Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Today at 7th Street Books in central San Jose, I traded a copy of The Steppe and a copy of The Shadow of the Wind, an uninteresting Spanish novel, for some books that I have been planning to read: Greene’s Our Man in Havana, a Conrad volume that includes The Secret Sharer and Heart of Darkness, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and a novel that I discovered in the bookstore and that I am kind of excited over: Briefing For a Descent Into Hell by Doris Lessing. Lessing, a British writer, is familiar to me for some reason, but the cover copy sold me: “Doris Lessing’s brilliant exploration of a mind beyond madness. . . We are inside the mind of Professor Charles Watkins. He is doomed to spin endlessly on a raft in the currents of the Atlantic. He makes a landfall on a tropical shore. He discovers a ruined stone city, participates, moon-dazed, in bloody rituals in the paradisal forest, is caught in the swirling, savage war of the Rat-dogs, is borne on the back of the lordly White Bird across the sea of the dead. Charles Watkins is having a mental breakdown. Or is he?” And the cover art features undulating bare-breasted women.

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