1996 Reading

Here are the books I finished reading in 1996.
Marie Redonnet's Forever Valley
I read this in French, finally, after having read it twice in English. Even better in the original, of course, and it also gets better with each rereading. I would now put it in the top tier of my favorite books. Finished around a week ago. (12/24/96)
Marie Redonnet's Le mort & Cie
A series of short haiku-like poems. Her first work, and the last that I have left to read. I should finish it soon. (12/12/96)
Finished 12/13, I think. I've never been much of a poetry fan, and this book didn't change my mind, although I had expectations it might. Still interesting in a way, and worth rereading. I've now read all of Redonnet's works! (12/24/96)
Marie Redonnet's Doublures
Twelve short fables (6 pairs) ranging from 4 to 7 pages in length, and all having similar plots. One senses some underlying mechanism, but I certainly can't figure it out. The last two are the best. Not up to her novels, but still worth reading. (12/12/96)
Marie Redonnet's Le Cirque Pandor suivi de Fort Gambo
Two short plays. Since these parallel her last novel, Nevermore, which is rather weak, I feared these might be weak as well, but they are actually quite good--her recent ideas must work out better in theatrical form. The first play is very good. The second seems a little lightweight for Redonnet and isn't so satifying. Both deserve to be reread, though. (12/12/96)
Takahashi Rumiko's Urusei Yatsura
Now that I've finished Mezon Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2, I'm finally reading this, her first and probably best series, all the way through. I'm reading the 15 volume "wide" version (it was originally released as 34 shorter volumes) and have already read the first volume earlier, so I'm starting with volume 2. (2/21/96)
I'm in the middle of volume 9 now. (5/12/96)
In the middle of volume 11. (10/28/96)
Finished 12/2. I started reading this about nine years ago, the first of her long works that I started, and the last that I finished. I read the first three episodes of her latest work, Inuyasha, recently as well. (12/12/96)
Marie Redonnet's Seaside
An excellent play, although somehow unsatisfying in a way--it seemed too short I think. Certainly the strangest work I've read so far by Redonnet, and it definitely requires at least one more reading. (10/28/96)
Marie Redonnet's Tir & Lir
Her first play. So far it seems okay, but not nearly up to Mobie-Diq. (10/11/96)
To finish today. (10/15/96)
More like a writing exercise than a real work. (10/28/96)
Joe Orton's Loot and What the Butler Saw
I seem to have lost my copy of Complete Plays, along with some other favorite books, in a move, so I bought a new copy and read these two, which are among my favorite plays. I used to think I liked Loot more, but now I like Butler more--it really is his masterpiece. Both are still fantastic in any case. (10/11/96)
Vladmir Nabokov's Transparent Things
I read this short novel since someone told me the style was similar to Robbe-Grillet and there was a salute to his Project for a Revolution in New York in it. I found the style typical Nabokov, not like R-G at all, and unlike most of Lolita not to my liking, so I didn't read the book very carefully and never spotted a salute to Project. (10/11/96)
I reread it more carefully, and spotted some things that could be taken to be tributes, but it's not so clear. (10/15/96)
Marie Redonnet's Mobie-Diq
The first play I've read by Redonnet, in French since none of the plays are available in English. Very different from the novels, yet well-connected to them in interesting ways. Starts out like a cross between Beckett and Ionesco (closer perhaps the latter), then gets less comical and more mysterious. The ending, like most of Redonnet's endings, seems weak to me, but overall the play is truly excellent, and I hope I can see it performed sometime. Finished last night. (10/8/96)
Marie Redonnet's Silsie
Read in French, since it hasn't been translated yet, and who knows why, as this is the crucial link between the triptych and her later works, as well as itself being one of her best. Pretty easy to read in French, and well worthwhile. Vies with Forever Valley now as my favorite, and after a second reading it may well hold that title outright. Unlike most of her other works, the ending is fairly good.
