In the Sea of Words

For some odd reason I appear to be catching up with myself at the moment. I am knitting things I queued years ago and I am reading a book I have been meaning to read for at least ten or twelve years: James Joyce's Ulysses. Once upon a time I sort-of specialised in Modernist literature - early 20th century experimental literature, if you like, which broke away from realist modes of expression. I mainly focused on Modernist poetry (I had major problems with prose at the time and abandoned fiction for several years - it's a long and dull story why) so I have big gaps where you might expect otherwise. Hardly any Virginia Woolf, very little James Joyce, just a smattering of DH Lawrence and no Djuna Barnes or Marcel Proust. I have been playing catch up ever since I rediscovered prose.

So far I am really enjoying Ulysses. I used to be slightly frightened of the novel - it is the big mythical beast of 20th century English-language literature after all - but I am relaxing into it in a most enjoyable way. A not-so-small part of me is itching to sit with a concordance and jot down marginalia as I slowly work my way through the book, but I am mostly just enjoying the reading experience. It is a more immediate way of reading the book and while I know I am missing layers of meaning, I like this informal way of reading. Because I was trained to read in a methodical, almost-clinical manner I am sometimes struggling to connect with some books, and I really enjoy when I can lose myself in a book.

(I did put an exclamation mark next to the bit which I'm convinced Ezra Pound "borrowed" for his Cantos. You know, just for old time's sake.)

Wholly unrelated, but then again: The Best & Worst Job Prospects in the Urban Fantasy Economy for 2011. Years ago I kept borrowing books from friends hoping that I could get into genre reading - specifically urban fantasy, supernatural romance and Celtic fantasy (the genres most popular with my friends) - but I struggled to get past the clunky writing. I still remember reading Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures (which came highly recommended to me) and being unable to get past the sentence: "He laughed bitterly, like shattered glass". When I learned that Guilty Pleasures were supposed to be the best book Hamilton has ever written, I twigged that I should probably just go about reading the kind of books I like and stop trying to emulate others' reading patterns.

I continue to be wary about reading recommendations, but Five Books looks useful: "Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject." I thought these looked intriguing: Sara Maitland on Silence, James Meek on The Death of Empires, Rebecca Goldstein on Reason and Its Limitations and Thomas Keneally on Russia.