Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simon & Garfunkel, The Tempest & TBR piles

I'm over the moon ! It took only 7 days for Simon and Garfunkel's complete discography to reach me ! It's 5 CDs and one DVD of their 1981 Concert in Central Park. There are definitely amongst my favourite artists. I love the Beatles, but only their early stuff : I'm a great great fan of their first six studio albums but they completely lost me from Revolver onwards. I'm sure lots of people (and Rolling Stone magazine would certainly do that) say that their best albums begin with Revolver, it's painful when you can't say "I LOVE the Beatles !" because obviously you don't love everything they've done. But at the same time the little you love you're crazy about. Same goes for Dylan : his music is excellent up to Blood on the Tracks, after that he lost me. That's a bit more of an issue : the Beatles released 13 studio albums, I love a bit less than half. Dylan released 32 studio albums, I adore 5 of them. I enjoy 3 of the 4 studio albums Muse released (all except the first one Showbiz). I adore some of Thomas Newman's scores : Fried Green Tomatoes, Little Women and Angels in America are masterpieces, the rest I'm not so crazy about.
But some artists you love irrevocably and unconditionally. I love everything Billie Holiday, Rosemary Clooney, Simon and Garfunkel, Loreena McKennitt, Joan Baez, The Andrews Sisters, Chuck Berry, Sarah McLachlan, Muddy Waters, Madeleine Peyroux Mississippi John Hurt, Juan Diego Flores, Renée Fleming, Johnny Cash, have ever done, for example. So far, I've enjoyed every Rachel Portman score I've heard.

I'm not as bold when it comes to writers : I usually stick to one book when it changed my life, for fear of not finding books as good. The Hours by Michael Cunningham is a desert island book for me and yet I've never read any other of his books because obviously it won't be as good as that. Same goes for Atonement by Ian McEwan, except I gave in and read Enduring Love, which I thought was very poor in comparison so now I'm not reading anything else by him. Jane Austen is perhaps my favourite writer (I always say that ! Okay, along with J.K. Rowling and Sarah Waters, and, and, you get the picture)... until Mansfield Park comes. A Room With a View by Forster was life-changing but the other books I've read by him felt like betrayals. I could go on and on...

I finished The Tempest. That was a very strange play. Cannibalism, sexual assault, slavery, murder, colonialism but all this in a sort of constant drunkenness that makes it appear joyful and carefree when it has in fact such dark aspects as well. I'm not sure I enjoyed it, it's by far the most disturbing play by Shakespeare I've read, it made me feel ill-at-ease - at least it was food for thought.
I'm glad I read it, though, and I'd love to see it performed to see if I read it right. I can hardly believe it was first published as a comedy.
I finally managed to read three plays by Shakespeare this year, as it was part of my reading challenge. Richard III, King Lear and The Tempest. I liked King Lear best but all three have interesting aspects : I liked the medievalism of Richard III, this sort of raw magical power of speech also, I liked King Lear for its memorable characters, its good plots twists and its scale, and The Tempest because of its very dark and disturbing aspects that made it so ambitious. All three were very different. I'm already thinking about my three plays for 2009.
Starting Tom Jones by Fielding now, I think I'm trying it for the second time but I'm determined not to give up this time.

Which at long last brings me to my TBR pile. I read an interesting article in The Guardian (do read the comments, some of them are hilarious) about them and I can't say I can't relate. Sometimes I feel like selling my TBR pile to feel free again, but then I remember just how much I wanted to read this book and this book. The problem is not so much that there are so many books at home that I haven't read (although that's a real problem too) but more that I feel so guilty buying new ones when I already have so many waiting for me. Tom Jones is, I think, the oldest book of my TBR pile, I bought it in July. After a while, I sometimes can't understand anymore why I felt like reading certain books at some point. I guess the logical solution would be to buy 2 or 3 books you really want and once you're done with them, buy 3 books you really want now, etc. What felt good in July might not feel good anymore in December. After that I think I'll read some Viragos, they're shorter and I don't want to begin 2009 in the middle of a book so I won't start a long non-fiction book (I have two).

Here you go for Simon & Garfunkel's first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. Enjoy !