I was going to do a whining post about how the bus has been late on my way home from work every day this week and yadda yadda yadda. But you don’t want to hear me whine. And besides, the urge to whine has disappeared as I am sitting outside with the Dashwoods clucking and peeping around me. Their general enthusiasm about everything cannot fail to lift one’s spirits. Plus I just noticed that Elinor has hazel eyes. I never thought that chickens might have different eye colors.

Just when I think I am close to being in control of my book pile and reading again, Library Journal had to throw a wrench in the works and send me a book for review. It is an interesting one, Exquisite Masochism: Marriage, Sex and the Novel Form by Claire Jarvis. I have not gotten far —only halfway through the introduction— but the book has promise. It is about how realist novelists in the 19th and early 20th centuries talk about sex while keeping a safe distance from pornography. But not just about any kind of sex. She will be discussing the marriage plot and how marriage gets used as code for sex. But she also plans on discussing sex outside of marriage with a particular interest in characters of dominant women and submissive men. The idea of exquisite masochism involves desire and sexual feelings and bringing it to the brink of the physical but then withholding. Or something like that. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I am generally not a sports memoir kind of reader, but I couldn’t resist Shut Up Legs! by Jens Voight. Voight is a champion pro cyclist and the book is about his career in cycling. He was racing during a couple big doping scandals including when Lance Armstrong finally admitted to doping. It isn’t the best written book — Voight has a co-author — but it is fun and interesting and I get to whimper at the thought of all those cycling miles and workouts and wonder why people who ride bikes, especially professionally, enjoy suffering so much. I am almost finished with this so you will hear more about it soon.

Another book I am almost finished with is The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson. I had mentioned recently about his dull prose but how I still felt compelled to keep reading. The plot’s climax was tense and now I am in the aftermath and winding down to the conclusion. In the winding down there is one character who is suffering from extreme grief and regret and he goes off to walk in the woods at all times of the day and night, trying to find consolation but also trying to not think. There are a few lovely passages that make me think Robinson can write really good prose if he wants to but that perhaps the plain style is his preference and maybe an attempt for the prose to be secondary to the story. Not sure, but it will be something I keep in mind for the next time I read one of his books.

I read an interesting article in the most recent New York Review of Books yesterday about translations of Russian classics. The article amounts to a criticism of the translations of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky and praise for Constance Garnett. I was surprised by the force of the criticism at first that fell just short of saying Pevear and Volokhonsky’s translations ruin the books. But comparisons are provided and while I wouldn’t say they are horrible, Garnett’s do seem to be better, more elegant and flowing. But of course, the passages were chosen to prove how bad P & V are so unless one does a side-by-side whole book comparison for herself there is no telling for sure.

Given all the praise the new translations have received (though I have not read any of them, sticking instead to the public domain ebook versions and therefore Constance Garnett), I wonder why this criticism comes now? Have you read any of P & V’s Russian classic translations and if so, what did you think of them?

I can’t believe we are so far into June already. I am looking forward to a vacation the entire week of June 20th. Not far away! I will be vacationing at home with the cats and the chickens (Bookman was not able to take any time) and you know I am planning on reading as much as I can. Maybe during that week I will finally truly be able to get all my books in progress under control. High hopes!

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