Books I’ll (probably) never finish (yet return to again and again)

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A week or so ago, I wrote about the books (specifically novels) that I can’t seem to finish despite beginning them five, six, seven plus times. In that post, I noted that there “are certain books I’ll probably never ‘finish,’ that I have no aim of finishing,” and hence didn’t include in my silly little list. Such titles seemed to need their own post.

“Finish” is probably the wrong verb to use to denote the act of reading, in traditional sequence, all the words on all the pages of a grand great novel. I have never really “finished” the books that I’ve read the most times from cover to cover—books like Adventures of Huckleberry FinnTheir Eyes Were Watching GodMoby-Dick, UlyssesBlood Meridian2666. Something about such books remains somewhere inside of me, unfinished (in contrast to the many, many novels—most often contemporary “literary” fictions—that I truly finish by reading and then jettisoning from memory). The great books that I’ve finished are unfinished. Something of the really great novels wriggles around in the background of consciousness, whispering, howling.

Putting together a little list of books I’m always reading but will likely never finish was not difficult, although I should clarify that I’ve intentionally left off a good number of critical texts—stuff like Derrida, Foucault, Kristeva, etc.—as well as the letters, notebooks, and journals of writers that I return to again and again. I tried to stick to novels. But are the works pictured/listed here—Tristram ShandyThe Anatomy of MelancholyDon QuixoteFinnegans Wake, and 1982, Janine—are these actually novels? The question is complex and productive, but I’ll answer it with the simple, “Yes, but– 

(And yet, parenthetically: That the novelness of these novels is suspect is perhaps a key to why these are the works that fascinate me, that these unnovelly novels make me stumble; I resort to shelving them, grab for critical interpretations, guides, commentaries, etc.—in the hopes of…of what?)

Joyce’s Finnnegans Wake is a nice starting place for this little list. The novel’s famous opening line (“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs”) actually completes the novel’s “final” (non-)sentence (“A lone a last a loved a long the”). So Finnegans Wake is a loop, an infinite jest. Over the past decade, I’ve dipped into the book again and again, using Joseph Campbell’s Skeleton Key as a friendly guide. I’ve learned to have fun with Finnegans Wake, taking something from its language, its connections, its syntheses, while abandoning the pretense that I’ve anything to gain by trucking through it at full speed just to “finish” it.

I pick up Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman less often than I used to, having recovered from trying to understand it. The novel seems to me proof that the term “postmodern” is simply a description of a way of seeing, and not a set of aesthetic conditions. Also, I love that Sterne loves the dash—

It’s perhaps a great moral failing on my part that I’ve never made it past the first few chapters of the Second Part of Don QuixoteI’m familiar with it, largely by way of Nabokov’s lectures and summaries. Anyway, I fail to understand Don Quixote; I fail to read it rightly.

Alasdair Gray’s 1982, Janine doesn’t have the same reputation as the other novels I’ve listed here; its inclusion wasn’t so much an afterthought but a realization—I bought it four years ago and have yet to shelve it. It’s always on a coffee table, the edge of a sofa, next to my bed, cooing, Start again. I start reading it and then I skip ahead to its weird black heart, then I read from the end, then I go back to the beginning. Then I put it aside, having made no “progress.”

I don’t know what Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy is. Is it a novel? (Wait. I think we went through this above). I first encountered it as a bewildered undergrad, checking out an old huge hardback edition from the library. I made a small dent (aided by Ritalin). All that Latin is Greek to me. In his preface to the NYRB edition, William H. Gass advises, “Be prepared to proceed slowly and you will soon go swiftly enough. Read a member a day; it will chase gloom away.” I have not read a member a day, but I do like to pull Melancholy from the shelf late at night, after a few glasses of wine, and dip into it somewhere. I will never finish it.

And yet I’ve retained more from these unfinished novels than most of the contemporary fiction novels I’ve read. Anna Livia Plurabelle. The priest burning poor Quixote’s beautiful books. The marbled pages, the blacked out pages, the squiggles of Tristram Shandy. The typographic explosions in 1982, Janine. The dirty bits. The lists. The force of language, above all.

