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Member: SeanLong

CollectionsYour library (785), Currently reading (1), All collections (785)

Reviews32 reviews

TagsIrish literature (90), American literature (42), Southern literature (38), American nonfiction (27), Architecture (21), Books on books (21), Southern literature reference (14), Irish-American literature (13), Irish nonfiction (12), Irish poetry (11) — see all tags

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About meBorn in a little townland in Ireland called Kilrush in County Clare. Came to the U.S. as the age of 7 with my family and settled and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Now living in the beautiful little town of Mount Dora, Florida with my wife and twelve-year old daughter, both of whom love to read!

The young lad in the middle of the picture holding the football is yours truly, taken many moons ago while living in Galway, Ireland.

About my libraryBooks are arranged by American fiction and non-fiction, books about books, Southern literature and history, Irish-American literature and history, Chicago and Pittsburgh architecture, and Irish literature, folklore, poetry, history, memoir and music.

Best Books of 2010

1) Selected Stories, William Trevor

2) Bad Day in Blackrock, Kevin Power

3) Nashville Chrome, Rick Bass

4) In Other Rooms, Other Voices, Daniyal Mueenuddin

5) Burning Bright, Ron Rash

6) Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

7) All The Living, C.E. Morgan

8) Far Bright Star, Robert Olmstead

9) A Meaningful Life, L.J. Davis

10) Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin


1) Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption, Laura Hildenbrand

2) How to Live, Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and 20 Attempts at an Answer, Sarah Bakewell

3) Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life, Carol Sklenicka

4) Composed: A Memoir, Rosanne Cash

5) Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck

6) Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, James Haley

7) John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs, Jack London

8) Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone, Rajiv Chandrasekaran
9) Little Chapel on the River, Gwendolyn Bounds

10) The Fall of the House of Zeus: The Rise and Ruin of America's Most Powerful Trial Lawyer, Curtis Wilkie

Groups1001 Books to read before you die, Author Theme Reads, BBC Radio 3 Listeners, Book Nudgers, Booker Prize, Books in Books, British & Irish Crime Fiction, Catholic Tradition, Club Read 2009, Country & Bluegrassshow all groups

Favorite authorsJohn Banville, Larry Brown, Raymond Carver, Roddy Doyle, William Faulkner, Seamus Heaney, Patrick Kavanagh, Mary Lavin, Bernard MacLaverty, Colum McCann, Cormac McCarthy, John McGahern, Edna O'Brien, Flannery O'Connor, Frank O'Connor, Joseph O'Connor, Colm Tóibín, William Trevor, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams (Shared favorites)

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Membership LibraryThing Early Reviewers/Member Giveaway

LocationMount Dora, Florida

Account typepublic, lifetime

URLs /profile/SeanLong (profile)
/catalog/SeanLong (library)

Member sinceApr 27, 2006

Currently readingMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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Sean, After I finished "How To Live: or A Life of Montaigne" which was both elegant and extremely informative, I was going straight to "Unbroken", but I took a short detour: I read King's "Full Dark, No Stars" in 2 days, couldn't put it down, and just gobbled up every page. I'm only a now-and-again King fan, but the 4 novellas were as powerful as anything I've ever read by him. I over-paid for it (12.99), but it was worth every penny.

I started "Unbroken" just this morning and am only about 70 pages in, but couldn't agree more that it's about as lively as you'd want and I've been looking forward to reading it since I read it was coming out. Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" was another great book that I purely loved too.

I highly recommend P.Roth's "Nemesis", got it on the Kindle, and just tore through it, can't recommend it any higher. It's not major Roth, and I felt I knew from the first page how it was gonna turn out, but the writing is just superlative and I thought it was great.

There's a novel called "The Bishop's Man" which won the Giller this last year, about a priest in Canada who's the Bishop's go-to guy to cover up any child molestation incidents, and I think I'll be downloading that pretty soon, and it's only 9.99. Good luck and stay in tune!!

Hi Sean,

I feel like I'm more vocal about Doyle's shortcomings because his other work is just so fantastic. "The Van" is my most liked of the Barrytown trilogy, though his "The Woman Who Walked Into Doors" is probably my favourite Doyle. Hopefully the third of his Henry's will make up for the second!

I'm so jealous that you met McGahern! He certainly seems like he was a very interesting person. One of my professors at university was friends with him shortly before he died, actually. Unfortunately, I didn't come to know his work until after his death.

I am really eager to read "Matters of Life and Death" by Bernard MacLaverty, having read your review of it. (Especially considering your comparison to "Mothers and Sons" by Colm Toibin, which I just loved.) He's an author I actually met! He was the writer in residence at my school in the fall of 2007. He screened his film, "Bye-Child", for my cinema class. It was... interesting. I did enjoy his "Grace Notes", however, so I will have to check out his short stories.

I've been rather lazy when it comes to Patrick Kavanagh; his "Collected Poems" is one of my all-time favourite books, but I haven't taken the time to pick up his individual books. Still, sometimes I feel like that collection is all I need- it's just beautiful.

I don't believe that I've read any Frank O'Connor. I will definitely check him out! If you haven't read any Alistair MacLeod, I would highly recommend him. He's a Canadian author from Cape Breton, and his short stories are really wonderful.

Lovely chatting with you! Hope to trade recommendations again.

Hi Sean,

Three of your favorites for '09 were in my Top Ten for the year as well. I'm making note of your faves that I haven't read -- as yet. I'm off to peruse your library. I have my eye on that "Books on Books" tag. ~Donna~

I did not feel that Jin's stories ended "with a less than enthusiastic thud". I would say that they ended, for the most part, without a clear resolution, which made them more realistic and memorable. This is also the main reason the stories and their characters will stay with me, as I was left wondering (and worrying) about what would happen to them.

I'm with you, I love stories about people who move to another country, especially the US or Europe, particularly if they leave under duress or experience hardship in their new country. The immigrant experience in the US is fascinating to me, as are the views of foreign born citizens and visitors to this country. I'm eager to get into Jin's latest novel, "A Free Life", which is about a Chinese emigre's decision to abandon his studies and become a writer in the US, especially because a large portion of the story is set in suburban Atlanta. I'll probably read it in February or March.

Best wishes,
Hi Sean,

Where did you live and go to college in PGH? I was a medical student at Pitt from 1993-97, and lived in Shadyside while I was there.

PGH produced an impressive list of jazz greats, as you mentioned. We used to go to a jazz club on Walnut Street in Shadyside (name?), and a Creole/Cajun restaurant on the North Side, near Allegheny General Hospital, whose basement served as a jazz cafe (name???). I never went to catch any shows at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, though.

Unfortunately I read very little in medical school, but a friend of mine and I used to enjoy going to author and poetry readings at a neat bookstore on the South Side on Carson Street (City Books?). I also enjoyed going to a bookstore on Fifth Avenue in Oakland, close to UPMC-Montefiore Hospital, which closed recently, according to a couple of Pittsburghers in the 75 Books group (nancyewhite and mckait).

The jazz discussion in Club Read 2009 was good, but hopefully we'll have more to talk about in 2010.

Hi Sean,

I don't mind at all; I'd like to add your library to my list, as well.

I won't finish the Monk biography this year, but it will probably be one of my early reads for 2010. I'll post a review once I'm done. I'm also reading "The Jazz Loft Project", and will submit a review of it as early as tomorrow.

I'm definitely a Coltrane fan, especially his late 1950s & early 1960s albums (Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Impressions, Johnny Hartmann & John Coltrane, Ellington & Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard, etc.)

Club Read member cwc790411 (Christopher) is also a huge jazz fan, as are several people in the 75 Books Club. Hopefully we'll have some good jazz discussions in the New Year. Who else do you like?


Hi Sean, thanks for the good wishes, I never had any great love for deValera to be honest, but talking to a Clare man, I better be careful. Funny thing is deValera related books seem to find me,I found one in a book shop in Galway a few years ago a biography by Mary C.Bromage written in 1956 called "DeValera and the march of a Nation" inside it has a pasted in card signed by Eamon deValera. Then on another book hunting expedition I found a little book called "Is there a new race type and the philosophy behind" written by some guy called Captain A.G. Pape in 1923. Inside it is inscribed as follows "To Eamon DeValera with the compliments of A.G. Pape, feb 1926". so it looks like the copy I have actually belonged to DeValera. Then in Dublin about 4 years ago I bought a book by Ulick O'Connor called "Sport is my Lifeline" published in 1984, it has the following inscription "For David DeValera from Ulick O'Connor May 1999 p.s. My grandfather played rugby with E DeValera". I think David is a great grandchild of Eamon DeValera's. I also have Tim Pat Coogan's biography of DeValera. So there you have it, for someone who doesn't like him I seem to keep coming across stuff related to him. Good luck with the reading, if you search bookfinder you might get a couple of the books I mentioned. Keep in touch will talk to you soon. Regards, jimmy.
Hi Sean,
Hope all is well with you and yours,I have not been on here in ages, like you work and more work keeping me busy......(All hell has just broken out here,a niece of mine just checking her final law exam results online as we speak, she passed, a lot of noise here.) Anyway sorry you didn't get to Clare this year, but there is always next Summer. Things are really bad here, have not seen anything like it since the eighties, it's actually worse, at least then there was emigration, not that we want that now, but you know what I mean, jobs are disappearing by the hundred every day/week. There is a generation of young people in their 30's who knew nothing but wealth and good times,suddenly they are unemployed, they don't know what has hit them. Strange, strange times. By the way you are now talking to Councillor Jimmy Kavanagh, I was elected to Letterkenny Town Council in June, so there you go, bet you never thought I was that mad. I must say I am enjoying it, but it will be tough with very little money to spend on anything. I am not readinhg anything at the moment, but I have bought a good few books and just waiting for a nice break at Christmas and getting some serious reading done. I hope this finds you well and I hope you are still getting enough time to enjoy some books, by the way if I can ever source anything for you here, just let me know, and I will do my best to get them for you, take care and best regards, Jimmy.
Hey Sean, good to hear from you again, but as you can tell I've been seriously off the grid as I continued to recover from my operation in July. I've been practically unable to spend much time at a computer until just recently, but have still been reading a few books, though there've been more misses than hits.

I still can't believe our literary tastes run so parallel at times, as I read and loved both Dave Eggers' Zeitoun and especially Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply, which I was totally mesmerized by, just a terrific book from beginning to end. I also enjoyed Somerset Maugham's 1915 novel Of Human Bondage, which completed my reading of all Maugham's novels, though my favorites were The Painted Veil and The Razor's Edge.

Despite all of the conspicuous praise it's received, I just hated Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs, which jumped the shark so many times I lost count, and I have no kind words at all for Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood either, another that's been way over-praised, but only left me wondering what I had missed. I should have known better than to read Pat Conroy's South of Broad. It was really beautifully written at times, but was no more than another major shark-jumper crammed with unrealistic characters and bogus motivation, wish I'd missed it.

I'm guessing the Stieg Larsson novels aren't your normal cup of tea, but I thought The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was as entertaining as anything I've read this year, and The Girl Who Played with Fire was almost as good too.

Right now I'm halfway through Morris Dickstein's Dancing in the Dark a cultural history of the 1930's, which is pretty good so far, and then I'm on to Philip Caputo's new book Crossers and Richard Powers' Generosity, both highly anticipated as well. All the luck!!

PS - FYI Zeitoun's the only paste & paper thing I've read in the last few months, everything else came via Kindle.

Hi, Sean! How are you? You've been reading some fine books! I also just finished "Await Your Reply". I wasn't quite as enthusiastic as you but I still thought it was very good. He is a strong writer. I'd love to get a hold of the latest Dave Eggers,(an author I have never read!). I bookmooched a copy of "War Trash" and should get it soon and need to get a copy of "The Given Day". I loved "Lark", "Brooklyn" and "Everything Ravaged". You should stop by my Mark's 50 Book Challenge and take a peek at what I am reading. Have you been in touch with Louis? Have not seen him on the threads in months. He was my mentor and I miss him. Take care and stay in touch!
Dear Sean
Long time. My favourite read so far this year has been The Radetsky March by Joseph Roth. An absolute treasure. Hope all is well with you.
Amanda XX
Wow, Sean, I'm sure you remember I reread the Angstrom quartet back in March/April and was just totally enthralled. It was my 3rd reading of Rabbit,Run and the 2nd on the others, and read the last 2 (Rabbit is Rich & Rabbit at Rest) almost back-to-back. After your in-depth reading of Cheever, you should find the Updike books spectacular, as Cheever never could write a novel nearly so fine as Updike at his best, which the Angstrom books surely are. I think the weakest of the 4 is Rabbit Redux, but it's absolutely essential to understanding the last 2 books, which were not just much-deserved Pulitzer winners, but undeniable masterpieces of American fiction. I envy you for every page of these wonderful books you've got to look forward to.

I've now got 15 books on my Kindle, 4 of which I've read, and having my whole TBR pile right at my fingertips is still an amazing thing to me. It may not sound like a big deal, but last week I changed to a larger font size, and it's made all the difference in the world. It's much easier on my eyes, and made the Kindle even more addictive than it already was. It's inevitable that you'll be getting one sooner or later, and can't help but think you're gonna love it as much as I do.

