While on our beach vacation, my family spent a bit of time in a wonderful independent bookstore just steps from the ocean: Browseabout Books. The store is large--full of souvenir/giftshop stuff on one side, but on the other a much larger selection of books than I expected from a beach bookstore.
I sat for a few minutes reading the introduction to the Penguin edition of Charlotte Bronte's Villette--a novel I have not yet read but now have on my nightstand. Since I had been thinking about Bronte all weekend, this novel seemed like a must-read. Although Browseabout did not seem to have the Modern Library Villette, I'm eager to read A.S. Byatt's introduction to the novel in that edition.
I then stumbled across a new edition of the plays of Sophocles, translated by Robert Bagg and James Scully.
Although I carried Bagg and Scully out of the bookstore before I have poked into it thoroughly, I'm thrilled to see that Christopher, who blogs over at ProSe, is quite pleased with this translation. After braving a bit of carsickness to have a peak at it on the way home from the beach, it looks fantastic. (Have any of the rest of you looked at it yet?)
Incidentally, Christopher's blog was one of the first book blogs I found when I started searching for people who were committed to reading classic literature. I immediately loved the way he combined deep analysis of what he read with a discussion of his personal and emotional responses. (His passion for Thomas Hardy led me to read a little bit of that author before I started my project.) Then Christopher got busy and he took a bit of a blogging break. Then I did. Recently he's left some really thoughtful comments on some old posts here at the Lifetime Reading Plan. They've helped convince me that it is time for me to come back to the blog and begin to write about what I'm reading again--more frequently than once every week, or two...or three.
In one of those comments, Christopher let me know that Stephen Mitchell planned to release his own translation of Homer's The Iliad. Lucy Pollard-Gott, author of the fabulous Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend, was also kind enough to steer me towards this new translation. Thank you both so much!
I'm so excited to read this edition! Homer's The Iliad completely caught my imagination in a way I never expected, and I also adored Stephen Mitchell's introduction to the Gilgamesh epic. But before I allow myself to dive in (perhaps in early January?), I'm planning to complete some other reading projects--from some Greek drama to a couple of Victorian novels and even to a bit of 21st-century experimental poetry. Stay tuned.
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As much as fiction calls to me, there are times in my life when nonfiction takes over almost completely. I'm about halfway through Richard Heinberg's The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality about the current global economic and environmental crises. It is not an easy read--intellectually or emotionally--but it is both important and thoughtful. Some of Heinberg's writing (perhaps especially his Powerdown about possible responses to resource depletion such as Peak Oil) is really quite lyrical as well.
I'm also loving the work of Bill McKibben. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (about the links between social structure, environmental destruction, and resource depletion) is a wonderful place to start--although I first discovered McKibben's writings back in 1999 or so when I read his Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families right as my son was born. I read it because I wanted to convince my partner David that we should have only one child--a decision I made for myself when I was eight years old. I finished McKibben's memoir/study with a much deeper sense that my personal choices mattered. Whether or not you agree with McKibben's specific argument about having smaller families really doesn't matter. The book gently but forcefully calls us to live up to our ideals and think about our responsibilities to the world. It was a life-changing book for me.
Like Heinberg, McKibben combines the skills of a visionary thinker with those of a careful and inspired writer. Both require a great deal of attention, and both will leave you thinking for months.