My Janus-Faced January Reading Program
As I wrote in my post dated January 1 of this year, I like to devote a whole month out of each year reading authors I have never read before. As this is the last day of my Januarius Project for January 2023, I thought I’d report on the authors I have discovered.
I have read eleven books this month. Six of them turned out to be excellent:
- Thomas Hodgkin. Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire. I. The Visigothic Invasion. The first of eight volumes and 5,000 pages on the Barbarian Invasions. Excellent scholarship and exciting even!
- Magda Szabo. The Door. A superb Hungarian novel about a writer and her domineering housekeeper.
- Laszló F. Földényi. Melancholy. Another Hungarian author dealing with the history of melancholy in Western literature and civilization. Not an easy book to read, but worth the effort.
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Writing Across the Landscape. Travel Journals 1960-2010. It’s always fascinating to see other places from a poet’s perspective.
- Lucretius. The Nature of Things. An ancient Roman poet describes the science of his day—in verse. Reading Lucretius tells me we may have advanced in some respects, but not all.
- Juan Rulfo. The Plain in Flames. Why have I not heard of this Mexican author before? Like John Webster, he could see the skull beneath the skin; and his short stories are powerful and gemlike.
The remaining five were merely really good:
- Vilmos Kondor. Budapest Noir. A top-notch mystery set in the Budapest of the 1930s, on the track of a young woman’s murder.
- Han Kang. The Vegetarian. A young woman goes from vegetarianism to pushing the envelope of what is human. The author is Korean.
- Don Carpenter. Hard Rain Falling. A noir crime novel about a pool shark whose life goes from bad to worse. The beginning is particularly powerful.
- Yu Miri. Tokyo Ueno Station. The author is a Japanese woman of Korean ancestry. A powerful look at urban homelessness in Tokyo.
- Horacio Quiroga. 7 Best Short Stories. One for the kiddies. A Uruguayan author writes stories about the Argentinian jungle that are reminiscent of Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
I can see myself reading other works by Hodgkin, Szabo, Ferlinghetti, and Rulfo in the year to come.
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