I finished Let the Great World Spin last week and liked it pretty much, but was a little disappointed with it overall. I never found the characters compelling enough to care much about, but the whole thing was fast moving and well-written enough to keep my interest till the end. I'm not much on spy novels per se, but last week I finally read my first book ever by Alan Furst called The Spies of Warsaw and was purely delighted by it. Despite the consistently wonderful reviews his books have received over the last few years, I'd resisted picking him up, and sorry now I didn't sooner. Furst's book was as engagingly written, and as entertaining as anything I've read lately. Right now I'm about 40 pages into Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and really liking it so far. I knew you'd admired it, and Toibin's as impressive a writer as any working right now too, and Brooklyn's great stuff so far.

Up next is Nick Harkaway's new book The Gone-Away World which I'm really looking forward to, and then Maugham's Of Human Bondage, the only thing of Maugham's I haven't read in the last 2 years.

Sean, starting late today, I'm going to be off the grid for the next 2 weeks. A bit of family business has arisen that only I can handle, so I'll be away from a computer till probably mid-July, and will drop you a note as soon as I get back in gear here. Wish my luck, old friend, and I'll be talking to you again soon. Happy trails!!

Sean, I'm totally Kindle-ized, and though I'll surely buy the old paste & paper books if it's something specical, will be reading everything on the K. from now on/

The 'space' problem solved: I've got over 1,250 hardbacks now, and it's been evident for some time that I was due to buy a new bookcase pretty soon, so with the 1,200 book capacity on my K., I won't be needing any new book shelves for a long time.

Kindle editions are cheaper: Almost everything is 9.99, with only a few exceptions here and there. Books in public domain and all the classics are dirt-cheap too. I paid $.99 for Forster's A Room With a View, paid 1.99 for Maugham's Of Human Bondage, and 3.99 for Mann's Death in Venice & Other Stories. I'd already paid my "Amazon Prime" shipping fee for this year back in Jan., but will cancel it at year's end. "Free Shipping" is now superfluous. I've also subscribed to Newsweek magazine. It arrives wielessly every Monday morning for 1.49 a month, alreadyt received 3 issus.

Today's the official release date of the US edition of Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin. I'd ordered a paste&paper copy for $15.00 a month ago, but cancelled it last week and pre-ordered the K version for 9.99 instead. I turned the K. on at 2:00 this morning, and a5 2:05 it was completely downloaded, all ready to read, which is what I've been doing since then. Is this just too cool or what?

You've got to have a 'cover' for the Kindle. It's a purely beautiful white object, but it's gonna get dusty for sure, and handling it a lot's gonna hand-stain it quickly too; plus any item gets dinged and nicked with repeated use over time, and expecially (GOD FORBED) should you drop it. A Cover eleminates all these problems, and the one I use also folds neatly into a 'reading platform' that you can adjust to any angle.

The built-in dictionary feature works great, easy to use, and I'm really enjoyng the note-taking capability too, you can journalize on each book or separately. I've bought all but 2 books through the wireless K. store, very easy to use, 'search' is simple. The 2 books I bought on-line arrived at once as well, just as if I bought it wirelessly on the K.

Sorry to ramble on, but thought you might be a bit curious about my current reading transition, and the McCann is just superbn so far too. All the best!

Hey Sean, I've still got about 250 pages to go in Iain Pears' very exciting Stone's Fall before I'm able to get to Urrea's Into the Beautiful North, but, at the moment, has an ARC of it for $5.00 plus shipping. That's what I paid for my copy, and have been buying ARCS under $8.00 from ABE all year long, saved a bunch of money too. (For ARCS only: Go to their home page, click "Advanced Search" at the top left, then put in the author and title, hit "Find Book", et voila!) Urrea's The Hummingbird's Daughter is one of my all-time favorites of the last few years, and really can't wait to get to this new one.

My little kids are out of school now, their 10th birthday is coming up in 2 weeks, and they start Art Camp the next day, so summer's starting with a mild frenzy, but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves right now. Hope you and your family are fat and happy too. Happy trails!

Hey, Sean- As usual, it's great to hear from you. Yes, I'm loving "The Guards". What an incredible writer and it's such an added bonus that Taylor loves books & music. Two of my all-time favorite past-times. I will have to pursue this author. Thanks for the heads-up on the film version. I hope they don't blow it. I also have "War Trash" making it's way to me. I've also heard good things about "Brooklyn". Take care and stay in touch!
Hi Sean, it's always good to hear from you, and yes, I agree completely on the Cheever bio, couldn't have enjoyed it more and think it's a shoo-in for the biography Pulitzer too. Having read all of Cheever's stories, novels, letters, and even his soddenly melancholic but very revealing journals, I didn't find many surprises in Bailey's book, but I was still mesmerized by the whole thing and think the Ellmann comparison you made is totally valid.

To me the most interesting parts of Bailey's bio were the details of Cheever's love/hate relationship with John Updike, one of my all-time favorite American writers, and if you've never read any of his books, then you're in for a treat-and-a-half. You should read the 4 Angstrom novels of course, but never as stand-alones or out of order. If you picked up Rabbit at Rest right now you'd miss every one of the allusions to Rabbit's elaborate back-story that the first 2 novels provide, with the book's impact severely diminished. It did win the fiction Pulitzer in 1981, as did Rabbit at Rest in 1990. A perfect Updike stand-alone is The Centaur from 1963, the National Book Award winner that year, and Cheever never wrote a novel half as good. And once you read Rabbit,Run you'll never be able to resist the next 3, I promise.

I think you're gonna love Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. It's about as much fun as you're gonna have with your pants on, and definitely one of my favorites so far this year. I've got about a hundred pages left in Rabbit is Rich, loving nearly every page too, and will save Rabbit at Rest for next month. Next is Zoe Heller's The Believers, and probably American Rust after that. Happy trails!

Happy St.Pat's, old Irish Son of the Soil from Florida!! I've missed your pithy comments lately, and just hope you've had a grand, grand day. Are you reading anyting worth mentioning??
Sean, I know you've been as interested as I was in the new Tim Gautreaux book The Missing, so I found an ARC of it, and just finished it last night. What a bummer, only one of the most disappointing things I've read this year, an unconvincing story with busted logic that made the characters seem just as unbelieveable, and I was glad to be done with the silly thing. Proceed at your own risk on this one, old friend.

I also disliked Stacey D'Erasmo's The Sky Below and Chris Cleave's Little Bee, but had a blast with T.C.Boyle's The Women, and he remains one of my very favorite contemporary writers. I reread Updike's Rabbit,Run earlier in the month and it blew me away, so decided to reread the entire quartet, the last 2 of which both won Pulitzers. I've just started on Rabbit Redux, and after that will get to Abraham's Verghese's Cutting for Stone which is supposed to be terrific. All the luck!

Thanks Sean. I really appreciate it. By the way, I'll be passing through Florida in July (for reading/signings). Looks like Tallahassee, then Gainesville, Tampa, then Miami. I'll have dates on my web site soon.

Thanks again,


Just a quick note to let you know that my new novel, Dirty Little Angels, is now available. Thought you might like it since it's been compared to Larry Brown, whom I noticed you like. Here's a link to a summary in case you're interested:

Take care,

I should have known! I don't think I've ever met anyone from Ireland who hasn't tackled Joyce. OK - I am absolutely going to read it, for the first time at least, this year. I .am off skiing for a week in January so instead of packing lots of slim volumes, I will take Joyce (maybe)

I am currently reading Rick Moody as a bit of light relief from the uber-melancholic and depression inducing books I've been reading lately. I can start Beckett on the weekend but as it is the hardcopy centenary edition of the novels, I won't be carrying it around in my handbag so maybe it will take a little time for me to finish (I tend to read on the go more than I do at home). I'll keep you posted.

Hey Sean,

Thanks for the add.

I saw virtually of all Beckett's plays as a result of the centenary productions a couple of years back and I just fell in love with his mind. I have been revisiting them for quick reads ever since and would happily watch many of them again. I would recommend that you read Krapp's Last Tape and Endgame and catch them if you can wherever you can.

I haven't actually read the novels yet although I have them. Maybe we could both read them and compare notes. Molley, Malone Dies and the Unnameable were written as a trilogy of novels (although I'm not sure that there the content is connected). Maybe we should kick off with Molley?

Btw I have joined a group this week that may well interest you - it is a club read group which focusses on authors. They are in the process of selecting the author for the next month at the moment. I'll send you an invite.


btw I've noticed that Joyce isn't on your list of favourite authors and he is on my list of authors to tackle this year. Do you think Ulysses is destined to languish on the shelf as one of those books that I always meant to read...
Hi, Sean! Thanks for your nice comments, it's much appreciated. I'm trying to write short reviews on each of the books I read. I don't care for long & wordy reviews, so I try to keep it straight & simple. I love LT, it has broken my reading experience wide open. Now, I have to hunt a copy of "Lark and Termite". I'm starting the latest Wally Lamb. Are you a fan? Let's stay in touch!

p.s. my maternal Grandmother was born in Ireland and I'm very proud of that!
Hi Sean, and Happy New Year to you and yours, hoping you all enjoyed the holiday as much as we did. My older sons were all here this year, and we mostly partied like it was 1999, had a great time.

I want to sincerely thank you for your raves on Ron Rash's Serena, which I thought entirely as entertaining as anything I read last year, and will be recommending for a long time. What a delusional bitch she was, but what a story!, just loved it.

I completely despised SKing's stories in Just After Sunset, not a decent one in the whole depressing bunch, but it happens that one of my kids had just finished Richard Bachman's Blaze, gave it straight to me, and I gulped it down like the fine cotton-candy it turned out to be, proving that once-upon-a-time SKing knew how to write a great pulp novel and did.

I was also grossly disappointed in Adiga's The White Tiger, think it ranks right alongside Vernon God Little as the epitome of poor-choice Bookers, and not even half-as-good as Phil Hensher's Northern Clemency. Another relative let-down was Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project, which started off well, but became diffuse and meandering, and I was glad when the damn thing was finally over. I was more than pleasantly surprised by James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand, a story of post-apocalypse America that was neither maudlin nor depressing, but concentrated instead on the practicalities of life which somehow wound-up seeming much more 'hopeful' than 'hopeless', an excellent novel I'd recommend in a heartbeat.

I also rather disliked David Benioff's City of Thieves which had been highly touted elsewhere, but was really not much more than a flimsy screenplay masquerading as a not-very-convincing novel, and mostly a waste of time. Right now I'm nearly finished with Lionel Shriver's 517-page The Post-Birthday World which has been as surprising as it's been stunning. I'd avoided her Orange winner We Need To Talk About Kevin due to its subject matter, and really have no idea why I picked up TP-BW, but I've been loving nearly every page of it, and though it's certainly not a book for everyone, think you might find it interesting too. All the luck!!

PS: I'd meant to shower praise on Adam Braver's November 22, 1963 but it quite slipped my mind, but I thought it a terrific book and you must check it out if you haven't already.

Hi, Sean!

I thought Coal Black Horse was one of the most beautifully written books I've read in many years. I loved the way the prose changed to suit what Robey was going through, and loved the story itself. you know the old saw--there are only a half dozen plots--and certainly coming of age is one of them, but rarely have I seen it so classily done.

Loved Louis' comment below. we voted from here, and I absolutely SCREAMED when CNN projected (I was following via computer) that he'd won--and then broke down and cried my heart out. Events to date seem to bear out that the country for a change has done the right thing.

Good to hear from you! How are things going with you, anyway?

Hey Sean, I'm suffering through the post-election withdrawal blues, and certainly don't envy what Barack's faced with fixing either, but feel confident that if there's a way out of this mess we're in, then he'll find it. Nonetheless, I was thrilled with his win, which in some strange way felt like the "real" end of the Civil War, finally arriving 143 years late.

Wow, you've read some great stuff lately. I've read most of Turgenev, including Sketches from a Hunter's Album, but the one I usually recommend is Father and Son, really a wonderful little book. I've also read most of Harry Crews' books, even met him once in Memphis after a reading, and always have admired A Childhood too. He's a hard-core maniac of course, but you shouldn't miss his novel Body either, a stunner.

I've read Naipul's Bend in the River and A House for Mr. Biswas, but otherwise don't count myself as a fan of his, just something about his style that leaves me cold and mostly disengaged. That's NOT the case with Tobias Wolff though. I loved Old School and This Boy's Life, and have eagerly recommended them for years. I read Our Story Begins earlier this year and quite enjoyed it, but found I liked his earlier stories better than the later ones.

Last month I read Jung Chang's Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, just a superb memoir of her family's travails during the upheavals of mid-century China, then went on to Sarah Waters' The Night Watch which was just OK, though reasonably entertaining. I was so blown away by Interpreter of Maladies that for 3 days after I finished it I couldn't even pick up another book, such a miracle string of stories they were. And then I finally settled on something I'd put off reading for 30 years, Wallace Stegner's 1943 novel The Big Rock Candy Mountain and thoroughly loved it, didn't want it to end, and as grim as a lot of it was, it's now my favorite of all his books, and see it as truly the lynch-pin of his entire career.

I don't usually go overboard to recommend a book I haven't finished yet, but I'm well past halfway in Philip Hensher's 600-page The Northern Clemency and you should sprint to Amazon at once to get it, because this one's the real deal, one of the 2 or 3 best books of the year. It was Booker short-listed and just pubbed here last month, sort of a more compelling and veddy British version of The Corrections, quite strikingly written as well, consistently hilarious, and not to be missed. I've got King's Just After Sunset and Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers up next, both certifiable brain candy, but neither ought to cost me too many IQ points. Happy trails, old friend.

