?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Books I have read, re-read, am reading and will read in the course of a fiction-crammed summer.  It will be obvious that I am writing about Nicholson Baker, and about ghosts in fiction.

A Box of Matches, Nicholson Baker
U and I, Nicholson Baker
The Everlasting Story of Nory, Nicholson Baker
The Anthologist, Nicholson Baker

(Also re-looked-at The Mezzanine, Vox and Room Temperature.)

The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak
Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel
Alive in Necropolis, Doug Dorst
Asleep, Banana Yoshimoto
Stories by Haruki Murakami
Midnight Picnic, Nick Antosca
In Persuasion Nation, George Saunders, and other stories
Intro and selections from The Norton Book of Ghost Stories, ed. Brad Leithauser
Little Stranger, Sarah Waters
Magic for Beginners, Stranger Things Happen, Kelley Link

Waiting for the Straub-edited antho mentioned above.

This is more fiction than I have ingested in any summer since... I don't know when, sometime in the late sixties or early seventies probably, consuming John Barth and Thomas Pynchon and the Ballantine fantasy novels and Ada and and...

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
movingfinger
Aug. 8th, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
What do you think of Beyond Black?
crowleycrow
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:18 am (UTC)
Fabulous for much of its length, but -- I haven't finished it -- getting repetitive and shapeless. Marvellous writing, fine characters, good ghosts. A medium who is as wise about the characters and ways of "airside" as about her "earthside" life.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 9th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)
beyond black
I had a similar reaction. I read it right when it came out and the memory is a little hazy, but I do remember finding some elements of it really compelling.

Have you (or has anybody reading this) ever read Orson Scott Card's "The Lost Boys"? It's been a long time since I read it, but it seemed at the time one of the most remarkable ghost stories I'd ever read. A sort of immersive domestic drama for most of the way through, with elements of rising disquiet, and then at the end it has one of my all-time favorite shocks.

Nick
glennza
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Orson Scott Card
Never got around to The Lost Boys but seeing your post reminded me that OSC's Maps in a Mirror was one of the finest collections of short stories I have ever read. It contained a handful of what the author called "stories of dread" rather than horror. Many of them have stayed with me for years.

Orson Scott Card seems to be stuck in a rut now; churning out countless "Ender" books.
matt_ruff
Aug. 9th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Just in case you need a break from your assigned reading, let me throw in a recommendation for John Harwood's The Ghost Writer.
ellen_datlow
Aug. 9th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
Midnight Picnic is terrific.
crowleycrow
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:20 pm (UTC)
I'll look for it.
mukashi_banashi
Aug. 9th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)
Mr. Crowley,

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors. But I'm confused...are you just reading some of his short stories, or are you reading a book called Stories by him? I wasn't aware he had a book by that title.

Forgive me if this question is a little bit obvious...
negothick
Aug. 9th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
I envy your summer reading! Judging by these replies, you are creating ripples in the aether merely by listing them. Wouldn't it be wonderful if writers (especially of fiction) could know every time someone is reading their works? A little pinging alarm, an icon on their computer screen, or just a raising of the hairs on one's arm?
Just thinking. . .
crowleycrow
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
Actually I have Google Alerts, which tells me whenever anyone is reading a book of mine and saying so on the Internet. Also, as I once noted, whenever I score for my Australian soccer team, arrest somebody in Brockton, MA, or consecrate a priest in my archbishopric.

It would be good to get a ping whenever anybody _finishes_ reading a book of mine. It would be more reassuring and also reduce the ping traffic, which could make you look odd in public.
mattboggan
Aug. 10th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)
Ping!
So you certainly heard the ping when I _finished_ _Four Freedoms_.

I think I'll re-read it some time in the future because, like most of your books, I believe that there is a deeper meaning, a kind of subtext (to use the word I often tumbled upon in the course of me reading _World of Wonders_) for which I am not prepared or mature enough to get in its wholeness.

My critic can be read here, nonetheless (in French, mind): http://mattboggan.livejournal.com/
crowleycrow
Aug. 9th, 2009 12:24 pm (UTC)
No, just stories I have found in various collections, including the Vintage Murakami anthology. Can you point me to any stories or places in novels that actually feature ghosts? I keep expecting them -- I know that he has a fondness for the stories of Akinari Ueda -- but I haven't come upon any yet.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)
John,

very interesting reading list. I read The Little Stranger earlier this year.
If you haven't read Uyeda Akinari, may I suggest Tales of Moonlight and Rain. Japanese Gothic Tales. Translated by Kengi Hamadi (Columbia University, 1972), an amazing book of ghost stories (written in late 18th century).
Look forward to reading your essay.

