I finished Zadie Smith's White Teeth last night. This remarkable task was made possible by a marathon (for me) 3 hour reading session the night before, leaving me a mere 40 pages from the finish.
The book is the sort you don't want to put down, the sort that after you've read a good piece of it, and you're going about your daily business, your mind sometimes comes back to a character or situation and it takes a moment for you to remember it was in a book and not someone you met or something you remember from real life.
In many ways, it's similar to the novel I struggled through just before beginning White Teeth: Thomas Pynchon's V.: the narrative threads pull apart and come together throughout the novel, and both novels are concerned, to a greater (V.) or lesser (WT) extent, with sleuthing through history. However, the characters in White Teeth were far more compelling to me, more complex and rounded (and yes, I know that the flatness of the characters is more or less Pynchon's point; I've read my Jameson, etc. etc.), and that propelled me through the book. I was happy to finish it, but also a little depressed...I sort of wanted it to keep happening to me.
Now, I have a choice for my next read. Someone has lent me John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, a book that has been recommended to me by several people over the years. So I have that one. Or I have Richard Russo's latest, Bridge of Sighs, purchased at Politics and Prose the night said author gave a reading at the store. So it's signed by him and it's hardcover. Very thick. Very much a book I don't want to damage by stuffing it into suitcases (the MLA is at hand, after all). Finally, I have none of the above, a decision to be made by looking over the bookshelves and picking out a book that either I've bought but haven't read or my wife has read and I haven't (which is pretty much most of the British lit outside Jeanette Winterson -- speaking of whom, my son and I are now reading her children's novel Tanglewreck at night...it's great -- and the now completed Zadie Smith novel).
In a way I wonder if I should keep a weather eye out for my slim academic career hopes by reading something that will help lead me to a published article, since my 56+ applications have thus far yielded about six rejections and a lot of silence.