In a sense, not “finishing” these grand weird novels keeps them vital to me, present somehow, promising in their possibility, taunting and tantalizing in their pregnant unfinishabilty.

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Kinda Sorta Reading List of Novels from Ezra Pound

I have not written a good novel. I have not written a novel. I don’t expect to write any novels and shall not tell anyone else how to do it until I have.

If you want to study the novel, go, READ the best you can find. All I know about it, I have learned from reading:

Tom Jones, by Fielding.

Tristram Shandy and The Sentimental Journey by Sterne (and I don’t recommend anyone ELSE to try to do another Tristram Shandy).

The novels of Jane Austen and Trollope.

[Note: If you compare the realism of Trollope’s novels with the realism of Robert McAlmon’s stories you will get a fair idea of what a good novelists means by ‘construction’. Trollope depicts a scene or a person, and you can clearly see how he ‘leads up to an effect’.]

 

Continuing:

The novels of Henry James, AND especially the prefaces to his collected edition; which are the one extant great treatise on novel writing in English.

In French you can form a fairly good ideogram from:

Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe.

The first half of Stendhal’s Rouge et Noir and the first eighty pages of La Chartreuse de Parme.

Madame BovaryL’Education SentimentaleTrois Contes, and the unfinished Brouvard et Pecuchet of FLAUBERT, with Goncourt’s preface to Germinie Lacerteux.

 

After that you would do well to look at Madox Ford’s A Call.

When you have read Jame’s prefaces and twenty of his other novels, you would do well to read The Sacred Fount.

There for perhaps the first time since about 1300 a writer has been able to deal with a sort of content wherewith Cavalcanti has been ‘concerned’.

You can get a very brilliant cross-light via Donne. I mean the difference and nuances between psychology in Guido, abstract philosophic statement in Guido, the blend in Donne, and again psychology in Henry James, and in all of them the underlying concept of FORM, the structure of the whole work, including its parts.

This is a long way from an A B C. In fact it opens the vistas of post-graduate study.

From Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading (New Directions).

 

“Flaubert me no Flauberts, Bovary me no Bovarys” — Thomas Wolfe Writes to F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dear Scott:

I don’t know where you are living and I’ll be damned if I’ll believe anyone lives in a place called “The Garden of Allah,” which was what the address on your envelope said. I am sending this on to the old address we both know so well.

The unexpected loquaciousness of your letter struck me all of a heap. I was surprised to hear from you but I don’t know that I can truthfully say I was delighted. Your bouquet arrived smelling sweetly of roses but cunningly concealing several large-sized brick-bats. Not that I resented them. My resenter got pretty tough years ago; like everybody else I have at times been accused of “resenting criti[ci]sm” and although I have never been one of those boys who break out in a hearty and delighted laugh when someone tells them everything they write is lousy and agree enthusiastically, I think I have taken as many plain and fancy varieties as any American citizen of my age now living. I have not always smiled and murmured pleasantly “How true,” but I have listened to it all, tried to profit from it where and when I could and perhaps been helped by it a little. Certainly I don’t think I have been pig-headed about it. I have not been arrogantly contemptuous of it either, because one of my besetting sins, whether you know it or not, is a lack of confidence in what I do.

So I’m not sore at you or sore about anything you said in your letter. And if there is any truth in what you say— any truth for me—you can depend upon it I shall probably get it out. It just seems to me that there is not much in what you say. You speak of your “case” against me, and frankly I don’t believe you have much case. You say you write these things because you admire me so much and because you think my talent unmatchable in this or any other country and because you are ever my friend. Well Scott I should not only be proud and happy to think that all these things are true but my respect and admiration for your own talent and intelligence are such that I should try earnestly to live up to them and to deserve them and to pay the most serious and respectful attention to anything you say about my work.