Henry Wessells
mukashi_banashi
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
I second the recommendation. But I think the newer translation, done by Anthony Chambers, is supposed to be better. Plus it has an extensive and quite interesting introduction.

ISBN: 0231139136
mukashi_banashi
Aug. 9th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
I actually haven't read any of his short stories yet. Just his novels.

Interesting that you mention Ueda Akinari. I am a student of folklore, and I recently did about four years' study on that of the Japanese. Akinari's Tales of Moonlight and Rain was really interesting. If you want some pretty good Japanese ghost stories, I'd recommend Izumi Kyōka. There's a book of his stories translated into English called Japanese Gothic Tales.

As for ghosts in Murakami...I don't know if there are any ghosts proper...Murakami is a surrealist primarily. What I like about his books is that they are, true to life, often unstructured, and at the end the mysterious and supernatural often remains unexplained. The closest I think he has to a ghost would be in the book Kafka on the Shore. It involves what the Japanese call ikiryō, which is the spirit, not of a dead person, but of a living person. That's one of my favorites of his books. Others are Dance Dance Dance, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Norwegian Wood (the last being his only novel to feature no surreal elements at all). But Kafka is probably the best Murakami novel to start out with.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Thank you for the hints. This is all a new area for me.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 19th, 2009 06:40 pm (UTC)
Ghosts in Murakami
In the short stories (which I've read all of up until his most recent collection _Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman_), I don't remember any proper ghosts. Lots of ghostly, but no actual ghosts. He is much more interested in impossible beings which may or may not be autonomous intrusions into the lives of his characters: Superfrog Saves Tokyo, The Dancing Dwarf, The Little Green Monster, and, in my opinion his best short story, Honey Pie. Though the supernatural in Honey Pie is so lightly invoked that it probably isn't there at all. I love not being able to tell

Only two of his novels contain what the editors of The Oxford Anthology of Victorian Ghost Stories so perfectly phrase "the spectacle of the returning dead": The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and A Wild Sheep Chase. In each case, there is a whole lot of novel before the dead show up, be warned. To understand _A Wild Sheep Chase_ you've really got to read his short but impossible-to-find early novel _Hear the Wind Sing_, which _A Wild Sheep Chase_ is the sequel to.

On second thought, "spectacle of the returning dead" isn't apt for Murakami, as it is the living who enter the world of the dead in both cases. The dead stay where they are. Probably. In any case, I love not being able to tell.

In my opinion, Murakami's reputation as a purveyor of ghosts is misdirected. He is really a purveyor of exquisite purgatories. If Murakami does ghosts at all, they are like those of Henry James, not M.R. James. Which is to say, they're probably not *really* there at all.
autumn__sweater
Aug. 9th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
I just got down with Link's Magic. She's just so much fun to read. Most of these others I don't know! But I'm happy to discover new writers: it's an endless list.
lizhand
Aug. 9th, 2009 07:45 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a great reading list. Sarah Waters' new book is on mine as well.

As per the season — my Yankee grandmother used to say "After The Fourth of July, summer is over." So maybe your fall reading list?
p_straub55
Aug. 10th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
I don't know, it's been a while since I read it, but I thought Beyond Black was a wonderful novel all the way through. Considering the subject matter, the tone seemed amazingly intimate, knowledgeable, tuned-in.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:42 am (UTC)
Yes, it was the general frankness and commonplace quality of all the spiritual shenanigans, and the way all of it could be seen from the other side -- that is, by non-participants -- as totally non-spiritual: fakery or coincidence or the vapors. Brilliant. And how horridly underworld her England seemed.
crowleycrow
Aug. 11th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC)
That was me, just above
(Anonymous)
Aug. 11th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
I wonder if you've read Jonathan Carrell. I am hoping to read his The Ghost In Love this summer.
MJG
(Anonymous)
Aug. 13th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Christopher Barzak
Did you read Barzak's novel "One for Sorrow" in all your ghost reading? Certainly a typical first novel, but still worth reading.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )