I’m not doing so well with the post-once-a-week goal this month, am I? Between the holidays, technological difficulties (my laptop died and now I’m still trying to acclimate to Windows 8.1 and a new physical laptop layout), and literature-related struggles… well, you get the point.
So here’s the thing. I started to read Dan Jones’ book The Wars of the Roses, and it had the same issues as his previous book, The Plantagenets. It’s a solid enough survey, but his attention is, shall we say, uneven. He can pass over a decade in a paragraph, but then he’ll spend pages and pages going over a single battle in excruciating detail. After about 150 pages, I declared myself bored and returned it to the library.
The next book I checked out was one that I was excited about, the eminent cultural and literary historian Robert Darnton’s new work on censorship. It looks really interesting, and I do plan to go back to it, but I came up against a difficulty.
I love nonfiction. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me or reads these posts (and if anyone out there reads this who doesn’t actually know me in person or online, please let me know – I’d like to hear from you!).
But sometimes I forget that I’m not in school anymore, and don’t have to finish the book if I don’t want to. Sometimes I forget that I don’t always have to challenge myself. Every so often, maybe three or four times a year on average, my brain revolts. It says it’s tired and refuses to engage with the challenging fare I set before it – and Robert Darnton, brilliant though he is, does not write easy reads. His work is always dense and challenging and incredibly insightful. So I’ll go back to the censorship book, and possibly also the one he wrote on slander, another time. For now I’m taking a break to read some things that are a little easier.
I’ve spent the last two weeks re-reading some of my favorites, from Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, to Heather Armstrong’s It Sucked and Then I Cried, to Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes. I’m working on that last one right now, though I’m debating putting it down in favor of the one I just checked out of the library, the second volume of Michael Palin’s published diaries. This one focuses on 1980-1988, which means it covers his main stint in films, including Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Missionary, Brazil, and Time Bandits. I enjoyed his first volume, which covered the 1970s and the rise of the Pythons, so I’m looking forward to it.
I’m thinking after that I might tackle one or two of the novels on my want-to-read list. I’ve been pondering Brideshead Revisited since seeing the 1980s miniseries starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews for the first time this year. I’m also always a fan of Dickens, and there are plenty of his novels I haven’t read yet.
Anyone have a suggestion?