Saturday, March 6, 2021

On Reading an Author's Ouevre

After thinking about it for about twenty years, with one false start some years ago, I am finally indexing my reading list to an Excel file. That's different from this blog, where I list the 35 most recently read titles. This listed will be searchable and include the pub month (when known), the month I read it, plus the author or editor and when appropriate, either the illustrator or a second author or editor. If there are three or more authors or editors, the third and any others are out of luck. But it seems unlikely that I would have any interest in the third co-author of a book. Not impossible, just unlikely.

I have just finished reading Klara and the Sun, the latest Kazuo Ishiguro novel for which we are cohosting an event with Ron Charles (along with Left Bank Books and Anderson's Bookshops) on March 16. Tickets available here. The novel is getting great reviews, and I love the way it ties into his other books, particularly Never Let Me Go (2005). Yes, an AF (artificial friend) would seem to connect to the characters of Never Let Me Go, but there's something about Klara that reminds me of Stevens the butler in The Remains of the Day (1989).

I had assumed that those were the only books I had read from Ishiguro, but in the indexing process, I found out that I had also read When We Were Orphans (2000). It was just over 20 years ago, and I hadn't held onto the book, so you can understand how I could make this mistake. At the time, I wrote, "Kazuo's novel has been said to be a combination of his first two novels" and later noted, "Is his entire self-image a delusion?" And I thought, Ishiguro's heroes, Klara among them, are both keenly observant and hobbled by blind spots. 

I hadn't meant to drop in a plug for Klara and the Sun here, but I just can't help mentioning this Maureen Corrigan review on NPR's Fresh Air: "Klara's misperception of the Sun as a caring deity calls to question our own limited human understanding of, well, everything. Like Klara, who sees the world through grids that sometimes go haywire, we humans only see through a glass, darkly. But great artists, like Ishiguro, are distinguished by their more expansive vision. I know that's something of an old-fashioned conceit, as is the word, 'masterpiece;' nevertheless, I'll go for broke and call Klara and the Sun a masterpiece that will make you think about life, mortality, the saving grace of love: in short, the all of it." 

I told Jason that it turns out I read four of Ishiguro's novels and he said, "Now you only have to read three more to read them all." And it is tempting. I realized that when I was younger, I seemed to have the ability to catch up on authors. If I liked Elmore Leonard, I might find myself reading 20 of them - I still didn't read them all as I stopped at one Western. At one point, I read every Alice Hoffman work of fiction, but then she wrote many, many more and I fell behind again. I should note that in the old days, many of my catch-up books would be inexpensive mass market paperbacks, but nowadays, if I read All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle (I did, it's coming out in July) and want to read another, it's likely to be $23.99 as a print-on-demand paperback.

Recently I did complete a reading project, as part of my resolution to read one book a month that's more than two years old. I don't know why I had skipped over Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers (2011) when it was released in 2011. Maybe it was the speculative element? I wasn't a huge fan of Nine Inches (2013) , but loved Mrs. Fletcher (2017). Go figure. I think I like Perrotta most when he makes me uncomfortable, which might be why I liked Little Children (2004) so much. But I also have great fondness for The Wishbones (1997), as I have a special fondness for the book that introduced me to Perrotta, though I've read in some reader reviews it hasn't aged well. It's one of his few novels that wasn't adapted for the screen, but I always wondered if someone had seen an early version of this and ripped it off for The Wedding Singer, the 1998 film.

So who's next? I did notice that the only Anne Tyler novel I haven't read is Noah's Compass (2010).    

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