09 May 2010

Buried in Big Books

It is conceivable that one of the volcanoes in the area could come to life again. A big eruption might spew ash over San Miguel and bury it. I am of course thinking of the example of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, the eruption of which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The event happened so quickly that the citizens were caught and forever petrified or mummified or whatever in various postures, almost in mid-gesture.

If that were to happen here in the month of May, the odds are that I would be caught and petrified sitting in a lawn chair either in La Mexicana's courtyard with Zumm lying on my feet or outside the door of my camper with a five-pound book in my lap. It is a good month for an orgy of reading, and I am not messing around with any pissant 400-page books. Nothing but chunksters for me right now.

First, I just finished reading 2666: A Novel (893 pages) for the second time. Nothing more need be said about that. I maintain an entire second blog devoted to that novel.

Second, I am working on The New Penguin History of the World: Fourth Edition by J.M. Roberts (1,188 pages). At this point I am at page 476 having just finished that chapter on Japanese history up through the Tokugawa Shogunate.

I am only at page 156 of Mexico: Biography of Power (798 pages excluding footnotes) by Enrigue Krauze, tanslated by Hank Heifetz. That one is on the front burner however. That author is not just an historian. He is a great story-teller. When I am not reading this, La Mexicana is.

Lastly, there is the chunkster of all chunksters, A Suitable Boy (1,474 pages) by Vikram Seth. I well recall my vow that after 2666, I would never read another novel. A Suitable Boy is a novel. However, I had purchased it and started it before encountering 2666. It therefore gets an exemption. I am at page 783 of this epic that follows members of four families, both Hindu and Muslim, in the years immediately following the partition of old India that created the independent nations of India and Pakistan.

The nation and culture of India has never held much allure for me. I recognize that there have been many great works of literature written by Indian authors, and I have tried many. Never finished a one before. Not one. Needless to say, for me A Suitable Boy is different. It is absolutely fascinating.

The modern history of India had seemed to me to be a simple thing. Hindus and Muslims live side by side for a period of years being born next door to each other, working together, dying together. Then suddenly they rise up and slaughter each other. Things calm down, and the whole cycle starts over again. I am now getting a little more knowledgeable view of that whole thing.

There is the sorry state of affairs in which I find myself now. I am resolved not to start any more books until I get these under control. I am also resolved to get a life of my own back.


Anonymous said...

I have not read Roberto Bolaño, not a single thing. The Savage Detectives has been sitting on the desk about three feet from our computer for months and I haven't been able to pick it up and read it. I'm not even sure why. When I'm ready to start a new book, I pick it up, sniff around it a little, then read something else. I can't explain that. This isn't going to say I'm not going to read this author, only that I'm not going to read his work just now.

Señor Steve said...

I am careful not to recommend Roberto Bolaño to anybody else, Mr. Anchovy. They are long books. They are difficult books. They are not really entertainment at all.

I recommend that you defer reading The Savage Detectives indefinitely.