I have tried to do so. I have read your letter several times and I’ve got to admit it doesn’t seem to mean much. I don’t know what you are driving at or understand what you expect or hope me to do about it. Now this may be pig-headed but it isn’t sore. I may be wrong but all I can get out of it is that you think I’d be a good writer if I were an altogether different writer from the writer that I am.

This may be true but I don’t see what I’m going to do about it. And I don’t think you can show me and I don’t see what Flaubert and Zola have to do with it, or what I have to do with them. I wonder if you really think they have anything to do with it, or if this is just something you heard in college or read in a book somewhere. This either—or kind of criticism seems to me to be so meaningless. It looks so knowing and imposing but there is nothing in it. Why does it follow that if a man writes a book that is not like Madame Bovary it is inevitably like Zola. I may be dumb but I can’t see this. You say that Madame Bovary becomes eternal while Zola already rocks with age. Well this may be true—but if it is true isn’t it true because Madame Bovary may be a great book and those that Zola wrote may not be great ones? Wouldn’t it also be true to say that Don Quixote or Pickwick or Tristram Shandy “become eternal” while already Mr. Galsworthy “rocks with age.” I think it is true to say this and it doesn’t leave much of your argument, does it? For your argument is based simply upon one way, upon one method instead of another. And have you ever noticed how often it turns out that what a man is really doing is simply rationalizing his own way of doing something, the way he has to do it, the way given him by his talent and his nature, into the only inevitable and right way of doing everything—a sort of classic and eternal art form handed down by Apollo from Olympus without which and beyond which there is nothing. Now you have your way of doing something and I have mine, there are a lot of ways, but you are honestly mistaken in thinking that there is a “way.” I suppose I would agree with you in what you say about “the novel of selected incident” so far as it means anything. I say so far as it means anything because every novel, of course, is a novel of selected incident. There are no novels of unselected incident. You couldn’t write about the inside of a telephone booth without selecting. You could fill a novel of a thousand pages with a description of a single room and yet your incidents would be selected. And I have mentioned Don Quixote and Pickwick and The Brothers Karamazov and Tristram Shandy to you in contrast to The Silver Spoon or The White Monkey as examples of books that have become “immortal” and that boil and pour. Just remember that although Madame Bovary in your opinion may be a great book, Tristram Shandy is indubitably a great book, and that it is great for quite different reasons. It is great because it boils and pours—for the unselected quality of its selection. You say that the great writer like Flaubert has consciously left out the stuff that Bill or Joe will come along presently and put in. Well, don’t forget, Scott, that a great writer is not only a leaver-outer but also a putter-inner, and that Shakespeare and Cervantes and Dostoevsky were great putter-inners—greater putter-inners, in fact, than taker-outers and will be remembered for what they put in—remembered, I venture to say, as long as Monsieur Flaubert will be remembered for what he left out.