Sean, glad you liked Chris Adrian's book, and I thought it square in the same class as Millhauser's Dangerous Laughter too. I can't recommend Gob's Grief as it just didn't work for me, but I'm still quite amazed by The Children's Hospital. I think we must be going through the worst new-book drought I can recall. I read one book review after another, and nothing whatsoever picques my interest, and as a result, in the last 6 weeks I've bought only one book, which was Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans. Unfortunately it wasn't a very good book, not nearly as affecting as A Complicated Kindness, which I loved.

About 5 years ago I bought a signed 1st ed. of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, and decided it was time to give it a go. It took me almost 3 weeks, but I finished it last week, and while I found most of it brilliant stuff, it was occasionally tedious and sort of helter-skelter, plus with its 1000-plus pages, becomes a difficult book to recommend. Nevertheless, I'm glad I finally read it, especially in light of DFW's recent neck-tie-party-for-one.

I heartily recommend you find a copy of the new Rolling Stone magazine (with Barack on the cover), because there an absolutely marvelous extended mini-biography of DFW that sheds new light on both his mental and pharmacological demons, and also details his deep friendship with Jonathan Franzen, something I wasn't aware of at all. The whole thing's a real eye-opener, with awesome pictures too, completely fascinating, but still extremely sad.

Right now I'm nearly 200 pages into Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope and enjoying it quite a bit. I expect I'll get around to Marilynne Robinson's Home sooner or later, but think I'll pick up Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies next. All the luck!!

Hi Sean, hope things are well with you,haven't talked to you in ages,just touching base. Hope the recession is not getting you down,and taht the reading is still going well.
Sean, so glad you felt like you did about Filkins' The Forever War, which I thought a tour-de-force of war reportage that packed a wallop, a palpable sense of outrage at the futility of that stinking war in Iraq, and I was riveted all the way, should be recommending this sensational book for a long time too.

And I'm wired the same way as you are: I cannot and will not read 2 or more books at the same time. When I read I focus rather intently on whatever it is, and feel I'm diluting my concentration by trying to read more than one book at a time; in essence, short-changing both myself the the respective authors.

I finished Philip Roth's new book Indignation and really enjoyed it, plus I had just got the new Library of America volume Philip Roth: Novels and Other Narratives, 1968-1991, and then finished The Facts from 1987 which is Roth's only autobiography of record, and it was absolutely fantastic. In the first three-quarters of it, Roth gives a charming but rather bloodless account of his life to that point(he was 55 then), and in the last section Roth's most famous character Zuckerman delivers a scathing critique of what Roth's written, picking it apart fact-by-fact, a fitting coup-de-gras and a brilliant technique.

But what was hyper-cool was to read Indignation first, and then read The Facts, and to see how closely Indignation paralleled Roth's life, which it did extensively, and I was just amazed that at 75 he could still write from such a youthful perspective, and despite some of its grimmer aspects, was really a fun little book.

Then I finished Roth's Deception from 1990, and didn't care for it much, thought his dialogue-only approach a poor choice, a misstep, and was never able to warm up to it at all. Right now I'm taking a short break from mid-career PRoth and am 50-plus pages into Chris Adrian's first novel Gob's Grief and like its januty tone that's imbued with a rather low-key mordancy, very soothing in a way, though clearly not a book for everyone. And though I know you might hate it, I still want to recommend Adrian's epic The Children's Hospital, a book quite unlike anything else I've ever read. Happy trails!

Sean, I'm not a bit surprised at your reaction to Tree of Smoke, as I thought it dwarfed most everything else from last year, and was easily the best book I read during that time.

Right now you're surely knee-deep in The Brothers K, and I apologize if I've already told you this story before, but when it was pubbed in April 1992, I completely ignored it because I thought it was about 'baseball', which mostly bores me to the nines. But about 4 months after it came out, I made the acquaintance of the late Shelby Foote at a local bookstore one Sunday afternoon, and we spent a half-hour talking about books old and new, and besides recommending that I read Proust immediately, Foote said The Brothers K,/i> was his favorite American novel he'd read in the last 10 years, and I took a copy home that same afternoon. I was just completely demolished by it and have recommended it ever since. Only last week I got an e-mail from a guy I haven't seen in over a year, who'd just finished Duncan's book, and he thanked me rather effusively for recommending it, said it was the best book he'd ever read in his life.

I finished Jennet Conant's The Irregulars last week and absolutely loved it, and feel like I've got a much better handle on Dahl's life than I had before, as Treglown's biography didn't have half the stuff in it that Conant's book does, but so much of this info only became declassified and available as source material in 1998, but it's definitely one hell of a story.

Till now I've avoided reading anything at all concerning the damnable war in Iraq, but I just finished Dexter Filkins' magnificent The Forever War and think it should be required reading for every US citizen. This book's like getting hit by a flame-thrower, an instant classic that will win every prize in sight, and there's no way you should miss it. All the luck!

Sean, I hope you know I'm terribly envious of anybody reading Tree of Smoke for the first time, one of the greatest novels of the last few years IMVHO. I was in V'nam during the Tet offensive that he describes so chillingly, plus I worked closely with some folks involved in clandestine ops as well, and Johnson's book brought back many rather vivid memories. I finished Barack's Dreams From My Father and found it to be as intelligent and heart-felt a memoir as any politician has ever written, and of course we look forward to voting for him come Nov.

I think I've mentioned before that me and 2 of my triplets are big Roald Dahl fans. Jonathan's already read every one of his children's books, and Ben's finished about half of them too. Just a year or so ago I read Dahl's 850-page Collected Stories, all his adult stories presented in their chronological order, and this 2006 Everyman's Library edition is the only hardcover of it available, and worth every dime of its $30 sticker price too, that is, of course, if you can find one. The libraries snapped up most of the 1st printing, and a 2nd was mostly gone within 6 months, so there's not too many left out there as we speak. In the meantime, I'm half way through Jennet Conant's marvelous new history The Irregulars, which is subtitled Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington, and you can probably imagine how much fun I've been having with it so far, recommended to the max. Happy trails!

Hey Sean, not having heard from you in a while, I was getting a little concerned, but I'd already figured you had some Fay problems, and am so glad you're getting back to normal. I've only read a couple of Hemingway bios over the years, but my favorite has to be Carlos Baker's Ernest Hemingway: a Life Story from 1969, which I've now read twice. Last week I breezed through a reread of Hemingway's mini-memoir A Moveable Feast, which remains a total joy, and quite the 'happiest' thing he ever wrote. And I recall reading The Road about a week after it came out, really liked it too, but despite its Pulitzer, I finally have to rank it as only mid-tier McCarthy, not approaching either Blood Meridian or Suttree in scope or complexity.

There's been such a dearth of interesting new fiction lately that I've been doing a bunch of non-fiction. It took me 11 days, but I finished Daniel Walker Howe's Pulitzer-winner What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, mostly just as stimulating as it was informative, if only just a tad dry now and then. Then I read Norman Mailer's Pulitzer and NBA-winning The Armies of the Night from 1967, and followed it with his 1968 book Miami and The Siege of Chicago, both fairly ground-breaking items of their era, and still surprisingly relevant today, both rereads from 40 years ago.

I also reread Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, a book I've always loved, and it was, as ever, simply grand. Most people aren't aware that there's actually 2 versions of Waugh's masterpiece. While recuperating from a parachute mishap and working in a relative frenzy, Waugh wrote the original mss. between Feb 1 and June 10, 1944, and it became immensely successful as it stood. In 1959 Waugh revised it for a new edition, editing out numerous references to the war while restructuring it completely, and it's this revamped version that we have now, the one Waugh was finally satisfied with. I've read both, and yes, the latter version easily outshadows the earlier one.

I only just finished John Steinbeck's 1935 novel Tortilla Flat, which is still quite charming, though only a modest accomplishment alongside his greater books that came later. Right now I'm a hundred pages into Barack Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father, and it's been exceptional so far, and will probably get to Marilynne Robinson's new book Home next. All the luck!!

Wow, Sean, your visits to the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Hemingway sites sounded great, would dearly love to do it myself. I've always been a huge Rawling's fan and even have gorgeous first editions of The Yearling and Cross Creek too. I also highly recommend Max and Marjorie, the almost magical set of letters between MKR and her legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, which offers more insight into her work and life than any other source I've run across, including her very close friendship with Zora Neale Hurston. It was pubbed by the Univ.Press of Florida in 1999 and is great stuff all the way.

Sean, I've gotta recommend you take a look at Chris Adrian, surely one of the most unusual writers working today. At present he's a working pediatrician at a Boston hospital, while also in his last year of divinity studies at Harvard. I've not yet read his first novel Gob's Grief, but his second novel The Children's Hospital blew me away and remains one of my favorite books from the last few years. His new book of short stories A Better Angel contains 9 stories, all previously pubbed in either the New Yorker, McSweeney's, Zoetrope, Esquire, or Tin House, and are as an arresting group as any I've read this year, easily comparable in inventiveness and substance to the Millhauser book which we both admired so much. A reviewer once called Adrian's work "medical magical realism", not exactly a poor description, but one that in no way does justice to the breadth of his talent, and the last 5 stories in A Better Angel are purely phenomenal. There's also an excellent interview with Adrian this month at Bookslut and I found it all just intensely interesting, so you might check it out.

Matthew Kneale's English Passengers was one of the biggest surprises I've had all year, and definitely one of the greatest historical novels I've read in the last 10 years, just an amazing book that's as hilarious as it is harrowing, and can't recommend it any higher. I just finished T.J. English's Havana Nocturne and loved it to the max, even though I'd read Lansky's bio Little Man which covered a lot of the same territory. And hey, there's even a mention of Mount Dora in it too, where Lansky stops briefly to swipe an orange. I think you're really gonna like this one. All the luck!
Hi Sean, how's it going with Grant's memoirs so far? i finished last week and thought it was totally compelling all the way through, but still rather sad at the end when he finally acknowledges his illness. I wished the whole thing had been longer and in more detail, covering more of his later career as president, but I'm looking around for a good U.S.G. biography right now, and will light on something pretty soon. I pulled out my copy of Bruce Catton's Grant Moves South and actually had to force myself to put it down, trying to avoid a Civil War OD you know, but I'm definitely going back to Catton's book before the end of the year.

I finished Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis the other day and liked it well enough, but it didn't really click for me, mainly because I found his protagonist a bit of a loser, and the fantasy elements of the story were intrusive too, mostly boring and schlockey. Right now I'm about 200 pages into Matthew Kneale's 2000 novel English Passengers and it's been absolutely terrific so far, wonderful characters and top-of-the-line storytelling, a great boook and highly recommended.

There's been such a dearth of decent new fiction the last month or so, but up next is Chris Adrian's new book of short stories A Better Angel, which has only had so-so reviews so far, but after The Children's Hospital, I'm completely oblivious to what any half-assed reviewer might say about Adrian, and intend to read everything he writes from here on. After that, I'm on to T.J. English's non-fiction saga of pre-Castro Cuba Havana Nocturne, and I also plan to re-read Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece Brideshead Revisited, one of the greatest novels of the last century IMVHO, and only hope I love it like I did the first time. All the luck?
Hey Sean, it's great we're both reading the Grant book at the same time. On our trip to St. Louis we visited both Jefferson Barracks and Grant's Farm, so my interest in U.S.G. was definitely rekindled, but I'd meant to read this for many years and never had. I'm only just this minute finishing Book 1, about 315 pages in, so you won't be too far behind at all. Does your edition have the story of how Mark Twain finally persuaded Grant to write his memoirs? My paperback Modern Liabrary edition has a marvelous intro by Geoffrey Perret that tells it all, and it's really a jaw-dropping piece. I love Grant's style, never bombastic but always understated and quite easy to read, though it took me several pages to acclimate myself to some of his word usages and their then-current idioms.

Just FYI, I was born and lived my first 19 years in Vicksburg, Miss., completely steeped in deep South Civil War lore from the cradle, and as a kid knew the huge array of battlefields surrounding Vicksburg like the back of my hand. I've been to Shiloh a couple of times too in the last 10 years, and I even spent a couple of days visiting the battlegrounds at Gettysburg. Growing up I think I read nearly every significant history of the Civil War available, and Grant's account of the siege of Vicksburg truly brings back a lot of memories. Both Bruce Catton's awesome Grant Moves South and Foote's The Beleaguered City tell the same story in more detail of course, but U.S.G.'s story offers the most unique perspective of all I think. All the luck!
Sean, right now I'm over halfway through Bartle Bull's extraordinary first novel from 1992 The White Rhino Hotel and enjoying it to the max. I'd never even heard of Bartle Bull before 1998 when I discovered his book A Cafe on the Nile, but I was hooked, and have read his ensuing novels The Devil's Oasis in 2001, and Shanghai Station in 2004, with great relish, but had never got around to his first one until just the other day. Bull writes these epic and very literate African adventure stories, a la H. Rider Haggard, but with much greater wit and panache, and I feel like such an idiot because I've only just realized that The White Rhino Hotel is actually the 1st of a trilogy that sets up the next 2 books, so I may be forced to read A Cafe on the Nile again, but from a little different perspective. Bravo Bull!

I finished Brendan Koerner's Now the Hell Will Start and loved it, as exciting a piece of non-fiction as I've read this year, as well as a harrowing treatise on the plantation mentality of the US Army and its despicable treatment of black GIs in WWII, truly an affecting piece of work though. I absolutely hated Natsuo Kirino's new book Real World and really wanted my money back on it, nothing but pure piffle, and only one cut above an average manga comic. I'm still in shock that the NYTBR gave this crap-fest a cover review too.

