Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer of Short Stories 2

I started this repeat project kind of late, but I'm planning to read one short story each day for the rest of my summer vacation and tweet and/or blog about the stories. I will at least tweetthe author and title of each one. Last summer, I read several whole books of short stories and some other random ones, which is my plan for this summer too. I started reading Anita Desai's Diamond Dust last week, but I wasn't sure then if I was going to repeat the daily reading and didn't keep it up all week. This week, I decided that I had enjoyed the reading and the structure of doing it last summer and should do it again.

I've never read any of Desai's work before this book. I have read her daughter's Booker Prize winning, The Inheritance of Loss, and I bought Diamond Dust when I attended a reading by both authors a couple of years ago. Today, I read the fifth of the nine stories in this book, "The Man Who Saw Himself Drown." I'm not sure I completely understood the story. The story started out with a third person narrator, detailing the movements of an older man on a business trip. After dinner one evening, he goes for a walk and eventually sees a drowned man being pulled out of the river. It's him. Most of the rest of the story is told from the drowned man's spirit's(?) point of view. At first the man doesn't believe he has really died. I can't decide if this story is just a bittersweet story about death or if it's a story about the connection or disconnection between body and spirit. I'm not a very spiritual person, and I think that might be hindering my perception of this story. I guess I'll just have to keep thinking about it for a while.

I am enjoying Desai's writing. In this story I was really struck by a couple of passages, one of which I think might hold the key to the story. But first, this one from the beginning of the story when the man enters his hotel room: "He tossed his briefcase into the armchair--there, now the room knew someone had entered it and made it his own--went into the bathroom to wash." I love the idea that a hotel room is always waiting for life--it only lives when it's inhabited. Kind of makes me feel sad for hotel rooms. :-) And I guess in a sense hotel rooms are kind of sad, temporary dwellings. Maybe Desai is comparing the hotel room to a body inhabited by a spirit. Hmmm.

The key passage in the story, I think, is this one from the end of the story after the man has accepted his death:
It seemed to me that by dying my double had not gifted me with possibility, only robbed me of all desire for one: by arriving at death, life had been closed to me. At his cremation, that was also reduced to ash.
Maybe the story is about the death of the spirit and how once it dies a body can't go on living. At the beginning of the story, the man was exhausted with his life, his work life at least, but maybe that was the beginning of the death of his spirit. I don't know. Maybe I'm trying to hard. Maybe I should just enjoy the story and let it's meaning percolate in my brain whether I ever come back to it or not. I'm going to go read something else now. Later.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer reading plans

Not surprisingly, I've missed at least a month of Monday missives. I could give some excuses about moving, end-of-school-year stress, and even having a bad sinus infection this week, but they would just be excuses. I've thought about blogging lots of times, but I've just been lazy about doing it. Once again, I'll make a vow to try to post more regularly. I don't work in the summer, so I should have plenty of time for blogging.

So even though I'm half way through the second week of my summer vacation, I thought I would lay out my reading plans. I finished Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson today. If I hadn't been sick for the past few days, I probably would've finished it faster. I'll write more about it later, but I need to let my thoughts gel for a while.

I am currently reading Innocent Blood, one of P.D. James's older books, and Diamond Dust, a book of short stories by Anita Desai. Before the summer started, I intended to have a second Summer of Short Stories, and I even read one on each of the first two days of my summer vacation, but I didn't tweet or blog about them. Maybe I'll kickstart that project tomorrow. In addition to these books, I started a few books at work before the school year ended:
I plan to finish all three of these, and read many more, including some/all of the following:
I also brought home several young adult books to read this summer, but I won't list them now. All this writing about books makes me want to go read. Later.