Bend Sinister was gorgeous. Disturbing and weird at the end, but the language that Nabokov uses is just so savory, he could write something with no plot or characters to speak of and it would still be a masterpiece. Not sure when I'll get a chance to experience him again but I'm looking forward to it.
I did, eventually, finish Ulysses. I didn't like it and I can't really tell you anything about it. That chapter of my life was closed before it ever really began.
I also finished Great Expectations, possibly for the second time, possibly for my first complete reading. It was better this time around, anyhow. The characters are so complex and sympathetic, especially the ones of lesser station or education. It really struck me hard to see how Pip never actually dug himself out of the mess his 'gentleman' path had made, but I also had to appreciate that it was portrayed as a hard life lesson rather than a tragedy. Dickens characters hope forever.
It's been a long time now since I started Plato's The Republic, but I knew I wasn't going to digest it quickly and I didn't want to skim it. So I did a few pages at a time, sometimes with long gaps between, and there have definitely been parts I really enjoyed and got some real philosophical worth out of, too. I was merrily plugging along for months, and then I had this bright idea to trade Kindles with my dad since he kept asking me if there was a way to share books with each other (there isn't).
He didn't have The Republic on his, so I decided it was finally time to finish R.U.R., one of the pillars of science fiction that the world has like entirely forgotten about, thanks a lot, ungrateful world. It's actually a play, and not very long and certainly not complicated, so it's a lot like reading a short story. I really want someone to make it into a stage musical. A movie or even comic adaptation doesn't seem that likely, since the story of robots gaining self-awareness and attacking mankind is too familiar now to make an easy sell, but it would kick some ass as a musical.
For anyone who doesn't recognize the title, R.U.R. is by Karel Capek and known mostly for contributing the word "robot" to the English language. Yeah, it was the first story of robots gaining self-awareness and attacking mankind. It also had a lot of influence on the show Dollhouse, and was even mentioned in the movie The World's End. So maybe we're starting to un-forget it. My own vote probably doesn't count much for anyone, but I'd still urge you to give it a try - it's a great piece of literature in its own right, and really makes you think about the fears and dreams that ordinary people must have had in the early days of technological advancement.
After I finished that I decided it wasn't the right time to follow it with Capek's War with the Newts, which is an actual novel, so I browsed some of Kipling's poetry and then made Dad trade Kindles back. I feel kind of bad for interrupting him in the middle of Crime and Punishment but he can download it for free just like I did. Now I'm around 80% done with old Plato, and since Dad changed up the order of my reading list, I guess Crime and Punishment is next for me too.
Coincidentally, my real life bookshelf's order has also been changed up, because of the move, so I don't know what I was reading last or what I'm reading next, but I can definitely tell you I started The Silmarillion. Yes, the one and only Silmarillion, the final frontier of Tolkienmania, the fantasy novel which is also a history book and isn't ashamed of it. I couldn't handle it as a teenager, when my love of all things Middle-Earth was at its peak, but I was excited to get back to it now that boring literature doesn't intimidate me. Unfortunately, it doesn't help that it's been a few years since anything stirred up my interest in Tolkien's worlds, and now I feel like I don't even know LotR well enough to make the connections that should be keeping me engaged to the background stories.
Not giving up or anything, but this is what I meant when I said I was in the middle of two dense books. Plus, settling into the new place still hasn't quite wrapped up, so I haven't established the ideal conditions for reading The Silmarillion. To be honest, I'm still excited about the book, even though I'm bored.
The last one I finished before/during that was Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. It's non-fiction, mostly about the relationship between spirituality and the creative process, but naturally it involves some autobiography. It took me a long time to finish, not because there's anything difficult about it but because I was really intent on absorbing as much of her wisdom as I could. I'm not sure if it worked. Books on writing always seem to have the same effect on me: for the first half or so, I'm latching onto every page going "Yes! Yes! Tell me more of your secrets!", and then I kind of fizzle before I can get to the point of applying whatever I've learned to my own writing.
It was nice to read one that came from a Christian perspective and explored that angle, though. One of the amazing thing about L'Engle's writing is how subtly and effectively she employs her own faith, and that's what made me interested in the book in the first place - maybe it's not possible to find out exactly how a great writer is so great, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to try.
I looked back and didn't find any references to Snow Falling on Cedars, so that must have been the one I read previous to the aforementioned. I don't remember the author's name. It's not really my kind of book, but that's exactly why I choose them based on shelf order, and this time I even checked with Simon to see if he thought it was worth my time. He did, and it was, but I wouldn't rank it too high among the best books I've ever read. It was elegantly crafted, well researched, full of intricate detail, but unless you've got a thing for Northwestern USA island fishing culture, or post-WWII tensions between America and Japan, or murder mysteries, you probably won't feel compelled to stay up late with it.
Sherlock Holmes is either the last missing piece, or everything else I've read in the past year has been totally forgettable...or I'm just absentminded as ever and will want to come back and edit to give some other book its due. Anyway, I'm not a Sherlock fangirl, but I swear I had something to say about the difference between his original version and the way modern media represents him, but I don't know what it was. I've actually read a lot of Sherlock now, mostly by bookshelf order coincidence, and never became much of a devotee because there's really only one thing that each story has going for it: that incredibly satisfying moment at the end when everything is wrapped up and explained. Takes a good brain to write one of those, takes a...different brain than mine to figure it out in advance, and never gets old. On the other hand, a character arc or two would be nice.
One thing that did really interest me about the last story I read (and the explanation of it in the epilogue) was that Moriarty was introduced, in no uncertain terms, to kill off Holmes and be done with the series. And one really interesting thing about that was that Moriarty was the flimsiest placeholder villain I've ever seen. His vaunted criminal genius was portrayed entirely by Holmes telling the reader that he's a criminal genius. They went through the entire "Oh, you're good" "So are you" confrontation together. There was no mystery whatsoever. Like, Sir Doyle could just as well have written, "THEN HOLMES GOT KILLED BY A BAD GUY, OKAY" and it would have the same effect on the series. And from that, we got a legendary nemesis. That probably just goes to show for something, but I'm not sure what.
Mark Twain is probably coming next unless I decide to go for the other bookshelf first. You know, if I ever finish The Silmarillion. Which means if I ever become a voracious reader of books without pictures again. But I will. Of course I will. Books are neat and they smell good.