Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Books for the Road . . . er, the Air

How hard it is to go on a trip when all I want to do is pet my pony, futz around with my garden, target some wicked-awesome spring cleaning projects, and play guitar!  I don't even have any books I'm terribly excited about for the trip.  Here's what I'm bringing:

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak:  I do not know why I keep returning to attempts at these Russian doorstops, but there it is.  I always just feel that I ought to have read them, so I keep trying, trying, trying.  This particular translation is supposed to be the bomb-diggety, but I find it awkward and annoying to read (which may actually make it as close as possible to the original Russian -- a language whose inflections and intonations I find grating to the ear and taxing to the soul).  People in Russian novels always seem so heavy -- not physically, but spiritually.  I just think it's a culture beyond my ken.  But, Boris gets to go to Anaheim in my attempt to get more than 60 pages into the thing.

Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King: I bought this book a couple years ago, after having read and been enchanted by Mr. King's The Judgment of Paris and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling. I wonder if I thumbed through it back then and thought, "Way too much about this dome; not enough about the people and doings of 15th century Florence."  Because, that's what I'm thinking now in reading it.  I can understand that the dome was a marvel of architectural design; but, I just cannot get all that interested in its construction.  Nonetheless, it is coming with my to Cali, just so I can cross it off my list.

The Magician's Book by Laura Miller:  The subtitle on this one is A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia.  The inside flap reads thus: As a child, Laura Miller read and reread The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and its sequels countless times, and wanted nothing more than to find her own way to Narnia.  In her skeptical teens, another book's casual reference to the Chronicles' Christian themes left her feeling betrayed and alienated from the stories she had come to know and trust.  I found this interesting, because when I read the Chronicles as a child who was not from a believing household or background, they really freaked me out.  It was as though I knew something important and life-altering was being stated in the books, but I had no way to internalize and process it, so I was scared to death of the Chronicles all throughout childhood (especially The Last Battle) -- even while loving them. This might be a pretty good read, though I find the semi-hysterical tone of the phrase "betrayed and alienated" in the cover flap a bit silly.  But, suppose I had read and loved the His Dark Materials trilogy as a Christian child and then later found out that Philip Pullman was a big atheist who actively tried to subvert authors of faith like C.S. Lewis in his work.  Might I not feel betrayed as well?  So, it comes down south, too, and I'll use it as my reward for slogging through the Russian tome.

Well, you are all welcome to feel sorry for me as I once again am torn from hearth and home to participate in this perpetual wanderlust that fills the souls my husband and daughter.  And if you don't, never fear: I feel sorry enough for myself to fill volumes of lamentations. 


Arielle said...

Feeling betrayed because you didn't know what an author had in mind when they wrote a book/series? Seems kind of weird. Sounds more like someone had trouble reconciling something they loved with something they hated, and had to find a way to blame someone for how they felt... I'll be interested in seeing your review of the book.

Justine said...

I agree with your thoughts -- and also felt that the word "betrayed" in the dust jacket flap notes was hysterical and over-the-top. Yet, in thinking about how the books we read as children shape the adults we become, there is something personal and deep-felt in discovering the underlying purpose or message of a book -- especially when that worldview runs counter to your own. So, in this case, while the word may be silly and too dramatic, "betrayed" just becomes a vulgar shorthand for your more elegant formulation of reconciling.

I hope to get to this book soon. I'm stuck in the wretched land of Dr. Zhivago. Oy. Have you read this book, Arielle? Do you like Russian literature? Do you have any advice for getting through it? Durn it, I'm determined to finish, but ... ugh. Anyway, Magician's Book is surely next. Thanks for stopping by!