Reading for August, 2005

You know how sometimes you just try to read too many clumsy books in a row and lose all reading momentum? I think I’ll call this “reader’s block”, and here’s hoping I’m not the only person in the world who has had this experience.
It is hard to say when it started. I’ve been working on Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, which is… very long. After four hundred pages, Clyde still hasn’t killed Roberta.
Then there was the disaster of The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida. For statistical purposes, Florida considers medicine and law as creative practices. They aren’t part of the “super creative core”, however. Whatever. I don’t need a fake book to affirm my creative impulses. But to be fair, you can ignore my opinion, I didn’t come close to reading the whole book.

I am determined to finish Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. First, because it was a gift. Second, there are some interesting tidbits scattered alongside the more journalistic passages describing Finlay’s travels. She’s just not a very powerful writer.

I knew that it was the world’s most expensive spice, I knew that it was yellow (although in the packet I had bought it looked orange and in fact, if it had been genuine, it should have been crimson red), and I knew it was from a flower. I also knew that the Indian government had restricted exports of Kashmiri saffron as part of the same protectionist policy that meant I was drinking a drink called Campa Cola instead of any familiar American brands. But I didn’t know then that a double pinch of saffron in hot water with honey can be an instant reviver, nor did I know how to add this spice to long-grained rice to make it taste like the earth and look like the sun; I didn’t know that the flower it came from was the crocus, nor did I know how long it was going to take before I learned all these things.

It’s the Bruce Chatwin school of writing! Finlay even mentions Chatwin during her search for ochre in Australia.
For all the history of the different colors, I think the rise of the four color printing process (and seven color printing and so on) has started to make people less color literate than they were. You just make a picture in Photoshop and print it out on the Epson and you don’t have to think about what the colors are called. And in twenty years we’ll discover that half of the “archival quality” inks aren’t archival quality at all… but I’ll save this rant for another day.
The one book I did finish during the month of August was The Orange Fish, a collection of short stories by the late Carol Shields, published in 1989. Most of the stories seem to be potential sketches for longer novels, experiments in style and narrative structure. Only two or three are strong stories in their own right.
And although I didn’t read so much last month, I did build a number of very nice handmade boxes, and started to do some book repairs.

Filed under books · Tagged with

Comments are closed.