Recent Reads – a mixed bag

Summertiiiiiime… is there anything sweeter than having time to catch up on your want-to-read pile? (I mean aside from making time to write without having to claw holes in your regular schedule.) I’ve been so busy these last few years that my shelves are quite literally overflowing with stacks of books I want to read.

I kicked off the summer with some nonfiction – The Paris Review’s collected interviews, vol. 4. I love dipping in and out of these collections, though vol. 4 also happened to be the only one I hadn’t paged through yet. I went straight to the Maya Angelou interview (natch), then back to Pound and Kerouac. Angelou: everything I wanted; Pound: interesting; Kerouac: surprisingly disappointing. The rest of the interviews in the book were, by and large, worth the read.

Next I turned to Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things, translated by Ken Krabbenhoft. Thankfully, this is a bilingual edition, because I found Krabbenhoft’s translations to be pretty awful. He comes across as thinking he’s doing Neruda favors by adding punctuation where the original brilliantly relies on line breaks to maintain its phrasing and tension; he also misses a lot of opportunities in soundwork and rhythm, in my opinion. I felt like he was colonizing Neruda’s work. I was not happy about it. The redeeming factor, for me, was that the bilingual edition let me use whatshisface’s translation as a starting point for appreciating the poems in their original Spanish.

Last night and this morning, I tore through Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, which I found at my fave thrift store a few days ago. (Remember those shelves overflowing with books? Thank you, thrift stores, for feeding my addiction.) It was excellent, though I wished it were about 50-100 pages longer. Gaiman does a good job of vividly conveying the complicated characters of the gods and goddesses, and his narrative approach is accessible and streamlined. At times, it felt almost a little too tidy, but having tried to read the Edda before and finding it totally convoluted, I suppose it’s better to err on the side of simplicity. It seems to serve its goal well – it’s an introductory book giving the reader a reasonably comprehensive understanding of the major characters and stories of Norse mythology. Then again, has Gaiman ever written anything badly? I have yet to read it, if so.

So that’s what I’ve been soaking up for the last week or so. What are you currently reading, and what do you think of it? Would love your recommendations – I’ve got a whole summer to fill with books!


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