As to the rest of it in your letter about cultivating an alter ego, becoming a more conscious artist, my pleasantness or grief, exuberance or cynicism, and how nothing stands out in relief because everything is keyed at the same emotional pitch—this stuff is worthy of the great minds that review books nowadays—the Fadimans and De Votos—but not of you. For you are an artist and the artist has the only true critical intelligence. You have had to work and sweat blood yourself and you know what it is like to try to write a living word or create a living thing. So don’t talk this foolish stuff to me about exuberance or being a conscious artist or not bringing things into emotional relief, or any of the rest of it. Let the Fadimans and De Votos do that kind of talking but not Scott Fitzgerald. You’ve got too much sense and you know too much. The little fellows who don’t know may picture a man as a great “exuberant” six-foot-six clodhopper straight out of nature who bites off half a plug of apple tobacco, tilts the corn liquor jug and lets half of it gurgle down his throat, wipes off his mouth with the back of one hairy paw, jumps three feet in the air and clacks his heels together four times before he hits the floor again and yells “Whoopee, boys I’m a rootin, tootin, shootin son of a gun from Buncombe County—out of my way now, here I come!”—and then wads up three-hundred thousand words or so, hurls it back at a blank page, puts covers on it and says “Here’s my book!” Now Scott, the boys who write book reviews in New York may think it’s done that way; but the man who wrote Tender Is the Night knows better. You know you never did it that way, you know I never did, you know) no one else who ever wrote a line worth reading ever did. So don’t give me any of your guff, young fellow. And don’t think I’m sore. But I get tired of guff—I’ll take it from a fool or from a book reviewer but I won’t take it from a friend who knows a lot better. I want to be a better artist. I want to be a more selective artist. I want to be a more restrained artist. I want to use such talent as I have, control such forces as I may own, direct such energy as I may use more cleanly, more surely and to better purpose. But Flaubert me no Flauberts, Bovary me no Bovarys. Zola me no Zolas. And exuberance me no exuberances. Leave this stuff for those who huckster in it and give me, I pray you, the benefits of your fine intelligence and your high creative faculties, all of which I so genuinely and profoundly admire. I am going into the woods for another two or three years. I am going to try to do the best, the most important piece of work I have ever done. I am going to have to do it alone. I am going to lose what little bit of reputation I may have gained, to have to hear and know and endure in silence again all of the doubt, the disparagement and ridicule, the post-mortems that they are so eager to read over you even before you are dead. I know what it means and so do you. We have both been through it before. We know it is the plain damn simple truth. Well, I’ve been through it once and I believe I can get through it again. I think I know a little more now than I did before, I certainly know what to expect and I’m going to try not to let it get me down. That is the reason why this time I shall look for intelligent understanding among some of my friends. I’m not ashamed to say that I shall need it. You say in your letter that you are ever my friend. I assure you that it is very good to hear this. Go for me with the gloves off if you think I need it. But don’t De Voto me. If you do I’ll call your bluff.

I’m down here for the summer living in a cabin in the country and I am enjoying it. Also I’m working. I don’t know how long you are going to be in Hollywood or whether you have a job out there but I hope I shall see you before long and that all is going well with you. I still think as I always thought that Tender Is the Night had in it the best work you have ever done. And I believe you will surpass it in the future. Anyway, I send you my best wishes as always for health and work and success. Let me hear from you sometime. The address is Oteen, North Carolina, just a few miles from Asheville, Ham Basso, as you know, is not far away at Pisgah Forest and he is coming over to see me soon and perhaps we shall make a trip together to see Sherwood Anderson. And now this is all for the present—unselective, you see, as usual. Good bye Scott and good luck.

Ever yours,
Tom Wolfe

(July 26, 1937; republished in New Directions’ edition of The Crack Up).

“Accounts to reconcile: Anecdotes to pick up: Inscriptions to make out: Stories to weave in: Traditions to sift: Personages to call upon: Panegyricks to paste up at this door; Pasquinades at that” — A Passage from Sterne’s Tristram Shandy

Chapter 1.XIV. Upon looking into my mother’s marriage settlement, in order to satisfy myself and reader in a point necessary to be cleared up, before we could proceed any farther in this history;–I had the good fortune to pop upon the very thing I wanted before I had read a day and a half straight forwards,–it might have taken me up a month;–which shews plainly, that when a man sits down to write a history,–tho’ it be but the history of Jack Hickathrift or Tom Thumb, he knows no more than his heels what lets and confounded hindrances he is to meet with in his way,–or what a dance he may be led, by one excursion or another, before all is over. Could a historiographer drive on his history, as a muleteer drives on his mule,– straight forward;–for instance, from Rome all the way to Loretto, without ever once turning his head aside, either to the right hand or to the left,- -he might venture to foretell you to an hour when he should get to his journey’s end;–but the thing is, morally speaking, impossible: For, if he is a man of the least spirit, he will have fifty deviations from a straight line to make with this or that party as he goes along, which he can no ways avoid. He will have views and prospects to himself perpetually soliciting his eye, which he can no more help standing still to look at than he can fly; he will moreover have various Accounts to reconcile: Anecdotes to pick up: Inscriptions to make out: Stories to weave in: Traditions to sift: Personages to call upon: Panegyricks to paste up at this door; Pasquinades at that:–All which both the man and his mule are quite exempt from. To sum up all; there are archives at every stage to be look’d into, and rolls, records, documents, and endless genealogies, which justice ever and anon calls him back to stay the reading of:–In short there is no end of it;–for my own part, I declare I have been at it these six weeks, making all the speed I possibly could,–and am not yet born:–I have just been able, and that’s all, to tell you when it happen’d, but not how;–so that you see the thing is yet far from being accomplished. These unforeseen stoppages, which I own I had no conception of when I first set out;–but which, I am convinced now, will rather increase than diminish as I advance,–have struck out a hint which I am resolved to follow;–and that is,–not to be in a hurry;–but to go on leisurely, writing and publishing two volumes of my life every year;–which, if I am suffered to go on quietly, and can make a tolerable bargain with my bookseller, I shall continue to do as long as I live.

