Saturday, June 29, 2013

All the Books on the Shelves - pt 2 (Fiction A-D)

So after drama, I arrive at the core of the fiction/poetry collection. This part of the list will be novelists and poets (on the shelves) with last names A through D. 
A-D basically goes from the middle bookcase down for four shelves.  (This picture covers about 60% of the fiction, poetry and drama.  The bottom rows are cut off, though you can just make out 1001 Nights, Collected Poems of Garcia Lorca, Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg and Proust.)

I am genuinely curious how many books are on the shelves, and what proportion have been read.  A big R will stand for actually having read the book, and in a few cases I will put a small r for the books in the TBR pile that I truly think I will get to by the fall.

Kobo Abe The Ark Sakura
Kobo Abe The Ruined Map
Achebe R Things Fall Apart
Peter Ackroyd English Music
Peter Ackroyd The House of Doctor Dee
Ama Ata Aidoo Our Sister Killjoy
Alaa Al Aswany Friendly Fire
Alaa Al Aswany The Yacoubian Building
Ann Akhmatova R Selected Poems
Sholem Aleichem R Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories
Sherman Alexie R I Would Steal Horses
Monica Ali Brick Lane
Monica Ali In the Kitchen
Isabel Allende R The House Of The Spirits
Martis Amis R Money
A.R. Ammons Garbage
A.R. Ammons The Selected Poems
Jack Anderson R Field Trips on the Rapid Transit
Jack Anderson R Traffic
Jack Anderson R Getting Lost in a City Like This
John Ashbery Selected Poems
Margaret Atwood The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood R Cat's Eye
Margaret Atwood R Selected Poems
Margaret Atwood R Selected Poems II
Margaret Atwood R Moral Disorder and Other Stories
Margaret Atwood R The Edible Woman
Margaret Atwood R Eating Fire
Margaret Atwood R Payback
W.H. Auden Selected Poems
Jane Austen Mansfield Park
Jane Austen R Pride & Prejudice
Jane Austen R Sense & Sensibility
Jane Austen Emma
Jane Austen Persuasion
Paul Auster Collected Prose (incl. The Invention of Solitude)
Paul Auster R New York Trilogy
James Baldwin Collected Essays
Balzac Lost Illusions
Balzac Cousin Bette
Balzac Cousin Pons
Balzac Eugenie Grandet
Balzac The Human Comedy (NYRB)
Amiri Baraka R The Dead Lecturer
Amiri Baraka Selected Poetry
Djuna Barnes R Nightwood
Donald Barthelme R Sixty Stories
Donald Barthelme R Forty Stories
Donald Barthelme Flying to America
Donald Barthelme R Overnight to Many Distant Cities
Donald Barthelme R Paradise
Donald Barthelme R Sadness
Donald Barthelme R The Dead Father
Donald Barthelme R Unspeakable Practices
Frederick Barthelme Natural Selection
Charles Baudelaire R Les Fleurs du Mal
Charles Baudelaire R Paris Spleen
Charles Baudelaire Twenty Prose Poems
Samuel Beckett Three Novels (Molloy, Malone Dies, the Unnamable)
Madison Smartt Bell R Doctor Sleep
Madison Smartt Bell R The Washington Square Ensemble
Madison Smartt Bell R Waiting for the End of the World
Saul Bellow R The Adventures of Augie March
Saul Bellow R The Dean's December
Ted Berrigan The Collected Poems (read most but not 100% of this tome)
Ted Berrigan R The Sonnets
John Berryman R The Dream Songs
Elizabeth Bishop The Complete Poems
Paul Blackburn R Collected Poems
Marie-Claire Blais R Mad Shadows
Robert Bly R Selected Poems
Robert Bly R Sleepers Joining Hands
Fred Booker R Adventures in Debt Collection
Jorge Luis Borges R Collected Fictions
Jorge Luis Borges Selected Non-Fiction
Jorge Luis Borges Seven Nights
Borges & Bioy-Casares R Chronicles of Bustos Domecq
Tadeusz Borowski This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Elizabeth Bowen R The House in Paris
Elizabeth Bowen  Collected Stories
George Bowering R Burning Water
George Bowering Selected Poems
T.C. Boyle After the Plague
T.C. Boyle Stories
T.C. Boyle Stories II
T.C. Boyle World's End
Gwendolyn Brooks Blacks (Collected Poems)
Mikhail Bulgakov Diaboliad
Mikhail Bulgakov R The Master and Margarita
Ed Bullins The Hungered One
Basil Bunting Complete Poems
Anthony Burgess The Complete Enderby
Anthony Burgess Earthly Powers
Anthony Burgess To the Hermitage
Morley Callaghan R Such Is My Beloved
Morley Callaghan R More Joy in Heaven
Morley Callaghan The Loved and the Lost
Morley Callaghan R The Many Colored Coat
Morley Callaghan R A Fine and Private Place
Morley Callaghan Morley Callaghan's Stories
Italo Calvino R The Baron in the Trees
Italo Calvino Complete Cosmicomics (including R t zero)
Italo Calvino Difficult Loves
Italo Calvino R If on a Winter's Night
Italo Calvino R Invisible Cities
Italo Calvino R Marcovaldo
Italo Calvino Mr. Palomar
Italo Calvino Numbers in the Dark
Italo Calvino R Six Memos for the Next Millennium
Italo Calvino Under the Jaguar Sun
Italo Calvino The Watcher and Other Stories
Italo Calvino The Uses of Literature
Camus The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays
Alejo Carpentier The Lost Steps
Jim Carroll R The Book of Nods
Jim Carroll R  Living at the Movies
Jim Carroll Void of Course
Lewis Carroll R Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
Angela Carter Burning Your Boats (including Fireworks, The Bloody Chamber, Black Venus and American Ghosts)
Angela Carter The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman
Angela Carter R Nights at the Circus
Angela Carter The Magic Toyshop
Angela Carter Wise Children
Joyce Cary The Horse's Mouth
Raymond Carver R Collected Stories
Raymond Carver R No Heroics, Please
Willa Cather R My Antonia
Celine Journey to the End of the Night
Celine Death on the Installment Plan
Cervantes R Don Quixote (though a different translation)
Chaucer R The Canterbury Tales
Amit Chaudhuri Freedom Song
John Cheever The Wapshot Chronicle
John Cheever The Wapshot Scandal
Chekhov Seven Short Novels (including The Duel, Ward No. 6, Three Years and My Life)
Nicholas Christopher R Crossing the Equator: New and Selected Poems
Leo Connelan R Another Poet in New York
Joseph Conrad Great Short Works (including R Heart of Darkness, Youth, Typhoon and R The Secret Sharer)
Joseph Conrad Lord Jim
Joseph Conrad The Secret Agent
Julio Cortazar We Love Glenda So Much & A Change of Light
Julio Cortazar 62: A Model Kit
Robert Creeley Collected Poems 1945-75
Robert Creeley So There: Poems 1976-83
Robert Creeley Just in Time: Poems 1984-94
E.E. Cummings Collected Poems
Michael Cunningham The Hours
Elspeth Davis The Man Who Wanted to Smell Books and other stories
Machado De Assis R Epitaph of a Small Winner
E.M. Delafield The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Don DeLillo  R Americana
Don DeLillo Great Jones Street
Don DeLillo R The Names
Don DeLillo The Body Artist
Don DeLillo Cosmopolis
Don DeLillo Falling Man
Don DeLillo Point Omega
Don DeLillo R White Noise
Edwin Denby R The Complete Poems
Thomas De Quincey R Confessions of an English Opium Eater
Philip K. Dick R The Man in the High Castle
Philip K. Dick The Valis Trilogy
James Dickey R Poems 1957-67
Emily Dickinson The Complete Poems
Pietro Di Donato Christ in Concrete
Diane DiPrima R Pieces of a Song: Selected Poems
Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer
Dos Passos R U.S.A. Trilogy (42nd Parallel, 1919 and The Big Money)
Dostoevsky R Crime and Punishment (though a different translation)
Dostoevsky R The Demons
Dostoevsky R The Gambler & The Double
Dostoevsky R Memoirs from the House of the Dead
Dostoevsky R Notes from Underground
Dostoevsky R The Brothers Karamazov
Dostoevsky R Great Short Works (including White Nights, The Eternal Husband, and The Dream of a Ridiculous Man)
Louis Dudek R Infinite Worlds
Alan Dugan Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry
Elaine Dundy The Dud Avocado
Elaine Dundy The Old Man and Me
Lawrence Durrell R The Alexandria Quartet (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, Clea)
Lawrence Durrell The Black Book
Stuart Dybek R The Coast of Chicago (autographed copy)
Stuart Dybek I Sailed with Magellan
Stuart Dybek Streets in Their Own Ink: Poems

