Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The First Book for 2010 & Some Plans

I finished On Beauty by Zadie Smith on Sunday. Actually, I read all day trying to finish for that night's book club meeting, but I had to read the last twenty or so pages after the meeting. If I had read on Saturday instead of running errands and watching the Cowboys win, I would have finished with no problem. I do sometimes put other things before books and reading, especially the Cowboys at this time of the NFL season. :-)

Since I was reading the book for the second time, I wasn't too concerned with not finishing. This month's host lives only a few blocks from us, so Valerie and I were able to walk to the meeting, and she reminded me of the final events as we walked. It's been a long time since I have re-read a book that I wasn't teaching. I usually won't vote yes for a book club selection that I've already read, but I loved White Teeth, Smith's first novel, and On Beauty the first time so I wanted to see what other members thought about her writing.

I blogged about On Beauty the first time I read it. It was just as good on a second reading, and I refuse to think that I'm swayed by how friendly she was when I saw her read here three years ago. I love Smith's use of language. In my previous post, I talked about some of the passages from the book, but this time, I'll limit myself to just one, one that I can't seem to forget for its precise and perfect imagery:
"From here she could see the strangely melancholic format of Jerome's text, italics and ellipses everywhere. Slanted sails blowing on perforated seas."
What a great image!

Everyone at book club enjoyed the book, and we had a really good discussion, but I forgot to bring up one point. When I read the book the first time, I didn't like the Levi character very much. Levi is the bi-racial teenage son of the main character, a rather hapless professor Howard Belsey. When I first read the book, I thought that Levi was perhaps the one misstep in the novel. I thought his use of street lingo wasn't authentic. This time, I thought he was one of my favorite characters, and I see that his street lingo isn't supposed to be authentic. He is trying very hard to be real, to be black. His attempts make him a very funny yet endearing character. I think he might be my favorite character in the whole book. Despite his pretensions, he is in many ways the most honest and least political character in the book and that makes him very likable to me.

I can't wait for Smith's next novel, and I'm going to put her recent essay collection Changing My Mind on my to read list. Speaking of my to read list, I do have some reading plans for 2010, but part of my plan involves not buying any books, except for book club selections, until May 25. So, it'll probably be a long time before I read Changing My Mind.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Next, the final installment in Stieg Larsson's trilogy, will be released on May 25, and I'm going to try very hard not to buy any books until then. Instead of buying new books to read, I'm going to read books that I already own. Some of them I've owned for a very long time. Some that are definitely in line to be read, but not necessarily in this order include:
And who knows how many more. I read 38 books last year, 10 of which were young adult books. Man, all this talk of books just makes me want to go read. Later.