Reading, though it takes time and patience, gives entry to whole new worlds, and helps one understand an author’s works better. Besides, it’s fun. Lately, I’ve been “catching up” on several authors, reading titles to fill lucanae in my readings of their works.
It started with Catherine Friend. I hadn’t actually read anything of hers, but was fascinated by her as an author.
First, I read Hit by a Farm, a hilarious work with short chapters. I liked the book with its self-effacing humor and the autobiography (not so much that I was ready to read her books for children or her mysteries—there’s nothing wrong with mysteries; they just aren’t for me).
Next, I picked up The Compassionate Carnivore, a serious work about eating farm-raised animal, also by Catherine Friend. It was polemic but again featured short chapters. When I finished it, I felt that organic wasn’t enough and that I should look into buying meat directly from a farmer, splitting a cow, sheep/lamb or a pig with others.
Then, I read Catherine Friend’s book Sheepish, a follow up to Hit by a Farm, which also displays her humor while bringing the reader up to date on her and her partner’s farm adventure as they sell their sheep’s wool to “spindle-operators” and knitters. It was revealing and entertaining.
I learned that Friend is a hilarious but thoughtful writer. She is, I imagine, the same in person. I’ve heard her read twice, and have been greatly entertained each time.
Humorously self-effacing books were so much fun that next I read works by comedian Ellen De Generes (I’ve also seen her name written Degeneres, though never de Generes.). I started with her recent, Seriously . . . I’m Kidding, followed by The Funny Thing Is . . . and then, her early volume, My Point . . . and I Do Have One. (She likes ellipses.) Though she consistently amuses with her quips, she was funnier in her earlier books. The pictures of her showed she was younger in the earlier ones too.
Then, I read Robert Alexander. His The Kitchen Boy has gone unread by me too long. I read it, then Rasputin’s Daughter. It’d be nice if I had a good reason for not tackling his third volume in this series, The Romanov Bride, but I can only say it wasn’t in the library I checked the first two out from. I’ll get to it; even if I thought his Rasputin’s Daughter took a few lurching turns, he tells good stories that hold my interest. Though I’m not about to tackle his mystery novels, published under his real name, R. D. Zimmerman, he deserves his readers, plus he has a certain facility with Russian historical material.
Another thing I like is well written biographies and autobiographies. I fit in Jock Soto’s Every Step You Take, an autobiographical memoir by a retired principal of the New York Ballet. Then, at a book sale, I found a well known biography of Rudolph Nureyev by Otis Stewart, Perpetual Motion, which I also read. I seem to relish reflections by or about gay dancers.
Next, I read works by Edmund White that I’ve missed over the years. His Hotel de Dream, about Stephen Crane’s death from tuberculosis, seemed to fit with the volume of short pieces he published with Adam Mars-Jones on AIDS, The Darker Proof: Stories from a Crisis. Tuberculosis and AIDS seem strangely fitted to their respective times, fatal and too little understood by the medical profession for them (or anyone else) to discover a cure. Of course, there are differences, including the fact that HIV has been made a chronic condition so that the condition it leads to—AIDS—no longer needs to be a killer.
First, I had read White’s collected essays, Arts and Letters, a volume I realized I’d read before but which I re-read anyway. It’s composed of mostly short pieces about famous authors, artists, and personalities.
I’ll work on White for a while; he’s been prolific. Most of his books I’ve already read, but every so often I miss a title, such as his novel Fanny, A Fiction, or his The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris.
Maybe you’ve noticed a theme here. Meanwhile, I’m also reading The New Yorker and a subscription to The New York Review. Issues come too often, imo. Magazines, like books, spark ideas and transport me to new worlds.