While the official total depends on how some of the shorter works are counted/classified, I estimate there are 200 entries from A-D. I have read 76 of them (or 37.5%).  Not too shabby.  In cases of the poetry collections, I have often read or at least skimmed large chunks but I tried to only include them in the total if I remembered reading them cover to cover.  No question there are quite a few shorter works I could tackle to get up to 40+%, but I think my current plan of knocking off a few really massive works and then focusing on reading books that I am fairly sure will be donated/discarded should be followed.  That said, I can tell I am kind of itching to go through Calvino in a systematic way, and I also have wanted to reread Bell's Waiting for the End of the World for some time (though I am a bit nervous that it won't hold up as well for me now as it did in my mid-20s).

Friday, June 28, 2013

Procrastination - busted!

I thought I would just get away with it (or maybe just hoped I would -- in the back of their heads, most procrastinators know they'll get caught eventually). 

I simply had not turned in 3 short essays I had promised to write and thought I would get them submitted in time (without anyone noticing).  But I got busted by the new editor yesterday.  So all last night I polished these mini-essays and submitted them this morning.

The weird thing was I really was on the verge of getting them done in May, and then the first editor said I should just submit whatever I had and there would be time to go and fix it.  If she hadn't said anything, I would have just worked through the night (back in May) and submitted final drafts.

However, once there was a bit of a release valve, I turned to other things.  And actually got a bit more sleep over the past few weeks, though still not enough.  I am finding I have not been able to work through the night the way I used to, partly due to aging though honestly a lot is being so depressed about my current work situation (which has degraded really quickly since the office moved -- and it is not just me -- morale is unbelievably low).  It is just draining thinking of going to work, and this carries over into the rest of my life, of course.

Actually, I do get a lot of things done, particularly work-related tasks, but the real problem is being totally over-subscribed and just having promised to do too many things.  I always should be doing "something" and have very little true downtime.  But the truth is that for things I care about, particularly academic-type articles, I am a bit of a perfectionist and really hate submitting things (perhaps subconsciously I don't like being judged in an arena where my ideas are judged).  I actually have somewhat less trouble in writing creative pieces as well as these blog posts.

Perhaps all things considered, it was for the best that I didn't become a professor where I would have to write far more academic papers than I do now.  Anyway, one coping mechanism is the deadline.  I rarely miss deadlines, with a few very egregious exceptions.*  Another is by running right up against the deadline, I can tell myself, I did my best with the time that was left available to me.  (I know -- a lousy strategy.)  Back in university I knew that when push came to shove, I could write the final draft of a term paper (footnotes included) starting from nothing at a rate of 1 page an hour, so based on the length of the paper I knew if it was an all-nighter or a two night job...  Granted, I didn't usually make things quite so tough on myself, and I often had notes or even a first draft to work from, but there were certainly times I would find myself with 5-6 pages to go and only 8 hours left, so I knew I would get at most 2 hours of "rest."

A much better strategy is to work on co-written papers, since a promise to deliver a draft to a colleague is a very firm deadline in my book (much more than a promise to myself).  Then we normally have time to make further edits before the actual deadline.

