60 in 60: Weeks Four and Five in Review

Jeff VanderMeer • January 18th, 2009 @ 4:50 am • 60 in 60

Up on the Amazon book blog, I’ve got my latest summary, with rankings, of my reading over the last couple of weeks–only nine books since it doesn’t include this weekend, and the first week was half a week, given the break between sets.

I’m finding the experience both more and less intense as I come close to the half-way point. I’ve settled into a rhythm now, but the books I don’t like as much I find much, much harder to stir myself to write about, especially in terms of diving into specifics. The books I do like a lot…well, I’m having a hard time not babbling on and on about them. I also find myself getting fidgety when there aren’t many (or any) comments on a piece. Did I get it wrong? Was it boring? Is anyone reading? These are pointless things to think about, but there it is…

In the background, there’s at times a low-grade resentment, of not being able to experience the books at my leisure. I’ve got a pile of the ones I want to go back to by my bed. I’ve also got a list of authors I want to explore further–both their work and biographies of their lives.

Another, more pleasing emotion, is a sense of connection to the past. The more of these books I read, the more the past seems to open itself up to me, and to exist side-by-side with the present. Every time an essay or part of an essay reveals itself as either still relevant or providing great detail about the time in which it was written, I also experience an ever-growing, somewhat weird, sense of…calm. It’s no exaggeration to say that, at least in the short-term, reading these books is making me a more thoughtful, measured person overall.

And I continue to be blown away by the design of these books, which is nothing short of extraordinary, especially in mass market paperbacks, often thought of as disposable.

7 Responses to “60 in 60: Weeks Four and Five in Review”

  1. J. T. Glover says:

    I’ve left few or no comments on these because I’ve read & discussed a fair number of these books (studied history and Classics) so often that talking about them is not especially engaging. Your reviews, however, have often been engaging. I especially liked the Christine de Pizan review.

    That sense of resentment you are feeling is understandable, but this is a good project! I don’t think most of us would read many books like these left to our own devices. Mad schemes like this, or classes, or whatever, are a good way to force yourself ot do something…

    Yesterday I watched Citizen Kane for the first time and was completely blown away. Same sort of feeling as you are describing in terms of connection — so much came together, so many influences, and the work itself was brilliant.

  2. Zvi says:

    Jeff, your blog is a daily pleasure for me and I’m enjoying your 60 in 60 reviews immensely. Often I have interesting disagreements with you in my head (they haven’t made it into the comment boxes yet).

  3. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Oh, please do disagree in comments, going forward, if something particularly interests you.

    I’m not complaining re comments–I’m simply making an observation. The nature of a Death March like this is that encouragement, positive or negative, makes it easier to go on. I can’t go on. I must go on. Suddenly I understand Beckett.

    Seriously, though, if I didn’t have book deadlines I would have nothing but unadulterated enjoyment from this trek. It is immeasurably enriching me in a lot of ways–will do so even more when I have time to go back and contemplate some of this stuff more leisurely.


  4. John Coulthart says:

    I’ve been reading all of your reviews, it’s fun on this side seeing what turns up each day. And the covers are marvellous. (Marco Polo excepted; what was that big face doing there?) Penguin is on a roll at the moment.

    Another point about the design side: there seem to be endless alarums at the moment about “the death of books”, a warning which goes back as far as George Steiner’s Future Literacies in the 1960s. Nearly all of these Penguin texts are available for free from Gutenberg and elsewhere, as are many of Penguin’s Classics range. This is proof that you can make the copyright-free stuff more attractive and desirable that a free text file with good design. Penguin have always known this but it’s something other publishers might bear in mind. And yes, being a book designer, I have a vested interest in saying this… (Ha!)

  5. Larry says:

    I would be commenting more, but with school back in session, I’m more of a weekend warrior. That being said, I do read the posts and I do find myself wanting to engage more with what you said and with the books themselves, but sometimes my brain around 5 PM is so exhausted from school that I have to rest first, often leading to me sleeping for 12 hours to recover.

    Besides, I’m waiting for you to take on Foucault. I think the talking squirrel might make that one more memorable ;)

  6. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    OMG. I just lost my entire Hobbes post in WordPress, and it was one of my most difficult. Oy. Life is short and brutish. Shit!

  7. Celsius1414 says:

    I hate it when that happens.

    If it’s any consolation, I was watching “Arsenic and Old Lace” last night on Turner Classic Movies and spied what I think was a “Jacob John VanderMeer 1654″ tombstone in the cemetery outside the aunts’ house:


    Round about 5:17.

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