2011: The Mid-Year Report

on Friday, July 1, 2011
Well, we've reached the halfway mark. The winter solstice has flitted by, parting the clouds on the horizon to reveal the glowing spectre of the taxman, flaming head in one hand, rusty scythe in the other, set to pounce. Yep, it's that time of year.

Unfortunately, 2011 is turning out to be a bit of a slow one for me when it comes to reading. Between law work, lecturing, renovating a house and a bunch of personal crap with which I shan't bore you, I only managed to get through seventy five books so far. At least it's a round number. And thankfully, there have been a few really great reads amongst them. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


You may recall that, at the end of last year, I made a few New Years Aspirations (a coward's non-committal version of resolutions). So let's see how I've fared:

Read One Great Classic Per Month. I started off well with The Brothers Ashkenazi, Anna Karenina and Joseph Roth's Rebellion but fell off the wagon pretty quickly. That is unless you count lesser known 'classics' like Roland Topor's The Tenant or short works by classic writers like Georges Perec's An Attempt At Exhausting A Place in Paris or Herman Melville's Bartleby The Scrivener. Oh, and I did read the collected fiction of Jorge Luis Borges (all eight or so books). And The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato. Not to mention The President by Miguel Angel Asturias. Come to think of it, I might have eschewed the great, capital "C" classics, but I've done pretty will on this one. Go me!

Read One Debut Novel Per Month. Seems I've stumbled across the finish line on this one, more by chance than design. I've read five debuts of varying quality in the past six months. Of particular note were Hannah Pittard's The Fates Will Find Their Way as well as Arnold Zable's 1991 debut, Jewels and Ashes. As for the debut everyone is buzzing about, Tea Obrecht's The Tiger's Wife... Well, I guess it was pretty good but in my humble opinion it wasn't deserving of the gushes (or The Orange Prize, though by now you'd know what I think of the Orange Prize in general).

Read Outside My Comfort Zone. While I didn't take the plunge into non-fictional waters, I did dabble in a bit of genre fiction (turns out crappy crime fiction can be a wonderful way to pass the hours) and finally had a go at reading graphic fiction. I'm not a total convert but the ones I read I enjoyed. Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa even made it to my Favourite Books So Far list (see below).

Read More, Buy Less. Technically a failure but I plead the defence of Sudden And Extraordinary Emergency (even if there have yet to be any superior court cases on the topic, it can be found in s. 9AI of the Crimes Act 1958 and I'm pegging my literary freedom on it... Just try to stop me!). Here's the thing, your Honour. I hadn't factored in the possibility of the Australian dollar surpassing parity. If I had let the opportunity pass me by I wouldn't have been able to survive. And so I bought. And bought. And bought. Until I could build a cubby house out of Amazon boxes.

Read One Series In its Entirety. Win. Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy. In January. So there! (I do want to knock over another series or two, perhaps Sartre's trilogy or Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow series. Watch this space for a touch of over-achievement come the end of the year.)

All in all I'm pretty happy when it comes to fulfilling my aspirations. At least I haven't embarrassed myself too badly. Sure, I might have to up the Classics quotient in the next six months, but otherwise I think I'm on the right track.

Now to the inevitable lists:

Although not all of these were published this year, here are the standouts (2011 books marked with asterisk):
The Brothers Ashkenazi by I.J. Singer
The Tenant by Roland Topor
The Curfew by Jesse Ball*
Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa
I Hate Martin Amis Et Al by Peter Barry*
Rebellion by Joseph Roth
Pure by Andrew Miller *
The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard*
The President by Miguel Angel Asturias

So here's what I plan to be reading over the next couple of weeks:
Florence and Giles by John Harding
I Am Max Lamm by Raphael Brous (Which I've already read and enjoyed in manuscript form but I'm looking forward to see how it turned out post-editing etc)
The Land At The End Of The World by Antonio Lobo Antunes
The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
The Leg Of Lamb: Its Life And Works by Benjamin Peret

Of the books I know are being released, I'm most excited by Evilio Rosero's Good Offices, Cain by Jose Saramago, Roberto Bolano's supposed 'other masterpiece' The Third Reich and Juan Jose Saer's The Sixty Five Years of Washington. I've fallen a bit behind on future releases so I'm sure there are others that I would have included had I known about them. Projecting way into the future, I can't wait for the impenetrable Laszlo Krasznahorkai's newie Satantango which comes out in February 2012. But, well, that's eight months away so wait I must!

I know it came out in 2010, but I've just gotten onto The Arrivals' awesome album Volatile Molotov. Imagine Elvis Costello mating with a literature professor and fronting a gruff Midwestern punk band and you get the idea. Killer album. Something to listen to on your way to the nearest indie bookstore.


Adam for all Seasons said...

im holding out for your scifi book report for 2011!

The Bookworm said...

It might come at the end of the year. I have read a few. I'll probably read some more as I try to hit more genre fiction, following my successful foray into crime novels.

Nathan said...

And don't forget Murakami's 1Q84! So keen.
I'm going to pick up the Ball and Miller. Have Ashkenazi ready to go once I get a bit of time.

The Bookworm said...

Oh yeah good call! I'm also excited for the new Colson Whitehead book Zone One. Apparently a high-lit post apocalyptic zombie novel which will be quite interesting coming from him.

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