Wednesday, January 23, 2013


This morning I wandered in from the freezing fog or ice or whatever it was to find myself in the university bookstore (The Duck Store!) scanning the ever-present discount book tables, where I ran across a whole mess of titles I'd like to read, but alas, I don't even have the $4.98 to spare, due to my insane restricted funds clause (more on this in another post).

I picked up the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I have heard of but was not at all familiar with. I skimmed the first chapter and decided to add it to my list of things to read when I get the chance in 2013.

Of course I started thinking about Lolita and how much I adored it when I first read it as a young man in the mid-90s. A couple of yeara ago, S. and I tried to read it together (the third book in our failed book club; the first two were Wide Sargasso Sea and Ada. When we tried to read Lo, E. was about a year old and S. called me (we were by then living apart) and said that after the first few chapters she'd decided that she couldn't go on. She didn't want to read a manipulative story about a murderer and pedophile with a "fancy prose style." (Humbert's own words, not hers.) Somewhat reluctantly, I admitted to myself that I felt the same way. So Lo remains unreread.

At the beginning of this year I read a small book called Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee, which is a bit of historical fluff that promised much more than it delivered. Ostensibly the story of Jefferson's slave James Hemmings, who apprenticed in Paris and became the first classically French-trained American chef, the book suffers from sheer lack of historical information. The author is forced then, to fill pages of tangential information about Parisian customs, the French Revolution, the likes and dislikes of Jefferson's daughters, and so on. Good idea, middling execution. The only thing I really know about James Hemings is that Jefferson eventually freed him, he went on to become a tavern cook in Boston, and died at age 36 from severe alcoholism.

Trudging very slowly through the fifth book in G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance With Dragons, and it's pretty rough going. Both the plot movement and the prose are glacial. But I persist.

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