Finished a week or so ago. (10/8/96)
Marguerite Duras' Blue Eyes, Black Hair
I found that I'd bought this in French some years ago but forgot about it. Probably the reason I bought it was that the French edition of The Malady of Death is so poorly made (with the pages uncut) and this book was fairly inexpensive and looked interesting. It was actually a good choice, as the story is very similar to The Malady of Death, just much longer. I checked out the English version from the library, and tried reading in both French and English simultaneously, but this got too tiring so I just read the English version. It started out well, but quickly got dull--much better to just stick with The Malady of Death, which is the right length. Finished a week or two ago. (10/8/96)
Marie Redonnet's Nevermore
Redonnet continues to get weaker, as this is not even as good as Candy Story. This is her first third-person narrative, which doesn't help. Still worth reading and better than many other books I've read lately, but disappointing for Redonnet. I hope the trend doesn't continue. (9/15/96)
Reread last week, so I've read all of her novels in English twice now. Better the second time, but still a big step down from the others. (10/8/96)
Marguerite Duras' The Malady of Death
My favorite Duras work, very short and very beatiful. I've read it several times. (9/10/96)
Marie Redonnet's Hôtel Spendid, Forever Valley, Rose Mellie Rose and Candy Story
These are Redonnet's first four novels, the first three of which form a "triptych". I'd known Redonnet as an Editions de Minuit author for some time, but only recently was reminded of her by someone who wrote asking about the nouveau roman, and I discovered her first five novels had been translated into English recently. I found the first four at the Menlo Park library and tried them out. Redonnet turns out to be terrific--her style is very much like Beckett's, particularly that of Molloy, although she uses it differently and is easier to read. The triptych is uniformly excellent; I perhaps like Forever Valley slightly more than the other two. Candy Story, on the other hand, is much weaker than the others, although still fairly good. It should be read after them in any case. (9/10/96)
I re-read Candy Story, which is better the second time since it's easier to keep track of the multitude of characters. (9/17/96)
Hôtel Spendid reread. (9/20/96)
Forever Valley reread. Fantastic, still my favorite. (9/25/96)
Rose Mellie Rose reread a week ago. (10/8/96)
Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew
Fairly interesting so far. (8/22/96)
Overall quite good, a funny parody of experimental fiction. There are many passages quite painfully awful, only some of which seem to be intentionally bad, but if these are skipped or skimmed over this is one of the better books I've read recently, and no doubt Sorrentino's best. (9/3/96)
French in Action by Pierre Capretz, et. al.
The video component of this incredible French course is the main attraction, but I'm also reading the text, workbook, and study guide. French in Action is so well done I'm having trouble coming up with adjectives to describe it. Much more than simply a French course--it's an art form. I just finished lesson 32 out of 52. (9/5/95)
I've started watching again, just the videos without regard to understanding everything. (8/12/96)
Finished watching the videos. Now I get to start all over again! (9/3/96)
Molly Giles' Rough Translations
I happened to be look at a recent anthology of very short stories called Microfiction, I think, and the first story, "The Poet's Husband" by Giles was very good (unlike any of the other stories in the collection that I read). So I checked this book of short stories out. Not bad, but nothing up to "The Poet's Husband" (which is not included here). (8/30/96)
Alain de Botton's The Romantic Movement: Sex, Shopping and the Novel
On Love was pretty good so I thought I'd try this one too. (8/12/96)
Unfortunately this one was quite bad. Mostly a rehash of On Love, this time with unlikable characters. While On Love maintained a nice balance between essay and novel, this one is almost purely essay, and not very interesting at that. I could only bring myself to skim the last half. (8/30/96)
Christopher Durang's 27 Short Plays
I happened to run across this book, published recently, in the Palo Alto main library. From what I've read so far, the plays seem to be typical Durang--the jokes are hit and miss, but can be extremely funny when they hit. (8/12/96)
I didn't read all of these. (8/30/96)
Alain Robbe-Grillet's Jealousy
I started trying to continue reading the French and English versions simultaneously, but quickly gave up and just finished up the English one. Still great fun to read. (8/27/96)
Gilbert Sorrentino's Under the Shadow
This one was not too bad. Not particularly fun to read, but it seemed to have some structural interest, and might be worth looking at again. (8/27/96)
Gilbert Sorrentino's Crystal Vision
I didn't actually read all of this. The first chapter seemed pretty good, so I bought a used copy, but I should have read a little further first.... After a few more chapters I found the book painful to read and completely dull. I skimmed other parts to see if it improves, but it doesn't, so I figured there was no point in wasting any more of my time. This has lowered my opinion of Sorrentino considerably. (8/22/96)
