Laytonwoman rediscovers America in 2014. Chapter Four
This is a continuation of the topic Laytonwoman rediscovers America in 2014. Chapter Three.
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September marks two anniversaries of note in American literature: the birth of William Faulkner in 1897, and the death of Robert Penn Warren, nearly 100 years later, in 1989. Warren is the only person to have won Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and poetry, and he ranks high on my list of candidates for author of that mythic creation, the Great American Novel, for All the King's Men.
I've long considered myself an "Americanist", with Faulkner being No.1 on my list of favorite authors. This year, I am participating in the American Authors Challenge. My progress and intentions are noted here:
Willa Cather Alexander's Bridge Read 1-1-14
My Antonia Read 1-17-14
William Faulkner Mosquitoes Read 2-8-14
Sartoris / Flags in the Dust Two versions of the same book; I will probably read the later publication, which is more the way Faulkner wanted it to appear. Read Flags 2-24-24
The Sound and Fury Folio Society edition; multiple colors of ink Did not get to this in February, but I haven't given up on the idea of reading it this year.
Cormac McCarthy Suttree Finished 3-25-14
Toni Morrison Song of Solomon Finished 4-21-14
Eudora Welty Delta Wedding Finished 5-23-14
Kurt Vonnegut A Man Without a Country finished 6-15-14
Mark Twain Life on the Mississippi finished 7-20-14
I skipped Roth, feeling I have read all I ever care to of his work.
In August I introduced myself to the graphic novels of Lynd Ward, who I knew nothing at all about until I received a two volume set of his "novels without words, in woodcuts" as part of a legacy of over 200 Library of America volumes in 2012.
James Baldwin Go Tell it on the Mountain Finished 9-27-14
The Fire Next Time Finished 9-4-14
Edith Wharton The Custom of the Country Finished 11-7-14
Short fiction completed: "Bewitched", "The Hermit and the Wild Woman"
John Updike Due Considerations I don't care for his
fiction, and this collection of essays and criticism is on my
Completed the following selections: "The Future of Faith", "My Life in Cars"; "Extended Performance" (A review of The Wizard of the Crow); "Pre-Gay Gray"
Finished Justice 12-14-14
EDIT 11-7-17 Tickers removed due to McAfee warning about TickerFactory.com
Total books read in 2014: 100
ROOT total 35
My active list of reading for this thread will be kept here, and I will add books to the top of the list as I finish them. The title links will take you to the post where I review (or at least comment on) that particular book.
* indicates a library book
LOA means I read it from a Library of America edition
DECEMBER AAC, some Christmas reading perhaps, who knows what else?
100. A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman Folio edition with wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker
99. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
98. Return of the Light by Carolyn McVickar Edwards
97. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd
96. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
95. Philip Roth at 80
94. Justice by Larry Watson
93. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín Audio
92. Lila by Marilynne Robinson
NOVEMBER Aside from reading something of Updike for the AAC, and finishing two books I started in October, I intend to spend most of November reading stuff off my own shelves that hasn't had much "press" here on LT.
91. Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez, Illustrated by Tom Pohrt
90. The Marauders by Tom Cooper
89. The Litigators by John Grisham Audio
88. High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
87. Postcards by Annie Proulx
86. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
85. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton LOA
*84. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Audio
83. Bowling Fundamentals by Michelle Mullen
OCTOBER Maybe some spooky stuff, Wharton for the AAC, otherwise at will reading.
82. Rainbow Hill by Josephine Lawrence
81. The Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper
80. Jonah's Gourd Vine by Zora Neale Hurston
*79. The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell
*78 Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
77. The Hole in the Flag by Andrei Codrescu
SEPTEMBER SERIES AND SEQUELS and some other stuff
I will be reading Go Tell it on the Mountain, and possibly some essays, by James Baldwin for the AAC
76. Murder Has its Points by Frances and Richard Lockridge
75. Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin LOA
*74. The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
*73. Sins of the Fathers by Ruth Rendell
72. Rock Rewind by Edward Murphy
71. The Long Fall by Walter Mosley
70. Brief Encounters by Dick Cavett
*69. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
68. The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell
67. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin LOA
66. From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell
Here is a list of my reading, by month, for the first two thirds of 2014. The links will take you to the post where I commented on each book.
65. William Faulkner and the Tangible Past: The Architecture of Yoknapatawpha by Thomas S. Hines
64. Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
*63. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling
*62. The Ever-After Bird by Ann Rinaldi
61. Madman's Drum by Lynd Ward GN
60. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
59. Mr. Lincoln's Wars by Adam Braver
58. Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim
57. The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri
56. Dubliners by James Joyce Folio edition
JULY Summer continues...
*55 Eventide by Kent Haruf
*54. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling Audio
53. Twenty Years A-Growing by Maurice O'Sullivan
52. Slow Dollar by Margaret Maron
51. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain LOA
50. Uncommon Arrangements by Katie Roiphe
49. Sutton by J. R. Moehringer
JUNE Summer reading...no real plans
48. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
47. The Bloodiest Day by Ronald H. Bailey and the editors of Time-Life Books
46. Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers
45. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
44. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
*43. The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill
MAY There "may" be Murder & Mayhem. Also, I'll be reading Eudora Welty for the AAC.
42. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler LOA Well, y'know...lots of murder and some mayhem too.
41. Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty LOA
*40. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling Audio Contains both murder and mayhem
39. Plainsong by Kent Haruf A little mayhem
38. Uncommon Clay by Margaret Maron Yup, M & M.
*37. The Promised Land:Thirteen Books that Changed America by Jay Parini
36. Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton
35. Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley Which, of course, contains no murder, only a little mayhem, but is, at least, American.
APRIL No real plans, except to read Toni Morrison for the AAC.
*34. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
33. The Reserve by Russell Banks
32. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
*31. Desert by J. M. G. Le Clézio
*30. The Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling audio
29. Heartstones by Ruth Rendell
*28. Black Betty by Walter Mosley
MARCH I have concentrated on mysteries (Murder & Mayhem, Mystery March, etc.) in March in the past. I can see that probably won't happen this year. Suttree is going to take a lot of my reading time this month.
27. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
26. Mozart and Leadbelly by Ernest J. Gaines
*25. The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
24. Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
23. Codex by Lev Grossman
*22. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling audio
21. The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp
20. Bull River by Robert Knott
19. The Pearl by John Steinbeck LOA
*18. Storm Track by Margaret Maron
17. Flags in the Dust by William Faulkner
*16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone audio By J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
*15. The Pure in Heart by Susan Hill
*14. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
13. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
12. Home Fires by Margaret Maron
11. Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
*10. The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
9. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
8. One Arm by Tennessee Williams
*7. The Black Country by Alex Grecian
6. My Antonia by Willa Cather LOA
* 5. Ironhorse by Robert Knott audio performed by Titus Welliver
4. Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming
3. Outside the Southern Myth by Noel Polk
2. Alexander's Bridge by Willa Cather
1. In Pursuit of Spenser edited by Otto Penzler
Congrats on your new thread. I will come back to visit soon to see what you have posted.