Now I should add that I don't just waste the time when I am not working.**  Because I have two or three or four projects going at any one time, I do productive procrastination by working on the other projects -- just not the one I am procrastinating on.  Thus, I always have "something" to work with when I finally realize that I have to get started on whatever it is I am avoiding.

For better or worse, my normal work life just reinforces this.  As a general rule, consultants are always over-subscribed.  (I have been working in my field for 15 years and been a consultant for all but 4 years!)  Consultants usually spend at least as much time chasing work as doing work.  But the key feature of those with the mentality of a consultant is to focus on high priority projects first, which in practice means the person who has gotten in your face the most.  It is so true that squeaky wheels get their deliverables and the nice guys don't (see *). 

The biggest downside is that things I want to do just for myself (like editing my plays or writing a novel), I don't have that external push to get to these tasks, even though (fortunately) the perfectionist bug doesn't normally kick in and make things worse.  Thus work (or a handful of academic obligations) always takes precedence over creative writing.  It isn't enough for me to just budget the time; I would have to join a writing group or something to make sure that I am "shamed" into doing this writing.  The drama writing class at Langara wasn't the most rewarding experience, but I was able to leverage it into finishing the first draft of my second play.  I probably ought to do the same with a novel-writing course.  Well, something else to think about after the move, since I don't think I will find the right kind of group here.

* There are two book reviews that I have just decided to write off (3+ years late now) and while it is my fault (and I still feel pretty badly about it), if either editor had actually emailed to bug me about them, I would have gotten them done in a reasonable time frame.  (For better or worse, a substantial number of editors just accept that academics are flakes.)  But without that external motivation, they just couldn't compete with everything else I was/am doing. 

** Perhaps not 100% true.  I am a bit addicted to reacting to the news "as it happens" and I do refresh my email inbox waaaay more than is healthy.  This is something that I definitely should try to kick as I'm sure it would improve my productivity (and given the state of the world these days, probably my mental health as well).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Books - One thing leads to another

So this is really just an excuse to reference the Fixx -- one of the better New Wave groups from my youth -- and their hit single.

But more seriously, as one learns about one author or another, it almost always leads down another pathway and before you know it you have yet another huge list of books that you just have to read.  Anyway, that's how it is for me.  This has certainly come up as I have begun the undertaking of documenting all my books.

Perhaps one of the more promising box sets I own is tucked away on the very top shelf (quite hard to reach actually).  It is comprised of 10 novels by female writers, all out on Virago Press.  I must have gotten a great deal for it while still in the UK (probably through the Guardian).

I'll go ahead and list the books here, as well as individually where they would belong in the alphabetized lists:
R Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God 
Kate O'Brien The Ante-Room
Elaine Dundy The Dud Avocado
Vita Sackville-West No Signposts In The Sea
Elizabeth Von Arnim The Enchanted April
E.M. Delafield The Diary of a Provincial Lady
Edith Wharton The Age of Innocence
Angela Carter The Magic Toyshop
R Willa Cather My Antonia
Rosamund Lehmann Invitation to the Waltz

Needless to say, this set is long OOP.

Maybe at or around the same time, Virago came out with another box set, which I unfortunately do not own.
It was comprised of:
R Barbara Comyns Our Spoons Came From Woolworths 
Josephine Johnson Now in November 
R.M. Dashwood Provincial Daughter 
R Molly Keane Good Behaviour 
Angela Carter Fireworks 
Rebecca West The Fountain Overflows 
Mary Webb Precious Bane
Pat Barke Liza's England 
Kate O'Brien The Land of Spices 
Vita Sackville-West The Edwardians

I don't think I will try to acquire the whole thing (quite expensive now) but I will probably pick up Good Behaviour by Molly Keane (and I already have Carter's Fireworks).  The rest, particularly Barbara Comyns, I'll try to get from the library (assuming I've made sufficient progress on clearing out my other books!)

So this led me to wonder what else had Barbara Comyns and Molly Keane written.  (And of course, I just found out that West's The Fountain Overflows is actually part of a trilogy and that Elizabeth Bowen (barely represented on Virago and not in these box sets) has many other highly regarded novels (beyond The House in Paris) that I don't own and must look into.  It truly never ends...)

Comyns definitely looks like a writer that it would be better to read once and then return to the library.  It seems that nearly all her core novels can be found in local libraries, so I will try to get to them before I move on (or at least the ones that cannot be found in Toronto libraries!*).

Barbara Comyns
R Our Spoons Came from Woolworths (1950) - @UBC
R Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead (1955) - @SFU
R The Vet's Daughter (1959) - @UBC
R Out of the Red and into the Blue (1960) - @VPL
R The Skin Chairs (1962) - @Burnaby
Birds in Tiny Cages (1964) (apparently long OOP and only available in UK libraries)
R A Touch of Mistletoe (1967) - @SFU
R The Juniper Tree (1985)
R Mr. Fox (1987) - @SFU
R The House of Dolls (1989) - @SFU

There was a very appealing 5 novel box set for Molly Keane (probably from Virago) but the cost (outside the UK at least) was just too high.  As indicated above, probably I will just pick up Good Behaviour, which sounds up my alley, and read the others from the library.

