A person gains attention on the internet mainly by talking about themselves. To that end: here are the books I read this week, and how I feel about them. Why would you be interested in this? I have absolutely no idea.
This week I read:
The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky – This Dostoevsky character, I tell you, why hasn't anyone ever heard of him? Wait. What? Oh, everyone has. Appropriately enough, then. Generally considered one of his lesser works both in size and merit, the Double is nonetheless an excellent if bitter little read, dealing with many of the issues which Dostoevsky would develop to greater degree in his future works. Madness, persecution, identity, all these cheery sorts of things. Golyadkin senior is a functionary in the classic Dostoevsky mode, which is to say, petty, miserable, grasping, desperate for social recognition, weak-willed, venal, too cowardly to be very much of anything. (It would not be for more than a century that the west would begin to use this archetype in fiction). His position is usurped by the arrival of Golyadkin junior, physically identical but possessed of the selfishness and easy social manners which Golyadkin senior wishes he possessed. Or, alternatively, Golyadkin is simply going insane. Like all Dostoevsky, it's very funny in a terrible way, and also like all Dostoevsky, it's a bit of a slog. Needless to say it is also quite brilliant.
Were there swords: Not a one.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind – Ha! This one was a ton of fun. The story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, born without a scent or a moral consciousness whatsoever, but blessed with a superhuman sense of smell, and the atrocities he wreaks in 18th century France. Gorgeously written, an adult fairy tale of the most fiendish sort. A great Halloween read, sent a nasty little chill up my spine. Highly recommended.
Were there swords: I mean, not really. Not in the sense of people having sword fights or whatever.
The Infernals by John Connolly – I quite like John Connolly's stuff, even if he once said bad things about my beloved Jim Thompson on a panel on noir we were both on. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU JOHN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Anyway, this is a fun little book, and a good seasonal read. I didn't exactly deliberately pick Halloween appropriate reads deliberately, but it seems to have worked out that way and I'm happy it did. I'll pick up the next in the series the next time I get the chance.
Were there swords: The demons hit each other with some, but it was mostly in the background. Still, I'm going to say yes.
The Stammering Century by Gilbert Seldes – Tons of fun! A history of the19th century's fanatical religious movements, pseudoscientific dogmas, cranks, humbugs, and general lunatics, written in the early 20th century. (Sidenote: there anything more fun than reading a history book written in an earlier era? It's like getting two books for the price of one, because you get the added delight of trying to figure out how the prejudices of the writer's age reflect his opinion on the period in discussion, as well as the opportunity to question your own. Anyhow.) Seldes does a fabulous job of tying together everything from the revival movement of the Great Awakening to mid-century obsession with phrenology, showing how each eroded what was the bedrock foundation of Calvinist theology which the country was initially imbued with. Really enjoyed. As always, the Goddamn New York Review of Book is doing Goddamn great work. Goddamn. Also -- what a great fucking title.
Were there swords: No swords.
Right Now I Am Reading: A Gene Wolfe short story anthology, and ain't I lucky?