Welcome, Meg. Thanks for visiting. I have plugged in all the goodies up top now.
Happy New thread, Linda! I hope you are enjoying the long holiday weekend. I am glad you liked the Atkinson book. I wonder if her next book is going to be a Brodie?
>8 laytonwoman3rd: Why hesitant, Linda? Just curious. I think that for the most part it was liked here on LT. I had it in my top five fiction for last year.
I liked Life After Life quite a bit, but I do not see why a follow-up would be necessary.
>9 NanaCC: I know a good many honorable readers like yourself enjoyed Life After Life, Colleen. (Witness Mark, there in >10 msf59:, for another.) I am a bit put off by the "Groundhog Day" thing, which I realize is not being fair to a very good writer. In general, I dislike literary devices that might feel gimmicky, and that's where my hesitation comes from. But, I expect I will overcome this unfortunate judgmental attitude, and read the book one of these days!
>10 msf59: Her website calls the upcoming novel "a masterful companion" to Life After Life, and it features the protagonist's younger brother, Teddy. So, "follow-up" might have been misleading.
>11 tiffin: Good!
>13 tymfos: I remember when I "discovered" All the King's Men. I picked it up in a bookshop in Gretna, Louisiana, in the early 1970's. I had never heard of it or of Robert Penn Warren at the time, but I had recently become acquainted with the legend of Huey Long through living in the state where his name was everywhere. I still consider that moment one of the highlights of my reading life!
I agree about that - about why a follow-up - why not something else altogether.....
Happy new thread - great topper photo - what stunning chaos! And the white teacup and saucer in the center, a point of stillness....
>15 sibyx: Hi, Lucy. What I love about that picture is the wall and window---he's working in a barn!
Congrats on the new thread, Linda!
I shared your reservations about Life After Life, but found she handled it skillfully. I ended up getting quite engrossed in it.
Well, for a lover of American Literature, I have never read any Robert Penn Warren, I'm going to have to fix that with your recommendation Linda.
I've also been somewhat tardy with the American Author Challenge, but I have a re-read of Baldwin's Another Country down for this month, so I will drag my copy to the top of the pile.
Happy new thread Linda.
>17 jnwelch: Thanks, Joe. I really think I will bring myself around to reading LAL, since so many fine readers have found it worthwhile.
>18 Caroline_McElwee: Ah, Caroline...I think a treat is in store for you. I'm not sure about Warren's poetry, but you might give that a try too, and then you can let me know what you think of it!
I can't remember whether you're an audio book fancier, Linda, but I listened to Life After Life narrated by Fenella Woolgar, and found that worked quite well.
I don't listen to a lot of audio books, but I liked this one.
I do listen to some audio books in the car, Joe. But I try to stick to familiar things (re-reads work well for me this way) or very light fare, so I don't get too involved, or too distracted.
This one might involve and distract you while driving, for sure, Linda. Audios just sail in and out my ears when I drive, for some reason, no matter how involving.
66. From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell The first of Rendell's Inspector Wexford series. It's a beauty. An ordinary housewife goes missing, and is ultimately found dead in a patch of woods. Who among her limited circle of acquaintances could possibly have had reason to murder her? Wexford scopes it all out, with some absolutely fine observations and reactions that were surely ahead of the time for 1964, and which I can't really mention without being spoilerish. This is written in classic British mystery style, with some obvious clues, some hidden information, some red herrings, and the suspects gathered uncomfortably together for the reveal. I'm glad she has written so much; she'll be one of those authors I know I can always turn to when I need something guaranteed to entertain me for a few hours.
>23 laytonwoman3rd: I have this one on my wishlist already, so you can't hit me with another bullet...this time. It does sound good though.
>23 laytonwoman3rd: resisting for the moment, but keeping it in mind, your high opinion of something always sways me ..l
>23 laytonwoman3rd: - Oh, I keep meaning to try her! Thanks for the reminder. You may have given me the previous reminders too, but I can't remember.
Colleen, Laura, Kerri...I think you all should meet Inspector Wexford. I've read two others in that series, quite out of sequence. I'm not sure that matters, as I think Rendell took him back and forth in time from one book to another sometimes. She has said that she didn't mean to invent a recurring character with him, but just needed "someone to run the investigation" in this story. He isn't fully developed here, but interesting, just the same. I've also read two of her stand-alone novels: Heartstones earlier this year, which reminded me of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and which I enjoyed very much; and The Rottweiler, which didn't do much for me. You probably also know that she uses the pseudonym Barbara Vine to write more psychological thrillers. I haven't tried those yet, but I will.
>23 laytonwoman3rd: I haven't read the books (hmmm, why?) but I loved the tv series'. Loved George Baker as Wexford (sadly now dead), and his screen wife on the series became his real wife in time.
>19 laytonwoman3rd: It arrived this morning (amazingly fast). I'll put it on the 'soon to be read' pile - I'm guessing early next month as I have 3 fiction tomes in the pile this month, as well as non-fiction reads. I'll surf about and see what I think of the poetry and let you know.
Stopped in at the library to pick up two holds, and came home with 5 books from their sale shelf, one of them the first Barbara Vine. Serendipity rides again.
67. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin Two long essays, one in the form of a letter to Baldwin's nephew, comprise this work, which contains some of the most articulate, sane and inspiring writing to hit me since I first read Walden and thought "this man sees things as I do, and can put it into words!" And what words they are. "This innocent country set you down in a ghetto in which...it intended that you should perish...You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason...You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity...Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear...There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you....You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men...But these men are your brothers--your lost, younger brothers. And if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it. For this is your home, my friend, do not be driven from it; great men have done great things here, and will again."
Full of wise observations, clearly made from the perspective of a young African American male in the early 1960's, and yet considerably more hopeful for the future than someone of his background had any reason to feel at that trying time in our history. His view of how humans should treat each other is singularly lacking in contempt, bitterness or desire for retribution, but it is realistic and not deceptively rose-tinted, either. "If one is continually surviving the worst that life can bring, one eventually ceases to be controlled by a fear of what life can bring; whatever it brings must be borne. And at this level of experience...hatred becomes too heavy a sack to carry...The apprehension of life here so briefly and inadequately sketched has been the experience of generations of Negroes, and it helps to explain how they have endured and how they have been able to produce children of kindergarten age who can walk through mobs to get to school...It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate...If we--and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks,...do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world."
This is eloquence and insight of the richest sort. I wish Baldwin were still around to comment on the last few decades.
The Fire Next Time is an outstanding book indeed, and I'm so happy that its passion and its grandeur of thought made a positive impression on you.
Hmm, I got hit by a book-bullet I fear! I have got to get life after life. And yes! It's translated into Dutch.
I love your review of The Fire Next Time. Your opening quote scorches the soul.
I read that back in the late 60s or early 70s; probably due for a reread.
>31 richardderus: His fiction is good, but his essays are incredible.
>32 connie53: Hello, Connie! Thanks for stopping by.
