Happy midweek everyone! Wow. We are already halfway through the week. I hope your week is doing well.

As it is midweek, it is time for a fresh WWW Wednesday update, my first this year. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

After completing eight books published in 2022 last month, I have, without design, veered towards works of British and Irish literature. It all began with James Joyce’s Dubliners, the first short story collection I read in over three years. It was also my primer to Joyce’s complex masterpiece, Ulysses. As I was planning to venture into European literature anyway, I decided to dedicate February to works of British and Irish literature. This adventure took me to a familiar name, Iris Murdoch who I first encountered while perusing must-read lists. Several of her works were part of the aforementioned lists, the most prominent being The Sea, The Sea. Actually, it was The Sea, The Sea that first captured my attention; it is no surprise that it was the first book by Murdoch I read, one that I really loved and made me look forward to reading her other works. Almost five years later, I decided to read my second novel by Murdoch, Under the Net, which I learned was her debut novel. The primary narrator was Jake Donaghue, a struggling writer, and translator. He was also a chronic procrastinator. His world started to unravel after he was kicked out of the house of his friend, Magdalen Casement (Madge). He was staying with Madge as a freeloader for eighteen months. What ensued was an adventure. I can’t wait to see how his adventures and misadventures pan out.

What have you finished reading?

I certainly was on cloud nine in the past two weeks. First off, I was on a holiday that took me to Taiwan. I loved the cold weather there. More importantly, I was able to read my 1,000th novel; I couldn’t believe I would reach this number. As it was a very special number, I dedicated it to no ordinary novel. For the longest time, I have been eyeing James Joyce’s Ulysses to occupy this special number in my reading journey. There is a reason behind it. Back in 2017, I included the book in my 2017 Top 20 Reading List, clueless of what that entailed. I was unprepared, to summarize it. Midway through the book, I gave up, making it just the second book I DNF’d. I forgot the first one but I reread it later on. I had the same plan with Ulysses, planning to reread it once I am more “mature” as a reader.

I guess the gap between my first time with Ulysses and my rereading helped a lot in my appreciation of the book; there were over 400 books in between. I struggled mightily during the first time but this time around, I was more at ease although still a little daunted. The book was inspired by the adventures of Odysseus (from Homer’s Odysses”; the Latinized version of his name was Ulysses. Looking at the novel from this vantage point, it started to make sense. The novel took place in a day and at its heart was Leopold Bloom. Like Odysseus, Bloom ventured across the busy streets of Dublin – the book was set in the early years of the 20th century – and on the way home, he encountered a vast cast of characters. What stands out, however, was the book’s structure. Joyce employed different literary styles in writing his magnum opus; the plot was never straightforward and so was its structure. It was this nonconformance to literary conventions that flummoxed me the first time around. It is no wonder that the book is widely studied. Reading the book this time around made me appreciate it. It showed me also the wonders of literature, including the tumultuous portions in between.

From Dublin, my literary journey took me across the strait to Scotland. Like Under the Net, it was through must-read lists that I first encountered Irvine Welsh and his debut novel, Trainspotting. However, I didn’t take much notice of the book. The title did not appeal to me I guess; my interest in books has always been driven by the curiosity a certain title awakens in me. Unfortunately, the first glance of Trainspotting did not do that. Years later, I would keep on encountering the book through online booksellers. Ok fine. I get the message. I obtained a copy of the book which I, later on, learned was listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die; this is the second consecutive book from the said list that I have read this year.

First published in 1993, the story involved some of the denizens of Leith a port area in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. What initially stood out for me was the language; the book employed, in an alternating manner,  Scots, Scottish English, and British English. At the onset, I struggled with the heavy Scottish accent but as the story moved forward, I found myself more at ease. Well, the book was related through the perspective of a score of characters. However, it was Mark “Rent Boy” Renton who played the most prominent part. The book also had an unusual structure, like Ulysses. With the different voices building up the story, it does come across as a collection of short stories. Nevertheless, it worked as they deal with common themes, from existentialism to drug and sexual addiction to random acts of violence. There was quite a lot of cussing and cursing in the story, not that I minded. Overall, it was an interesting book and the portraits captured reminded me of the work of another Scottish writer, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, although Shuggie Bain was set in Glasgow.

After Under The Net, I am planning to read a book that has long captured my interest, Emma Donoghue’s The Room. The book was adapted into a film – Trainspotting was also adapted into one – and it was through this film that I encountered Donoghue. It naturally piqued my interest, hence, its inclusion in my perpetually growing reading list. I thought that the story was a domestic one, a typical mother and son story. Imagine my surprise when I learned it was a work of mystery fiction. Nevertheless, I am very excited to read what the story and Donoghue have to offer.

From Room, I am looking at reading Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. My first Hardy novel was Tess of D’Urbervilles, a book that did not impress me that much even though I keep on reading paeans about the book. This, however, is not precluding me from reading Hardy’s other works, among them Far From the Madding Crowd which was his fourth novel and his first major success. The book has also been adapted into the film so I am hoping that the book redeems Hardy. Next up, I am considering reading William Golding’s Rites of Passage. I initially planned to read the book a couple of years back but I don’t remember what made me hold back. I guess its lowly Goodreads rating contributed to it. But lest I forget, the book won the Booker Prize in 1980 and three years later, Golding would receive the most prestigious literary prize out there, the Nobel Prize in Literature.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!