Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Accomplishing and Abandoning

now finished: En el tiempo de las mariposas by Julia Alvarez
now abandoned: Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics by John Niven
now reading: Martin Van Buren - The American Presidents Series by Ted Widmer

Yes, it's true. After 285 pages of my first MVB attempt, I totally abandoned ship. I just couldn't do it anymore. It was painful. I really hope the professor historian dude who wrote it got tenure out of it, because I just cannot in good conscience recommend it as a book to read. This is not to say there was not interesting information in it. I actually learned a lot about Van Buren, and some of the things I had already learned about him from my JQA and Jackson bios were fleshed out, and that was cool. But it was overly wordy while still being really dry, a dastardly combination. It was put together like a typical academic endeavor: impressive research piled upon impressive research, with lots of unnecessary terrible writing in lieu of getting to the point. Occasionally an interesting passage or a clever turn of phrase would show up, just the way they would occasionally show up in those research papers you wrote at 4 a.m. in college. Doesn't mean the whole thing was well done.

I've moved on. I even took it back to the library yesterday already, so the deed is done. I am now reading an incredibly different, short Martin Van Buren bio (but I feel no guilt about reading a short, light one, having given many weeks of my life to 285 pages of the long, awful one).

In other news, I finished En el tiempo de las mariposas (that's In the Time of the Butterflies to some of you). It's pretty crazy how no one in the U.S. knows a damn thing about Trujillo or the Dominican Republic or the Mirabal sisters (las mariposas), who were brutally murdered. I really want to read another Julia Alvarez book after reading that. She has a vivid imagination and a great writing style and storytelling sensibility.

Lots more reading to do in July!

Also, on today's Here and Now (that's a public radio show, y'all), I heard Jack Murnighan talk about his book Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's Greatest Hits. I have idly considered reading that book before, but today I was really digging some of the stuff the author said, particularly his intense, effusive praise for War and Peace. (See the header of this blog, please, thanks.) Made me want to revisit The Book again. Gotta do some serious plowing through the 600 books on my to-read list first, though....

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