I'll be reading Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis pretty soon, but first I'm jumping head-first into Ulysses S. Grant's Personal Memoirs, a book I've put off reading for years, but now feels like just the right time finally. All the luck!!
Yes Sean, I can see that I will need to read Absalom again. Even as I finished it I was tempted to go back and start again.
Hey Sean, my wife, kids and I were up in St. Louis for several days last week, and we all had a great time. You don't usually think of St.Louis as a vacation destination, but there's a ton of cool things to see and do, and so many of them are free too. You were absolutely correct about O'Connor's 1964 novel I Was Dancing being turned into a stage-play, but despite the books's dearth of action, I still found it quite enjoyable. I also finished Allen Tate's 1938 Civil War novel The Fathers that JYardley had recced, blew right through it in 2 days, and despite a somewhat obtuse style that was more than a bit Faulknerish, I thought it was superb and totally underserving of its obscurity, though certainly not a book for everyone.

I've read and liked all of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam books and The Things They Carried has to be the best of the bunch, though Stephen Wright's Meditations in Green remains the gold standard of Vietnam war novels, along with Herr's (mostly) non-fiction Dispatches. I spent the scariest year of my life (1967-68) in beautiful sun-drenched S.Vietnam, helped celebrate Tet and got a Bronze Star, saw all the sights, and have read nearly everything ever published on this harrowing bit of US history.

I just couldn't find much to like about Tim Winton's Breath. I know it's had some great reviews and strong word-of-mouth, but neither the writing nor the story were very impressive, and I was bored silly by Winton's watery saga and his rather dim-witted surfing freaks. In the last few weeks Yardley's raved about Seth Greenland's Shining City, which I laughed at consistently, but didn't find as amusing as his book The Bones from 2005, which JY also highly praises in the same column. JY also raved about Brendan Koerner's Now the Hell Will Start and I'm nearly halfway through it already, a book that'll easily make my non-fiction favorites' list, just an unbelieveable story and riveting to the max. All the luck!!
Sean, if you haven't already you should check-out the Washington Post (Books) website, and see (at the bottom) Jonathan Yardley's "Second Reading" columns. I've read them all, and because JY recced it so highly I've just finished the great Edwin O'Connor's 1964 novel I Was Dancing and it truly was everything he'd touted it to be. I also just got the 1938 novel The Fathers by Allen Tate that JY praised so rapturously, and despite my recent aversion to Civil War fiction, I can't wait to jump into this one.

I thought Ethan Canin's America America was excellent, despite a little lameness now and then, but still, a very entertaining novel. Finished Seth Greenland's Shining City,/i> which JY had raved about 2 weeks ago, and mostly laughed my ass off, though it was never close to being as funny as his riotous The Bones from a couple years ago.

If you think I'm not a Joyce Carol Oate4s fan then please check out my library, but this awesome writer's new book My Sister, My Love just blew me away, a slam-fisted, take-no-prisoners satire on pop culture that is one of the best I've read this year. Sorry for the length, old bud, all the luck!

PS - We're all knee keep in GTA4, blowing and going and even using the Cheats nov to make it all even speedier, a total mind-fuck of a game. Cheers!!
Hey Sean, I've been MIA the last week or so, lots of stuff going on here - my triplets turned 9 on the 16th with all the hoopla their birthdays usually entail, and for Fathers Day my oldest son gave me a PlayStation 3, along with Grand Theft Auto IV and its huge strategy guide too, so you know I've been devoting more than a few hours to fooling with that, but GTAIV is really a stunning thing and will be playing with this one for a long time.

Nevertheless, I did manage to read Larry Brown's Father and Son and had completely forgotten what made it such a terrific book, but wow, I was glued to the thing for 2 days and blown away again at its off-hand greatness. I also read Duane Swierczynski's Severance Package, and I have to admire a book whose cover blurb says, "Ever want to kill your boss? Well guess what, THE FEELING IS MUTUAL". This was recommended by Sarah Weinman at Idiosyncratic Mind and it's nothing but the hardcore bomb: cynical, violent, and hilarious too, and the full-page illustrations are nightmarish to the max, loved it down to its black little heart.

Right now I'm a hundred pages into Joyce Carol Oates' new one My Sister, My Love, a 560-page rip on the Jon-Benet Ramsey tragedy which I'm really enjoying, but I've long since reached the stage where I'll read anything JCO writes, and this one's pretty fine so far. All the luck!!
Hey Sean, thought you might be interested my interview with Joseph O'Connor:

Pat D
Hey Sean, the Dubus book was really something else, wasn't it? I'll admit I wasn't expecting it to be a 9/11 novel, but it ended up as so much more than just that, one of those where I was literally on the edge of my seat for most of it.

I was bored witless by the new Lee Child book Nothing to Lose, but Jonathan Miles' Dear American Airlines came as a very pleasant surprise, and I think you'd really like it. Besides being extremely funny, it's also rather wise and very sad too, plus I found the voice of the Benjamin Ford character very hard to resist. What amazed me the most about it though, is that at first glance the book looks tiny and short at 180 pages, but it's so surprisingly dense, with a lot to read and think about, and it took me almost 4 days to get through it, truly a terrific novel though.

Right now I'm about 50 pages into Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture and liking it all quite a bit so far, lots of Irish in there too. All the luck!!

Sean, I'm over halfway in the Andre Dubus book The Garden of Last Days and feel totally pulverized, like I've been hit by a 100mph freight train, the absolute damndest thing I've read this year, and I dare anyone to put this monster down once they start reading it. And for as many people as will surely love this thing, there's gonna be quite a few who won't like it either, its down-and-dirty rawness, and will probably send a few running for the hills.

Hi, Sean,

The book you just purchased is high on my list of Civil War must-have books--but I haven't bought it yet. When I learned last year (I think--time is a slippery element with me!) that a treasure trove of Lee's letters to his daughter had been uncovered, I made a mental note to keep up with whatever was going to happen on that front. Lee is probably one of the most difficult prominent American figures to grasp as a human being because of instantly going into Marble Man myth; I think the letters are the best way to get even close to who he was.

There is a biography that is well-thought of that is also on my list:Robert E. Lee, a Biography by Emory Thomas. I think it was written in 1995 and is an attempt to portray the human being, not just the leader on a horse on a pedestal. But I haven't read it.

I've become much more interested in Jefferson Davis, but again, have not read anything on him, although I do have two on my list. I'm always a little reserved about biographies of Great Leaders, being a near-total skeptic myself of the concept.

So--please do let me know what you think of the book, because I will be extremely interested.

And I should tell you--I immediately put Warlock on my completely impossible To Buy list as soon as I read your comments. I actually may get it some time this decade! I'm usually a pretty decisive person, but lately when I've gone to order books, I find myself overwhelmed with all the I-have-to-have-this-book-or-die titles on my list.

Clone, clone, where's the clone program--but with money, please! :-)

All is well here, as I hope it is with you and yours.


With regards,

Hey Sean, I kinda thought you'd like Stoner, a one-of-a-kind if there ever was one, and a book I love to recommend. What's really amazing is that Williams' other novels are so utterly different from one another, and you'd never guess that the guy who wrote Stoner could also write the NBA-winning Augustus, or my other favorite of his Butcher's Crossing. And this is weird, but Howard Bahr's actually a neighbor or mine, lives about 15 miles down the road, though I've only met him a time or two. I read (and liked) The Black Flower, but Civil War fiction I have to take in small and measured doses, so have passed on the rest.

I absolutely loved Beginner's Greek and recommend it to the max. If you can get through the first 2 pages without thinking it's the sappiest things you've ever read, then you'll find one of the best books of the year, absolutely terrific. And oh yes, that Nixonland was something else, and I've missed it too, wish I could read Perlstein's take on what happened to that shitbag Nixon and his criminal cohorts after 1972, when it really started to get hot for them. It's a consolation of sorts to remember that less than 20 months after Nixon's '72 landslide, he wasn't president of anything.

I had to bail on Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, a book almost painful to read it's so clumsily written, plus I discovered 2 obvious factual errors that were naggingly disconcerting, and was glad to toss it overboard after a hundred pages. Right now I'm about 80 pages into Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge and I'm really liking it so far, smartly engaging and gorgeously written too. All the luck, and hope you enjoy Dangerous Laughter as much as I did.

Hey Sean, despite all the great reviews of O'Neill's Netherland, I've not been disposed to read it, as I've already read a couple of books this year with 9/11 as a backdrop, and more 9/11 angst is just not on my menu anytime soon, Plus, I'm not even mildly interested in cricket, so I'm taking a pass on it right now.

It took me 11 days, but I finished Rick Perlstein's Nixonland yesterday and loved every bit of it, about as entertaining, and as hilarious at times, as history's gonna get, truly an astounding piece of work. And as a sidebar: This just has to be Colin Harrison's year. As you know I've read 2 absolutely great books by him lately, but I discovered that his day job is non-fiction editor at Scribner, and Perlstein credits him as the guiding force behind Nixonland, so Harrison's really making a mark this year.

Right now I'm a hundred pages into James Collins' romantic folly Beginner's Greek, which is definitely NOT the kind of novel I'm normally drawn to, but it's so guilelessly written and so unrelentingly charming, that it's been nothing short of irresistible so far. And what's so cool about it is that you can tell instantly whether you'll like it or not: after the first 2 pages you'll either want to puke or beg for more, but I bought-in to Collins' idea at once, and couldn't be more delighted with this wonderful book.

Envy Unlimited: You get to read Oakley Hall's Warlock for the 1st time and I don't. All the luck!!

Sean: I read your comments on the new Rick Bragg book, and have added that to my Wish List. I also had the same problem as another person about getting to The journey Home but finally did get to the correct book--which has also been added to my list.

I always enjoy your comments--thoughtful and well-written.

Hey Sean, I saw your comments on the new Rick Bragg book, but I've sort of side-stepped Bragg after All Over But the Shouting, a book I liked, but haven't felt compelled to go any further with his others. I notice over at R'ville they're highlighting one of my all-time favorite novels, Oakley Hall's Warlock, simply a legendary piece of Americana that I don't think can ever be praised enough.

I'm really curious to get your reaction on the Steven Millhauser book, since you'd mentioned that it was next on your reading list. As much as I've admired his novels, I'd always thought his short stories were too self-conscious and a bit distanced as well, but wow, I wasn't expecting the reaction I've had to Dangerous Laughter, just genius stuff as far as I'm concerned, and easily one of the best things I've found this year.

I'm just at the halfway point in Rick Perlstein's monumental Nixonland, and there hasn't been a dull page yet. Perlstein's book covers American politics between 1964 and 1972, but his style is gleefully sardonic, always a shade shy of over-the-top, making it about as entertaining as history can get. What's even more startling about the events that Perlstein portrays though, is how they eerily portend the same cultural and political fissures, the very same sense of divisiveness that we're being forced to deal with in the country today, or as Perlstein wisely sums up, "How does Nixonland end? It has not ended yet."

I read your post about The Journey Home, but when I clicked on the hyperlink, jumped to the same title written by Edward Abbey. Who knew? Otherwise, the Irish author sounds interesting, and I'll keep an eye on him.
I hope you don't mind my jumping in here and keeping an eye on your postings. There are so many great recommendations and I find that it is leaning towards books that would not be recommended in some of the other groups that I have participated in. I will also keep an eye on Louis's page because I value the recommendations and recognize many of the authors names but might not have ventured there if I had not heard such strong opinions from you guys. I, too read Tin House and have some books in my library by Matthiesen. Vollman is in this edition of Tin House and I have read Ron Carlson's story. I really try to vary my reading as an aspiring writer, I want to cover all bases. Some of my favorites that I have heard mentioned here are Faulkner, actually read quite some time ago, and remember feeling inspired by his passion with character development. Definitely a re-read is in order. Remember loving Absolom, Absolom, As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury. I read one after the other which is unusual for me, I usually like to switch to another writer, but I was swept away. I enjoy Cormac McCarthy,particularly his Border Trilogy, it feltthe voice very masculine (obvious, but not always achieved) and made place such an integral part of the violence, which he underplays nicely, while it hovers there always like a gun, hidden but close to twitching fingers. I'm only posting once because I have also been to LouisBranning's page and hope he reads this here and comments. You both have caught my attention with your passion for the books and authors you discuss. I'll be checking out the Harrison book mentioned, I am familiar with Kathryn Harrison, and will also check out Vollman and Matthiesen, although I feel I may have read something by him (M)already. Mary Beth. Off to enjoy mother's day with my family-my daughter is in L'il Abner this weekend!
Sean, I try not to go off the deep-end too often about certain books and writers, but just can't help myself with Colin Harrison's The Havana Room. Last month I raved about his new book The Finder, and as great as that book certainly is, I was by no means prepared for the sheer storytelling genius displayed in The Havana Room, and can't recommend it any higher. Unfortunately Harrison's books are labeled "thrillers", a pejorative that does no justice at all to what he actually writes, which are great "novels" first above everything else. He's now published 6 books, lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the writer Kathryn Harrison and their 3 kids, and in The Havana Room he speaks eloquently about parenthood:

"There are the deep pressures of being human, and those of us who are parents feel the forwardness of our flesh even as we know our own is failing. The rhythmic sything away of the previous generation forces our attention to our children, for if we do not have our children, then, knowing ourselves to be doomed, we do not have anything. People who don't have children often take violent exception to the idea that their lives are in any way existentially different from the lives of those who do have children, and to this I only laugh darkly to myself and think, Well yes, you may think that, but you are already dead, my friend. I am also already dead, yet live on in my son, who will have his son or daughter when I am dispersed with the fluorocarbons, part of the mist of ozone cooking the earth. Yes, I will yet live. And I think this is in all of us."