Gilbert Sorrentino's Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things
I discovered Sorrentino by luck at Borders in Palo Alto: They had a display for Dalkey Archive Press (which I hadn't heard of, but which seems to be an excellent publisher) in the literature section, and Sorrentino's Splendide-Hôtel caught my eye due to its cover imitating a French book--opening it I was surprised to find English text! It looked a little interesting so I took a look at other Sorrentino books, and found his prose--particularly the opening of this book--to be very good--just the kind I like. I was surprised to find him a professor at Stanford, and it's quite likely I'll really enjoy his works. (8/12/96)
Well, not as good as I hoped. The narration is fun to read in many places, but in others the smart-aleck (Sorrentino uses the euphemism "wise-guy") tone gets to be annoying. Worth reading, and I'll probably read it again some day, but I expected much better. (8/21/96)
Alain Robbe-Grillet's Un régicide
Another book that may never make it out in English. (8/14/95)
"Finished" last night, although I could follow very little especially toward the end. The last sentence of the comments immediately below for Corinthe applies here too. (8/21/96)
Alain Robbe-Grillet's Les derniers jours de Corinthe
I thought I should take a break from Robbe-Grillet after finishing Angélique and read something a little lighter, but could resist starting this, around the 13th or 14th. And I've found it hard to put down. Looks to be a terrific conclusion to the trilogy. (10/19/95)
I picked this up again a week or so ago and am nearing the end now. (8/12/96)
I finished about a week ago. Unfortunately I understood too little to really appreciate it, although it seems not up to Angélique. At least I know roughly the structure, though, and I'll try again when my French is better, if that ever happens. (8/21/96)
Alain de Botton's On Love
I saw this book (actually I saw The Romantic Movement first, but this looked more interesting) at Keplers and checked it out from the Menlo Park library. It has some surprising similarities to my planned content for Now The, in particular the story/essay combination and the focus on romantic relationships, and much of his thinking about love echoes my own except he expresses it much better. The novel starts out excellently, but it slows down and starts dragging around the middle. (8/12/96)
Annie Ernaux's Simple Passion
Ernaux is apparently part of the newest wave of French writers, reacting against the New Novel to bring back character, plot, humanity--in other words the old 19th century (or earlier) novel. This is a short novel, like all of Ernaux's work apparently autobiographical, about her at age 50 or so having an affair with a married man. Simple, direct, and honest, but amazingly dull, and it reads like a book written by someone who really doesn't know how to write. The kind of book where I think: "Even I can write much better than this!" (8/12/96)
Harold Pinter's Betrayal
I was looking through this a few days ago to find out if the character Casey in it is ever given a first name (surprisingly he is) and found myself unable to resist re-reading it. I'd forgotten just how pure and beautiful Pinter's language is--without a doubt my favorite writer in English. (8/12/96)
The Golf Swing Simplified by John Jacobs with Ken Bowden
I liked his Quick Cures for Weekend Golfers enough that I bought this book, which looks like a nice book on the fundamentals of the swing, stressing that all that's really important is the contact of the clubface with the ball. (6/17/96)
Rebecca Goldstein's The Mind-Body Problem
I've read this novel several times, and it's still great fun. The story of a woman married to a math genius at Princeton. (5/29/96)
I'd forgotten how many lengthy boring passages there were in this book, primiarly the ones involving philosophy or Judaism. Still, a book about romance and intellectuals is a real rarity and this is a very good one. (6/3/96)
I also read quickly through a couple stories in Strange Attractors ("The Geometry..." and the title story, which are connected) but they were quite disappointing, and the other stories didn't look interesting to me. (6/3/96)
Kawabata Yasunari's Thousand Cranes
I seem to read this about once a year or so. I thought I'd try in Japanese this time, but quickly gave up as it's still too hard. Reading in English just takes a couple hours, and this is still one of my favorite novels ever. (5/29/96)
"The Geometry of the Universe" by Roger Penrose in Mathematics Today
I reread this wonderful article about General Relativity and differential geometry, as well as one or two other articles in this excellent collection. (5/29/96)
Murakami Haruki's Kokkyou no minami, taiyou no nishi (South of the Border, West of the Sun)
Murakami's latest novel; it came out in 1992 and took the usual three years to come out in bunkobon (paperback) format; I bought it last November. I'm about midway through and although it's hard to tell just what the book is about, it seems to be a typical love story, and has the potential to be his best since Norwegian Wood. Not hard, as all his other novels I've read have been pretty bad. (5/12/96)
I finished 5/17 I think. Hard to say what I really thought about it--overall quite disappointing, but still good in some ways. (5/29/96)
Takahashi Rumiko's Ranma 1/2
I'd bought the first 3 volumes of Ranma 1/2 years ago but never bothered to read them since just looking through it looked like it was mainly about fighting, which I'm not interested in. But this time I actually tried reading it carefully, and found it completely different from what I thought--like Takahashi's other works, this is primiarly a romantic comedy, and a brilliant one at that. Ranma 1/2 rivals Urusei Yatsura (which I'm also finally reading all of, although I've only finished the first volume of the Wide Edition and will continue the rest after I finish the other two) as her best work. (late 1995)
I've finished the first 35 volumes, which are all that I have. Volume 36 should be released soon if it hasn't already, and the series is supposed to end about volume 40. The early volumes are brilliant, but she starts running out of ideas in the teens, and the volumes in the 20s are fairly dull. She seems to recover her energy toward the end, and parts of volumes 32, 33 and 35 are excellent. (2/21/96)
I just finished the last three volumes (36-38). The ending has some good parts, but overall is somewhat rushed and weak. Definitely not as good as Urusei Yatsura's ending, but still fun. (7/9/96)
Dead Solid Perfect by Dan Jenkins
A novel sort of about golf. Pretty awful, but very easy reading. I finished in two nights. (2/15/96)
The Golfer's Home Companion written/edited by Robin McMillan
An interesting and well-written collection of information. (2/7/96)
The U.S. Open by Robert Sommers
The history of the U.S. Open, and its connection to the history of golf and of the U.S. itself, though this is mainly an account of the players. A bit dry in places, but overall excellent. I'm about halfway through. (1/23/96)
Finished yesterday. (1/30/96)
Golf by Design by Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
By one of the most famous living golf architects (who happens to live in Palo Alto and has designed several courses around here), this book proposes to teach you how to understand the design of the course to improve your score. A beautifully designed book, with lots of pretty pictures of golf holes, but the text is fairly dull and most of the points obvious. Still, there are a few interesting tidbits. I'm about halfway through. (1/23/96)
Finished yesterday. (1/29/96)
Buried Lies by Peter Jacobsen with Jack Sheehan
A wonderful book of golf anecdotes. Very well written and funny. Worth reading again, and in fact last night I started on my second round! (1/23/96)
I should finish the second reading today. (1/30/96)
The Greatest Masters by Stephen Goodwin
An account of the 1986 Masters, won in dramatic fashion by Jack Nicklaus. I never saw this tournament, but I wish I had. This account is terrific, though, and even though you know how it will end it's thrilling to read. (1/23/96)
Quick Cures for Weekend Golfers by John Jacobs
The title makes it sound like one of those "Learn Japanese in 30 Days" books, but this actually seems to be a good book. The premise is that you can tell just about everything about your swing faults by looking at the ball's flight. The book starts with fundamentals of the paths the club takes and so forth and how it should impact the ball, and what will happen if something goes wrong. Then the remainder of the book describes different ball flights and what you might do to correct them. I haven't tried out the advice yet, though. (1/23/96)
How to Break 90 Consistently by Frank Chinnock
Basic advice for high-handicappers, told via a story of the author using the advice with one guy. The story was interesting enough that I didn't pay much attention to the advice. I'll read the book again, though. (1/23/96)
I did read it again, although I didn't pay much more attention to the advice. (1/29/96)
Golf My Way by Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowden
Nicklaus's advice on golfing fundamentals. A bit dry and it concentrates too much on "Jack Nicklaus" rather than your average golfer, but there are some interesting tidbits to be found. (1/23/96)
Takahashi Rumiko's Mezon Ikkoku
I finally got this 15-volume romantic manga (Mezon Ikkoku) which I'd bought years ago but never read (it was too hard) back from Indianapolis. Since I'll be visiting Japan soon I thought I'd try reading it to get my Japanese into shape. So far it's great. (10/27/95)
Mezon Ikkoku is a little weak--it has some wonderful moments, but also drags in places. In particular I don't like the minor characters living at Ikkoku-kan--they are annoying and repetitious. On the other hand the story has more of a feel of progression and is less episodic than her other works.
I finished this a little after the beginning of the year. Some parts were really annoying, but others were great...quite variable. The ending is very nice. Definitely inferior to her other major works, Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2. (1/22/96)

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