Molly Keane (or M. J. Farrell)
R Taking Chances (1929) - @Burnaby
R Mad Puppetstown (1931) - @SFU
R Conversation Piece (1932) - @Burnaby
R Devoted Ladies (1934)
R Full House (1935) - @Burnaby
R The Rising Tide (1937)
R Two Days in Aragon (1941) - @SFU
R Loving Without Tears (1951) - @Burnaby
R Treasure Hunt (1952) - @Burnaby (a novelization of her play)
R Good Behaviour (1981)
R Time After Time (1983)
R Loving and Giving - aka Queen Lear (1988)

Finally, I will go ahead and list Iris Murdoch, though it will be years before I attempt to go through her ouevre (keeping in mind that everyone says the last one is best left unread).
R Under the Net (1954)
The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)
The Sandcastle (1957)
The Bell (1958)
A Severed Head (1961)
An Unofficial Rose (1962)
The Unicorn (1963)
The Italian Girl (1964)
The Red and the Green (1965)
The Time of the Angels (1966)
The Nice and the Good (1968)
Bruno's Dream (1969)
A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970)
An Accidental Man (1971)
The Black Prince (1973)
The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974)
O A Word Child (1975)
Henry and Cato (1976)
O The Sea, the Sea (1978) (winner of the Booker Prize)
Nuns and Soldiers (1980)
The Philosopher's Pupil (1983)
The Good Apprentice (1985)
The Book and the Brotherhood (1987)
The Message to the Planet (1989)
The Green Knight (1993)
Jackson's Dilemma (1995)

My mother had 4 or 5 of these in her collection, and I think I held onto them for a while, but finally abandoned them in one of my many moves.

Edit to add: Well, I just couldn't resist peeking at, and the 5 novel set of Keane was priced absurdly low, even with shipping to Canada, so I buckled.  This includes her final three novels (Good Behaviour, Time After Time and Loving and Giving) as well as Devoted Ladies (about lesbianism!) and The Rising Tide.  These perhaps are the best of the bunch, though it seems a couple of others could have been substituted in for Rising Tide.  I thought Taking Chances was pretty good, even a bit risque for a novel published in Ireland in 1929 (right before book censorship came back in a big way), and fairly non-judgmental about two characters who kind of smash up other people's lives (much less judgmental than Fitzgerald is about Tom and Daisy for instance, though of course they actually killed somebody).  It was definitely a more cohesive novel than Mad Puppetstown, which gets quite choppy about 2/3rd in -- and has an unearned happy ending.

* Interesting that Toronto has quite a few books by Barbara Comyns, but nearly all are reference books, which hardly helps me.  (Ironically, they do have The Juniper Tree, which is apparently impossible to find in the Lower Mainland.)  The situation with Molly Keane is only slightly better in terms of circulating books, though Iris Murdoch will not be a problem.  So perhaps I will read more of these than I expected over the next year...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

All the books on the shelves - pt1 (Drama)

I am probably not going to list the urban studies and historical books, though I may at some point.  I am going to begin listing all the books in the drama section (only a couple of shelves), then move on to fiction and poetry.  Then I may get around to listing essays and philosophical works, but I think that would be it.  I am only listing books that are on shelves either upstairs or downstairs and not worrying about books in boxes.  I've generally tried to keep the best books on the shelves (ones that I think are worth moving again), though in some cases as I have gotten tight on space, books that have been read (but aren't being donated or discarded) end up in a different pile and not back on the shelves.  I probably have purged 50-100 books over the last year, and probably 200-300 right before moving to Vancouver, though this is a far cry from when I got rid of at least 500 books from my childhood home (only a handful did I decide to acquire a second time).  I am genuinely curious how many books are on the shelves, and what proportion have been read.  A big R will stand for actually having read the book, and in a few cases I will put a small r for the books in the TBR pile that I truly think I will get to by the fall.  (In the case of drama, I will also add an S if I've seen the play live.)

If nothing else, this will be a good opportunity to figure out how far I am from the goal of reading all the books on the shelves.  In general, I am kind of excited that I am getting to some of the more challenging books that I've been hording and planning on reading for a very long time.  Perhaps ironically, this current push won't clear out too many books, since I expect I will hang onto the classics (Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Proust) but probably by the fall I will be back to reading a bunch of books that I think will be one-offs that I will read and then donate.  I'm also a lot more likely to simply stop reading these books if I am not enjoying them and don't think the time will be well-spent.

Ok, onto the list:


