Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Book a Week in 2011 - Halfway Through

So, I'm halfway through my second year of reading a book a week (average). I’ve found that, at its worst, this exercise devolves into reading to meet a deadline or check a box. The beginning of this year was like that. I was reading books I wasn’t into so I could sell them and clear some shelf space. But reading should be a love affair not a chore. I abandoned this approach, sold books I wasn’t interested in, and launched myself into the wild black and white yonder.

This year, I've found new favorites and encountered new approaches to old interests. One of the year’s best finds has been The Greek Anthology, a collection of ancient/medieval epitaphs and pithy verse. A quick look through the list below will show that I’ve been on a Paul Muldoon kick. Most recently I read Ted Hughes: Selected Translations, interesting as Hughes’ approach to translation is opposite my own.

Some of the highlights of this year’s list:

(In Hades, Adonis makes this answer to the question what was the most beautiful thing you left behind?): Finest of all the things I have left is the light of the sun, / Next to that the brilliant stars and the face of the moon, / Cucumbers in their season, too, and apples and pears.
- Praxilla (trans. Bernard Knox)

Should you thirst for water, we will wring you a cloud/ And should you hunger for bread, we will slaughter a nightingale.
- Nikos Gatsos

Now I think it’s only right / to have got beneath her skin / where I’m waiting for some lover / to kick me out of bed / for having acted on a whim / when she herself has taken it into her head / all those who’ve gone undercover / may as well sink of swim.
            - Paul Muldoon

Even her momentary taking shelter / and finding some ease from the helter-skelter / offered the prom queen a glimpse of what it is to succeed / yet the sudden failure of a brake drum / extended her lease on Elysium.
            - Paul Muldoon

The list thus far:

1. Anthem - Ayn Rand
2. Roman Elegies - Johann Wolfgang Goethe
3. Late Wife - Claudia Emerson
4. Approximately Paradise - Don Schofield
5. Inventing Paradise - Edmund Keeley
6. Spar - Karen Volkman
7. The Greek Anthology - Ed. Peter Jay
8. The Aeneid - Publius Vergilius Maro, trans. Robert Fitzgerald
9. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
10. A History of Venice, Queen of the Sea - Thomas Madden
11. Maggot - Paul Muldoon
12. The Astrakhan Cloak - Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, trans. Paul Muldoon
13. A Shropshire Lad - A. E. Housman
14. Psalms - ESV
15. Poems - George Seferis, trans. Rex Warner
16. A Distant Mirror - Barbara Tuchman
17. Imperfect Birds – Ann Lamott
18. The New Covenant – trans. Willis Barnstone
19. Moy Sand and Gravel – Paul Muldoon
20. Unfinished Poems – Constantine Cavafy
21. Human Chain – Seamus Heaney
22. Sailing the Wine Dark Sea – Thomas Cahill
23. Old School – Tobias Woolf
24. Book of My Nights – Li-Young Lee
25. The Pharaoh’s Daughter - Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill
26. Greek Lyrics – Richmond Lattimore
27. Ad Infinitum: a Biography of Latin - Nicholas Ostler
28. Selected Translations – Ted Hughes

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