Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek
benpeek

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Edge of the World and 50 Books





I took this Saturday evening. I find that it reminds me of somewhere else, not the edge of Bondi.

Anyhow, I have decided, some two weeks into the year, that I'm going to do that read 50 books a year challenge that is round. By this, I mean, reading fifty books completely, beginning to end, and commenting on them here. Sometimes in depth, sometimes just in passing, all depending on my mood. It probably won't really kick in until after March, when I hand in my thesis, and find myself with a whole bunch of empty time, but if I say I'll do it now, I will. I guess. The only thing I'm going to set myself within this vague yearly goal is that I read diversely, all across the words on paper world, so if you've got some things to recommend, feel free. Recommendations of non-Western writers would be most welcome, because this is where my reading is weakest, I believe.

Anyhow, I'm also going to talk about the books I don't finish, which shouldn't be that many, but I've had one already. That was Christopher Priest's The Prestige, which many people speak highly of, but which by page seventy five, I was struggling to find anything of interest in. The Prestige is the story of a feud between stage magicians with multiple first person narrators, the first of which talks about the twin brother he knows he has but has never met. Maybe this twists into something later, but to be honest, anything involving twins is struggling to find a hold with me. Just a suspension of disbelief thing, really. I find twin stories difficult to go with. The book picked up a bit when it hit the second narrator, who talked about his stage tricks, but the problem, I guess, was that I was only reading for these moments, and didn't much care for anything else. There's nothing wrong with the book in the seventy five pages I read, but I put it down some three weeks ago, and I've no urge to go back to it. In fact, I've read three books since then, so, y'know, I think it's time to just admit I'm not going back to it.

Book One in this list was actually Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian or the Evening Red in the West, which, ironically, I began reading in October, but stopped due to Life (tm). The difference between this and Priest's book, however, is I wanted to go back to McCarthy's, which is beautifully written, and had its hooks deep in me. I listed it as one of my favourites in 2005, but the way things go, I actually read it in the new breath of 2006. Still, it's listed back, so if you're curious, go back and find that post.

Book Two was Thomas Lynch's Booking Passage: We Irish and American, which is an absolutely awful title for such a thoughtful, beautiful, but ultimately messy memoir slash collection of essays. I'm going to digest it for a bit more, then write about it in a bit, I think, cause it's quite an interesting book, as all Lynch's books are. However, that said, there are dozens upon dozens of moments where Lynch poses a question, or answers one, which are just so beautifully put, and this, raised at the start of Booking Passage, is one I'm going to end this post with:

What I should have said is that ethnography seems so perilous just now, no less the everyday; that "life and letters and the field" seem littered more than ever with the wounded and the dead, the raging and the sad. That ethnicity, formerly a cause for celebration, now seems an occasion for increasing caution. That ethnic identity--those ties by which we are bound to others of our kind by tribe and race, language and belief, geography and history, costume and custom and a hundred other measures--seems lately less a treasure, more a scourge.
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