a little late, but some bookish hope for the coming year:
- continue reading all the Zweig I can get my hands on. Though I came to his English-language revival so late, he was one of my best discoveries last year. My preferred thing to do these days when I discover a writer is to read as much as I can to get a thorough understanding of them all at once, so I’d like to go on as I have been doing.
- continue reading all the Russian lit I can get my hands on. It’s been reassuring and exciting in the last year and a half to have felt like I’m making good progress in my adventures through The Canon™, though I don’t like thinking about literature in such terms; it makes a sense of duty out of something that to me should be ‘fun’ and without structure or obligation. And yet. So many other facets of Russian culture are informed by this literature, and the more I read the more I feel my understanding of these other things is enriched, too; but it’s like an endless well I can keep drawing from and drawing from and never reach the bottom, so I must push on.
- start reading Murakami again; he used to be one of my favourites but the last time I read something of his was the very beginning of 2012 (!), so though I still talk of him fondly it’s been a long long time and I wonder if my opinions of him will have changed.
- ditto Jostein Gaarder. The summer before last I read Vita Brevis and it was the first time I’d read anything of his in something like five years; but I found that nothing had changed at all and it was like coming back to an old friend.
- Love myself and stop reading Nabokov!! I can’t abide him but somehow I’ve still read five of his books (if you include Ada or Ardor, which I desperately wanted to like but couldn’t bring myself to finish). I think it’s because everyone on Goodreads is so rabid about him, so that I’m half expecting one of these men (for they do always seem to be men – perhaps no surprise considering the lack of respect with which Nabokov writes his women) to somehow find me and lecture me in the comments like ‘#actually young lady, I read Pnin as an undergrad in nineteen-eighty-whenever, and though he is an acquired taste that only intellectuals like me can fully appreciate, I believe that work is the pièce de résistance of his oeuvre…’ and ‘his “disrespect” for the fair sex is a purposeful and brilliantly clever artistic choice and a mere facet of his characters’ nature, a sharp satire on…’ whatever, whatever – for that’s literally how they write, I assure you. If you are here for that purpose, please save your time and mine and don’t do this. Anyway. Perhaps because of this perpetual hope I’ll somehow come across a book of his I actually like I keep letting him back into my life, even though he and his overwrought prose bring me nothing but disappointment and annoyance. I know myself and I know my tastes, so I should really know better. If my life were Friends, I am Chandler and he is Janice; I can’t stop grumbling about him, yet I also can’t escape him. Free me.
- I realise that all these goals seem to be about men, which means they either give me more I have to purposefully think about or I really am neglecting women. I just counted to see and of the 153 books I read last year, only about two-fifths were by women. This surprised me, for I consider myself someone who tries to centre our own writing, but perhaps it’s like the oft-cited study about the perception of women dominating conversation when, in fact, they don’t; we aren’t the, I don’t know, the ‘norm’ of literature, so we as the ‘exception’ are made more visible. And I certainly notice the benefits when I read our words – I can find understanding I so rarely see elsewhere – so I must try and make more of an effort still.