Monday, August 07, 2006


Having checked out the blog recently to see the gauntlet had been duly chuck'd, here now are my responses, for anyone who cares.....-Mutt Ploughman

Realizing this is impossible, let’s ask it anyway: if you had to name only one, what has been the most memorable book you read/blogged about during Year One?

Very tough to decide, but if I had to choose one I would probably say Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I didn’t blog a whole lot on it, but my reading it was prompted by the article/survey that appeared in The New York Times which asked the question “What Is The Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?” Among the hundreds of critics and writers that responded this novel was the clear winner, so I figured I’d better read it. It was a brutal, effortless, unforgettable novel and since it was written from the perspective of the black female experience in America in the post-Civil War era, it is easy for me to remember both for its contrast with my life and its remarkable narrative structure and elegant prose.

OK, fine… but we said we were going to look FORWARD. So, what’s coming up on your reading list? What might we read you blogging about in the near future?

Right now I am kind of jostling between contemporary literature – which Duke rightly said I attempt to stay on top of – and ‘period’ reading as research for the writing project I am working on (more below). I just finished Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and will soon be reading Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Both happen to be be Japanese writers, but they are very different because Ishiguro – most famous for The Remains of the Day – was raised in England, and Murakami is Japan’s most well-known fiction writer internationally. I will probably be blogging on Murakami’s work because I plan to review his new short story collection, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, and reading Wood is just prep work for that review. I am also going to be reading two Sinclair Lewis novels soon, Main Street and Babbitt, which is primarily for the research I mentioned before. Although Sinclair Lewis was America’s first Nobel Prize winner and I am always interested in reading Nobel Prize winners in Literature.

Is there any one “classic” work you would like to take on in the upcoming year?

There are probably several, but I have thought a lot about re-reading Moby Dick, so I would say that is the best candidate. A dark horse would be CervantesDon Quixote. I also read a Dickens novel every year and will be reading another shortly, but haven’t decided which.

What about contemporary writers/works? Anything from that category you would like to pursue in Year Two?

See above, I plan to read some more Haruki Murakami, although I must say I’m not a big fan of his stuff, so part of the reason I want to read and review him is to give him ‘another chance’ or to discover why I don’t like his stuff much. I plan to read one or two more books by T.C. Boyle, who is one of the major writers working today, whose work to me is touch and go. I have his collected stories and will most likely read The Road to Welville in the coming year. In general, I try to populate my reading list with contemporary work here and there throughout the year so there will probably be numerous others. People who want to write fiction themselves should stay on top of what’s out there.

Going to be doing any writing of your own this year?

If you’re familiar with this blog you don’t have to ask that question of me, but just for the record, yes, without a doubt. I am trying to start a historical novel set in Indiana between 1924 and roughly 1944, loosely based on the life of my grandfather. Though I’ve never publicly stated it on this blog or anywhere else before, since this is the one year anniversary of The Secret Thread, I’ll reveal that the working title of my novel is Obeisance to Mammon. I have a long way to go on this but so far I am enjoying both the research, which occupied at least ¼ of my reading this year, and the early writing of the Prologue and first chapter.

In addition, I plan to write more book reviews, starting with Haruki Murakami and will hopefully write others. I guess it’s remotely possible that I may also take a break from writing the novel and try to write a story here or there too.

OK, wide open question now. List three major works you think you may take on this year. Could be any genre, any length – or, if you’re so inclined, it could even be a re-read. Go. (NOTE: You can define “major” in any way that makes sense to you. I’m trying to get at three books that are “on your radar,” i.e., important enough in your eyes that you would think about reading them weeks or even months in advance.)

Wide open is right. For me the answer is probably – in addition to hopefully re-reading Moby DickWilliam Faulkner's Light in August, which Duke has read and highly recommended, The Collected Stories of William Trevor and Raymond Carver’s Where I’m Calling From. Among several others, I hope.

What about spiritual reading? Have any specific plans in that category for Year Two?

Yes. I hope to read some more of the Bible first of all. A study group I am in started re-reading Job, but we sort of fizzled out on it. Hopefully we can get that back in gear. I also plan to read a lot of Thomas Merton in the coming year or even the next two years. The Seven Storey Mountain is another possible re-read candidate for this year, and I’d like to read many more of his works including his published journals and letters. This is pre-research for a writing project I may attempt on Merton some day.

You guys in the Book XChange are well-known for your “reading projects” – themed trilogies, ongoing reading series, the famous XChange XChange program, etc. Anything along these lines on the horizon for Year Two?

As Duke mentioned, I hope that my Annual Dickens Read will be a fixture from here on out, until I pass along….that will continue this year without question. I usually take that on in the late summer or fall, so it’s coming up.

The Xchange Xchange is a new fixture that we’ve only done a couple of but I definitely plan to continue that one this year at some point. So far I’ve initiated the ones we’ve done, but maybe Duke will throw a curve and break one out this year at the least expected time.

Other than that, the only ‘planned’ project for me would be additional research reading for the novel already mentioned on the 1920s, 30s, or 40s.

1 comment:

Aura McKnightly said...

Just want to say Happy Birthday to the Secret Thread and to R.A. Lovell for, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know these two characters!!

For that, I am forever grateful.

I was kidding about my last comment. I have heard of one or two of these names. ;-)