Thanks to your reminder I finally got a copy of the Steven Millhauser book, which I'd totally forgotten about, and have what looks like 2 good ones coming up: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, and Rick Perlstein's Nixonland, just a huge thing at 880 pages. All the luck, and sorry about the length again!!


You have a small library posted so far, but we have a lot of books in common. Are you a big fan of Joyce? I did my Master's Thesis on him.

Sean, here's a most interesting letter to the NYTBR editor re Dermot Bolger's book, and thought it might merit your attention (& sorry for the length):
"Early in his review of The Journey Home by Dermot Bolger, Terrence Rafferty notes that the novel was originally published in 1990, but he makes no mention of how the last 18 years might affect the reception of this book now that it's appearing for the first time in the United States, nor of the dated quality of the condition of its protagonists as a result of the broad economic and social changes that have transformed Ireland during the exact period in question.

Like Roddy Doyle (whose book The Commitments was published in 1987), Bolger is writing of an era when nearly a whole generation of Irish youth, privileged and disadvantaged alike, were forced to emigrate. Both writers presented a gritty urban Dublin underclass, and although the likes of Shay and Hano would not necessarily have been among those more likely to benefit from the largess of the Celtic Tiger that has developed since, their contemporary equivalents are not emigrating to work in factories in Germany or Turkey - instead, thousands of Poles, Turks, Brazilians and others are living in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland in the grim equivalent of the housing conditions Hano survived, while Jimmy Rabbitt's kids are meanwhile probably running dot-coms.

What is rather prescient about the University of Texas Press's decision to publish Bolger's excellent novel now is that the bubble has burst, and an Irish generation that has known nothing but boom times and affluence will be undergoing a period of considerable adjustment."

Christina Hunt Mahony

The new Tin House came yesterday, and over the last few years has become one of my very favorite things: a fat book of short stories, poems, essays and interviews, published 4x a year, and I always wind up reading it cover-to-cover. I don't recall you mentioning it before, and may subscribe already, but it's a great treat every time a new one arrives. The lead short story in this edition is by the great Ron Carlson, and I highly recommend his 2007 novel Five Skies if you've not read him before. All the luck!

Hi Sean
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the first NZH I have read and I'm enjoying it very much. My big discovery for the year has been Robertson Davies. Before even finishing Fifth Business I had ordered the remaining two books in the Deptford Trilogy. I saw Louis's message about James Meek and I add to that a thumbs-up for The People's Act of Love.
I've just had two weeks holiday which was blighted by family illness so I was pleased to have my students return yesterday and put my mind to something else.
Hey Sean, I liked James Meek's We Are Now Beginning Our Descent very much, though it was nowhere near as impressive as The People's Act of Love. Also really enjoyed the Wally Stegner biography a whole lot more than I'd expected. Peter Matthiessen's dad was chairman of the English dept. at Harvard when Wally was brought in to inaugurate their creative writing program too.

Speaking of Matthiessen, I saw you'd added Shadow Country to your list of good ones, so I'm assuming you've already finished it. I only just wound up Book I myself, but it's so great that I'll likely be adding it to mine before it's over, still have a ways to go in it right now. Coming up I've got James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand, along with Interpreter of Maladies, one I've been looking forward to for a while.

Can you believe O'Hagan's Be Near Me won the LA Times fiction award this weekend? The competition must have been damn thin out there this year. Luck and All!

Hey Sean, here's a big Irish heads-up: on the cover of this weekend's NYTBR, there's a rave review of Irish writer Dermot Bolger's novel The Journey Home, which was originally published in the UK in 1990, and is only now being pubbed by the Univ. of Texas Press in the US. The reviewer calls it "an Irish Rebel Without A Cause, saying "whatever the "real" Ireland is or was or will be, there are great chunks of it, with the smell and texture of Irish earth, in Bolger's rich, conflicted, ferociously vital book." You may have already read this one, and if you have, let me know what you thought about it. I just ordered a copy myself, and really look forward to it.

Sean -

I did read Interpreter, but before it came out, so it was some time ago. I was blown away by it at the time so I was overjoyed when I heard about Unaccustomed Earth. I cannot compare the two because I read them so far apart and when I read Interpreter, Lahiri was new to me. I had the same reaction to both books. And I say you should read them, because I cannot believe that a writer of her level would have a collection not worth reading.

I have not read Namesake yet, but did see the movie and loved it.
Oh yeah, Sean, that new Modern Library of Matthiessen's trilogy is a very cool book, a most handsome volume. I'd read Killing Mr. Watson years ago, but not the other 2, and Matthiessen's abridged and re-edited them all into one story, so it might be interesting I thought. So glad you liked the Lahiri, as I'm starting it pretty soon, and already feel like I'm the last one to read it. I did read O'Hagan's Be Near Me last year, and though I was quite impressed with his fluent style, I felt unsatisfied with it in the end because I just wasn't able to buy into the narrator's motivation in the second half of the book. It did get wonderful reviews nearly everywhere, but didn't quite click for me.

I really liked Siri Hustvedt's The Sorrows of an American, one of those surprises that sorta sneaks up on you out of nowhere, a very smart book I think, and very reminiscent of Richard Powers. I'm almost done with Rudy Wurlitzer's The Drop Side of Yonder and have gotten more than a few laughs out of it, a speedy mock-western posing as a tongue-in-cheek picaresque, good loopy fun.

I see you've got a copy of Angle of Repose, a book I/ve always loved, and would re-read at the drop of a hat. I was telling Nancy about still having my original reviewer's copy of it, including all the lay-ins, and it's in terrific shape too, but I may get another copy, as she suggested, if I decide to re-read it. I don't have any idea what this beauty's worth, probably not a whole lot, but I sure don't want to have any dumb-ass accidents with it either at this late date. Good luck!

I saw you mention Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me in the "Now Reading" thread. If you'd like, I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it after you're finished. I've been waffling on whether to purchase it (and add it to the ever-growing pile of unread books).
What's up, Sean? That Colin Harrison novel The Finder was just a powerhouse of a book, cheap at twice whaever price I paid for it, and I've been shoving it at every reader I cross paths with, so consider it waved in your face too, Ha! I've also ordered one of Harrison's earlier novels The Havana Room, and only hope it's half as good as this new one.

I'm well past halfway in the Martin Amis memoir Experience and it's really beyond fantastic, and that's not hyperbole either, but for Amis to write so beautifully, and still be so brutally truthful, is really quite astonishing, especially since he's made his career with a string of fairly shitty novels, none of which I can honestly recommend except Time's Arrow. Of course he's obsessed with the literary life as you'd expect, dwelling on his father's writing and career, while fixating on all writers he reads or meets, but especially Nabokov and Bellow, both of whom I revere as much as MA does, so I feel I'm in fine company.

I've got a few cool things in the wings right now: James Meek's We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, Rudolph Wurlitzer's The Drop Edge of Yonder, which has been characterized as "Sam Beckett with a six-gun and a sack of rattlesnakes", and Siri Hustvedt's po-mo showpiece The Sorrows of an American. Good luck!!

Always immensely flattered that anyone thinks my library is interesting!
Hmmmm, I see your problem about finding the LTers With Dogs Group. I have just tried searching for it and was given a list of 80+ books, none of which were the slightest bit relevant. Tell you what I'll do - I think I can probably send you an invite to join Photos of our Dogs which, hopefully, will give a link to the right page. My darlin' lab is on posts 75 & 76 but I'm sure you'll love lost of the other dogs too. Off to try now - if you don't get anything soon you'll know I'm having problems!
Hi Sean, I know what you mean about real-life interfering with your reading. I didn't make much progress on anything yesterday, as my 2 oldest sons (36,27) were here and all pumped about the Tiger game v. Texas, which we all watched, and then celebrated appropriately afterward. I did finish the first 21 selected stories, and have just started on Wolff's new stuff at the end. As soon as I'm done, I'm starting Colin Harrison's new book The Finder, which looks like it's offering some serious fun, and then I'll probably pick up either the Martin Amis memoir Experience, or the new bio Wallace Stegner and the American West which is supposed to be exceptional too.

I think you're probably gonna like the Woiwode memoir. I've gone back to it several times asince I finished, and have managed to re-read half of it already. His style alone should get your attention, and you'll like that it's crammed with one literary reference after another, plus the details of his warm relationship with Maxwell, and his description of his first meeting with Jim Harrison(whom I love!), are truly priceless. Woiwode's 2 big books, What I'm Going To Do, I Think and particularly Beyond the Bedroom Wall, shouldn't be missed either, their appeal is timeless, but A Step From Death is really something else.

Just happened to see a post from you stating you have a black lab, so I had to make contact and say hi from our black lab (see Photos of Our Dogs) - aren't they just amazing? I love greyhounds too though I've never had one - are yours rescues (as so many are) or did you have him/her from a pup? I know we're ostensibly here to talk about books (which I can do ad nauseum) but it's great to meet all these dog-people too.
Hey Sean, and yes, Tobias Wolff's really an exceptional writer, but the only things of his I've read are Old School and This Boy's Life: a Memoir, both of which I really liked and could easily recommend. His brother's Geoffrey Wolff whom I also admire, especially The Duke of Deception and his terrific John O'Hara biography The Art of Burning Bridges. And we should be on the same page pretty soon, cause as soon as I finish Maugham's wonderful novel The Razor's Edge, I'll be starting on Our Story Begins too.

The Larry Woiwode memoir I mentioned before, A Step From Death, just totally blew me out of the ball park, easily one of the finest things I've read this year. Good luck!!

Sean, I really enjoyed your St. Pat's Day piece on new Irish writers and knew you'd gotten a kick out of writing it too, fine stuff. And glad you liked Lush Life as much as I did, and know you're probably getting primed for Clockers pretty soon, another terrific book of his. I'll admit that, of his later novels, I wasn't really taken so much with Samaritan, but I'd have to recommend Wonderland, which I thought as good as anything he's ever produced. For all the acclaim Price's received over the years, I still feel his work is under-valued and under-read, but his books are just too smart and too tough sometimes, all written strictly for adult sensibilities, and most readers today, as well you know, prefer read-by-numbers YA and the insipid over all else.

I finished Wallace Stegner's 1987 novel Crossing to Safety the other day and loved it, but wasn't so surprised because I'd just read his NBA-winning The Spectator Bird last year, and it sort of blew me away at the time. I plan on reading some of his earlier stuff and already have The Big Rock Candy Mountain and its sequel Recapitulation set for summer.

Right now I'm halfway through David Hajdu's The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America, an amazing slice of cultural history that's as hilarious as it is harrowing, and a book I'll likely be recommending for the rest of the year. And I'm amped to the max cause I just got my copy of Larry Woiwode's new memoir A Step From Death and am ultra-anxious to start it. Woiwode (pronounced "WHY-woody", or "Y-woody") wrote 2 of my all-time favorite novels, What I'm Going To Do, I Think and Beyond the Bedroom Wall, and this new memoir looks like it could be bliss on toast.

Dear Sean
Just dropped in to wish you a Happy St Patrick's Day 2008! As I suggested last year, don't drink too much green beer as some Irish-Australians do. Perhaps a nice pint of Guiness?
Sean, I saw where you got Lush Life and you're really in for a hell of a treat, a spectacular novel by anyone's standards. I also finished The Blue Star, and there's really no words to explain how much I loved it, even more than Jim the Boy. And if you can keep a dry eye during the last 40 pages or so, then you're a stonier soul than I am, my friend, cause I was nothing but a puddle by the last page of this lovely, lovely book.

I also read and totally despised Tom Franklin's Smonk, a complete waste of time, and wish I hadn't even picked the repulsive thing up. Right now I'm halfway through David Mamet's book of essays Bambi vs. Godzilla, just a hoot and a half so far, and I'm also about a hundred pages into Richard Hofstadter's non-fiction Pulitzer winner Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, which first came out in 1964 and caused quite a stir. What's amazing is that I think it's perhaps even more relevant today than it was then, and I've been stunned several times by Hofstadter's insights into the active life of the mind and how it deals with the untiring scorners of intellect, whom we're forced to confront every day of our lives. Wow.

Hi, Sean,

Well, I hafta tell you that I'm afraid that the debt is still mine! Thanks to your comments about Troubles, I bought the whole series. I'm too anal-retentive about reading things in order (you mean, read the middle one first? GASP--god, the world will end!), so I decided to go whole hog.

I thoroughly enjoyed Siege of Krishnapur and Troubles, which I thought was utterly enthralling. I'm now about 2/3 of the way through The Singapore Grip and concur with the general agreement that it's not the best one of the trilogy. But I am fascinated by the military history part of it, and since that's where I am right now, it's moving right along for me.

Normally I shun debt like the plague but I'm truly looking forward to being even more obliged to you for good book recommendations!

