Books I Have Finished, Books I Am Reading, Books I Am Soon to Read
I have been having a rapture of books since the new year began, and I'd like to share. Mostly purchased at @strandbookstore, so yay independent book sellers!
- •Abstraction And Empathy, Wilhelm WorringerStatus: Finished! This is an art theory book from around the start of the modernist movement, so the early 1900's. The parts of it that aren't timeless (the arguments against Victorian "technique") are still interesting, but what's really exciting are the engagements with the emotional impetus behind art. Worringer positions naturalism as spiritual unity and abstraction as an attempt to order the godless chaos of the natural world, and he finds surprising antecedents in Egypt and mathematics.
- •The Price Of Salt, Patricia HighsmithStatus: Finished! This was the first reread I had done of this novel since seeing Carol, and a most satisfactory one at that. Highly recommend to anyone who likes clear-eyed prose and reading about desire, paranoia, and/or women's minds. Not as subtle as some of Highsmith's other books, but its occasional clumsiness reads as personal and endearing.
- •A Room Of One's Own, Virginia WoolfStatus: Finished! Woolf's prose can be frustrating, but oh man this hit close to home. One of the most distinguished women writers of her time writing about why history hasn't provided more women writers. Woolf's conclusion? Women are blocked by poverty & even if they weren't, the heteronormative role that society asks them to perform is fundamentally at odds with the demands of art. How can a woman write if she never has money or a room of her own? Depressingly but also thrillingly relevant.
- •Swann's Way, Marcel ProustStatus: On hiatus. Loving this so far and I think about it often, especially (obviously?) in relation to time. Completely fascinating how Proust uses the form of the novel as a means to construct consciousness. The external world is moving constantly forward, but within consciousness there is an ecstatic world of overlapping time—the past, present, & future fold over each other as our minds attempt to order our senses. Still, it's a read that requires a lot of concentration: I needed a break.
- •Man's Search For Meaning, Viktor FranklStatus: On hiatus. Started this briefly, but then stopped for a couple reasons. I didn't realize before I began that Frankl's account of his experience in Auschwitz was an articulation of a psychotherapeutic method, which is great, but I wanted to feel the weight of this history without immediately filtering it through ideology. Started Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah instead, and will resume reading when I finish that.
- •A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, Roland BarthesStatus: Reading. This book is ruining my life even as I type this, I love it so much. Barthes's attempt to affirm the nuances in the universal but unspoken, half-crazed language of love, each "fragment" is generally two or three pages dedicated to a passing image or a fleeting thought from the mind of the lover. The only downside to reading this book is that I walk around and think I'm falling in love with everyone right now, so I guess if you're harboring a crush, now is the time to strike.
- •The Diaries Of Vaslav Nijinsky, Vaslav NijinskyStatus: Reading. A total mindfuck, but if you're into that, I HIGHLY recommend these diaries. Nijinsky was a modernist ballet dancer and choreographer who most famously choreographed The Rites Of Spring for Stravinsky in 1913, which promptly caused a riot on its opening night. Naturally reticent about communicating off-stage, Nijinsky started his diaries as symptoms of schizophrenia began to take hold, and they are a plunge into a very present mind as it begins to unravel.
- •The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery Of Desire, Wayne KoestenbaumStatus: Next up! Koestenbaum wrote the foreword to my copy of A Lover's Discourse, and when I looked up his work I fell in love with this excerpt: "The opera queen must choose one diva. The other divas may be admired, enjoyed, even loved. But only one diva can reign in the opera queen's heart; only one diva can have the power to describe a listener's life, as a compass describes a circle." If for no other reason, I must read the whole book now as a guide to choosing my diva!