Jean Anouilh Plays v. 2 & v. 3 (including Ardele, Mademoiselle Colombe, The Lark, Thieves' carnival, Medea, The Orchestra and Traveler without Luggage)
   (At one point I had v. 1 & 2 but purged them.  Then later re-acquired v. 2 & 3 (but haven't found v. 1).  Anouilh has definitely fallen out of fashion and perhaps I will only read once and discard.)
Jean Anouilh It's Later Than You Think
Samuel Beckett RS Krapp's Last Tape
Samuel Beckett RS Waiting for Godot
Samuel Beckett S Endgame
Brendan Behan The Complete Plays (including The Hostage, The Quare Fellow and Richard's Cork Leg)
Brecht (S The Good Person of Szechwan, S Mother Courage and Her Children, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich)
Brecht (Life of Galileo, The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, S The Caucasian Chalk Circle)
   (I thought I owned Brecht's Three-Penny Opera (S) but perhaps it has been relegated to a box.)
Bulgakov Six Plays (The White Guard, S Madame Zoyka, Flight, Moliere, R Adam and Eve, and The Last Days).
Chekov The Major Plays (S Ivanov, RS The Sea Gull, RS Uncle Vanya, RS The Three Sisters, RS The Cherry Orchard)
Caryl Churchill Plays 1 (including Owners, Traps, S Cloud Nine)
Caryl Churchill Plays 2 (including Softcops, S Top Girls, Fen, Serious Money)
Maria Fornes Plays (including Mud, The Conduct of Life and S Sarita)
Michael Frayn Copenhagen
Jean Genet S The Balcony (saw an amazing midnight production of this in Chicago)
Jean Genet The Blacks
Vaclav Havel The Garden Party and Other Plays (including S The Memorandum, S The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, Unveiling, Protest and Mistake)
Vaclav Havel Selected Plays (Largo Desolato, Temptation, Redevelopment)
Vaclav Havel Leaving
Tomson Highway The Rez Sisters (just missed a chance to see a college production of this)
Tomson Highway Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
Israel Horovitz The Wakefield Plays
David Henry Hwang S Chinglish
David Henry Hwang FOB and Other Plays (including R FOB, RS Family Devotions, R Rich Relations)
David Henry Hwang S Yellow Face
Ibsen Four Major Plays (S A Doll's House, Ghosts, S Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder)
Ibsen Plays (An Enemy of the People, S The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm)
LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) Dutchman and The Slave
Ben Jonson Three Plays (S Volpone, Epicoene, S The Alchemist)
Ben Jonson Three Plays v. 2 (Sejanus, Every Man in His Humour, R Bartholomew Fair)
Dennis Kelly Plays One (Debris, Osama the Hero, After the End, R Love and Money)
Ninaz Khodaiji RS Insomnia (helped bring this to Chicago in a staged reading)
Larry Kramer S The Normal Heart and The Destiny of Me
Tony Kushner Death and Taxes (including Hydriotaphia)
Tony Kushner S Angels in America pts. 1 & 2
Tony Kushner RS Homebody/Kabul
Tony Kushner  S Thinking About the Longstanding Problems ... (Slavs)
Robert LePage S La face cachee de la lune (LePage himself performed this in Vancouver (in English: The Far Side of the Moon))
Tracy Letts S August: Osage County
Christopher Marlowe Complete Plays (including Tamburlaine the Great, Doctor Faustus, S Edward the Second and The Jew of Malta)
Tarell McCraney S The Brother/Sister Plays
Martin McDonagh The Beauty Queen of Leenane (including R A Skull in Connemara and The Lonesome West)
Terrence McNally S Love! Valour! Compassion! and A Perfect Ganesh
Thomas Middleton Five Plays (A Trick to Catch the Old One, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Women Beware Women, The Changeling, and The Revenger's Tragedy)
Arthur Miller Collected Plays 1944-61 (including S All My Sons, RS Death of a Salesman, RS The crucible, S A Memory of Two Mondays, A View from the Bridge)
Arthur Miller Plays Two (S After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The Creation of the World, Playing for Time)
Arthur Miller The American Clock and The Archbishop's Ceiling
Arthur Nesesian East Village Tetralogy
O'Neill Complete Plays 1913-20 (including Beyond the Horizon, Gold, R Anna Christie and R The Emperor Jones)
O'Neill Complete Plays 1920-31 (including The Hairy Ape, S Desire Under the Elms, Lazarus Laughed, Strange Interlude and S Mourning Becomes Electra)
O'Neill Complete Plays 1932-43 (including Ah Wilderness, Days without End, R A Touch of the Poet, More Stately Mansions, R The Iceman Cometh, RS Long Day's Journey into Night, S Hughie, R A Moon for the Misbegotten)
Joe Orton The Complete Plays (including Funeral Games and S What the Butler Saw)
Eric Overmyer Collected Plays (including S On the Verge, In a Pig's Valise, S In Perpetuity Throughout the Universe, Dark Rapture)
Penny Penniston S Now Then Again
Luigi Pirandello Five Plays (including S Henry IV, S Six Characters in Search of an Author and Each in His Own Way)
Dennis Potter Karaoke and Cold Lazarus
Ramu Ramanathan Mahadevbhai
Jose Rivera Marisol and Other Plays (RS Marisol, Each Day Dies With Sleep, S Cloud Tectonics)
Paul Rudnick Collected Plays (including Jeffrey, Valhalla, I Hate Hamlet, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and The New Century) (hope to catch The Most Fabulous Story)
Sarah Ruhl In the Next Room
Oren Safdie R Private Jokes, Public Places
Robert Schenken The Kentucky Cycle
Shakespeare The Riverside Shakespeare (I'll list elsewhere but I have read and seen essentially all of the comedies and tragedies and roughly 75% of the romances and history plays)
Ntozake Shange RS For colored girls who have considered suicide ...
Tom Stoppard The Coast of Utopia Trilogy
Tom Stoppard The Invention of Love
Tom Stoppard RS Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Tom Stoppard Plays 4 (including Undiscovered Country, S Rough Crossing, On the Razzle)
Tom Stoppard Plays 5 (including S Arcadia, The Real Thing, S Night & Day, Indian Ink and Hapgood)
Tom Stoppard S The Real Inspector Hound
Strindberg Miss Julie and Other Plays (The Father, A Dream Play, S Miss Julie, The Ghost Sonata and Dance of Death)
Jean-Claude van Italie America Hurrah and Other Plays
George Walker Suburban Motel
Naomi Wallace In the Heart of America and Other Plays (including S One Flea Spare, Slaughter City and S The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek)
John Webster & John Ford Selected Plays (S The White Devil, S The Duchess of Malfi, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Broken Heart)
Tennessee Williams Plays 1937-55 (including 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, RS The Glass Menagerie, RS A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo, R Camino Real, and RS Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)
Tennessee Williams Plays 1957-80 (including R Orpheus Descending, RS Suddenly Last Summer, S Sweet Bird of Youth, S The Night of the Iguana, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore, Small Craft Warnings and Vieux Carre)
Tennessee Williams The Theatre of Tennessee Williams vol. 7 (including In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel)
Tennessee Williams The Traveling Companion and Other Plays
August Wilson S The Piano Lesson
Lanford Wilson S The Hot L Baltimore
Lanford Wilson Collected Works vol. 1 (including Balm in Gilead, Rimers of Eldritch and Lemon Sky)
Lanford Wilson Collected Works vol. 3 The Talley Trilogy
Divine Fire Eight Plays Inspired by the Greeks (including Margraff - The Elektra Fugues; S. Ruhl - S Eurydice; C. Svich - S Iphigenia Crash Land Falls ...; and Yankowitz - Phaedra in Delirium)
Drama for a New South Africa (including R Sophiatown)
Four English Comedies (B. Jonson - S Volpone; Congreve - S The Way of the World; Sheridan - S The School For Scandal; Goldsmith -S She Stoops to Conquer)
Four Jacobean City Comedies (Marston - The Dutch Courtesan; Middleton - A Mad World, My Masters; Jonson - The Devil Is An Ass; Massinger - A New Way to Pay Old Debts)
Women on the Verge (including Drexler - Occupational Hazard; Malpede - Us; and M. Fornes - S What of the Night?)

