Books I read 3/24/2015

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.

Last Week I Read:

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, translation by Donald Rayfield: A classic work of world literature I no longer need to lie about having read! Dead Souls is the story of Chichikov, a double-dealing antihero who travels through the provinces in an effort to purchase ownership recently deceased serfs, a MacGuffin which allows Gogol ample opportunity to skewer the foibles, pretensions, and general awfulness of the backwater nobility, Russia, and humanity generally speaking. The language is nuanced and rich and tons of fun, and by the standards of canonical Russian literature it's really quite breezy (admittedly, damning with faint praise). Of course, only part one was ever completed (supposedly Gogol destroyed the rest of what he had written shortly before his death) and whatever grand point he might have been building towards never really gets made— But still, really very laugh out loud funny, and although an informed reader will understand, in a broad way at least, what the plot behind the purchasing of all of these 'dead souls', still you have to appreciate the quite modern-seeming brilliance of not telling the reader what the hell is going on for more than two-hundred pages. Were there sword fights: No, the only sparring is verbal.

East of the Sun: The Epic Conquest and Tragic History of Siberia by Benson Bobrick: A grand an entertaining history of Russia's conquest and colonization of Siberia, from Ivan the Great to Stalin (chronologically if not morally distant). I learned some things I didn't know, I got some ideas for a sort of magical western novel that I might someday write, after I write about five other books and assuming I don't get hit by a car crossing the street this afternoon. A worthwhile read, all around. Were there sword fights: I mean, there aren't any literal descriptions of anyone going at it, but there's a fair bit of violence in the conquest of Siberia, as you might imagine, and the book doesn't stint. Speaking strictly, though, no, there weren't any sword fights.

Right Now I Am Reading: Stoner by John Williams, because I'm a glutton for punishment.