Monday, November 15, 2004

The Long and the Short of It

I'm having computer problems. With two computers. These problems are consuming an enormous amount of time. And then there was the election. And the new Grand Theft Auto San Andreas for PS2 - that's taking up way too much time. (And I bought the book for San Andreas - its like a glossy textbook on the game. In a way, its sad that I have to have the book and the game. But my video game skills are terrible and I need all the help I can get. Really, there's nothing sadder than having to study in order to play a video game.)

I've been reading short stories lately because I haven't had as much time to read. I started reading some V.S. Pritchett stories - but my Collected Pritchett weighs - I don't know - seven or eight pounds. Its much to big to take out of the apartment. So he was indoor reading. For reading outside the apartment, I dabbled in some JG Ballard and some Roald Dahl. Dahl has been on my mind because of the different biographies by Jeremy Treglown (Pritchett, Dahl, and Henry Green) I've been either skimming or reading reviews of lately. And over the summer (or was it last spring?) Jonathan Yardley wrote a piece in the Washington Post about Dahl's first collection of stories, Someone Like You. Yardley liked it a lot. I have a copy of it and a best of Roald Dahl (among others) in my collection so read some of his stories. And then in a blog from the UK I came across a reference to a JG Ballard story involving a boy who vacuums up sounds from old buildings or something like that (I think Dahl has a story about an inventor who makes a radio receiver which can hear plants) and I went looking through my Ballard books to see if I had it. Turns out, I didn't. But I wound up reading some stories in a Ballard colletion called The Terminal Beach. And then I discovered a complete collected stories of JG Ballard was recently published. And of course, I had to have it. And I will in about a week. It looks like a massive book. I hope to bring it to Chicago to read over Thanksgiving. And I am thinking of restarting Ballard's Empire of the Sun - I can't remember why I never finished it.

This dip into short stories is enjoyable. I've been thinking I could devote a year to short fiction. I have an arsenal of it. I could read some of my giant collected collections kind of books - Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, William Trevor, the Ballard, the Pritchett, Frank O'Connor, John McGahern, and Peter Taylor. Recently I picked up (but did not buy) a new paperback copy of John Updike's The Early Stories. The book got great reviews. I've barely read any John Updike (and feel bad about it). I could include that. (Side Note: I was thinking I could devote a year to Joyce Carol Oates. Read all of her books in a year, nothing but Joyce Carol Oates. I could do a website about it, track my progress, write reviews, that sort of thing. Would need a catchy title. I know people make fun of her productivity - but she's a very good, very serious writer and critic. Why, in a DaVinci Code world, serious book people would make fun of her makes no sense. She's intrerested in all sorts of cool stuff, too. Of couse, I'd have to acquire all of her books. That could take a while as I only own one, Middle Age: A Romance, which I've not read. I bet I could snag some free media attention, too.)

I tried to go to two used bookstores this weekend. On Saturday, I went to one on Capital Hill. I love the place. The entire second floor of this row house is devoted to fiction and there are piles of books everywhere. Its a great place to spend an afternoon. The only book I bought was something called The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg. It wasn't something I was looking for, and I barely know anything about her. But for some reason, I picked it up and started reading it and realized I needed to buy it. After a trip to the Apple store on Sunday I walked over to a used bookstore I hadn't been to for a few years and it was gone. As in the house that was once a used bookstore is now an empty lot. The place wasn't that good of a store but it still is sad to see yet another used bookstore disappear.

I did start a novel. Andrew Taylor wrote three novels about a female serial killer (a rare thing) and a few years ago the dancer recommended them to me. Even though I already own the three books, when I saw a nice fat three in one volume of them, I had to have it. And its what I'm reading now. Its called Requiem for an Angel. And it is very good.