Since I finished the Wharton biography and yesterday on the train ride home from work I finished Eating Animals which I will write about in a day or two after I – um – digest it a little (sorry!), I felt entitled to start a new book. I’ve been reading lots of nonfiction lately it seems and while I have even more tempting nonfiction begging for my attention I needed a novel. But what one?
I tweeted my dilemma and got some helpful responses. I thought and thought. It came down to The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker or 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. I put the books next to each other and let them fight for my attention. Well, not really. It was more like I put them both on my desk, wandered around the house moaning over how I couldn’t decide and then stood staring at them while I flossed my teeth.
Bookman grew weary of my kvetching and said, “read the Baker,” somehow assuming that his declaration solved everything. “But I want to read Bolaño,” I said. “Then read that one,” he replied. “But I want to read The Anthologist too,” I whined. Clearly I was trying his patience. “Just read the first line of each and whichever one is better pick that one.” And he proceeded to read the first sentence of each to himself and then told me to read Baker. I protested that I had not read the first lines so could not agree with his assessment. He sighed and left the room.
I held each book in my hand and considered. The Anthologist is small, a good size for reading on the train. But I have been wanting to read 2666 for ages and even have it on my TBR Challenge list. I read the back covers of each book. I pondered.
Finally I went with 2666 because I had just read Adrienne Rich’s book of essays which were mostly about poetry and decided when it came down to it I wasn’t really in the mood to read about poetry right now even if it was in a novel. I wanted something different than what I had been reading of late. I began reading 2666 on the train this morning. While it is a bit awkward because it is such a large book, I still managed.
I love starting a new book. It holds so much promise and I never really know what to expect. I am ready and willing to be drawn in. It is at the beginning of a book that I am most open to what might be and excited about the unknown adventure that lies ahead.
Thus far 2666 is turning out to be a good choice. It has surprised me by making me laugh. How could I not find this amusing?
The Bremen German literature conference was highly eventful. Pelletier, backed by Morini and Espinoza, went on the attack like Napoleon at Jena, assaulting the unsuspecting German Archimboldi scholars, and the downed flags of Pohl, Schwarz, and Borchmeyer were soon routed to the cafes and taverns of Bremen…The audience consisting mostly of university students…was also won over by Pelletier’s fiery and uncompromising interpretations, throwing caution to the winds and enthusiastically yielding to the festive, Dionysian vision of ultimate carnival (or penultimate carnival) exegesis upheld by Pelletier and Espinoza. Two days later, Schwarz and his minions counterattacked…Then Liz Norton appeared, heaven-sent, and demolished the counterattack like a Desaix, like a Lannes, a blond Amazon who spoke excellent German, if anything too rapidly, and who expounded on Grimmelshausen and Gryphius and many others, including Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, better known as Paracelsus.
I was chuckling from the get go but when I came to the “blond Amazon who spoke excellent German” bit I nearly lost it.
It’s early yet but I think this book and I will get along just fine. Maybe next time it will be Baker’s turn.