Hey Sean, it's been a pretty interesting reading month so far. First I read Maugham's Cakes and Ale, which I loved, then Louis Auchincloss's 1964 novel The Rector of Justin, another exceptional book and probably Auchincloss's best one too. Then I sort of raced through Roberto Bolano's Nazi Literature in the Americas, a little tiny thing which was only just ok, and not nearly approaching The Savage Detectives on any level.

I tried to read Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, but bailed after 350 pages cause it was boring the piss out of me, but then halleluliah! and break out the Pulitzers, I started Richard Price's new book Lush Life, which is the absolute best thing I've read this year, and is by far the most astounding thing Price has ever written, and I've read all his novels too. When I finish I'm on to Tony Earley's The Blue Star, the sequel to his magnificent 2000 novel Jim the Boy and I can't wait on that one.

Sean, I'm delighted you find my library interesting. One of these days I'm going to take a picture of my "Faulkner shelf", and put it on my profile page. I can get lost in his world for weeks at a time myself. Are you enjoying The Reivers?
Thanks, Sean. I had added you so I could unabashedly steal ideas for great Irish reads.
Sean, I knew you'd been re-exploring Faulkner's early novels, and I was delighted to be reminded again of The Reivers, which to my mind has always been vastly under-rated, just as his nearly unreadable A Fable was grossly over-rated. I remember I bought a copy of The Reivers the week it was first published in 1962(I was 15YO), absolutely loved it, and I still have that same copy in my library, a prized item to say the least.

February's been just a stellar reading month, one great book after another, which is what I always like best of course, but a month like Feb. is really quite thrilling finally. I just finished Mark Harris's brilliant and utterly original Pictures At A Revolution: Five Movies and The Birth of the New Hollywood, in which he tracks 5 movies from their initial-idea stage through their five-year journey to Oscar night in the spring of 1968, and Harris's book is as absorbing and as entertaining as anything I've read this year. Right now I'm really enjoying Anthony Arthur's 2006 biography Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, and Sinclair's life is just boggling to me so far. I'd only read The Jungle last year, but I read Oil! last month and as heavy-handed as some of it was, I could barely put it down. My wife jokes that I've become an unapologetic socialist in my old age and we've laughed about that a lot lately.

Sean, old bud, you can drop by every day if you feel like it and I'd be glad. Regarding the Bock book, Janet Maslin is my least favorite NYT reviewer. She never seems able to appreciate or explain ultra-complex novels, and I discount every review she writes. FYI Beautiful Children was the front-cover review in the Feb. 3 NYTBR, penned by the esteemed Liesl Schillinger, who says Bock's "depiction of each man, woman, and child's personal mythology is ravishing and raw". In her wind-up she calls it splendid, disturbing and a bravura performance.

And yes, I'm a big Vollmann fan, but every review of it across-the-board was very negative. The big question asked by nearly all of them was, Why had WV even bothered to write this book?, as he's done both urban and rural hard-luck-stories much more perceptively in prior works. Good luck!!

Hey Sean, I just finished Charles Bock's Beautiful Children, parts of which were as grim and grotesque as anything I've ever read, but it's really just an astounding piece of work that's for-certain-sure gonna show up at prize time, not to mention that it's far and away the best thing I've read this year.

Hi Sean, Haven't been making a lot of use of Librarything recently,sorry for the long delay. I finished "Looking for Jimmy" and yes I thought it was excellent, I will look out for his novel which you mentioned. By the way I managed to get hold of a collection of Mary Lavin stories, although I have not had a chance to read it "Patriot Son and other Stories". Have you read it?
Anyway hope all is well with you, will be in touch sometime soon again. All the best, Jimmy
Sean, I really admire your recurring Faulkner gene. Of course I've read all of them over the years, most of them twice, and The Sound and the Fury, more times than I can recall. I have a feeling that sooner or later, you're gonna get the urge to make the pilgrimage to Oxford, and when you do please let me know, and I'll run down there too. I know it'll blow you away.

I've read a handful of good things lately, especially Pope Brock's wonderfully compelling Charlatan, plus Barker's Life Class, and Maugham's Mrs. Craddock, but right now I'm barely 50 pages into The Monsters of Templeton and liking it more than a little. Good luck!

Hey Sean, I think the first great new novel of '08 has to be Zachary Lazar's Sway, a brilliant take on the decadence of the late 60s that I was totally enthralled with, and wished it had been longer. I'd rec Jim Shepard's Like You'd Understand, Anyway, but I know you've already read it. Wasn't it wonderful? And I'm halfway through Helen DeWitt's The Last Samurai right now, and can't put it down, supremely good so far, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the wretched Tom Cruise movie of the same name. Hunt this one down if you've not read it, just an amazing book on every level and wildly original. Good luck!

That's a really great story, your daughter will love that note when she is older, it will be worth a fortune some day.
Meant to ask, what did you get to say to Bill
Hi Sean,
I love John McGahern,I think he was an absolutely amazing writer,I don't know anyone who could use simple language in such an effective manner, the man was a wizard. He didn't live that far from me as he was from County bLeitrim which is practically next door. I'm sorry I never made an effort to meet him. Which one have you signed?
Hi Sean, Yeah I've heard of Quinn and that book before but I have not read it, glad you like "Looking for Jimmy" I thought that it might all be "old hat" to you as you live over there. I'm finding it really brilliant but I have not got looking at it this last 2 nights tas I was oncall for work,so I'm not to far ahead of you,just at the Chapter "The Bronx is Burning" I think around 120 pages, you will probably be finished before me.
But of course, Sean - feel free to wander around at will!
I've spotted you a couple of times giving very sage advice on Irish books to some other friends of mine in here, so it's grand to make your acquaintance.
Well, while I'm here, I'll have a peek at what you have...
All the best, Carolyn
Hi Sean,
"Looking for Jimmy" is actually very interesting with regard to the Irish-American relationship with the Democrats.
If the election turns out to be a battle about the economy, will that suit the Republicans?
Anyway as to the Barack Obama books, I first heard him speak one Saturday when I was in Galway at a niece's wedding, I went to the hotel room for a break after the meal and turned on SKY news and there he was, and I was really impressed with him. So when I went home on Monday I looked up Powells and Abebooks and bought signed copies of "Dreams from my Father" and "The Audacity of Hope". I got them both at very good prices,they are already well over double what I paid for them. I decided to cover myself anyway and also bought Hillary Clinton's "It takes a Village" and "Living History" both of those are also signed first editions. I always tell my wife about what good investments my books are, (I have many signed firsts)but in truth I don't ever intend parting with any of them. I think she knows that too.
Anyway back to the election,interesting to hear you say that Barack Obama is "iffy" on foreign policy, I would have thought he was quite clear about Iraq,but I have a feeling that he is going to be portrayed as "weak" on terrorism by the Republicans and probably even by Clinton, I think though that he has brought an interest and dynamic to the campaign that would not be there otherwise, especially for us outside observers,and he seems to have stirred young people which I think is great,it is very dificult to get young people to take an interest,that in itself is a great achievement, he reminds me a bit of Kennedy in that way. Could we end up with the first female President and the first coloured Vice-President? Obama would still be young enough next time around and obviously more experienced.
Hi Sean,
I agree it's a very interesting time out there, and will be great over the next few months. I was watching last night on satellite (SKY) we had a really stormy night here, so the electricity went off in the middle of it, at that point the polls had Obama on 38% and Clinton on 30%, I couldn't believe it when I checked the teletext this morning and saw that Clinton had won it. Puts a completely different perspective on things now, and as you say Mrs. Clinton will probably have the greater financial resourses and will throw everything at it. I must say though that Obama is impressive, I love his speeches, but I suspect that you are right,after last night,looks like McCain and Clinton, but you can't be sure. don't know what your politics are but I hope that the Democrats have the next President. Don't think anywhere in the world wants another Republican Presidency.
I have a couple of signed first editions by both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. Regards Jimmy
Take it easy and stay in touch.

Our bookstore was out of Amongst Women - shame! - but I put one on order and look forward to reading it when it comes in.

I will also check out Looking for Jimmy!

All best,
alpha / Nancy

Also my husbands name, but his parents spelled it Shawn. Last name Quinn. We had a nice family trip - my family, not his, no Irish blood in us - to Ireland last year.

Anyway, I will be certain to pick up more McGahern. I work in a bookstore (have for 18 years), so it shouldn't be a problem.

Please do let me know what you think of Stoner. I hope I didn't steer you wrong. I just loved that book and wish I could read it again for the first time.

Hi Sean, Thanks for that background on Mary Lavin. I found a few of her books on bookfinder today. So I will make a purchase soon. By the way what about the Presidential Election, is Barack Obama gonna make it do you think?

Found you by your post on what you are reading. So Creatures of the Earth is not avaiable in US, right? You made me want to run out and pick it up!

I looked at our simliar books and see that you too have Stoner. Have you read it yet? It was my favorite book I read last year, out of 50. Of course there were other close contenders...

Nice to meet you and your library!


Found you by your post on what you are reading. So Creatures of the Earth is not avaiable in US, right? You made me want to run out and pick it up!

I looked at our simliar books and see that you too have Stoner. Have you read it yet? It was my favorite book I read last year, out of 50. Of course there were other close contenders...

Nice to meet you and your library!

Hello again Sean,
Just noticed you have "Looking for Jimmy" in your library. I am adding you to my friends list, I hope you don't mind.
Hi Sean,
I'm afraid I have to plead ignorance here, I have read none of her stories, but thanks a lot for the tip, I will check her out tomorrow and try and find the collected edition which you are reading. Thanks again for bringing her to my attention, a bit of good advise is always welcome and appreciated. By the way I am reading a book at the moment by Peter Quinn called "Looking for Jimmy" published by the Overlook Press last year (2007). It's a "history" of Irish America or as he describes it as a "search for Irish America". Since the book is published in America you are probably aware of it, but if not I would recommend it, I am finding it fascinating. Happpy reading and every good wish to you and yours for 2008, and keep in touch. Jimmy.
Hi Sean, I'm always glad to make a great connection with someone here at LT. Thanks for your message!
Hi Sean
Recently read a very good review of That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland by Clare Wills (Harvard University Press). Sounds interesting.
Thanks Sean, but you have far better taste than me. As much as I try to avoid it I always end up reading some shockers during the year. Luckily, however, I have very recently dsicovered BookMooch and I'm getting rid of some. One man's trash is another man's treasure, as they say.
Hi, Sean, I just added Frank O'Connor's 'My Oedipus Complex and other stories,' noticed your name among those who added it recently, hop you enjoy. reading these stories brings back many memories.
Hi Sean, Tom Franklin's been living and working down in Oxford for a few years now (writer-in-res at Ole Miss), and I got those signed copies from Off Square Books, one of his regular hang-outs there. I enjoyed Poachers, but thought Hell at the Breech was even better. I took a pass on Smonk after a string of unflattering reviews, but may get to it eventually. FYI, every Southern writer of any note always signs books at OSB, and also at Lemuria in Jackson, Ms. What's kind of surprising is that several non-Southern writers(so to speak) make regular stops at both places too. I've met Nicole Krauss, Jim Harrison, and Susanna Clark at OSB, and since Oxford's only a skip and a jump due south of here, it's a quick trip, plus they do a thriving on-line business as well.

Right now I'm about 200 pages into Eca de Queiros' The Maias, simply a sparkling new translation, and though it's a bit languid at times, there's quite a lot of life in it for a book first pubbed in 1888, first-rate stuff so far. There's not a lot of new fiction on the horizon, but I do have an ARC of Charles Baxter's new book The Soul Thief which looks great, and I just got the Everyman's Library edition of Martin Chuzzlewit, which I bought because Noel Coward praised it so highly in his Letters.

Hope you and your family stay healthy, wealthy, and enjoy the best holiday ever. Both my errant sons in Colorado will make it home for Christmas, so my wife and I, with all my 6 children, plan on partying like it's 1999. Felize Navidad!!

Thanks for your interest in my library, Sean. I assume you were attracted by my comments on the works of Raymond Carver. Other than that, we don't seem to have much cross over. I'm mildly surprised to see your library does not include any Ernest Hemingway - if you like Carver, I think you will also like his short work. Try "Men Without Women" as a starting point.

I studied for a year in State College, PA, but I confess I didn't get to know Appalachia or Pittsburgh well.
Sean just noticed that you are originally from Kilrush in Co.Clare, I have a sister living in a little place close to Kilrush called Kilmihil if you ever heard of it.
Sean just noticed that you are originally from Kilrush in Co.Clare, I have a sister living in a little place close to Kilrush called Kilmihil if you ever heard of it.
Hi Sean, many thanks for adding me to your interesting libraries,by the way I love the photo of your own library and the Irish greeting. I will return and have a more detailed look later, but on first glance I think your own library is more intersting than mine.Slainte
Sean, Thanks for adding me to your Interesting Libraries. You have an interesting and varied collection yourself. It is hard to stop reading Larry Brown once you get started.
Hi Sean
Hope all is well with you. I have just started The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald and the prose is beautiful. HAve you read it?
Sean, I was elated that you enjoyed The Abstinence Teacher as much as I did. I laughed so hard at Pastor Dennis when he came dragging into the service late, all bedraggled and beat up...and then he tells about the wedding he and his wife attended, Jenna Jameson, cornering the guy in the men's room, etc....I thought I would absolutely die from laughing so much. I even read it aloud to my wife, then she and I both collapsed, just the most hilarious sequence I've read this year.