Chapter XIV of the first book of Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman.

“The Freest Writer” — Nietzsche on Laurence Sterne

Nietzsche upholds Laurence Sterne as “the freest writer of all times” in Human, All Too Human, Part II:

113. The Freest Writer. —In a book for free spirits one cannot avoid mention of Laurence Sterne, the man whom Goethe honoured as the freest spirit of his century. May he be satisfied with the honour of being called the freest writer of all times, in comparison with whom all others appear stiff, square-toed, intolerant, and downright boorish! In his case we should not speak of the clear and rounded but of “the endless melody”—if by this phrase we arrive at a name for an artistic style in which the definite form is continually broken, thrust aside and transferred to the realm of the indefinite, so that it signifies one and the other at the same time. Sterne is the great master of double entendre , this phrase being naturally used in a far wider sense than is commonly done when one applies it to sexual relations. We may give up for lost the reader who always wants to know exactly what Sterne thinks about a matter, and whether he be making a serious or a smiling face (for he can do both with one wrinkling of his features; he can be and even wishes to be right and wrong at the same moment, to interweave profundity and farce). His digressions are at once continuations and further developments of the story, his maxims contain a satire on all that is sententious, his dislike of seriousness is bound up with a disposition to take no matter merely externally and on the surface. So in the proper reader he arouses a feeling of uncertainty whether he be walking, lying, or standing, a feeling most closely akin to that of floating in the air. He, the most versatile of writers, communicates something of this versatility to his reader. Yes, Sterne unexpectedly changes the parts, and is often as much reader as author, his book being like a play within a play, a theatre audience before another theatre audience. We must surrender at discretion to the mood of Sterne, although we can always expect it to be gracious. It is strangely instructive to see how so great a writer as Diderot has affected this double entendre of Sterne’s—to be equally ambiguous throughout is just the Sternian super-humour. Did Diderot imitate, admire, ridicule, or parody Sterne in his Jacques le Fataliste ? One cannot be exactly certain, and this uncertainty was perhaps intended by the author. This very doubt makes the French unjust to the work of one of their first masters, one [pg 062] who need not be ashamed of comparison with any of the ancients or moderns. For humour (and especially for this humorous attitude towards humour itself) the French are too serious. Is it necessary to add that of all great authors Sterne is the worst model, in fact the inimitable author, and that even Diderot had to pay for his daring? What the worthy Frenchmen and before them some Greeks and Romans aimed at and attained in prose is the very opposite of what Sterne aims at and attains. He raises himself as a masterly exception above all that artists in writing demand of themselves—propriety, reserve, character, steadfastness of purpose, comprehensiveness, perspicuity, good deportment in gait and feature. Unfortunately Sterne the man seems to have been only too closely related to Sterne the writer. His squirrel-soul sprang with insatiable unrest from branch to branch; he knew what lies between sublimity and rascality; he had sat on every seat, always with unabashed watery eyes and mobile play of feature. He was—if language does not revolt from such a combination—of a hard-hearted kindness, and in the midst of the joys of a grotesque and even corrupt imagination he showed the bashful grace of innocence. Such a carnal and spiritual hermaphroditism, such untrammelled wit penetrating into every vein and muscle, was perhaps never possessed by any other man.