So I've crunched the numbers and have read and/or seen 39% of the plays.  Had I included Shakespeare in the calculations, it probably would have hit 40%, so that's what I am going with for the moment.  Not too shabby, given how much is stashed away on those two shelves.

Probably the single most annoying omission on this list is Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle where Grove had been promising for almost a year to bring out the entire cycle in one omnibus edition and kept delaying and finally canceling the title.  Then they expected me to buy the plays in three separate volumes (at three times the price of the canceled title!).  Even if I had the shelf space, I don't think I would bite, so I'll just have to wait to see if they ever do publish this as promised.  It doesn't look like any part of the cycle is going to be produced anywhere near me, so reading it is probably the only way I'll get acquainted with these plays.

No question that in general I have done better watching plays than reading them, but that was only possible when living in a theatre mecca like Chicago (and hopefully soon Toronto).  I'm fairly close to wrapping up my project of scanning all the theatre programs I've collected over the years and will get that list up fairly soon (at some point after the books on the shelves project is completed).

Vancouver doesn't compare at all in terms of live theatre.  I actually traveled to SF last month to watch Stoppard's Arcadia and if all goes well I will make the trek again next April to see his entire Coast of Utopia Trilogy in Berkeley.  That would be worth another special trip.  (The biggest question is whether the entire family makes the trip to do some tourism in SF though my wife would have to keep the kids occupied in the evenings!  The second biggest question is whether I read the plays ahead of time or leave the plot to be revealed on stage.)  I kept thinking that it would be done next in Chicago or Minneapolis (after London and New York) but it will be this upstart company in Berkeley.  Who knew?

A minor update.  While this doesn't change the overall picture, I am somewhat surprised that Ensemble Theatre Company here in Vancouver is about to put on Middleton's Women Beware Women.  This may be the first Middleton play I've ever seen!  (I'm definitely going.)  I did catch The Roaring Girl in Chicago, but that is more frequently attributed to Dekker and Middleton (and it was a fairly loose adaptation besides).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Frank O'Hara -- sestinas

Yesterday was an unbelievably frustrating day, capped off by learning that the SFU library had suffered major flooding and some of the journals I wanted to look at had probably been damaged.  How terrible, but how frustrating that no one there could actually tell me the extent of the damage.  All the people that were responsible for cleaning up and cataloging the mess were off at some off-site meeting!  Really, SFU staff!?  It turns out the journal I want is also at the UBC library, so despite the difficulty in getting there, I expect I will make the trek out there in a week or two.

However, I was able to pick up a copy of Frank O'Hara's Poems Retrieved, which I had somewhat hurriedly browsed while in San Francisco a few weeks ago.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that O'Hara had two sestinas in the collection: "Southern Villages" and "Green Words."  And even more mind-boggling, they are both pure sestinas, and not the broken sestinas that I thought I had read (and perhaps been subconsciously influenced by).  I guess I really was skimming and not really paying attention (it is true by that point I was somewhat distracted by wondering how much longer I had to wait to meet my friends for dinner and I was starting to get hungry).  I don't recall any sestinas in his Collected Poems, but now realize I can't trust my memory for such things.*

Despite having some interesting (and challenging) key words -- fragrance, stands, lips, ears, book, eyes -- I don't think "Southern Villages" is particularly amazing as a sestina.  I think he really misses a trick by not attempting to use "book" and "eyes" as both verb and noun (which he does for "stands").  Of course, it does sometimes scan badly when lines end with verbs, which is one rationale behind my attempt to relax the sestina form slightly.

I like "Green Words" a bit more and have pasted it in below.  Even though the endings are traditional, he plays a bit more with having long lines, sometimes even stretching them beyond the stanza break.  Perhaps this was what made me think he was experimenting with broken sestinas.

"Green Words, A Sestina"

First I filled the chair with grapes
then I sat down on the sun
to watch a tree like moss escape the sky.
The cat watches me write and the cat
purrs blackly along the leaf, the strokes
which are a mystery to him and to me.

The cat finds everything mysterious but the sun,
how he purrs and claws just to watch the sky!
to lick the pen, to lie on the belly of a cat
and have it interrupt your strokes,
and push the French books into me,
which is like moss and is grapes,

isn’t that what you think of the sky?
as your white-clad ankles are scratched by the cat.
You continue as long as you can your strokes
before a white scream comes out of me
and I sit on the grapes
accidentally. It does feel like the sun,

I am pushed into the sun by a cat.
The terrible black lashings! then the strokes
which are a mystery to him and to me.
The cat finds everything mysterious but the grapes,
and now me. “Yes, it does feel like the sun,”
I say, “the sun in the sky.”

I look out over the river and the strokes
are white, they no longer hurt me.
I am bruised and acrid like the grapes
lying messily in the sun.
I no longer see any trees in the sky.
It is because I am deserted by the black cat,

his cool yellow eyes. He has left me.
Tears are breaking over me like grapes.
It is the sun.
O brilliant eyes escaping into the sky!
You are white, you are no longer cat,
why are you wet with strokes?

The grapes are drying in the sun.
And the sky is its own black cat
which it strokes, as it does me.

           [Sledens Landing, August 1953]

Of course, I am generally a sucker for things cat-related, and O'Hara was a bit cat-crazy himself.  The image below is actually on the cover of Poems Retrieved.

I wonder whether this sestina was influenced at all by Christopher Smart's unusual poem "For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry."  Either way, this has inspired me to at least try to get back to my own sestina project, and perhaps a bit indirectly to think more seriously about acquiring a cat (or two) once firmly relocated to Toronto.

* After some digging through the Collected Poems, I cannot find any that are actually sestinas, or at least none indicate upfront that they are sestinas.  (And it was only for a relatively short period that O'Hara wrote in such traditional forms.)  However, I did learn that in 1956 O'Hara and Kenneth Koch collaborated on a sestina titled “The Mirror Naturally Stripped.” I'm having more trouble than I thought in tracking it down (doesn't appear to be gathered in either O'Hara's or Koch's Collected Poems), but it may be reproduced in an academic book on the New York School (of Poets).  I'll report back if I manage to locate it.

