Monday, August 11, 2008

Catching Up

There's been lots of reading and not much blogging happening around here lately so it seems time for a bit of a round up post.

I'm reading a couple of interesting books for school at the moment. I just finished Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor and am working my through John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Both are young adult novels that deal with terrible, tragic times in history: segregation in the American South in the 1920's and Nazi Germany, respectively. The two books are very different in style but there are some striking similarities so I'm planning a proper post on these two together.

I'm also reading Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, which I'm ashamed to admit I've never read before. The play rollicks along but it seems to me the very obvious anti-semitism makes this a tricky one to stage today. In the front of my edition there's an interesting essay by the Australian actor John Bell on how he approached the challenges of playing Shylock without resorting to negative stereotypes. It really made me want to see a thoughtful production of the play.

I finally finished Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold's gorgeously magical depiction of the world of, well, magic in San Francisco in the early part of the twentieth century. Watch this space for a proper review soon.

Now I'm getting stuck into Tim Winton's collection of inter-linked short stories The Turning for my book club and just loving it even though I'm only a few stories in. There is just something about the way Winton captures Australian speech patterns and rural Australian landscapes that I find irresistible.

Finally, I've bought some wonderful new books over the past week. I bought a very beautiful copy of Michael Chabon's collection of essays called Maps and Legends. Honestly the multi-layered cover is so gorgeous that I can hardly bear to open this one, but of course I will because of my newly found love of all things Chabon. I also got some great bargains at an academic remainders store in my city: a crime fiction novel by Australian author Peter Temple called Black Tide, Margaret Atwood's book on writing called Negotiating with the Dead and a great little collection of poetry called Out of Fashion which is edited by poet Carol Ann Duffy (all the poems are about fashion, dressing or undressing, and a range of contemporary poets have each submitted a poem of their own and one from 'another time' which all makes for a great range of interesting poems).

All this makes me think how lovely it is to have a really enticing pile of books in the house and almost makes up for the winter chill that has descended in full force this week.


Karen said...

Being on the east coast of Aus I completely understand about the winter chill you are talking about at the moment!
I'm a big fan of Tim Winton's work as well but I find I have to be in a really positive frame of mind before I read anything of his - not sure I'm ready to tackle his new one just yet.

jess said...

I hadn't thought of Tim Winton as being particularly depressing but now that you mention it I can see what you mean.

I still loved The Turning though. I've just finished it and can't stop thinking about the way he so accurately captures small coastal towns.

Kailana said...

The Merchant of Venice is one of the more interesting Shakespeare plays. I hate to say I like it at times because it is a bit... behind the times? But, I didn't mind reading it.

J.S. Peyton said...

Oh God, I LOVED Carter Beats the Devil. For the life of me I can't figure out why more people don't know about this book. It's such a wonderful, fun, and exciting read. It reminded me of all the reasons I love reading in the first place.

A few months back, I bought Chabon's Maps and Legends. Isn't that cover just gorgeous?! I just wrote a post about book covers and if anything fits the bill of a beautiful cover, Maps and Legends does. I haven't read the book yet, but if it's anywhere near as good as the cover, I'm sold.

jess said...

Kailana, I finished Merchant of Venice and, yes, it was interesting. I'm enjoying reading about some of the modern productions now. I only wish I could see a production myself sometime soon.

JS, Carter Beats the Devil is lots of fun, I agree. It also has a beautiful cover! I haven't gotten to Maps and Legends yet either, but I can't wait to see what those covers hold.