Saturday, October 11, 2008

Autumn Reading

I think we're safe to say that it's fall here, as I haven't muttered "goddammit, it's hot" lately and it's really actually quite pleasant, a term I don't often apply to Atlanta. Today it's been going back and forth (often within a minute) between overcast/threatening and blindingly bright, which is a bit unsettling, but at least I'm not pouring sweat.

It's this time of year that I really wish I had a balcony or patio, and that's my excuse for spending a lot of time in bars. Of course, my favorite bar doesn't have a patio, and I live across the street from two bars that do have large patios and I never visit either, so I guess we go back to the original excuse, which is that I spend a lot of time in bars because I like to drink beer.

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#43 -- "Amyntas" by Andre Gide

When some fellow I'd never heard of won the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this week, I felt kinda bad that I haven't read more Nobel winners' work. Then I grabbed this off the shelf (part of the aforementioned "clean out these shelves" project), read it, and realized: I've just added a Nobel winner to the "read" list. Good job, me.

These are his journals from time spent in Algeria and Tunisia around the turn of the century. As you'd kind of expect from a great writer's journals, they're a mixture of breathtaking observations and parts that make me say "who gives a shit?" It's more impressionistic than narrative, and that's fine -- that makes it a bit different from the travel lit I normally read. But at one point toward the end, Gide asks "why am I writing this?" right about the same time I was asking "why am I reading this?"

There's a curiously timeless quality to writing about the desert. "Amyntas" covers travels in the first decade of the 20th century, but there's little to separate it from the imagery in the post-war "The Sheltering Sky." There's a doctoral thesis in there somewhere, for someone other than me.

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Moment from last night: while out eating sushi and reading, a girl and her date sat next to me -- girl looked at the book I was reading and shrieked delightedly, "oh my god, I love that" and proceeded to talk about how she recommends the book to everyone she knows. She said to her date "look, he's reading that book I love," and date responded "uh huh" in a tone that managed to convey "I hope Book Guy here dies painfully." It's always nice to be reminded that while I'm the weirdo reading and eating sushi alone, other people out there do enjoy books. And it's given me an idea for a literacy campaign: "Reading: Chicks Dig It."

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