Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

It’s that time again – Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times – how quickly it comes around! It’s a meme hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

This week Jack and I are sharing shelves as some of the books are mine and I haven’t got around to taking photos of shelves this week, do not ask me what I have been doing as I can’t tell you, so much time at home and I’m not doing much except reading.

I’m the Gore Vidal fan. I went through a phase of reading everything of his that I could get a hold of some ten or fifteen years ago. I love his American historical novels, they may not be so well-beloved in the US, his view of the history won’t match up with many peoples’ thoughts – but I suspect that he knew what he was writing about. His Burr is a favourite of mine and I really should re-read it some time.

Translated Fiction Bookshelves 1

Another American writer I binge read I think in the early 1980s was John Updike, particularly his Rabbit books. I seem to remember that Judith mentioned a while back in a blogpost that she really couldn’t stand his books, I think because she lived through those times and attitudes, but it was all new to me.

Back in the early 1970s the Russian author and dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn was in the news a lot. He had been in prison and was eventually exiled within the Soviet Union. A KGB attempt on his life failed so eventually they allowed him to move to the west – if any country was willing to have him. The USA stepped forward. However he wasn’t there long when he began to complain about life in the west. He was looking for perfection I suppose! I wanted to know what his writing was like so I read Cancer Ward which was about his experiences of having cancer and his treatment in Tashkent in the 1950s, my copy was published in 1975 and I read it that year. Looking back it seems like a strange choice of book for a 15 or 16 year old to read, but I read it and was impressed. My gran had recently died of cancer so that might have been my reason for reading it. I was just amazed that he had survived. So I went on to read The Gulag Archipelago about his experiences in Soviet labour camps. That book seems to have gone missing, maybe it’s in the garage.

Large Books Shelf

I’ve read all of the Irene Nemirovsky books, and others from the library, she was a talented Jewish writer who didn’t manage to escape from the Nazis and died in a camp, despite the fact that her own mother was partying in Paris with the high status Nazis there. She didn’t lift a finger to help her daughter.

I’m really enjoying this meme Judith.

10 thoughts on “Bookshelf Travelling in Insane Times

  1. I haven’t read anything by Gore Vidal but I am thinking I should. I do have some of his mysteries, but I also should try some the historical novels, especially Burr.

    I either have read no John Updike or I read one and stopped. Maybe someday I will try again.

    I have read two by Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Gulag Archipelago. I read both in the 1970s. I might be interested in trying more.

    I am very interested in trying something by Irene Nemirovsky, based on what you say here. I see that you have written several reviews on the blog, I will go back and read them and see what I think.

    • traybham,
      I have a feeling that I read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich too but it hasn’t stayed with me as the others did – if I did read it.

      I think you’ll enjoy Nemirovsky, her writing is really beautiful at times.

      Sadly Gore Vidal is now dead, apart from his books I also enjoyed just listening to him pontificating on politics, he was often in the UK as a talking head around General Election times, he was so wonderfully cynical and witty, or maybe it would be called bitchy. He was an entertaining speaker anyway.

  2. Hi Katrina,
    I’m so interested that you’ve enjoyed Gore Vidal’s historical novels. I have never read one, but have known lots of people in my parents’ generation who liked them. I imagine they are very good. And Burr does sound fascinating.
    I’m extremely interested in your reminiscences of reading Cancer Ward. That was a super-long tome, and I’m impressed you tackled it at 15-16. Another book I’d like to read, as well as The Gulag.
    My problem with Updike was only that he focused on the hang-ups of my parents’ generation, and they were considerable. But I’m so glad that you liked his work because he is (was) a great writer.

    • Judith,
      You should definitely give Vidal’s historical novels a go, I’m sure you would find them interesting and entertaining. Mind you Vidal was really quite anti-American or should I say anti those Americans in power. I loved his cynical wit, but I did think to myself that it was a wonder that they ever allowed him back into the US. For a lot of his life he lived in Italy I believe, where he had built a wonderful garden high above one of the lakes.

      • Did you know that Gore Vidal was an in-law of President Kennedy? The connection is through Jacqueline’s side of the family, though an in-law of her as well. Through her step-father’s family, the Auchincloss’s, I believe. So perhaps not technically an in-law of JFK, but close.
        Part of Vidal’s failure to achieve full popular support was that he was ostentatiously blue-blooded and played it to the hilt.
        To me, it matters not a bit, but there was that edge there, for my parents, for example.

        • Judith,
          Yes I did know that, I read his autobiography. They were quite good friends I believe and he claims that it was his idea for her to wear sunglasses, something she became known for. I think he said they were step brother and sister but of course that marriage didn’t last too long. It was his wild snootiness that I liked – really so funny, but at the bottom of it all he just looked down on everyone because he had links with so many of the US ‘royalty’ but his heart was in the right place. Of course Al Gore became the bigwig in his family so Vidal was knocked off the pedestal, but he seemed to despise it all anyway. JFK was shocked at how much tax Vidal had to pay when he had a successful film – JFK said he didn’t pay tax!!

          • I LOVE the anecdote about the taxes. That is too incredibly funny!!
            And the sunglasses!

  3. Thanks for the visit to my site.

    Love seeing people’s bookshelves. I noticed a Murakami on there that I don’t yet own. Haven’t seen the film version either.

    That is terrible about Irene Nemirovsky and her mother. I guess it shouldn’t surprise us how people act sometimes, but it still does.

    • Carl,
      Norwegian Wood is one of two Murakami books that I’ve read, the other one is The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Actually I didn’t realise it was on that shelf, our other Murakami books are elsewhere.

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