Books I Am Always (Re-)Reading

Trudging through a very long book the other night–never mind the title, at least now anyway–it occurred to me that I’d rather be reading from 2666; that, at that particular moment, I’d rather re-read from “The Part About the Crimes.” I don’t know if it was the effete dullness of the first volume that made me want to pick up Bolaño’s epic, perhaps trying to zap some life into my waning eyeballs; perhaps it was just the sense that I was wasting my time with the merely good, which, after all, is mediocrity when set against genius (yes, these are subjective terms).

Anyway, I didn’t have to go looking for 2666 — I have a copy (yes, I have two) right there jammed into my nightstand, along with a few other books that I realize that I’m always reading. Furthermore, I’m always reading these books in the most discontinuous, stochastic fashion, often picking them up at random and thumbing through them. I think I use these books to clear my literary palate, to get a bad (or worse, boring) taste out of my brain, to inspire me, to suggest another book. Some of these books, like 2666 are big, fat volumes, volumes that I set close at hand in the hopes of rereading in full. Sometimes I’ve met this goal; in the case of Moby-Dick, I’ve read the book through at least three times now, and yet never tire of it. I’m always picking it up again and again, sometimes to find Elijah’s rant or to dip into Ahab’s mad monologue or perhaps just to hear Stubb comment on the proper preparation of shark steaks. Of a piece with those big novels is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which I turn to repeatedly, reading over a riff or two at a time, perhaps still trying to figure out the ending, or some clue of the ending, perhaps trying to figure out why Hal can’t speak (you know, beyond like, a a metaphorical level).

There’s also Blood Meridian.

A book I always keep proximal is D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature, which, if this were a dictatorship under Biblioklept might replace the Constitution (jaykay, Tea Partiers!). Tellingly, I’ve never managed to finish one of Lawrence’s novels (I even struggle through his much-anthologized piece, “The Rocking Horse Winner”), but I consider his dissertations on Hawthorne, Poe, and Melville indispensable (and creative in their own right). I guess I just like lit crit; Harold Bloom’s too-huge volume The Western Canon is a book I return to again and again. Sometimes I find myself throwing it to the ground, quite literally (if I’ve enjoyed a drink or two, that is), in disgust. Bloom’s battle with “The School of Resentment” can be maddening, especially when he’s so up front about essentially making Shakespeare God. Still, Shakespeare doesn’t seem like a bad God to have.

I should point out that I’ve made no attempt to read The Western Canon the whole way through; in fact, I’ve never made a single attempt to read it systematically. I just sort of pick it up, thumb through it, occasionally plumb the index. There are several books that I am always rereading in this category: Books That I Am Always Reading and Yet Have Never Finished. Foremost among these is Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human, a book that I probably, at this point, have read in full, but never fully through. Its aphorisms beg to be read discontinuously; I think Nietzsche wet-dreamed about his fragmentary works being literally fragmented and then later found, read piecemeal against some newer, more garish culture. Or perhaps that’s just my metaphorical wet dream.

Other Books That I Am Always Reading and Yet Have Never Finished — The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman stands out, as does Finnegans Wake. Sterne’s book is such an oddity: I remember picking it up in a stack of books to be shelved at my college library, thumbing through it, bewildered, thinking that it must be contemporary with John Barth. A bit of research left me even more perplexed. Like Tristram, who can’t seem to finish his story, I can’t seem to actually finish it, but I’m okay with picking it up again and again. Similarly, Finnegans Wake strikes me as an unfinished-unfinishable volume (I do not mean this literally; I know that Joyce “finished” the book as an infinite strange loop, just as I know that the book can be read). I have an audio recording of Finnegans Wake that I like to listen to occasionally (especially while driving), as well as William York Tindall’s  guide (which is fun), but I’d rather just sort of grab the thing at random and read a page or two. I know, in an intellectual sense, that is, that I could easily read the book in a calendar year by committing to three pages a day (plus a few pages of Tindall), but I don’t think that I can read books in an intellectual sense. I think, at the risk of sounding unbearably corny, that books have to call to their readers in an emotional and perhaps even spiritual sense. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Laurence Sterne’s Death Mask

