The dead of winter haunt not only the cold grounds outdoors but the cineplexes as well. That’s why in the cruel grey months of January and February this writer all but abandons the cinema (well, not completely, of course, I can always be drawn into the darkness of the theater) and finds the greatest warmth in the comfort of books.
Here’s the current snapshot of what sits on my coffee table:
On the non-fiction front, I am about half-way through Jon Meacham’s intimate and entertaining take on one of the most misunderstood and trailblazing presidencies, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. I’m enjoying how Meacham carefully draws modern parallels but makes it clear Jackson should be examined in the context of his own times and his legacy. And Jackson was one hell of a duel-challenging, lead-popping, horse-riding, Native American-exiling, Union-solidifying, bill-vetoing sum’bitch.
I always keep a short story collection on hand for those Kurt Vonnegut prescribed “Buddhist catnaps”, and The Collected Stories of Richard Yates have been just what the doctor ordered. Yates is a great author to read for scribes trying to hone their dialogue writing skills. He uses dialogue to define his characters and places and has an amazing ear for everyday conversation, dialect and accents that add shades of complexity to his effortless and deeply felt prose. His stories often deal with the ordinary tragedies of common folk, so he’s sometimes dismissed as a downer, but his dark humor and sharp but poetic style make him easy to digest while providing much literary nourishment. Be forewarned of a sometimes bitter aftertaste. At this point my favorites from the collection have been “Doctor Jack-o’-Lantern”, “A Glutton for Punishment”, and “A Really Good Jazz Piano”.
On the “Big Thick Novel” front, I’ve finally decided to begin my odyssey into James Joyce’s Ulysses. Allegedly the greatest novel ever written in the English language but declared unreadable by countless college students, Joyce’s prodigious 1904 tome has been the subject of great controversy and the victim of numerous revisions, edits, restorations and editions over the decades. It’s been gestating on my bookshelf for over nine months, and even if it takes me that long to get through this edition’s over 1,000 pages, I will persevere. Any writer or reader worth their salt should be proud to say they spent a day in Dublin with Leopold Bloom, even if it that single day lasted for years. Hopefully soon when people ask me, “Have you read Ulysses?” I will be able to say that even though my heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
Written by David H. Schleicher