What I Read Last Week: July 7th to 14th
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I started reading Strangers on a Train and got about fifty pages in. I am enjoying it, but dropped it (for a bit, I am always dropping books) because Bruno was really fucking creepy and I’d had enough of that with Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, which I had just read. I will go back to it, I am just not in the mood at the moment.
I then decided to pick up something short. I’ve had a copy of the first Maigret novel Pietr the Latvian on my nightstand for a while. I bought it knowing nothing about it except that it was a detective novel, and that Simenon claims to have slept with hundreds of women. I like using detective stories as a palette cleanser, something I’ve been doing ever since I binged on James Bond novels after finishing university. Pietr the Latvian got me immediately with its description of a dark, wet, bleak Paris. I am always up for some relentless bleakness. It struck me as being like Chandler with more of a sense of companionship, but I realise Chandler probably read Maigret before writing his stuff. Simenon intrigued me enough with the dead man in an impossible situation and also impossibly not being dead that I would have sped through this novel regardless of its quality, but its constant variation of a desolate coast, a seedy high-life, and a dark modernity made it an enjoyable couple of sittings.
And then I read Siddhartha.
I’d wanted to read Siddhartha for a long time. I found a public domain translation of it and read it in a couple of days. I probably should have read it slower but it went down so easy, like stories that have the quality of fable and lightness of style do. I haven’t really gathered my thoughts about this novel yet. My own (lack) of spiritual inclinations makes it hard for me to relate to some of its concerns, but at the same time I still felt like I was experiencing something profound. If I was a parent, this novel probably would have devastated me. I might write something longer about this soon. Or I might have to do a lot more reading to know how I feel about it. My knowledge of religion (and other spiritual pursuits) is limited and something I’d like to correct, and I think this knowledge might help me appreciated Siddhartha more. Maybe I missed the point.
I am about halfway through Northanger Abbey, which I am reading because my girlfriend has to for her work, and I like synchronising my reading with hers sometimes. I am finding it fine enough but find myself feeling the same way I did reading Pride and Prejudice, that is bemused at the triviality of many of the concerns of the novel, and yet also stung with the recognition that those trivialities are what make up our lives. I have, as always, probably missed the point.