>33 streamsong: He does that over and over. It's almost impossible to pick a short quote because every word counts, and I want to share them all.
>34 rebeccanyc: It must have had a powerful impact in its day; sadly, much of it still applies, I'm afraid.
>35 scaifea: I'm here for you, Amber! Seriously, I didn't say much myself, there...just mostly let Baldwin speak for himself. He doesn't need me.
I like the earlier Rendell stuff but am not overly fond of the psychological thriller kind of mystery she got into later on. Much prefer the early Wexford mysteries with everyone gathered in a room for the reveal. Guess I'm a cosy-ist at heart.
68. The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell Not as impressed with this as I maybe should be. It's the (to me) mish-mashed story of the lives destroyed and affected by the explosion of a dance hall in small town Missouri in 1929. Generations later, the "truth" about why it happened has been covered up, and is about to be revealed by an old woman whose sister was one of the victims, and possibly the catalyst for the perpetration of the "crime". There are just too many stories crowded into this short novel, and it would have been better served by a less "literary" approach to the telling. Still, well worth reading for some wonderful writing, some wry humor, and some fine insight into the human psyche. 3 1/2 stars.
Wonderful excerpts from The Fire Next Time, Linda. Baldwin probably would not be surprised that we're still struggling with racism in our country.
It's frustrating that we are. If I had a dollar for every time I've said, "We're in the 21st century, we should be doing better than this", I'd have a whole lot of money.
69. A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash Someone around here has warbled recently about Wiley Cash. Quite possibly someone who recently attended Booktopia in Asheville, NC? (I'm looking at you msf59.) So I checked the library, and there was a copy of his first novel, so I read it. This is the kind of stuff I inhale and stay up late to finish even though I have to get up early and be somewhere in the morning. Pitch-perfect story-telling about people I recognize living outside the circle of incessant "news", the internet, and celebrity gossip, some of whom might not even have a telephone, and wouldn't use it to call the Sheriff if they did. People who could maybe use a little of that manufactured escapism to help them cope with the reverses and disappointments that drive some of them to drink...to violence...to pathological religion. Last time a book did this for me it was Salvage the Bones. It won't appeal to everyone, because it is a hard beauty to appreciate, and the glimmer of redemption and hope it offers is faint. But I'm keeping my eye on both Cash and Ward.
>43 lauralkeet: Yes, I would recommend it to you, Laura. Unless you simply can't read about snakes. (I know some people who can't.)
Linda, that's a great review of A Land More Kind Than Home. I absolutely LOVED that one, and even took the rare step (for me) of e-mailing the author through his website to tell him so when I was done. (He promptly responded, too. Seems like a nice guy.)
I'm sad to admit I've never read Ruth Rendell nor James Baldwin, but hope to remedy both deficits soon (especially Baldwin, due to the AAC).
>40 jnwelch: You'd think, with a voice like his, and others of his ilk, that we'd have stood up and taken notice by now.
>41 DorsVenabili: I would definitely encourage you to try some more Baldwin, or revisit The Fire Next Time. I didn't even know he wrote about film, except incidentally. I'll have to investigate that one.
>46 scaifea: Well, there you go. Everybody has a few absolute turn-offs.
>47 tymfos: Don't you love communicating with authors who seem glad to hear from you, and don't send you "canned" responses? That has happened to me several times, and it never gets old.
>48 laytonwoman3rd: Yes! Cash's response was not "canned" at all, as he responded to specific points that I made. He also sent me a scene that was edited out and a preview scene from his then-not-yet-released second novel. I'm reading that book now, This Dark Road to Mercy.
I had a good experience also when I e-mailed Julia Spencer-Fleming one time with a question about something in one of her books that bothered me; I keep up-to-date with her books. However, when I objected to something in a book by Donna Andrews (her portrayal of someone who looked to me like a person with Asperger's Syndrome, but whose Asperger's-type traits were depicted as sleazy/sinsiter), she totally ignored my e-mail. I've been much slower to read her books since.
70. Brief Encounters by Dick Cavett It's hard to go wrong with Dick Cavett's wry wit, style and love of a good joke (on himself or anyone else). This book, scheduled for publication in November, 2014, is a compilation of some of Cavett's New York Times columns from recent days, consisting primarily of delightful anecdotes about people he met in his comedy writing days, or his much too brief career as a talk show host. (Why don't we have anyone doing what he did anymore? Why isnt HE doing it? As Dick might say....you tell me.) When he and a guest hit it off, the exchanges were so often sharp-witted and funny; even better, when he didn't cotton to someone's remarks or behavior, the flint in his tongue could send sparks into the flies and someone might have to yell "Fire" in the crowded theater, as when he famously got tired of Norman Mailer's supercilious attitude and suggested that Mailer take Cavett's question sheet, "fold it sideways and stick it where the moon don't shine". Despite his cool Yalie demeanor, Cavett has never lost his boy-from-the-Midwest awe at being in the presence of what he considers greatness, whether in the person of Muhammad Ali, John Lennon, Marlene Dietrich or Stan Laurel. His tributes to the loss of such talents make some of the best reading in Brief Encounters. But the prize selections, in my opinion, are two on the subject sex and young people in today's world. Never one for political correctness, Cavett makes some potentially unpopular suggestions on the subject. You can read them by googling "Dick Cavett NYTimes", which will take you to his columns. But don't do that. Buy the book instead.
>48 laytonwoman3rd: - Oh, I've read nearly everything, some multiple times. I did a Baldwin independent study in school as well. I have some gaps in the 70s stuff though.
>23 laytonwoman3rd: What an excellent reminder to find some more books by Ruth Rendell. I agree that she is an author worth turning to any time one needs an engaging mystery. I haven't actually read that first in the series so I'll get a copy from the library to read this fall.
>30 laytonwoman3rd: Oh, I definitely want to read that Baldwin. Nice review.
>69 And another one! Sheesh. Three book bullets in one visit. That is hardly fair!
Actually, I had A Land More Kind than Home on my radar after Mark and Katie raved about it post-Asheville, but you've cemented it!
I hope you're having a lovely week.
>54 laytonwoman3rd: - Go Tell It on the Mountain is my favorite of his fiction (and also one of my favorite novels of all time). I think we had a nice discussion about it on Ellen's thread last year. I also love Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone, but no one ever wants to read it. Gahh! And I've read it 2 or 3 times, so I know my assessment of it is true and accurate. :-) I would put it above Another Country and after Giovanni's Room in the fiction category, although I do admit his later novels were in need of more rigorous editing help.
One of my favorite essays (other than the obvious ones, and I can't remember which collection it's in...) is "The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy." It includes a rather scathing critique of the Beat Writers and their careless co-opting of black culture that beautifully articulates stuff that I had always been trying to articulate, but never could.
>55 DorsVenabili: Thanks, Kerri. I intend to read pretty much everything Baldwin wrote eventually, based on my reactions to The Fire Next Time and Giovanni's Room. I have the Library of America volumes, so finding things won't be a problem. His ability to articulate things that are half-formed in my head is what I like best about reading him, I think.
