I'm back to my old "bad" reading habits: picking up books randomly, reading a bit, then losing interest and starting something else. I've tried several novels-- Immortality by Milan Kundera. This seemed not to be a novel to me, but scenes of contemporary characters interspersed with authorial discourse on the nature of immortality, the kind famous people get for being famous, along with some imagined scenes of conversations between Goethe and Hemingway. I was somewhat interested, but not enough to keep going after about a third of the book. I also started In America by Susan Sontag, whom I've never read. This was the story of an actress and her friends who are planning to move to America in the 1870's to start a new life. The first chapter was amusing because the narrator (who seems to be the author) crashes a party and warms herself, invisible, by the fire while eavesdropping on the characters of the subsequent chapters, trying to figure out what their stories are. After this, the story gets pretty sappy (though again, I only read the first third). For instance, one of the Polish crowd's scouts sent ahead to find a place for them to start their Utopian community is sailing first class on a luxury ocean liner. He's an aspiring writer, and goes down into the bowels of the ship to experience the riff raff. There he visits a prostituted girl (her father is her pimp) and feels so bad about her predicament, that he only penetrates her thighs... Let's see, then I read the first chapter of After This by Alice McDermott, which I liked. It was a realistic day-in-the-life depiction of an unmarried thirty year-old woman who works as a secretary right after World War II. Then suddenly in the next chapter, she's married with several children... damn! For whatever reason, I like the gritty day-to-day details and it disturbs me to suddenly jump forward in time. Though of course it happens all the time in fiction. Now I'm reading (or at least starting!) The Magic Kingdom by Stanley Elkin.
We have been buying many books recently. We've added about 600 new titles from a recent estate purchase, and we have about a thousand more new books to be valued and catalogued waiting in boxes in the wings. Our shelves are already full, with no more room at all in the oversized book sections. This means culling old stock and getting ready to have an outdoor book sale at the first opportunity.
Meanwhile, in our neighborhood Elliott Bay Book Company will be opening tomorrow with a street party celebration. And Open Books on Madison Street is closing its doors. Book-It Repertory Theatre, a company that produces plays based on books is having free readings this weekend, a Novel Workshop. I'm planning to go to the Alice in Wonderland reading for sure. And the Seattle Public Library is having their big book sale in an airplane hanger at Magnuson Park. It's crowded, dirty, and filled with non-readers scanning ISBN's with their electronic devices telling them which titles to buy for the evil megalisters based on robot pricing, but hey, there's lots of cheap books.