Beer and Book Pairing: Shandies + García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold

While the special pleasures of drinking a beer have undergone something of a renaissance in the past ten years in America, what with all the awesome microbreweries popping up left and right, there remains among many a staunch and unjustified prejudice against the world’s oldest liquor. In short, wine is still the go-to beverage for fine dining, and for many, the mark of sophistication and refinement. And while we certainly don’t begrudge a glass of pinot or chardonnay, why all the prejudice? Beer goes great with food–especially fine food–and also with books. In order to make headway against overcoming beer’s unjust vulgar reputation with some folks, we proudly present a new ongoing series of beer-book pairings, hopefully lending a little weight to our favorite beverage’s literary caché. It’s Spring Break Week at Biblioklept International Headquarters, and what better way to celebrate the season than with our crisp homemade shandies paired with Gabriel García Márquez’ s Chronicle of a Death Foretold.

Shandies are made simply by mixing beer with ginger ale, ginger beer, or, preferably, lemonade. Our recipe for shandies is pretty basic. We recommend starting with a lager–Tecate, Red Stripe, or even Corona will do fine (we’re featuring Red Stripe at the BIH this week). You can certainly use an ale, but ales tend to have richer, sharper, and more complex flavors, and they tend to be not as smooth as lagers. (We suppose you could make shandies with a porter or stout or a lambic ale, but this seems kinda sorta reprehensible). Next, you’ll need either an imperial pint glass (20 oz.) or an American pint glass (16 oz.). Pour your lager into the glass, then add your lemonade in desired ratio (we prefer to fill an imperial pint glass, creating roughly a 3 to 2 ratio of beer to lemonade. Oh yeah, we’re lazy and use store bought lemonade (Minute Maid sugar free), but we’ve made our own in the past. Making your own lemonade is easy, and if you don’t know how to do it you probably are too dimwitted to be reading these words right now). Final step: stir, drink, enjoy.

chronicle

We’ve chosen shandies for their crisp lightness. They’re the perfect early afternoon drink, cool and refreshing, preferably enjoyed on porches or hammocks (we don’t really recommend them for indoors or at night). We’ve paired them with a fresh little jewel of a book, Gabriel García Márquez’ s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Chronicle is a murder/love story with about a million little twists, the biggest twist being that there is no twist: we know from the first sentences exactly what will happen. Still, García Márquez’ s kaleidescopic reconstruction of the day of the murder is thoroughly engrossing, bewildering, and un-put-downable. The book’s rhetoric is hardly as morbid as its subject matter–it’s great hammock/beach reading, and its crisp lightness belies its complex flavors. Like a shandy, it slowly, subtly intoxicates you. It’s also pretty short, about 130 pages, and despite its infinite digressions, its the sort of book that you read in just one or two sittings.

Of course, maybe you’ve read Chronicle but you’re still dying to drink some shandies on your porch with a good book, and you want Biblioklept to give you a literary excuse. Well, here’s another option: take a shot at another book of infinite digressions, Laurence Sterne’s 1759 (anti-)novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. The fun of pairing a shandy with Shandy will be doubled in Sterne’s love of wordplay in the text. And sure, there’s no way you’ll finish it, but it’s not that sort of book anyway–it doesn’t finish its self! Pick it up at random, flip around, marvel at its weirdness, at the very idea that the first post-modern novel could somehow come before the modern novel. Then get up, make another shandy, and pick up again elsewhere. Fun stuff.

shandy
Shandy charts the course of his narrative thus far