Hello there Linda! Nice review on the Dick Cavett book. When one sees what passes for an intelligent interview these days, it makes one weep to think "Aah ... This is how it should be!"
71. The Long Fall by Walter Mosley This is Mosley near the top of his form, creating a new character with such a complete back story that it's hard to remember this is the first time we've met Leonid McGill. McGill is a tough black PI with some heavy baggage: a communist upbringing, a wife he doesn't love, 3 kids who aren't all his blood, a none-too-pure past, and a death on his conscience. The latter has pushed him to a decision to go "straight", setting him and us up for a classic noir journey through the underworld as Leonid struggles to be upright in a profession that rarely makes that easy. Robert B. Parker called this book "quite simply splendid", which is perfectly fitting, since Parker's Spenser had that white hat gig sewed up for such a long time. McGill is more complicated, less predictable than Spenser; Mosley's prose is denser, much less dialog-driven, and he requires more of the reader than Parker did. But anyone who appreciated Spenser's unwavering adherence to his "code" is going to love watching McGill try to "get there". Live long and write, Mr. Mosley.
My note saying way to go for reaching 70 and aren't you just reading up a storm has completely disappeared. Harrumph.
I haven't read any Mosley. Must correct that omission.
Oh I'm so glad you are going to read the Baldwin cannon Linda. I read most of them in the 70s and 80s, re-read some in the 90s and Naughties, and am re-reading again now. Though Another Country might end up slipping into next month now.
Baldwin is one of my 'can't live without' writers, which include F Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde to name but 3 others.
72. Rock Rewind by Edward Murphy A friend of mine who knows the author loaned me this self-published book with a recommendation. She isn't a big reader herself, and I was skeptical, but it was ultimately enjoyable. Not great literature, but decent story-telling, without a single instance of "where was the editor?" or "Damn I wish he'd stop DOING that". Be aware that this whole review will be spoiler-ridden, as I can't talk about it in any meaningful way otherwise.
Jack Lynch is a man who has given up his dream of becoming a rock star for marriage, stability and family...a man who has no regrets over this decision. Then, one ordinary afternoon his beloved daughter is rammed by a run-away truck and ends up in a hospital bed, attached to life support, with no hope of recovery. A surreal encounter with an old man in a diner gives Jack the opportunity to choose to rewind his life, to "accept your fate or change your destiny". The next day he awakes to find himself 18 again, with knowledge of the future that he can use to "do many good things". Haven't we all had such a fantasy? Jack makes the most of it, putting together a band, and making a career out of as-yet-unwritten songs he knows will be hits, never "stealing" more than one or two from any given group or artist, never taking the one that made any band's reputation, but enough to make Renegade a monster success, earning more than enough money to do those many good things, and always looking ahead to the day he knows is coming, when he will meet the girl who became his wife, the mother of his children; he means to have THAT life too, without the tragedy. He also becomes "the Diviner", an anonymous caller to the FBI who alerts them to upcoming tragic events, allowing them to prevent the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, the Challenger explosion, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, 9/11. And just when you might think this is all too pat, the author does have a surprise or two in store for Jack and the reader. Given that the whole premise demands a voluntary suspension of disbelief, there are moments at the end that strain credulity, even within that context. Murphy's style is superficial, with very little real tension or conflict. Jack's rewound life is much too good to be true, and changing history, as we all know, must have consequences, a fact that Murphy, for the most part, chooses to ignore. And yet, I have to say, this was a page-turning romp through the 1970's and '80's (the local references didn't hurt, as the novel is set primarily in my current hometown of Scranton, PA). If I had been paying more attention to rock music during those two decades, I would have had even more fun with it. I thought I might have to skim and make polite noises when I returned the book to my friend, but as it turned out, I rate this a respectable 3 1/2 stars, and do not regret a minute of the time it took me to read it.
>42 laytonwoman3rd: What an excellent review. I have an extreme phobia re. snakes, so, even though I'm tempted to read this book, I fear it would give me the hebbie jeebies.
And, congratuations on reading so many good books this year!
Happy Sunday, Linda! I LOVED your review of A Land More Kind Than Home. I agree with you, that it is a very special read. He is an hypnotic storyteller. His 2nd novel isn't as strong but definitely worth reading. I hope he has many more books in him.
I plan to start my Baldwin, in a couple of days.
Welcome back, Mark! I'll be getting back to Baldwin, to read Go Tell It on the Mountain, in a couple days myself.
>63 laytonwoman3rd: *sigh* So many many times I've had that precise fantasy...so many...*sigh*
>68 richardderus: I know, right? Here, I'm going to do your meme based on the 7 Deadly Sins:
1. What is your most expensive book?
Folio Society edition of The Sound and the Fury, printed in multiple colors of ink, as Faulkner envisioned it.
2. What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
James Lee Burke. I love Dave Robicheaux and his complicated character; love the Louisiana Bayou country setting; love the mystical elements of so many of his stories and the epic conflicts between good and evil. But the way he treats his female characters as expendable has moved beyond my ability to accept it.
3. What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?
Rosemary, a "girl's book" written in the 1920's that captured me as a child, and continues to delight me whenever I re-read it.
4. Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
Lots of chunksters would fit here. Let's say Les Miserables tops the list.
5. What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Absalom, Absalom!, I suppose.
6. What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?
Self-reliance, indifference to the opinions of others as to how to live.
7. What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
A first edition of The Hamlet
Linda, I've never read Mosley, but you're making his writing sound appealing.
I haven't read Baldwin, either. I've been meaning to get started on something for the AAC, but I'm just not getting much reading done this month, and I've gotten overloaded with "heavy" reading.
73. Sins of the Fathers by Ruth Rendell The second Inspector Wexford adventure. A clergyman sets out to re-open an old murder case, hoping to prove that the man executed for the crime was not guilty, thereby removing what he perceives as an insurmountable obstacle to his son's marriage to the convict's daughter. Lots of thorny moral dilemmas, soul searching and red herrings. Not at all a bad place to start if you've never read Rendell before.
74. The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling audio (mostly) So now I have completed the full re-read of the Harry Potter series, listening to them all on audio in the car. I was nearly at the end of this one after doing my shopping today, and didn't want to wait to finish it, so I picked up the book and read the final scenes in print. I quibbled and snarked throughout over few things: some authorial quirks got sssssooo tiresome (cartoonish emotional reactions: too much screaming, gasping, and turning red. I expected to see "POW!! SHRIEK!!! KABOOM!!!" in 28-point bold letters floating through the air); although the characters grew in many ways, they never outgrew some of their most annoying childhood traits; some situations seemed to cry out for simple magical solutions that did not present themselves; and if Harry could block a killing curse, why weren't his parents able to do so? Nevertheless, overall I remain mightily impressed with Rowling's accomplishment; her ability to put this whole saga together and make it work, using lots and lots of familiar elements, symbols and tropes to create something not just derivative, but quite original. (And although I've changed my mind about the epilogue, I still maintain there was no need whatsoever to kill Fred.)
75. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin *whew!* Must let this one perk for a bit so I don't slight it.
I started Plainsong this afternoon and before I knew it, I'd read 40 pages. Great stuff, my kind of book. Thanks!!
76. Murder Has its Points by Frances and Richard Lockridge A fine Mr. and Mrs. North outing, with excellent cats (Stilts and Shadow), to round out September's Series and Sequels theme. A much-married, unlikeable annoyance of an author gets shot dead by a sniper in front of a hotel in Manhattan. A man "with something wrong with his legs" may have been seen going into the hotel across the street before the shooting. Is this just another random act of violence, such as NY has been experiencing, or was this man a specific target of one of the many people with reason to wish him dead? Good stuff for the 1960's. As I always say after reading the Lockridges, they're dated, but in a good way (with one or two notable exceptions that I have mentioned elsewhere). And the cats...
Hi Linda. Congrats on reaching 75! I look forward to your comments about Go Tell it on the Mountain. I think I'm destined for a reread of it; I think I under appreciated it the first time I read it. I also really appreciated your comments on the Baldwin thread about The Fire Next Time - responding to countrylife's assertion that the work was racist. I could never have come close to articulating your response. Thank you. I love a good, respectful, carefully documented discussion like that.
I hope you have a good week!
Thanks, Ellen. I was a little trepidatious about that encounter with countrylife, who I don't "know" very well. After I asked her to document her assertion I had second thoughts, but I just couldn't let that statement sit there unchallenged. It did turn out to be a satisfying exchange, though, to my relief.
77. The Hole in the Flag by Andrei Codrescu Born Andrei Perlmutter in lovely, medieval Sibiu, Romania, the author graduated from Lyceum in 1965, and he almost immediately left his homeland and its Communist regime for western freedom. In December of 1989, with a crew from NPR, he returned to his native country to report on the people's revolution that resulted in the execution of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, who had held the nation in their dictatorial grip for all of Andrei's adult life. The Hole in the Flag is his very personal account of what he found upon his return to Romania that winter, and again the following June. It is also very revealing of the immense difficulty of finding the truth about what transpires in times of upheaval. What appeared (and was meant to appear) as a spontaneous uprising of the people turned out to be something quite different, most likely a long-planned coup plotted and supported by the KGB, carried out by the military, and staged to present a revolutionary image not only to the outside world, but to those very near to its center. And yet, this coup did engage the populace, particularly young people, and as Codrescu says, there was in fact a true revolution "in people's souls, when they suddenly felt no more fear." Twenty-five years later, I am uncertain what the long-term effects of this overthrow have been. Romania doesn't make the headlines very often, but I'm fairly sure Codrescu has had more to say about the subject since he wrote this book, and I intend to seek it out.
Nice review of The Hole in the Flag, Linda. I've enjoyed what I've read by Andrei Codrescu, along with his NPR reports, so I'll add this book to my wish list.
Very interesting. I am amazed how many historic events, accepted as conventional wisdom or cultural legend, turn out to be untrue. I'm sure you've read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States...
Happy Friday, Linda! Congrats on hitting 75 and doing it with a Baldwin. Hooray! I picked up my copy of the Custom of the Country, although I won't be able to start it, for about 10 days or so. Have you read this one?
>90 kidzdoc: Thank you, Darryl. He's been a favorite of mine mostly for his NPR reports and his New Orleans writings in the past.
>91 lauralkeet: Well, Laura, the Zinn book has been on my wishlist since I read what you had to say about it ages ago...haven't got around to it yet, though.
>92 msf59: Thanks, Mark. I haven't read Custom of the Country, but it is what I've chosen for the AAC for October. And again, I must credit lauralkeet for her high praise of it...she's the top Wharton fan around here, I think!
>93 NanaCC: No point in ducking, Colleen....they're heat-seekers, and they'll get you no matter what you do!
>94 laytonwoman3rd: If you haven't read it, I'd highly recommend New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing from the City, which is a collection of his articles in the Gambit, an alternative newspaper in New Orleans, and in other publications. He had a great sense of the city and its everyday people.
Well I've added Darryl's recommendation and another of Codrescu's books to my Amazon basket, along with Laura's >91 lauralkeet: reminder of a book she or someone else recommended to me some years ago!
Caro, Linda I think I heard about the Zinn book from Terri, way back when.
Hi Linda! I also appreciate your comments on the Baldwin thread (along with Southernbooklady's). I almost said something too, but I'm
>89 laytonwoman3rd: - This sounds interesting. My niece's husband is from Romania and his family came to the U.S. shortly after the 1989 revolution, as the aftermath was an economic nightmare for them. I've talked to them about it a bit (they're in Portland, OR, so I don't see them very often) and they don't have that Yay Revolution! perspective that people from the West often expect.
>99 DorsVenabili: Thanks, Kerri. I had to think hard about that Baldwin discussion; my voice would have been shaking, probably, if it had been a face-to-face conversation.
I think Eastern European revolutions are a mixed blessing most of the time. But it always seems like a good idea for people to stand up and say "So far, and no farther" to tyrants.
78. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler First of a series featuring London's Peculiar Crimes Unit, which began during WWII as a place to "dump" cases that were unlikely to be solved and would make the regular forces look bad. This one features multiple murders in the Palace theatre, which is preparing for the opening of Orpheus in the Underworld, a production likely to shock the public and possibly get banned by the Lord Chamberlain for its near-nudity and sexual content. Even in the midst of regular bombing, with cast members being skewered by props or slashed by a mysterious "phantom", the show must go on. I like the main characters, but didn't care for the way the story was plotted. And the whole Orpheus connection seemed overworked. Red herrings and side-plots felt a bit "plugged in". I saw one twist coming, and probably should have suspected another, but the whole just didn't satisfy me. Might give Bryant and May one more chance.
Morning Linda! Hope you had a nice weekend. Sorry, the Fowler book didn't grab you. I am not familiar with that series.
>102 msf59: Hi, Mark!
>103 NanaCC: Ah, good to know, Colleen. I am inclined to read more of the series because of the characters and the setting. And I know sometimes the first one doesn't have all the kinks worked out. I don't know if our library has any of the audio, but I'll keep it in mind. I'm limited to discs in the car at this point, so library borrowing is my only audio option. I always appreciate knowing when a narrator is good, because that's so important.
I ordered Rosemary from the library. Had to go through Interlibrary loan to find it though!
>105 Morphidae: I'm surprised you could even get it through ILL, Morphy, but very pleased! I think you'll enjoy it.
Eidt: I see that many of Lawrence's books have been made available by Kessinger Publishing, a print-on-demand outfit that specializes in out of print stuff...I'll be curious to know what sort of an edition your library system circulates, if you have a minute to tell me eventually. Now I've been browsing e-bay, and may pick up the other two "Rosemary" books, Rainbow Hill, and Rosemary and the Princess. I read the first few pages of Rainbow Hill on Amazon, and it has me hooked, as it picks up where Rosemary leaves off, and I never knew about it before!
