Reading notes

Image captured today at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

“Looks like Ruth,” said my husband, who recently finished the fifth in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series. I could only laugh in agreement. If the fictional poet, my favorite character in the series, were a siamang, she’d look like the one above. Speaking of Three Pines, since my last annotated list, I finished All the Devils Are Here (2020) and am partly through the most recent book, The Madness of Crowds (2021). I accept the repetition, the improbabilities, the continuity errors, the repetition, etc. because I appreciate the world Penny built, in spite of its (many) flaws.

I also finished two books I mentioned earlier this monthIn a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love (Joseph Luzzi; 2015) and Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman; 2011), which means that I have exceeded one of my challenges: at least 24 non-fiction titles read from shelves. The twenty-sixth was Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked (James Lasdun; 2013). I began reading it eight years ago and was engaged but set it aside for some reason. A slim volume, it was easy to reread the first forty pages and continue. A fan of those neat moments of synthesis / synchronicity / serendipity, I appreciated Lasdun’s discussion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I also mentioned reading earlier this month, and Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Library of Babel,” which I read to prepare for last week’s The Readers Karamazov podcast. From Lasdun, for the commonplace book:

A person crosses your path; briefly their story intersects with yours and diverges again, leaving something of itself with you and maybe taking something of yours in return, and they’re gone. These days I have to remind myself that encounters with other people can be both interesting and inconsequential.

For a Chicago Humanities Festival “Between the Lines” event earlier this month, I read On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (Maggie Nelson; 2021). Reviews here and here.

When I closed Our Country Friends (Gary Shteyngart; 2021), I turned to what appears to have been one of its inspirations, Uncle Vanya (Anton Chekhov; 1898. (Trans. Peter Carson; 2002)), which I much preferred. (Later in the winter break, I’m planning to watch the production filmed in August 2020 from the Harold Pinter Theatre in London.)

Tonight I plan to read Canto 12 of Dante’s Purgatorio for 100 Days of Dante and to finish Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson; 2014) for a program in February.

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