likely finish about half of these before year-end, bringing my total for 2014 to around 65 books. It seems like a lot until I realize how many things I still want to read….

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