I confess I only read about 300 pages of the Tennessee Williams' Notebooks, but I detested the book's layout, with its pages and pages of tiny-print footnotes, and found it a bloody chore to get as far as I did in it. More deploringly, I found I had developed a profound dislike for Williams himself, with his whining petulance and self pity, so I've since banished Notebooks to my "Bad Books" shelf.

I'm enjoying the Coward letters immensely, but I'm glad I read Alex von Tunzelmann's Indian Summer earlier this year or I wouldn't have had a clue about Coward's relationship with Lord Louis Mountbatten, and particularly his unbelieveably marvelous wife Edwina, who's the real heroine of Indian Summer, the centerpiece of which is Edwina's long and passionate liasion with Jawaharlal Nehru. It also went into some detail on Mountbatten and Coward's collaboration on Coward's famous war film In Which We Serve, and it's fascinating stuff all around. In the meantime I'm wallowing in Coward's correspondence and will hate for it to end.

Have you seen the NYTBR's "10 Best Books of 2007" list yet?? I've read all 5 of the fiction titles and 2 of the non-fiction, and think it an excellent bunch overall. And of course the list includes Tree of Smoke, but also Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives, probably the most purely exciting thing I've read all year. I've since read all of Bolano's work available in English, and a new one (Nazi Literature in the Americas) is due in late February. He's surely become the most prolific dead writers of the new century and I can't wait for Nazi Lit. Happy trails!


PS - As a fellow Johnny Cash fan I must alert you to "The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971", a sparkling DVD that includes performances by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, E. Clapton, Ray Charles and many others, plus JC never looked or sang any better. I've already bought 2 more for Christmas gifts and you've just gotta see it if you haven't already.
Eeep! Sorry for "outing" you! It was funny, following profile comments and then beginning to figure out who you were. But The Gathering promo helped, that and the chatter back and forth with Louis.
Hello Sean

I suspect I know you from another forum - your tastes and writing style are distinct! The last post, of course, confirms this.

Lovely to see you here.

Sean, I was thinking you should be nearly done with The Gathering by now, easily one of my favorites this year, and one I should be recommending for a long while. I really envy you about your signed copy too. I finished Jeanine Basinger's hugely entertaining The Star Machine and had nothing but great fun all the way through. It bills itself as "a rich, penetrating, amusing plum pudding of a book about the golden age of movies", and it's certainly all that, plus it's one of those where the footnotes are just as marvelous as the text. Basinger is the chair of film studies at Wesleyan U., has written 9 books on film, and is one of the few people I know who've seen more old movies than I have, a great book and a gorgeous one as well.

Right now I'm slamming my way through Ben MacIntyre's Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, just an unbelieveable story that's only come to light since MI5 declassified the Zigzag files in 2001. MacIntyre's book is one big "wow", breathlessly presented, and tells a jaw-dropping story of WWII, highly recommended of course. I don't have much new fiction on the horizon between now and year's end, but I've had such phenomenal luck with non-fiction lately that I'll probably continue with it. Next up is Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s Journals: 1952 - 2000, and then I'll probably finish up the Paris Review Interviews 2. Have you read the Faulkner interview yet? It's the only one I've read so far, but it sort of blew me away. Happy trails!

Hi Sean, thank you for adding me to your interesting library list! Always nice to hear from not only a fellow reader but also runner! Speaking of Arctic Dreams which I enjoyed a lot yesterday I went to see Into the Wild based on Jon Karkauer's book. I found the book very thought providing, the movie was very true to the book. I recommend both the book and the movie. Got me to think about people like Thoreau. It seems there vision causes readers others to explain there own visions which of course is good. But it also seems muct of there vision comes from pride. Into the Wild is a modern Greek tragedy. I wish you hours of both happy reading and running
Sean, I'll not say too much about The Abstinence Teacher until after you've read it, but I was forced to add it to my Favorite Books of the year list, and hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I notice that the reviews are just starting to appear for Ha Jin's novel A New Life, which I read back in Aug.(a signed ARC too!), and I've had it on my Favorites list since then. As much as I'd loved both Waiting and especially War Trash, I think this new one is his best ever.

I finished Australian writer Peter Temple's The Broken Shore, and despite the wonderful reviews it's amassed, I just didn't care for it much. I found the Aussie slang distracting throughout, and thought it all pretty ho-hum stuff. Right now I'm several hundred pages into Ken Follett's World Without End and find myself moderately bored with it so far, but there is sort of an accelerating momentum to it and I'll probably cruise through to the end. The writing's merely pedestrian, pitched at about a 7th-grade level I'd guess, but Follett is truly a gifted storyteller at times, and some of his audacious plot turns can be very entertaining. Good luck!

Sean, I've read several of Gay's short stories over the last few years, mostly in the Oxford-American and Tin House (and one of those landed in Best Short Stories of 2007 too), but have never read any of his novels. For some reason I've never been overly-impressed with his work, and yes, I'd say he qualifies as a would-be Cormac McCarthy(or Harry Crews) but without the serious writing chops. His stories remind me more of Daniel Woodrell, who essentially plows the same rural Southern turf, but is a much finer writer I think, much more focused though just as eccentricly hard-core. Sometime take a look at Woodrell's little time-bomb of a novel Winter's Bone and see if Gay's ever written anything close to it.

Last night I finished Tim Jeal's Stanley which will, without any doubt, be one of my favorite books of the year. Besides being beautifully written, it's a blazing page-turner crammed with impossible adventures, a tragic, melancholy hero who routinely displays jaw-dropping fortitude and bravery, and Jeal's first-ever access to the Stanley Archive has yielded what I think is just a magnificent example of the biographer's art, a superb book in every way.

Even though I've only read 10 pages of Tom Perrotta's new novel The Abstinence Teacher, I can tell it's gonna be a lot of fun. I'd loved both Election and Little Children, and have really been looking forward to this one. Happy trails!

Sean, I know you've seen the list of NBA fiction finalists by now, a damn fine bunch too I think, made more special since Tree of Smoke will surely win going away. I've not read either of the 2 books of short stories that were nominated, but Josh Ferris's Then We Came To The End has been one of this year's favorites, and I've been recommending it since I read the ARC in January. Another surprise nominee was Mischa Berlinski's Fieldwork, a first-novel that I read in May and liked very much. I read it off Stephen King's rec in his EW column, and while I didn't like it as much as King did, it was excellent nevertheless.

I just finished the Best of 2007 anthology yesterday, loved some of them (the John Barth and Richard Russo stories), some were stinkers (Kate Walbert), but overall the majority were quite good and most entertaining all the way. I've just gotten started on Tim Jeal's massive Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer, which has already run through its 1st printing, with the 2nd not due till mid-November. For a book with a hefty $38 retail, and one you might assume to have a limited appeal, that's pretty amazing. Happy trails!

Hi Sean - I just knew you'd love Last Train to Memphis and yes, I'd wait a while before reading Careless Love so's not to unnecessarily OD on Elvis, and really give yourself some time to savor LTtM a little. I also read, and mightily enjoyed, Will You Still Miss Me When I'm Gone and have repeatedly recommended it to any and all.

Over the weekend I finally finished Dumas' The Last Cavalier, and even though Dumas died before he could properly conclude it, I was fairly enthralled with it all the way through its 750 pages. Of course Dumas was a complete plot-freak, and his hero was just a bit too perfectly heroic for belief(the titular Last Cavalier), but his grasp of French history, particularly pre- and post-Revolution, and especially his insightfully realistic portrayal of Napoleon and his family, made it easily as memorable as the best of his other work.

I'd loved Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke so much that I finally picked up his book Jesus' Son and finished it in one sitting. There really wasn't that much to it, a series short, inter-related stories about hopeless junkies and other random low-life, only about 160 pages long and I sort of gulped it. I guess I liked it, but it's one of those I'd hesitate to recommend, definitely not for everyone. It reminded me somewhat of John Fante's novel Ask the Dust, which I sincerely do recommend, a terrific slice of the literary low-life that's become a minor classic.

Like minds etc., but I'm almost finished with The Best American Short Stories of 2007 as well. I've got about 4 stories left, have greatly enjoyed most of them, but my favorite so far is Barth's "Toga Party", absolutely the most hilarious single thing I've read this year. I've got 2 monsters coming up: Tim Jeal's much-anticipated Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer, and then Ken Follet's World Without End, his 1000-page sequel to Pillars of the Earth, which, if you haven't read it yet, is one of my favorite pop novels of the last 30 years. All the luck!!

Sean, I know you're probably knee-deep in Elvis right now and I can sincerely say that I envy you the first-reading enjoyment of Guralnick's Last Train To Memphis. I read it again a few years ago, right before starting Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, which picks up perfectly from the end of LTTM Careless Love's an exceptional book as well, and though a much sadder story, it's a mesmerizing train-wreck of an ending to a tumultuous life, truly a must-read. The two books together comprise the single greatest music biography I've ever read.

Right now I'm nearly 300 pages into Alexandre Dumas' mammoth The Last Cavalier and enjoying it quite a bit. A Dumas Scholar discovered the lost manuscript about 15 years ago, which was collected from various sources, edited, and finally published in France in 2005, becoming a surprise bestseller there too. This is the first US translation of it, and it's easily as swashbuckling, and as compulsively readable as either The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers, just great fun stuff.

In the last year I've read a couple of really exceptional post-apocalyptic novels (The Road, Matt Sharpe's Jamestown), one very lousy one (Crace's The Pesthouse), but I just finished David Lozell Martin's Our American King the other day and thought it was pure dynamite, and, in its own eccentric, though quite riveting approach, ranks with the very best of its kind. I loved it.

Sean, sorry to bug you again so soon, but it's almost uncanny sometimes how our tastes dovetail on a pretty regular basis. Just a few weeks ago I'd raved about Holly George-Warren's Public Cowboy No.1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, and since you've been reading up on Johnny Cash's career you may already know that Gene Autry was his single biggest early influence.

JC wrote in 1977: "I saw him in the movies when I was five years old, and haven't stopped loving him and his kind of movieland dreams. More than that, I took part of Gene Autry home with me in my heart and sang it out in the cotton fields, songs like "Be Honest With Me", and "The Last Roundup". It's no surprise that JC's first real guitar was a Gene Autry "Round-Up" Guitar, a $9.75 special from the Sears Roebuck catalogue (also Willie Nelson's and George Jones' first one too), and Sears sold hundreds of licensed Gene Autry products over a 30-year period.

But Autry and Cash became friends after JC got famous in the late 50s and they stayed in touch. In 1965 when JC was arrested in El Paso for illegally transporting amphetamines across the border, he called Gene first. With his myriad political connections in Texas, Gene knew who to contact and Cash merely paid a modest fine. The following year, the Man in Black wrote Gene, "It's a hell of a long time to wait to thank you for the letter to El Paso for me...your letter was the #1 most important in getting me out of the trouble there, and I will always be grateful to you for going to such trouble for me." I loved JC, saw him perform in-person twice during the 70s, and he was finally just like his first hero Gene Autry, the rarest one-of-a-kind.

Oh, and I absolutely loved Peter Guralnick's Dream Boogie that you mentioned, and if you've not read his Elvis' books yet, what a treat you've got coming your way. All the luck!

Hi Sean! So glad you liked All Aunt Hagar's Children as much as I did. I've met and talked with Ed on two occasions, have signed 1sts of both The Known World and AAHC, and if you weren't aware, the original "Aunt Hagar" was the black matriarch of Harriet Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, who refers to the slaves on the plantation as "all Aunt Hagar's children". I read the Norton annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin last year, right after AAHC and found it a fairly boggling juxtaposition.

Tree of Smoke was the best new novel I/ve read this whole year. I was in Vietnam myself from Oct.67 to Sept.68, right when much of the action in the book transpires, and Johnson's chilling description of the Tet offensive is just as real it gets. It's just a superb book though, and think it should win every prize hands down. I mostly enjoyed Amy Bloom's Away, though I found it rather 'thin' overall, but I absolutely hated An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, which I thought tiresomely whimsical and unfunny in the extreme.

Right now I'm slogging through to the end of David Peace's Tokyo Year Zero, another over-hyped piece of crap which has been disappointing to say the least. On a brighter front, I'm forced to wholeheartedly recommend Alex von Tunzelmann's tour-de-force Indian Summer, an eye-opening "secret" history of the actual last days of the British Raj in India, really a thrilling narrative history with an amazingly human side to it as well. Up next is David Lozell Martin's Our American King, which looks great, then I'm on to Dumas' The Last Cavalier, and Tom Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher after that. Happy Trails!!

Ta' failte romhat!
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle,
And the merry love to dance.... - William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
Hi there Sean, i'm very pleased to meet you and am very much looking forward to browsing your library. Ireland to Florida -- that's quite a leap! i hope your skin's doing ok in all the sun. (i've got a lot of Irish in my background and tend to freckles and sunburn.) :-)
Hi Sean, just a quick update to say that I absolutely loved Holly George-Warren's new bio Public Cowboy No.1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, easily one of my several non-fiction favorites this year. I also admired John Williams' NBA-winning novel Augustus, though I liked his book Stoner better. I also read Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses, the IMPAC Dublin winner, but wasn't especially impressed with it. I think Petterson's book, even though set in Norway, owes a huge debt to middle-period Cormac McCarthy and McCarthy did it better.

You're probably aware that I'm not a big thriller/fantasy fan, but Michael Marshall's The Intruders is the real deal, nearly impossible to put down and breathlessly entertaining too. Right now I'm nearly halfway through Denis Johnson's doorstop Tree of Smoke and Johnson keeps blowing me away in chapter after chapter, and this could be one of the very best novels of the year. Good luck!!

