Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leave me alone, I'm reading

I spent the weekend enjoying Maureen Corrigan's book Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading. (My copy is an ARC I picked up at the Vic Book Sale, and may I say it makes me happy to know that an ARC can have its life extended?) Other than the fact that I'm into reading books about reading books (lately, Howards End is on the Landing and Shelf Discovery), before I picked it up, this book didn't hold a ton of appeal to me. I've never listened to Corrigan's reviews on Fresh Air, and her focus on detective fiction and Catholic martyr stories didn't exactly turn me on, but she's a wonderful writer and the whole book was engaging. Also, I realized I recognized the "Catholic martyr story" Karen and With Love From Karen by Marie Killilea, which I don't think I ever read, but I remember from the paperback rack of every school library I ever browsed through.

Like most books about a reader's relationship with books, the shape of the narrative was bizarrely (but pleasingly, I thought) random. Corrigan weaves the books of her life into the story of her life-- how women's "extreme-adventure" tales led her to her adopted daughter from China, how detective fiction helped her find her way out of the mire of academia, how she remembers her father through the WW2 history books he used to read. Also, how Maureen Corrigan finally found love, her quest for "work" in the novel, how a woman who reads for a living could be two generations away from a grandmother who never learned literacy. She also mentions Barbara Pym (whose books are proving hard to find used, by the way. Seems those that like her books also like to keep them).

As I read Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading, I had to keep going online to put books on reserve at the library-- in particular, and in transit to me as I write this (!), I am excited to read Gaudy Nights by Dorothy L. Sayers (which features a literary Harriet) and Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. And Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. After discovering Corrigan's reviews online, I'm also looking forward to reading The Man in the Wooden Hat.

I just finished reading Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan, which was too gritty for my English old-lady tastes (though I am Canadian and thirty. I am just not cool). From that experience, I realized that I get incredibly irritated reading about people spiralling toward rock bottom, and that is just my sensibility. The ending of the book, however, made it for me. Shocking, gross, and brilliant.

Now I am reading Cleopatra's Sister, which is a novel by Penelope Lively, which means that I'm enraptured. (The book has a whiff of Moon Tiger about it, which has been my favourite Lively novel yet.)