79. The Crocodile Bird by Ruth Rendell Well, this is how it's done. A cracking good story, well told. 16-year-old Liza knows next to nothing about the world outside Shrove, the estate she's grown up on, with only her mother Eve for companionship. Eve has educated her well, within bounds that do not stretch far into the 20th century. Liza does not know about television, understands little of math or science (beyond the natural world), and her concept of society is formed by reading mainly 19th century novels. Yet she is fluent in Latin, knows much of Shakespeare by heart, and has seen her mother shoot a man. The older she gets, the more the modern world seeps into her consciousness, despite all her mother can do to keep it out. This is mighty good stuff, with hints of Jane Eyre, Shirley Jackson, Scheherazade, and Blue Beard. I wanted to read it to the exclusion of everything else I was meant to be doing. I thought I saw the end coming, and I was wrong. Damned near 5 stars.
>106 laytonwoman3rd: Yeah, well. It seems I can't after all. MrMorphy is seeing if he can find something online.
There are some copies out there, Morphy. I hope he can find an inexpensive old one with the Gooch illustrations. The newer editions seem ridiculously expensive to me.
Just checked out your comments over on the Baldwin thread. Brava! Makes me all the more eager to see your eventual comments on Go Tell It On The Mountain.
Hi Linda! Thanks for all your input on the AAC. It looks like it will return, by Popular Demand, for 2015. Now, trying to trim a couple dozen down to a mere 12. Won't be easy.
>113 msf59: Ah, but that's the wonderful thing, Mark...it can sustain itself for a long time. I hope 2015 won't be the end either. And don't you just love that Popular Demand? It's been a lot of fun so far.
>107 laytonwoman3rd: - I'm definitely putting this on the wishlist. It doesn't look like it belongs to a series. Is that correct?
>112 laytonwoman3rd: - I look forward to your thoughts on this one. I have a nice little Virago edition that I hope to read some day. I loved Their Eyes Were Watching God.
>115 DorsVenabili: The Crocodile Bird is not part of a series, you are correct.
I enjoyed Jonah's Gourd Vine very much, and in fact, I read it from a "nice little Virago edition" myself! I am sort of saving up my comments on this one, Go Tell It On the Mountain and another I'm currently reading, The Wake of the Wind, because they have some overlapping themes and I fancy i might do some comparisons.
because they have some overlapping themes and I fancy i might do some comparisons. - Oh, nice. I'm looking forward to that. No pressure. :-)
>116 laytonwoman3rd: I, too, would be interested in hearing your insights!
>119 scaifea: Oooooookay...that's slightly disturbing, actually! Just remember that isn't one I praise to the skies and recommend to everybody...
>120 laytonwoman3rd: Ha! I only meant that I know you're a Faulkner fan (and (more than) somewhat of an expert). I'm only a few pages in, but the language is gorgeous. No shocker, there.
Well, I'm about halfway through and, well, whoa. But dangit, the man can write a sentence. It's both beautiful and horrifying, and that, to me, it impressive as all get out.
81. The Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper I read this because I heard of California Cooper for the first time when she died in September. She sounded like an author any Americanist ought to be familiar with-- "a significant and powerful contemporary black voice, writing authentically about the black woman's search for an enduring place in American society", according to Nathan Grant, editor of the African American Review, a literary journal based at St. Louis University in Missouri. Alice Walker praised her as an author whose writing she loved. I admit to having some difficulty with Cooper's style, which is much more telling than showing. Her characters tend to "speechify", and despite the saga of recently emancipated slaves learning how to live free in a society that still regards them as less than animals, I felt the action lacked immediacy. Having finished it and reflected on it as a whole, however, I know there is depth and beauty in this novel, and the time spent on it was worthwhile for me. I hope to be able to gather my thoughts together and say more about it, specifically, and in context with Jonah's Gourd Vine and Go Tell it on the Mountain. I'm making it a little project for myself...my own sub-challenge for the AAC.
82. Rainbow Hill by Josephine Lawrence This is the sequel to my childhood favorite, Rosemary, and inexplicably I did not know it existed until just recently. Naturally, I scoured the used book sites and e-Bay until I found a decent copy at a reasonable price, and read it almost immediately upon its arrival at my door. I'm very happy to report that it did not disappoint, that the characters of Rosemary, her younger sisters Sarah and Shirley, and big brother Dr. Hugh Willis all stood up to the passage of time (mine, not theirs...this story picks up very shortly after we left them all at the end of Rosemary), and that it wasn't just the favored place in my heart that made re-reading the original a satisfying experience over the years. The Willis family is fatherless; we are never told why. In Rosemary, they are motherless too, for the most part, as Mrs. Willis is away "resting" at a sanatorium for the entirety of that book. She has come home in the second installment, but the whole family will be spending the summer at a rented farm while renovations are made to their home in town to accommodate new office space for Dr. Hugh. Out in the country the girls meet many orphans: two boys from the agricultural college who are working under the farm manager for the summer, and a family of children, the oldest a fifteen year old boy and the youngest an infant, trying to run a farm and keep off the town's radar so they won't be separated and sent into care. There's an innocence to these stories, but underneath some fairly serious themes are explored, and so well handled that the reader never feels mugged by the "moral". Above all, Josephine Lawrence can make you love and believe in her characters in much the way Louisa May Alcott could do, with less saccharine and almost no pathos.
83. Bowling Fundamentals by Michelle Mullen An ER book I've been working through since summertime; applying some of the wisdom to my own bowling on league nights. Good stuff. My full review is now on the book page if you want it. I won't bore y'all with it here.
>122 laytonwoman3rd: Good advice! I actually sort of like Sanctuary and cautiously recommend it to those who don't mind a little disturbing trashiness with their art. Ha!
>127 laytonwoman3rd: Interesting. I've not heard of her, but may check it out for historical completist-type purposes, if that makes any sense.
>129 laytonwoman3rd: You go with your bowling education! My friends and I are thinking of doing a winter bowling immersion thing. We're not good enough to join a league, but we're going to see where we're at with our skills.
Hi, Kerri! Our bowling league is strictly recreational, and there's no such thing as "not good enough to join"! So come on over...we'd love to have all of you.
>131 laytonwoman3rd: Well, that's beautiful, Linda! I think you must agree that if we ever manage an LT meet-up, it must involve bowling.
84. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte audio performed by Wanda McCaddon. A return to an old favorite that I hadn't read in many many years. Knowing the story full well (although I had forgotten much of the interlude with Saint John Rivers and his sisters), my response this time was mainly to the character of Jane. I love her to bits and have no trouble believing she lived happily ever after. I was also pleasantly surprised to realize how completely Bronte put Saint John in what I consider his rightful place--
A couple of quibbles with the audio, but so minor ; I listen only in the car, and occasionally the sound level would drop for a minute or so making it difficult to hear, and sometimes from one track to the next the reader's tone would change a bit when the text didn't call for it. Mostly, though, I loved McCaddon's performance, and I'm astonished to learn that she does not pre-read before she starts recording. That isn't so remarkable with a classic like this, where she surely was familiar with it ahead of time, but in general I find that pretty gutsy. I'll be looking for more of her work on audio.
