Christmas in July: Treasure Hunt in Smalltown Wisconsin

My boyfriend and I have spent this past week at his parent's house while they were out of town, by invitation.  While there, I had the opportunity to raid the basement of two well-read people for books to borrow.  I'm listing the books here, with notes on my interest, both to remind myself to read them and to make sure I remember what I have.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith.  I'm ashamed to say that before early this year, I didn't even know who Patricia Highsmith was.  I discovered her on freerice.com, playing the literature category, which is quite interesting.  It could use a little filling in and more consideration given to the different levels, but all in all, a lot of good stuff, and a lot that might normally slip through the fingers of your average American reader.  Not that Highsmith should fall into this category.  After all, she was American.  But she spent much of her life in Europe, and wrote her own special brand of philosophical suspense literature.

So far I've worked my way through the whole Ripley series, a few short story collections, five or six or her other novels and her Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction.  I still haven't read many of the anecdotal accounts of her or interviews that are out there, partially because I know that she was perceived by many to be a pretty horrible person.  And that the anti-semitism and misogyny seem to kinda be taken for granted from what I've seen.  And I just don't really want to know, entirely, because I frankly find something about the woman and her work heartwarming.  She wrote an acclaimed series of novels about a psychopathic killer.  She also wrote one of the first lesbian-themed novels to have an (arguably) happy ending with two sympathetic main characters, and it's somehow not so very different from the Ripley series.  The tone in Plotting and Writing is jovial and ultra-civilized.  In short, I have a bit of a crush on a dead woman who wrote screwed-up books, and may have had questionable views and been a very unpleasant person.  It could be worse, right?

For now I'm going to forget the unpleasantness and read.

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead.  I read an interview with Whitehead years ago that made me consider reading this book, but I somehow never got around to it.  I knew it involved elevators, but I didn't get exactly how and to what extent it involved elevators.  I didn't get that it was a whole weird alternate history in which a society very much like our own has a whole culture built around a politics and philosophy of elevators as a theoretical and applied concept.  I also didn't get that there was a racial angle to it.  I'm about a third of the way through it, and hmm.  My enthusiasm is more than hmm but I'm just going to say hmm for now.

How to Write by Gertrude Stein.  I was given sections of this to read in a creative writing class in college.  I don't have the impression we discussed it too thoroughly.  I think I remember enjoying it in a kind of detached way, but not being really sure what to do about it.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood.  Mostly whim.  I've read his bio while Wikipedia-
hopping.

Death in Midsummer by Yukio Mishima.  I know of Mishima.  I thought I'd give this a try.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.  I've never read this.  For shame.  I can't figure out what translation it is, though.  The translator isn't credited in this edition.  I have a feeling it's Constance Garnett.  

Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems (Edited and translated by Robert Bly).  I've read some Neruda.  I've read some Vallejo.  When I say that I've read some Neruda and Vallejo, I don't mean in Spanish.  I remember from reading some of Bly's translations in college and comparing them to translations by other poets that he wasn't one to translate very literally.  So I'm not sure how much I trust him, but I need to brush up on my Spanish anyway, and this is a dual-language text, so ideal for practice, help, and comparison.

Lord Weary's Castle and The Mills of the Kavanaughs by Robert Lowell.  I've always pretended that I've read more of Robert Lowell's work than I really have.  The truth is I don't even really remember anything at this point except "For the Union Dead."  Time to brush up.

Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara.  Do I really need to even say anything about this?  Lunch.  Poems.  Not going to argue with that.

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.  I didn't entirely get this at first.  I'm not even sure I do now.  It's a novel, or something like it, written in the form of a collection of poems, which are entirely fictional?  Wait.  No.  Don't quote me on that.  Wait.  Shh.  Nevermind.  I'll figure it out.

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