Baker, Nicholson. U and I: A True Story. 1991. New York: Vintage, 1992.
I am very excited to read this book. Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite writers because his prose flows like hot chocolate syrup, which makes his books virtually impossible to put down. I love his attention to detail and his obsession with book culture, which I share, and which leads to the best, most observant writing about literature in both its physical and intellectual manifestations that I have ever read. This book is about his love affair (well, intellectual love affair, but wouldn’t it be quintessentially Updikean if they had actually had a clandestine physical affair?) with John Updike, a writer who I also like when I’m not feeling guilty for liking him.
I went through a voracious period of reading Baker’s fiction last fall and winter, and have been getting to his nonfiction here and there. I bought this book to help me reach amazon.com’s $25.00 plateau for free shipping on a recent order (the other book in the order was Samuel R.Delany’s Starboard Wine, which is coming out later this summer). In other words, my book-buying addiction feeds my study of Baker’s book addiction. We addicts have to stick together!
The Works of Flaubert and Samuel R. Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water
Delany, Samuel R. The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, 1957-1965. New York: Arbor, 1988.
I have the revised edition of this book (published by University of Minnesota Press, 2004), but needed a copy of the first edition for an essay I’m writing on the history of public images of Delany’s body (groovy cover, eh?). Also, I’m a Delany addict, and as I’ve written before, I compulsively collect copies of his books. Bought on amazon.com.
Flaubert, Gustave. The Works of Gustave Flaubert: One Volume Edition. Roslyn: Black’s, 1904.
I was walking around downtown Salt Lake City today and noticed that a new bookstore, Eborn Books, had moved into the old Sam Weller’s location (N.B. The new Weller’s location at Trolley Square is quite inferior, alas). Eborn’s is still very disorganized as a lot of their inventory is either not on the shelves yet or is not in alphabetical order, but I am very glad that the location will remain a bookstore, and the more independent bookstores, the better. I found a collection of Flaubert’s works in their caddywhompus classics section for only five dollars (in very good condition, too). I have two other volumes from the series, Robert Louis Stevenson’s and Jonathan Swift’s, which were given to me by my elementary school music teacher because he knew that I liked to read (as it happens, Treasure Island was my favorite book as a boy, and I need to find time to re-read it). I’ve been looking for a copy of Madame Bovary since I read John Irving’s In One Person several weeks ago, in which the main character is advised to read Flaubert’s classic “when your romantic hopes and desires have crashed, and you believe that your future relationships will have disappointing–even devastating–consequences” (277). This is exactly how I have been feeling lately, thus I am interested to see what wisdom I might glean from the novel.
John Irving’s new novel In One Person is a beautiful, fantastic book. It is narrated by Bill in the present day as he reflects upon growing up in the 1950s and the intervening half-century. He realizes as a teenager that he is bisexual, and the rest of the novel describes his journey to figuring out how he fits in a society that designates him as Other and the friends he meets along the way. It is the best fictional depiction of bisexuality that I have ever encountered both in terms of how accurate it is and how positively bisexuality is portrayed–Bill encounters lots of people who are unsympathetic to him, but he never lets their hatred affect his confidence in who he is and his confidence that there is nothing wrong with him. The novel also includes several sympathetic transgender characters and a moving description of the early AIDS crisis. It is difficult to write about In One Person because it is just so good that mere descriptions of it pale in comparison.
Baraka, Amiri. Dutchman and The Slave. 1964. New York: Harper, 2001.
I bought this book to use while completing my essay in the forthcoming Modern Language Association volume Approaches to Teaching Baraka’s Dutchman, for which it is the standard edition. However, I’ve never read The Slave before, and I look forward to it. I love Baraka’s work because it is so energetic and straightforward. Most people dislike his work because it is so angry, but I think his anger towards whites is justified, and I appreciate his ability to use literature as a political weapon while still maintaining a high level of aesthetic quality.
Irving, John. In One Person. New York: Simon, 2012.
I have enjoyed the two Irving novels I’ve read, The World According to Garp (which I really need to find time to re-read since I read it eleven years ago) and The 158-Pound Marriage, and In One Person received a glowing review from The New Yorker, so I thought I would read it because its main character is bisexual, which is a major rarity.
Both books bought at amazon.com.