>134 laytonwoman3rd: Some books are just meant to be read again and again.
I love Jane Eyre, both book and character, to bits as well. And I couldn't agree more about the sanctimonious poop being sent off to expire, "alone and unloved". What a good, good, good idea to listen to it in the car!
>136 tiffin: I've become fairly addicted to having an audio book going when I'm driving, just the last year or so. I listened to the entire Harry Potter series, and then decided I needed to keep something going at all times. I will most likely stick to the familiar for the most part, though, because if my mind wanders off to my driving (!) and I miss something important in the story...that would be bad!
Mark (msf59) has announced the monthly selections of authors for the 2015 American Authors Challenge.
I'll be thinking about my picks from each, but I have lots of choice, so probably won't make a hard and fast list right now.
January Carson McCullers -- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
February Henry James
March Richard Ford
April Louise Erdrich -- The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
May Sinclair Lewis -- Dodsworth?
June Wallace Stegner -- Angle of Repose
July Ursula K. Le Guin
August Larry McMurtry
Sept. Flannery O' Connor
October Ray Bradbury
November Barbara Kingsolver -- Flight Behavior
December E.L. Doctorow -- City of God?
>139 laytonwoman3rd: Ooh, thanks for the tip. I have a couple of those authors on my TBR so that will make me read them. And maybe I'll try some of the others ...
>107 laytonwoman3rd: This looks like another great recommendation from you. It is now on the tbr pile.
PaulCranswick will be hosting a British Authors Challenge in 2015 (OMG, is there NO END to this kind of thing??), which I won't commit to entirely, but I will be following along to see what's going on, and will dip in and out as the spirit moves me. I'm not about the total planning thing, especially when it comes to reading. He has picked some interesting authors, though, and I'll keep track here for the time being, just for my own ease of reference.
(You'll note there is one male and one female author for each month.)
January : Penelope Lively & Kazuo Ishiguro
February : Sarah Waters & Evelyn Waugh
March : Daphne Du Maurier & China Mieville
April : Angela Carter & W. Somerset Maugham
May : Margaret Drabble & Martin Amis
June : Beryl Bainbridge & Anthony Burgess
July: Virginia Woolf and B. S. Johnson
August: Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene
September: Andrea Levy and Salman Rushdie
October: Helen Dunmore and David Mitchell
November: Muriel Spark and William Boyd
December Hilary Mantel and P. G. Wodehouse
EDIT: I've gone so far as to make a list of what books by the selected authors I already have in my library and unread. It's not quite as many as I had thought, but with the American Authors Challenge also on my plate, I think I will pick from the books on hand, and participate as far as that allows. So my choices look like this:
Penelope Lively -- Passing On or Moon Tiger
Sarah Waters The Night Watch or The Little Stranger
Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited (this would technically be a re-read, but as I don't really remember it at all, I'm leaving it on the possibles list.)
Daphne duMaurier Julius or Hungry Hill (here again, though, I may be tempted into a re-read of The Scapegoat)
Somerset Maugham Of Human Bondage
Beryl Bainbridge Watson's Apology or short fiction from Mum and Mr. Armitage
Virginia Woolf Three Guineas, A Room of One's Own, or Mrs. Dalloway
Iris Murdoch The Green Knight, The Red and the Green, Acastos, Under the Net, The Book and the Brotherhood
Graham Greene This Gun For Hire, The Ministry of Fear, The Confidential Agent
Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children
Helen Dunmore A Spell of Winter
David Mitchell Cloud Atlas (The copy I have is my daughter's, and circumstances may take it out of my possession, or I may decide to read it sooner than October 2015)
Muriel Spark The Mandelbaum Gate, Symposium or Territorial Rights
Hilary Mantel An Experiment in Love or, I hope The Mirror and the Light, which I will buy, if available in time, and make an exception to the "off the shelf" nature of my reading for this challenge.
P. G. Wodehouse Oh, my, the choices here: Meet Mr. Mulliner, Joy in the Morning, The Clicking of Cuthbert, or The Brinkmanship of Galahad Threepwood, Lord Emsworth and Others
I have nothing for
Edited to note I did pick up a Bainbridge and a Maugham in my recent marauding of bookstores in West Virginia and Virginia.
85. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Undine Spragg was born to be admired. Her beauty and style turned heads in her mid-Western hometown of Apex, and later in the salons of New York and Paris. Undine Spragg was born to be indulged. Her father could always “find” the money to satisfy her whims and caprices (or, as she would have said, her needs) and settled on her an allowance he could sometimes ill afford, throughout several marriages; her husbands paid for her gowns, furs, jewels and parties as long as they could, or cared to, and when they stopped indulging Undine, Undine stopped caring for them. Undine Spragg was born to be dissatisfied. The more she had, the more she wanted, and the less she wanted what she had. She failed repeatedly to be the right sort of companion to the men who wanted her because she failed always to grasp the significance of anything that wasn’t relevant to her current desires. The less said about her mothering “skills”, the better. Unlike Scarlett O’Hara, another pampered heroine who I thought of often while reading The Custom of the Country, Undine Spragg had very little steel in her; when things got tough she didn’t face them and call upon inner reserves of strength to get her through; she just looked for another “friend” to bale her out. Not for Undine the unquenchable optimism of “Tomorrow is another day!” or the formidable resolve of “As God is my witness, I will never be hungry again!” Rather, by the end of Edith Wharton’s brilliant novel, Undine Spragg Moffatt Marvell desChelles Moffat has finally come to realize that, through her own ever-upward striving, she has sealed her fate, and disqualified herself from ever attaining that which, just now, she feels is the one thing she most wants in the world.
Wharton’s writing is witty, breathtakingly beautiful at times, compelling…how else could one read and enjoy 400 pages of the pointless carryings-on of anyone as unlikeable and useless as Undine Spragg? The novel is full of delicious irony, and one or two laugh-out-loud moments; the final chapter, in which we really meet Undine’s 9-year-old son and see things from his perspective, is as fine as anything I’ve ever read. I just wanted to scoop up this forlorn little being, whisk him back to his “French father”, and find him a woman with a heart to love him like a mother.
Hi Linda! Loved your review of The Custom of the Country. I agree, it was a terrific book. I am batting a thousand with Wharton.
"OMG, is there NO END to this kind of thing?" LOL. Yes, it's going to be a year of challenges, my friend but the fun kind.
I think I have that one sitting here somewhere but don't know if I can stomach Undine, especially if she is an awful mother on top of everything else.
> 143 Custom of the Country is so good, and you've captured it beautifully in your review.
>145 tiffin: Oh, you should read it. Undine is the character you love to hate.
I agree with Colleen, Tui...I think you'd revel in it. The presentation is so excellent that I didn't even hate Undine...I just watched in fascination as she repeatedly tried the same tricks that didn't work before, never expecting the outcome to be the same as always.
Those are great author's lists for 2015 Linda, esp the American one. I've been more than a bit of a failure for 2014.
