Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Buying

It's that time of the month. It's been 30 days already since my last order, can you believe it? How time flies when you're busy.

1) First of all, three Henry James books for my 2009 reading challenge. I did not choose them at random. I wanted three books and I don't want my collection of books to contain any overlapping (a little OCD of me if you wish). In case Henry James just happens to become one of my favourite authors (you never know) and I decide to collect all of his writings, The Library of America has published some neat volumes of his novels, short stories and travel writings so I followed their classification and instead of buying the books in the Library of America edition (one book for all three novels, which would break my wrist) I bought them in the new and improved Oxford World's Classics edition. This way, if I ever want to discover more of his stuff that isn't published the OWC edition, I can pick any Library of America volume and I won't have any overlapping in my library.

The Bostonians
Satirical novel by Henry James, published serially in Century Illustrated Magazine in 1885-86 and in book form in three volumes in 1886. It was one of the earliest American novels to deal--even obliquely--with lesbianism. Olive Chancellor, a Boston feminist in the 1870s, thinks she has found a kindred spirit in Verena Tarrant, a beautiful young woman who, though passive and indecisive, is a spellbinding orator for women's rights. Olive vies for Verena's attention and affections with Basil Ransom, a gracious but reactionary Confederate army veteran. Verena marries Basil and leaves Boston. The Bostonians is based on Alphonse Daudet's novel L'Evangeliste (1883); James transposed the work to Boston and to the milieu of the rising feminist movement.

The Portrait of a Lady
When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to determine her own fate, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. She then finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond, who, beneath his veneer of charm and cultivation, is cruelty itself. A story of intense poignancy, Isabel's tale of love and betrayal still resonates with modern audiences.

Washington Square
James's astute story of a plain heiress and the poor, handsome suitor who may or may not love her only for her wealth ... James credits the young woman from the start with nothing more Oscar-worthy than a certain dull ordinariness. (Pretty dull summary as well but what can you do?)

2) I discovered Alan Hollinghurst through his excellent book The Line of Beauty (I talked about it here) and I've been wanting to read more of his works ever since, so I bought two books:

The Swimming-Pool Library
The Swimming Pool Library weaves a rich and fascinating tapestry of Britain's gay subculture spanning pre-World War I through the sexually abandoned early '80s, stopping short at the doorstep of AIDS. Hollinghurst's prose is fresh, witty and wise, and his ever-surprising, sinuously unfurling story is told with insouciant grace and unabashed sexuality. BOMC and QPBC alternates.

The Folding Star
Edward Manners, a 33-year-old aspiring British writer, arrives in a Flemish town to work as a private tutor in English, only to find himself obsessively smitten with one of his pupils, Luc Altidore, a 17-year-old expelled from school.

3) And two completely unrelated books. If you've followed this journal, there's no need for explanation, if you don't know what I'm talking about, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are two authors I've discovered this year during my fantasy and science fiction challenge and I love them both and want to complete my collection. Reaper Man is the second book if you follow Death's storyline in Discworld.

Neverwhere's protagonist, Richard Mayhew, learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. He ceases to exist in the ordinary world of London Above, and joins a quest through the dark and dangerous London Below, a shadow city of lost and forgotten people, places, and times. His companions are Door, who is trying to find out who hired the assassins who murdered her family and why; the Marquis of Carabas, a trickster who trades services for very big favors; and Hunter, a mysterious lady who guards bodies and hunts only the biggest game. London Below is a wonderfully realized shadow world, and the story plunges through it like an express passing local stations, with plenty of action and a satisfying conclusion. The story is reminiscent of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but Neil Gaiman's humor is much darker and his images sometimes truly horrific. Puns and allusions to everything from Paradise Lost to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz abound, but you can enjoy the book without getting all of them. Gaiman is definitely not just for graphic-novel fans anymore.

Reaper Man
They say there are only two things you can count on ... But that was before DEATH started pondering the existential. Of course, the last thing anyone needs is a squeamish Grim Reaper and soon his Discworld bosses have sent him off with best wishes and a well-earned gold watch. Now DEATH is having the time of his life, finding greener pastures where he can put his scythe to a whole new use.