It’s the first Sunday of football season and I am, sadly, not watching any games today. Our cable isn’t hooked up at our new house yet (don’t even get me started on that…), so I’m spending my afternoon getting text updates from friends and obsessively checking my fantasy football scores online. It’s less than ideal.
Unfortunately, even with all my time without the Internet and cable this week, I haven’t gotten much reading done. There’s been a lot of cleaning and organizing and furniture-building, but not much reading. I’m hoping that will change this week, however, because there are a couple of books I want to finish before the weekend in order to participate in few events being held locally in conjunction with an author visit on September 19.
Each year, the English department at the college in the town where I live hosts a lecture in the fall for a visit author. This year, the lecturer is Jay Parini, perhaps most well-known for his 1990 book The Last Station, which was made into a movie in 2009. The Last Station is a “biographical novel” about the last year of Leo Tolstoy’s life. His most recent novel came out in 2010 — The Passages of H.M., another biographical novel, this time about Herman Mellville. In anticipation of Parini’s visit, the English department has organized a series of reading groups for Parini’s books and some movie showings of The Last Station to get the community talking about Parini and the issues his books raise.
As a nonfiction reader, I think the topic of Parini’s lecture — “The Imagination of Truth: How Fiction Shines a Light into the Dark Corners of History” — is going to be especially fascinating. Can fiction offer insight into people and their lives in a way that nonfiction cannot? Does fictionalizing some of the facts we don’t know about a historical figure diminish their story or give us more to think about?
My plan, if I get motivated and find some time to read this week, is to try and finish both The Last Station and The Passages of H.M. They’re not long, so I think it’s achievable if I put my mind too it (and, if Hannah gets off my lap so I can go grab the book from my bedroom).
What are you reading this fine Sunday?