2. Read a book by Ernest Hemingway; 16. Finish 15 of my unread books — in progress

Dear Weblog Superfans,

Bill Murray could totally play Hemingway in a movie.I still haven’t actually completed anything, but I thought I should keep at the updating so I get in the habit of it. I did make a decision, though: the Hemingway book I’ll try is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which is a short story collection that contains, besides the title story (which was made into a movie with Gregory Peck and Ava Garnder), “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” a pretty commonly anthologized story. The idea behind #2 was to force me to get more acquainted with a highly regarded American writer of the twentieth century, since the tradition that those writers established is the tradition that I, as a writer myself, will be continuing. Or rebelling against. Or whatever. (I don’t want to hear crap here about the postmodernists already doing that with regards to Hemingway, because literary criticism is boring and not of much use to me right now. And anyway, you get my point.)

I’ve read a bit of Hemingway–a couple of stories and the first halves of both For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms. The stories are interesting because they’re short, and there isn’t much of that super-spare language style that Hemingway developed; the novels are incredibly tedious because they’re long, and there’s far too much of that style. So I decided that a collection is the best way to go so I can pause after a few stories and regroup without having to remember things like plot and character when I return to it later. Plus, The Snows of Kilimanjaro is an unread book, just sitting on my shelf. So I can do that two birds/one stone thing and knock off a bit of #16. (I don’t want to hear anything about that, either; I’m a busy boy.)

I’m currently reading The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner. Orner came to Richmond a few months ago after winning the VCU First Novelist Award and gave a reading, and I was impressed enough to buy this book and his story collection, Esther Stories, on the spot. He’s got a really awesome style–lyrical, concise. He’s one of those writers who sort of creates a scene, a really compelling scene, and barely finishes it before moving to the next one. So he satisfies, but only just, and for whatever reason, that satisfies even more. If that makes any sense.

The Second Coming of Mavala ShikongoAnyway. The Second Coming takes place at a school in the desert of Namibia, in southern Africa, in 1991. The main character is an American teacher named Kaplanski. Mavala Shikongo is another teacher there, but she also fought in the recent war for independence from South Africa, and she’s new to the school, beautiful, and kind of a loner. So she’s really intriguing, even before she leaves suddenly, then returns a month later with a year-old son.

It’s a really good book. And, like The Snows of Kilimanjaro, it is an unread book, and so will satisfy one-fifteenth of #16.

So there.

Love,
msb

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