On my cluttered desk I found a note: "tell Sean Long to read "Flyaway Peter," by David Malouf." Have I done so? If not, herewith (tho I don't recall why!) It is a beautiful book about war's horrors. . . strange combination of factors, yes. Esta1923
Sean, so glad you seemed to like Tom Bedlam as much as I did, definitely one of the finest new novels this year and one easily worthy of a much larger audience as well. Right now I'm well past halfway in John Williams' epistolary wonder Augustus, and loving every page and can now understand why it's never been out of print since it won the NBA in 1973.

Just lately I've read a string of terrific memoirs too, including the tragic House of Happy Endings by Leslie Garis, Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander, and Lucette Lagnado's The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, all just great stuff. I'll have to admit that I was mildly disappointed in Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me. Though his writing was lovely throughout, I never really understood the motivation for his central character's self-destructive tendencies, and could never really empathize with him through all his travails. And despite its gonzo weirdness, I absolutely loved Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein, as hilarious an assault on noir tropes as you'll ever read, and it's especially recommended.

After finishing Augustus, I'm on to Amy Bloom's Away which looks very promising, and then to Holly George-Warren's Public Cowboy #1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry, just a gorgeous book and one I've been looking forward to all year. Good luck!

Sean, just a follow-up to yesterday's note, but I noticed that I left a string of sloppy typos towards the end of that message, for which I wanted to apologize. And since yesterday Lloyd Jones's Mister Pip has earned a Booker nod, which it certainly deserves, and I hope it goes on to win too, but I was a bit bumfuzzled that Ondaatje's Divisadero was passed over, another really remarkable book I thought.

I also misspelled George Hagen's name yesterday, and of all the great new books I've read this year, his Tom Bedlam is my absolute favorite. There's a rave of it by Terrence Rafferty in last weekend's NYTBR too.

I'm nearly a hundred pages into House of Happy Endings, Leslie Garis's family memoir which I'm quite liking so far. Her grandfather wrote Uncle Wiggily, her grandmother wrote The Bobbsey Twins - and between them Tom Swift and hundreds of other chiildren's stories - but their lives were ill-fated and ultimately quite tragic. After that I'm on to Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein which looks delicious and possibly sinful. Good luck!


P.S. - And good luck with Suttree, an all-time favorite of mine.

Flattered to be added to your interesting library collection.

I was very interested in your Irish reads - I think the Irish have some very talented writers, innovative as well.

I have not read Annie Dunne, so excited to hear of another title by the incomparable Barry. I really thought his writing was superb.

Also love Trevor, Toibin and McGahern. Find Roddy Doyle a little less appealing - although undoubtedly he has great talent - just don't get the 'want to finish in one sitting' feeling with him.

Nice to make contact - it is good to have a different style of library to contemplate.

Cheers, Karen
Hello Sean,

After looking at your page and your readings I just had to add you to my 'interesting libraries'. Hope this is OK. Your book collection looks awesome.

Hi Sean
Me again. David Malouf is a very good writer. Try any of his books and if you like that one, read more.
Tim Winton's most loved book is Cloudstreet and it is very good. My personal favourite is The Riders. I don't recommend Dirt Music - I don't think you would like it.
Peter Carey has written some good novels. I like, in particulr, Oscar and Lucinda. Also True History of the Kelly Gang is very enjoyable and has an Irish angle which you might like. Look up Ned Kelly on Wikepedia.
A very fine writer is Christopher Koch and I recommend all of his novels.
Hi Sean
Delighted to hear from you again, Hope you are in good health. I'll just write a quick note here and get back to you later. I know that you like exemplary writing so you will like everything that Patrick White wrote. Try Voss or Riders in the Chariot.
More later.
Amanda XX
Glad to hear you like Lavin, as you say she is so underestimated. Without running to my stored books there are so many of her stories that stick out in my mind. Brother Boniface, Bridget and An occasion of sin, did you find any of them? Was there a specific story. I hope you are begining to feel better, take care of yourself.
Have you had time to read Mary Lavin yet?
Have you heard from Louis Branning lately? Several of us are missing him and hoping he's OK.
I think that I have most of Mary Lavin's books in storage right now. She does happen to be one of my fave short story writers. There was one of her stories on the Inter Cert years ago, "Brother Boniface." Ever since then I have been interested in her work. Her life story is also interesting. Sometimes we have to suffer before we realise what is important in life. Can one write good work if they have not suffered? I know that I have read some of the stories from "Tales" but I cannot remember which ones are in that volume. Can you remind me? Then I will be in a position to offer my opinion. But I can sasy that I have never been disappointed by any Mary Lavin's books.
Happy St Patricks Day for tomorrow. Don't drink too much green alchohol!
I get back to Limerick when I can, I was there for a few monthl last year, how about yourself?
Only 15 shared books? For a few Irish we have to do better than that!
Thanks! I hope you do get at least one of those fiddles. Too sad about the books. I have told my family repeatedly - when I eventually keel over, they should under NO circumstances sell my books in a garage sale! Instead they should just call up Powell's (huge local bookstore) and ask them to bring a truck!
Hi Sean
Just finished The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle. I think you said that you had read this? What a book! Marvellous. And you can hear the Dublin accents in the dialogue.

Had a peek at Louis's message. I like The Information very much. After that I think Amis had a few bad reviews and I haven't read another.
Sean, I've never really been a big Amis fan, though I've liked a couple of his books over the years, but despite so many of the fine reviews for this new one, I'm still gonna take a pass on it I think. I read an interview with Amis where he said that his biggest source for the new book was Anne Applebaum's Pulitzer-winner Gulag, and I was thinking about finally reading it, since I've had it on the shelf for a couple of years now.
Hi Sean,
i am from the Czech Republic and i am translating a story Visiting Takabuti from Matters of Life and Death by MacLaverty, and i have a problem with it, do you think you could help me? The thing is, that i think there are some mistakes in the transcript i have been provided, because neither me, neither my American friend know or understand a couple of phrases from there. Thats why we suppose there are some spelling mistakes or such... Unfortunatelly i have no chance to reach the original, or at least not within the time i am supposed to hand in the transaltion. I searched the internet for some online version but of course the book is too new to be here, but i found this server, and when i saw your comment on Visting Takabuti i decided to ask you for help. Please, could you let me know on whether you would be able to check a few places for me in the original? Perhaps you still ve got the book at home or so... thanks a lot, best regards, Estella
Hi Sean,
i am from the Czech Republic and i am translating a story Visiting Takabuti from Matters of Life and Death by MacLaverty, and i have a problem with it, do you think you could help me? The thing is, that i think there are some mistakes in the transcript i have been provided, because neither me, neither my American friend know or understand a couple of phrases from there. Thats why we suppose there are some spelling mistakes or such... Unfortunatelly i have no chance to reach the original, or at least not within the time i am supposed to hand in the transaltion. I searched the internet for some online version but of course the book is too new to be here, but i found this server, and when i saw your comment on Visting Takabuti i decided to ask you for help. Please, could you let me know on whether you would be able to check a few places for me in the original? Perhaps you still ve got the book at home or so... thanks a lot, best regards, Estella
One of Christopher Koch's books is called Out of Ireland. About a convict (I think) who acquires a Ticket of Leave (he's free)in Tasmania. An excellent book.
Hi Sean
1. My mother-in-law is from County Kerry (next-door to you?) but has been in Australia for over thirty years now. Over the years she made many trips back home to Ballybunion but since her remaining sister died she hasn't been back. Her name was Costelloe. She still has the accent, of course, and is very lovely.
2. I have a copy of The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton and would value your opinion. I'm not sure whether to read it.
3.Australian literature: anything by Patrick White; anything by Christopher Koch; Cloudstreet by Tim Winton; The White Earth by Andrew McGahan; True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey; The Secret River by Kate Grenville, and many more. I admire very much Koch and White (our only Nobel Literature laureate).
Hey Sean, and thanks for the wonderful New Year greeting and hope you and your family have the best year ever. I had all my older sons here at the house for the holidays, really a hectic but fun time, and know exactly what you're talking about. I finished the two volumes of John Fowles' journals last month and loved them both, even reading them out of order too, completely loved The Children's Hospital, and right now I'm nearly finished with what I think's gonna be one of the great new novels of '07, Joshua Ferris's Then We Came To The End. It won't be out until March 1, but I think you'd really like it a lot, a true keeper.
It's me again, sorry. Was just reading LouisBranning's page and I'm advising both of you not to read The Night Watch. It's a slightly better than average novel. Nothing special. But if you read it and like it let me know.
Hi Sean
Most of the books we share are by Irish writers. Are you Irish or American by birth?
1. I'm still confused about Oh PLay That Thing. I wonder if Doyle had invented a new character would it have worked a little better. It was a big jump from A Star Called Henry to the sequel - the two Henrys were almost two different people. Miss O'Shea's appearance in the middle of the book seemed CRAZY so there was definitely a problem of continuity and/or structure. In fact, I think the structure of Oh Play was its downfall. If you take the various sections of the book on their own, for example, the Louis Armstrong section, I think the writing is good and the story works. Likewise if you take the last section of the book (on the trains etc.) it is well written and it works. But when you throw all of the elements together it is a dog's breakfast. My reaction was ambivalent. While reading the end section I was asking myself what the hell was this tacked on for, and at the same time admiring the writing and the content. I was glad I read it.
2. Yes, I loved The Master by Colm Toibin - what an exquisite piece of writing. I have read some of Mothers and Sons as well - very good.
3. I have in my pile That They May Face the Rising Sun by John McGahern - looking forward to it.
4. Read The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor this year - very good.
5. Also in my pile is another Doyle - The Woman Who Walked into Doors which I read about when Paula Spencer was published.

I hope you don't mind reading all this. I sure am enjoying telling you. Happy to receive recommendations from you at any time.
Dear Sean
I was just reading your comments on the McLaverty book which on my must buy list.
Was interested in your earlier comments about Oh Play That Thing by Roddy Doyle. I read it and was constantly asking myself whether I liked it or not. Was there a problem with the structure? I was asking myself the same question when I finished it but decided that it had some merit. I'd love to know why you hated it.
Sean, I was mildly interested in Waters'NightWatch because of the Booker nomination, but I went and read Fingersmith instead, and found it so utterly pedestrian and such a slog to get through, that I've passed on anything by Waters since then, including Night Watch. If you decide to try it, let me know how it turns out.
Truly a superior list, Sean, good luck!!
I laughed at myself all the while I was reading the Fowles' Jounal, Sean, because I hadn't read the first one either, but found it made no difference whatsoever. I've since bought Volume 1 though, and am particularly interested in how JF hooked up with his wife and his early successes, amongst other things, and plan to get to it right after the first of the year. In part, what makes the Fowles' journals so fascinating is that he finished them (Vol.II) in 1990, 15 years before he died, and because he was aware that they wouldn't appear until after his death, very adamantly refused his editor's request to excise many of the nasty things he wrote about his friends of those years, and he does say some awful stuff at times.
Sean, I read the ARC of Ford's The Lay of the Land back in July and just didn't care for it much, and have since even given it away. There's some nice writing in it I guess, but it all seemed so mundane and so unrelentingly turgid at times, that my interest lagged long before I finished reading it. And I'm not surprised that it's on the NYT Best Book list either, cause it's just the kind of book they love to tout sometimes, but it mostly just bored my socks off. Another factor that annoyed and really turned me off too, was Ford's details of Bascombe's real-estate career. It just happens that my wife and I have been in the real-estate business for a very long time, and some of Ford's descriptions of Bascombe's dealings didn't ring true at all, some even laughably incorrect, so it's difficult for me to recommend Ford's book to anyone.

I do think you'll love Fowles' The Journals, Volume II though, one of my year's favorites.
Thanks for saying hello, Sean!

I haven't yet tried any Maeve Brennan, but I'm looking forward to the one on my shelf. I'm something of a sucker for short stories anyway, so I'm sure I'll take your recommendation!

All the best


Good to know Denise Mina's latest book is worth reading. I read some positive reviews about her several years back then stumbled across her first three books (I think) in the bargain fiction section of a Barnes & Noble. I snapped them all up, but just haven't made the time to read any of them. Unfortunately, my book buying pace far exceeds my book reading speed (which has really ground to a halt since I discovered the double-edged sword that is LibraryThing), so I'm still trying to get around to reading the unread books I've owned longer than Mina's. Maybe I'll get to her in 2007 if I can ever shut my computer down.

You don't know me from a hole in the wall, but I'd just like to chime in and second LouisBranning's McKinty recommendations. I've read Dead I Well May Be and Hidden River, and enjoyed them both, especially the former. I like McKinty enough that I went so far as to e-mail his publisher to express my support and to request that a bit more effort/money be put into the design of his next book cover (The Dead Yard's cover quite disappointed me in comparison to the previous two, although I'm not that enthused by Hidden River's either). Anyway, do read them, I don't think you'll regret it.
Hiya, Irish, long time no see, huh? I've gone through your books and they just look great, a wonderful job so far. And if you didn't know, I've always enjoyed your very thoughtful reviews, and particularly liked your take on the latest Banville, good stuff. I've become a big fan of Adrian McKinty, have his latest The Dead Yard coming up later this month, and heartily recommend Dead I Well May Be. Good to see you again, and keep it up.

Louis Branning
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