I did try with Desert. I had stopped after the first chapter (I nearly stopped on the first page, in truth) because the style seemed so intentionally resistant to forward movement. The author appeared to be announcing with every phrase, "I am writing literature--not a story." It reads like an anthropological study rather than a tale of actual people. In any case, I tried another chapter, but found myself defeated by the book's insistence on inertia as a narrative principle.
Maybe Fagles's translation of The Iliad is next.
Also, I've made additional notes for expanding some scenes in "Clockworks" and jotted down a few starts for other stories. Don't know when I'll get to those.
I learned today that "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" was praised in the latest Locus magazine.