Sunday, October 18, 2009

What I Want to Read and Why I Have (Not)

Reading has been slower than usual this month and I do not expect to complete everything I had planned for October. I will still finish the Aeneid, but the Meditations and Pliny's letters will have to wait.

I got a little sidetracked with two Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, and I have some other things on my reading-platter.

First is an interesting character of American history, an artist named Chiura Obata. A Japanese-American painter, he is exactly the kind of person who is interesting enough to read about but does not quite reach the average History textbook. After learning about him from a PBS special on the American national parks, I ordered a book from the library called Obata's Yosemite. It features many of the pictures from his tour of the Yosemite National Park in the 1920's, probably his most famous collection.

I have no great interest in visual arts, but of course I can appreciate these. I hold a special place for Japanese art in particular and I consider the American landscape one of the most beautiful in the world (from what I gather from pictures :). I admit my patriotism runs deep, but I like to think it is only pride in my country and its people -- not thinly disguised xenophobia.

Seeing this Japanese style collide with American scenery is both novel and enjoyable, and clear visual proof of the dualism most Japanese-Americans -- and indeed most immigrants -- must have felt. I will stop short of singing "Kumbaya," but still the book comes recommended.

I also learned, from the same show, about Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior under Franklin D. Roosevelt. A brash, abrasive politician, he no doubt was a man who knew how to get things done -- at least he was instrumental in implementing a little thing called the "New Deal." Sadly, I have yet to get around to ordering or reading anything on the man, but at least it has been noted.

Next is Shakespeare in American Life, a catalogue of a 2007 exhibition by the Folger Library. It strikes me as something you are more likely to buy at a gift shop than find in a public library, but that does not make it cheap or useless. It features some dozen or so essays, which, given the nice paper on which the book is printed, I can only assume are scholarly. The essays cover a wide variety of topics, from popular to snooty von snoot. I have already learned much about the beginnings of Shakespeare's enrapture of America and I am oddly intrigued enough to read until the end. I do love Kiss Me Kate and I wonder if any mention is made of Huckleberry Finn's little foray into Hamlet.

Then I have some smaller projects:
  • V for Vendetta -- I do not expect to be wowed out of my socks, but I figure, as long as I am touring the "best of" in the graphic novels department, I might as well knock this one off.
  • Flight: Volume One -- A collection of short comics by an array of people who look awfully hip; I was drawn in by the pretty colors.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- Honestly, I do not know why I am so excited about this one. Long British poems usually ain't my thang, but this looks just goofy enough to work.
So there you have it, a miscellany of books from a miscellany of a man. Smart thought of the day: I could have used the time I spent writing this to read.

Please hold your applause until the end.

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