Friday, November 05, 2010


Since changing jobs and starting to take public transit instead of driving, I've had a lot more opportunity to read. I honestly don't think I've done as much reading in the past six or seven months as I have since university. Maybe even then. This is free, willing, elective reading, and I feel pretty good about it. Here's a list of what I've read since the change. There may be one or two books I've overlooked, but this is it in the main...

Ordinary Lives, Josef Skvorecky
The semi-autobiographical sketches of a writer moving back and forth between his home in Canada and his native Czechoslovakia (actually, the Czech Republic) after the fall of Communism and the Velvet Divorce.

The Engineer of Human Souls, Josef Skvorecky
Another semi-autobiographical novel about a Czech writer living in self-exile in Toronto, this one set mainly in the mid-1970s, with parts set at various times in the Second World War, the Czechoslovak Communist Revolution, and the Prague Spring.

Headed for the Blues, Josef Skvorecky

Music for Chameleons, Truman Capote
A collection of Truman Capote's short stories. I came to it by two routes: an interest in the man himself, and fact that the book inspired an eponymous Gary Numan song that I knew long before becoming interested in Capote himself.

Conversations with Capote, Lawrence Grobel
I wanted to know more about Capote, the man, and this book was an excellent and amusing set of insights into who he was, how he worked, and his inspirations.

The Complete Stories of Turman Capote, Truman Capote
Several of the stories mentioned in Grobel's Conversations with Capote are in this book. That sent me off to read it.

The Miracle Game, Josef Skvorecky
The story of a seemingly simple, but ultimately complicated, event in Communist Czechoslovakia. In the fine points, it's about the dangers of religion and faith in such a state; in general, it speaks of realities of life and freedom in any totalitarian society.

What This Cruel War Was Over, Chandra Manning
A disagreement with a correspondent on the basis of the US Civil War sent me looking to this book. An examination of the letters, diaries, and camp newspapers of several thousand private soldiers, North and South, the book lays the groundwork for making the point that slavery was very much on the minds of these men, who understood it to be the impetus for the war, and its sustaining force.

The Crystal Cave, Mary Stewart
The Hollow Hills, Mary Stewart
The Last Enchantment, Mary Stewart
The Wicked Day, Mary Stewart
These four books tell the story of Merlin, his role in the conception and rearing of King Arthur, and finally the life's course of Mordred. The first three books are told by Merlin in the first person; the last is a third-person account of Mordred's life.

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins's look at religion, its roots, its effects on society, its implications for science, and the reality of its claims.

Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
The story of a feckless teenager and perennially poor student over several dislocated days in New York City.

Public Triumph, Personal Tragedy, Steve Paikin
This is a biography of John Robarts, Premier of Ontario from 1961 to 1971, arguably the best years Ontario ever had.

The Public Metropolis, Frances Friskin
A scholarly work by a trained civil engineer who worked for much of the 60s in Ohio before returning to Canada, examining reasons for the relative success Canadian cities (in particular, Toronto) have had in avoiding the urban decay more typical elsewhere in other North American cities; the policies and philosophies of government, particularly at the provincial level, which have played a major role in making the difference.

Mockingbird, Charles J. Shields
The book I'm currently reading. Tangential to my interest in Truman Capote is one in Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. After giving the world one of the most important novels in the English language in the 20th century, Lee has never written, or at least published, another novel, and that alone makes her story compelling. The fact that she was lifelong friends with Capote makes her story irresistible.


jim said...

Holy frijoles, my mom read the Stewart books when I was a kid!

Peter said...

What did you think of Tequila Mockingbird (assuming you've read it)?
I thought it better than Catcher In The Rye, for which it seems similarly significant in the 20th Century literature canon.

Lone Primate said...

Tequila Mockingbird; you know, that's been going through my head just about every morning when I get off the train. You must be a fellow Roger Ramjet fan. :)

I think it's one of the premier novels of the the 20th Century in our language. I remember it being assigned to us in grade nine. Our English teacher loved it so much she read it out loud to us over the course of a few weeks. I can still picture her, sitting on the edge of her desk, giving voice to those people. I saw the movie later on and the actors they picked were so spot-on that it's impossible to picture them any other way now.

I couldn't see the point in Catcher in the Rye, aside from a study in characterization and the archetypal unreliable narrator. But for what it was and is, To Kill a Mockingbird is virtual a perfect work, and remains poignant.

Lone Primate said...

Hey, Jim, did she read them to you guys, or do you just remember her musing over them beside a cup of coffee? :)

Peter said...

I suspect Catcher In The Rye is North America's answer to Camus' L'Etranger, of which I'm not a fan either (despite my existentialist/humanist leanings...)
It's amazing how lacking in emotional resonance some humanist texts can be...
On the flipside, Roger Ramjet is our hero, fighting for our freedom!