So I got as close as I think I'll get for a while.  There is an academic book that reprints a stanza from “The Mirror Naturally Stripped.”  So it appears the wires were crossed.  This poem isn't a sestina, but in the same journal, Koch and O'Hara published “Nina Sestina” which must be.  While it is not clear that it is actually there, SFU may have this journal in their Rare Books collection, so I'll swing by on my next visit in a couple of weeks.  On the subject of odd and/or rare sestinas, apparently Ka-Ching by Denise Duhamel contains some.  I'll have to request this once I am back from Chicago.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Long books

I thought that given I have a lot of extra time on the train to work (not by choice), I would at least try to take advantage of it by reading longer novels than I have in the immediate past.  Which has, in turn, led me to think more about long-form creative works, primarily long novels.  I never had much patience for book-length poems (minor exceptions granted for Homer and Dante).  In fact, I recently dipped into bp nichol's The Martyrology and frankly found it unbearable.  I will probably slog my way through Pound's Cantos, but really do not enjoy it at all (but it took me so long to find at a reasonable price that I feel sort of compelled to finish -- and then sell it off again!).  I'll have a few comments on how the long-form novel has changed over time towards the end of the post.

I'm not entirely sure what was the longest book or book series I have read.  It's probably a toss-up between Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time (12 novels!) and Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels (6 quite long novels).  I actually skipped right over Trollope's Barsetshire series, but will probably get to that some day.  The 3 volume edition of Burton's translation of 1001 Nights is certainly long, but not quite in that league.

Anyway, this is a bit on my mind as I just wrapped up Dostoevsky's The Idiot and am partway through Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. It can feel like quite an accomplishment just reading such a long work, though some go more smoothly and/or quickly than others.  I found myself fairly bored by The Idiot (and wondering whether I would have liked it more as a young man than as a grumpier middle-aged man).  But Anna Karenina is going fairly well so far.  Obviously, the achievement of reading a long novel is nowhere near that of writing even a short novel (or play),* but it is still an achievement, particularly in the current era where attention spans are so short. 

Drawing a somewhat arbritrary line at approximately 600 pages for "long" novels, these are the long books (mostly novels) that I can recall reading, though a series that adds up to over 600 pages can also be included if so desired.  They are listed in rough order of completion (that is, when I completed reading them):

1001 Nights (Burton trans.)
Zelazny The Chronicles of Amber (tho' generally not worth counting SF/fantasy series)  
Ariosto Orlando Furioso
Boccaccio The Decameron
Herman Melville Moby Dick (reread in 2015 before seeing Lookinglass's version)
Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamazov
Dante The Divine Comedy

Solzhenitsyn The Gulag Archipelago (an odd combination of memoir and non-fiction -- the original in 3 vols is far too long but the abridgement looks like it has promise)
Charles Dickens Pickwick Papers
Chaucer The Canterbury Tales
Malory Le Morte D'Arthur

Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel 
John Nichols New Mexico Trilogy (The Milagro Beanfield War, The Magic Journey, The Nirvana Blues) (the third is so oddly different from the first two)
George Meredith The Egoist 
Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy
Charles Dickens Bleak House
Anthony Trollope the Palliser novels

Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook (may reread one of these days)
James Joyce Ulysses
Thomas Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (twice)
Cervantes Don Quixote 
Henry Fielding Tom Jones
Lawrence Durrell Alexandria Quartet

Vargas Llosa The War of the End of the World
Paul Goodman The Empire City 
Armistead Maupin Tales of the City (read 6 of the 9 books in the series -- may get back to this though wasn't that crazy about #5 and 6.)
Rushdie Midnight's Children (twice)
Anne Sexton The Complete Poems
Frank O'Hara The Collected Poems
Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March

V.S. Naipaul A House For Mr Biswas 
Davies The Deptford Trilogy
Paul Blackburn The Collected Poems
Leslie Marmon Silko Almanac of the Dead

Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queene
Ford Madox Ford Parade's End 

Davies The Salterton Trilogy 
Thomas Pynchon Mason & Dixon: A Novel
Don DeLillo Underworld

Davies The Cornish Trilogy 
Rohinton Mistry A Fine Balance 

Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible
Powell A Dance to the Music of Time (read while living in Cambridge, UK)
Roberto Bolano The Savage Detectives
  (This certainly felt like 600 pages, even if it came up a bit short.  Did not care for it.)
Skvorecky The Engineer of Human Souls 
George Eliot The Mill on the Floss
Dostoevsky The Idiot
Tolstoy Anna Karenina 
Mahfouz The Cairo Trilogy
Proust A Remembrance of Things Past (what a long and largely unrewarding slog)
Robert Creeley Collected Poems 1945-75
Gunther Grass The Tin Drum
Dostoevsky Demons
Alexander Herzen My Past and Thoughts 
Great Short Works of Fyodor Dostoevsky
Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy
Dos Passos The U.S.A. Trilogy 
Maugham Of Human Bondage
George Eliot Middlemarch 
David Foster Wallace The Pale King 
William Makepeace Thackeray Vanity Fair
Karen Tei Yamashita I Hotel
Murakami 1Q84 (not worth the effort to read this)
Anthony Trollope The Way We Live Now
Nancy Mitford The Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate/Don't Tell Alfred
Arnold Bennett The Old Wives' Tale (a long-ago debt, finally repaid...)  
Gaskell Wives and Daughters
Next are long books in my immediate future (off my extended TBR

Ezra Pound The Cantos
Louis Gluck Poems 1962-2012
William Faulkner The Snopes Trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion) 
Rezzori The Death of My Brother Abel
Grossman Life and Fate
Tolstoy War and Peace
Doris Lessing Children of Violence (Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage, A Ripple from the Storm, Landlocked, The Four-Gated City)
John Updike The Rabbit novels
John Fante The Bandini Quartet 
Musil The Man Without Qualities  
Soseki I am a Cat 

