Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What I Read on My Trip

As I have alluded to in a couple of earlier posts, I very recently went on a two and a half week trip to Finland, Norway, and Denmark, partly for a conference in Finland and partly as a tourist in an area of Europe I had not been before. As I mentioned, when I travel I choose a small pile of paperback books ahead of time, and then leave them along the way when I finish. If I am in danger of running out of books, I look for bookstores with books in English. In the case of this trip, I did in fact run out, but fortunately was able to find English books and magazines in various bookstores and newsstands to supplement the ones I had brought. Most serendipitously, just when I was worrying about what to read on the plane trips home, I stumbled onto a particularly good bookstore in Copenhagen, just a couple of blocks from my hotel. During the two and a half weeks on my trip, especially on the plane trips, I read eleven books. I am not going to post about them individually, especially since several of them were definitely light reading. But here I will mention three of them that I do recommend. First, I re-read one of Alice Munro’s wonderful story collections, “The Beggar Maid,” and as always when I read Munro, I was caught up in her amazing stories and insights. Second, it was great fun to read Edward St. Aubyn’s new novel “Lost for Words.” St. Aubyn is known for his dark, painful (but extremely well written) novels, but this one goes in another direction; it satirizes the administrators and jury and process of a major literary prize (the Booker?). For booklovers, this is a witty, amusing romp of a book. And finally, I picked up a copy of David Lodge’s “Small World,” which is 30 years old and which I have read before and found hilarious. It describes academics traveling the world to various conferences, behaving both pretentiously and badly in many cases, but without real malice in most cases, and often endearingly haplessly. It is a little dated, and I had to overlook a bit of sexism due to the age of the book, but I still found it laugh-out-loud funny. It was especially humorous and enjoyable for me in the context of my own trip’s being for an academic conference. I have to say that my conference seemed relatively decorous, but still there were small, funny connections with the behaviors in the book.
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