It’s a busy time of year for UWaterloo English faculty and students, and on top of it we’re probably all a bit tired from moving masses of snow around. Given the general February slump, it seemed like the perfect time to pose the following question to a few faculty: “If you could stop everything else right now and curl up with your beverage of choice in a comfortable chair to re-read a favourite book, what book would you chose?” The answers are wonderful.
I’ve been listening to Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow as an audio book. It is very trippy to “hear” his phantasmagoric prose. I am reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity on e-book. My magical thinking: between these two fantastic, generative thought-engines, the snow will have to start melting.
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. (Except that I’d have to get it back from my son, who has it in Toronto as background reading for his “History of Physics” course at U of T.) My favourite books are those that deal with historiography or “behind the scenes” history, or the kind of good science writing that explains science in layperson’s terms. I like Bryson’s books in general, but this book wins because it’s a perfect combination of both my favourite topics. He explains the scientific discoveries, but in the delightful context of biographical info about the people who made them (or are credited with them–not always the same thing!). There are lots of books that I’d love to curl up and (re)read, but this one would be the most pleasurable indulgence.
Dickens’ Bleak House with a hot cup of tea.
I’m in the throes of some kind of flu at the moment, but even so I’m thinking of re-reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It is a stunning tour de force of writing, well worth reading twice for that reason alone. But its plot is cryptic and compelling, something after the first read I knew was too demanding to grok in one pass, and I’d like to take another crack at it.
I’m rereading Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants. I received Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! for Christmas and when I finished it I headed back to Fey’s book. Both of them are funny but feel real to me, and it’s nice to read memoirs with strong, sassy, funny, sarcastic, kick-ass women on the title page. I find it bracing to watch these women refuse to take no for an answer in their lives. And Fey’s got this short chapter on being the mother of a daughter that manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.
B.S. Johnson, The Unfortunates (1969). I’ve been meaning to reread The Unfortunates, which is a novel known for being a “book in a box”: rather than a single codex, it consists of small packets that can be read in any sequence, and as a result it does some interesting things with nonlinearity, fragmentation, memory, and elegy. I find myself talking about a lot with students and colleagues in conversations about the history of the book, or experimental narratives like Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, and it would be something I’d like to revisit.
Image: The Unfortunates, Flickr