In the distant future but with a reasonable chance** I will get there:

Paul Auster 4321

Balzac Lost Illusions
E.F. Benson The Mapp and Lucia novels 

T.C. Boyle Stories
T.C. Boyle Stories II
Anthony Burgess The Complete Enderby
Anthony Burgess Earthly Powers

Joyce Cary First Trilogy (Herself Surprised, To Be a Pilgrim, The Horse’s Mouth)
Cary Second Trilogy (Prisoner of Grace, Except the Lord, Not Honour More) 
Michael Chabon The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Dickens -- all the remaining novels (though Hard Times is shortish)

Elliot Daniel Deronda
Leon Forrest Divine Days

Carlos Fuentes Terra Nostra
William Gaddis The Recognitions

Alasdair Gray Lanark
Eric Kraft The Personal History, Adventures, Experiences & Observations of Peter Leroy  (I've read about 60% of the books in this series and will try to start again from the beginning and read it all through -- someday.  Brilliantly funny.) 
Doris Lessing Stories
Munif The Cities of Salt Trilogy
Alvaro Mutis The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll (I've read 3 of 7 of the novellas in the series)
Charles Olson The Maximus Poems
Charles Palliser
(you just have to wonder if this is a pen name) The Quincunx
Perec Life: A User's Manual 

John Cowper Powys Wolf Solent
Thomas Pynchon Against the Day
Julian Rios Larva

Philip Roth Zuckerman Bound & Exit Ghost (the original trilogy, which I have read, falls short but crosses the finish line when Exit Ghost is added.  I'll reread the whole thing when I finally get around to Exit Ghost)
Steinbeck East of Eden
Anthony Trollope The Chronicles of Barsetshire
Anthony Trollope He Knew He Was Right
Evelyn Waugh Sword of Honour Trilogy (Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, and Unconditional Surrender)
Edmund White Trilogy (A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony)
Zukofsky A
(a book-length poem)
Stefan Zweig The Collected Stories

I guess the biggest question with works of this length is simply if it is worth it.  I actually have more patience with series of novels rather than really outsize novels themselves.  (One exception was Parade's End, which I didn't enjoy at all, and of which I have repressed all memories...)  With few exceptions, I have always wished that novels that run to 600+ pages wrap things up by 500.  When reading Ellison's Juneteenth, it felt like 800 pages (though it was only 400 or so).  I can't begin to imagine reading the whole enchilada (i.e. Three Days Before the Shooting) which runs over 1100!  Of course, only Ellison aficionados would even attempt to read such a thing, so the reviews are all glowing, but I am sure I would find it completely intolerable.

I suspect that I am one of those readers who values plot and yet is also interested in ideas/philosophy buried in novels, which is why Dostovsky and Grossman and to a slightly lesser extent Tolstoy are high on my list of successful long novels.  I am not terribly interested in mimetic recreations of dialogue (or epistolary fiction!), which is how many long novels achieve their length -- one conversation piled on top of another on top of another.  That was actually the biggest weakness for me of The Idiot.  It seemed much more static than any of his other novels and featured such a passive central character.***

It goes without saying that when writers were paid by the word, they had more incentive to go long.  Many of the novels on this list fall into this category.  They tend towards the picturesque, where episodes can be piled up. Interestingly, "character" is not revealed gradually.  It is far more typical that character is announced upfront and simply reconfirmed in episode after episode.  As you can tell, I don't care for novels of this type.  (In my experience, George Eliot is the worst offender in this camp.)  Dickens and to a lesser extent Trollope at least have the decency to pile up new plot points as the page count mounts, even if this sometimes means having to get kind of baroque about the main characters and their travails.

Perhaps it was inevitable that there would be a swing towards shorter novels with tighter plots.  Or in the case of the Modernists (with the exception of Joyce), short novels heavily imbued with symbolic import.

This trend towards shorter novels (easier to produce, market and consume) continues today, though there are always a few serious writers who try to stand out from the crowd by writing particularly long novels.

* I have actually written a couple of plays, but have a long way to go until I have even a chance of writing one of my long-delayed novels.

** I could certainly add a lot of other long books, but some of them I am almost sure I will never read.  Joyce's Finnegan's Wake for instance and most likely not The Tale of Genji. These long books are actually on my shelves or are at least not buried too deeply in storage boxes.

***  The real acid test for me is, after having read one of these mega-novels, would I consider reading it again.  I did read Pickwick Papers a second time, but didn't enjoy it as much the second time around.  I read Midnight Children a second time and definitely thought it dragged the second time around.  Either I am more critical on second readings, or I simply feel more time-constrained and value novels differently in my 40s than in my 20s or early 30s.  However, I've read Ulysses twice and would consider reading it a third time.  Also I'm pretty sure I did read Ellison's Invisible Man twice and might read it a third time.  Nonetheless, for the most part, I will hold off on second readings, simply because I have too many other books that need a first reading!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tativille vs. Sapperton

So we have been settling into the new offices (still more than a few teething problems).

Anyway, I was kind of joking before, but there are more than a few parallels to this place and Tativille (the massive set Tati built for Playtime).

So this is Tativille in Tati's imagination:

Under construction:

And these are the new offices (the Tativille frame could have gone in this direction perhaps but this actually has a bit more colour).

Tati inspecting the cubicals:


Our own Cubeville.  Frankly I wouldn't have minded the (modernist) separation implied in Playtime, though I'm sure Tati thought it was dreadful.  This is worse.

Tati definitely felt negatively about the atomizing nature of society, particularly the rise of television.  Though here we see a small group of people watching together, rather than completely isolated individuals. 

Very little has changed today, and it is generally a bit worse.  (What Tati would think of all the Millennials running around with their eyes glued to their phones...)

It's a little hard to make out in this photo, but the screen has been badly positioned in these conference rooms, so everyone has to crowd to one side of the table to see the presentations.  I don't know if this can be corrected.  I am somewhat doubtful, but these are still early days in the new digs.