Thanks, Mark, and Laura---I know you both really enjoyed Custom, and I certainly see why. I was mightily impressed.
Ron, there is no "fail" here. I hope you will find something of interest to join in on in the AAC next year. It's been a lot of fun.
I enjoyed that review of Custom of the Country, too, Linda. Not sure whether I'll spend time with that selfish a character any time soon, but you do make the book sound intriguing.
>143 laytonwoman3rd: Wonderful review, Linda! I'm fairly certain that this one is on one or two of my lists already, but you've made me want to go and make sure that it is...
Oh, yes, Ellen...I think you'll have a good time with it. I'm getting very fond of Ms. Rendell, and I'm glad she wrote so many books.
>152 scaifea: Edith Wharton is on a lot of lists, Amber---I'm sure this one made one of yours!
>151 jnwelch: I admit it took me a few chapters to "get into" The Custom of the Country; I could see how well written it was from the start, but there was no one to root for, and that held me back briefly. The writing carried me on, though, and shortly I was totally intrigued by what this woman would try next.
>156 DorsVenabili: I love Ethan Frome for its perfect twist of an ending, but I think I had more fun reading The Custom of the Country. I must re-read The House of Mirth, because I don't remember it well, though I know I did read it years ago. Other than a couple short stories, that's the extent of my experience with Wharton so far. But I have all the Library of America volumes, so I'll be revisiting her often.
So happy for the Custom of the Country/Undine Spragg love going on here! What a great character!! Great review.
Age of Innocence and House of Mirth are both fantastic.
Hope all's well here with you.
86. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield A very good, modern (although the time setting is somewhat vague) semi-gothic sort of read with mysterious goings-on at an decaying estate, odd twins, faithful servants, an extraordinarily competent governess, mad women and questions of identity---all that good stuff. Themes of abandonment, loss, isolation, longing for love. A ghost or two. Maybe. I enjoyed it mightily.
For the November AAC Challenge, I have been reading selections from John Updike's Due Considerations, a collection of his essays, criticism, and book reviews (many published in The New Yorker). This is good stuff, people. I don't care for Updike's fiction, but he could write. I will continue to sample from this fairly massive volume. I recommend this blog for some insights into his short fiction, which I may try again when I've read more of his non-fiction.
>165 scaifea: It's okay. I shall devise a suitable punishment. Muwhahahahaha.
Happy Friday, Linda! I screwed up my post here, but it's fixed now. Hope you're setting up well for the weekend!
>167 laytonwoman3rd: Following you around? Look here, ginger beer, I were here first.
Just saying hi, and liking your thoughts on The Thirteenth Tale. I enjoyed that one.
>161 laytonwoman3rd: Huh. Interesting. I may check some of that out. Also, I have a friend who loves his short story "A&P," which I think is frequently anthologized.
>169 jnwelch: Hey I loved that post about the play. Where'd it go? I didn't take notes!
Linda, at the library sale the other day I happened upon the J. California book and I scratched my head why it rang a bell. I looked at it briefly and it didn't pique my whatever so I left it there. Plus I was all excited about just finding the Conrad Richter one. And then I went back to look again and it was gone. Looking above here just a little I realize why it was vaguely familiar! Oh well. Too many books, too little time. piles and piles to go before I sleep to twist a metaphor. or something.
I may have to try some of Updike's essays; I'm not a fan of his fiction.
>168 msf59: I remember other people posting that they were disappointed in Setterfield's second book after loving The Thirteenth Tale. I guess I will not rush out to bring it home in the near future. That blog I posted the link to above Updike's short fiction has given me a slight urge to read some of it for myself. One of these days.
>169 jnwelch: Hi, Joe! Gee, for a bit there, you toned up my thread pretty good! You're welcome to mis-post here any time!
>170 lycomayflower: You again! You may technically have been "here" (as in on LT) first (by ONE DAY). Your point being...?
>171 bohemima: Hi, Gail...so nice of you to drop by.
>172 DorsVenabili: "Huh" is sort of what I said, too, Kerri. I will get to reading some of his short fiction eventually, I think.
>173 RBeffa: I was quite surprised to find the J. California Cooper book available from my library, Ron. I had to request it from a different branch, where I believe it was in storage. Maybe my request and check-out gave it a little more life in the system before it gets sent to the sale tables.
>174 jnwelch: You were so quiet I didn't know you were here 'til you'd gone and left your note (>169 jnwelch: behind)!
>175 Whisper1: Why, thank you, Linda.
>176 scaifea: You'll see, I tell ya.
>177 BLBera: Do that, Beth. Just a couple selections took away the bad taste some of his fiction had left behind for me.
>112 laytonwoman3rd: Never heard of this Zora Neale Hurston.
>139 laytonwoman3rd: I have managed not to read very many of this year's American Challenge, I'm not sure I should attempt it next year, though maybe I could fill in the gaps I missed this year. I'm too much of a mood reader for challenges really, I wanted to read those writers...
Though an excuse to read another of Wallace Stegner's novels (I have most of them - the Library of America seems to be ignoring home harrumph), and to re-read Angle of Repose may be taken up.
I hope you'll nip into the AAC next year as you are moved to do so, Caroline. It doesn't matter if you don't pick up every author...
Book haul yesterday from The Four Seasons book shop in Shepherdstown, WV. What a wonderful place. May have pictures eventually, but here are the titles:
Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America and the Fight for Cumberland Island by Will Harlan
New and Selected Essays by Robert Penn Warren
Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez
My Dog Skip by Willie Morris
I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place by Howard Norman
Incline Our Hearts by A. N. Wilson
The Egoist by George Meredith
Roughing it in the Bush by Susan Moodie
Anthology of Appalachian Writers Vol IV Ron Rash
When you posted about Moodie's Roughing it in the Bush I had to check if I had it. I don't have that book but there was a small cluster of related books on my shelf: Life in the Clearings versus the Bush, Sisters in the Wilderness and Sisters in Two Worlds. So one by Susanna Moodie and two about her and her sister. I really should read at least one now that I have them down from the shelf. Thanks for the nudge.
>186 laytonwoman3rd: Fascinating book haul, although I've only heard of Robert Penn Warren (but haven't read him yet.) I do look forward to the bookshop photos.
>187 Familyhistorian:, >189 streamsong: I've had the Moodie book on my wishlist for a while; I think tiffin Tui was the person who put me onto it.
>188 DorsVenabili: You...go read All the King's Men --Warren's masterpiece, and one of my top candidates for Great American Novel.
>189 streamsong: I will definitely look for the Atwood poems. Thanks for mentioning them!
>190 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, Ma'am! I knew you would say that. :-) I added him to my ignored author challenge.
Be lucky if I can hold a book, with that elbow dislocated the way it is...
87. Postcards by E. Annie Proulx This was Annie Proulx's first novel, and it was an ambitious undertaking. It is the saga of the Blood family, Vermont dirt farmers for whom good fortune is always elusive. The story begins with an ambiguous sudden death--the reader understands the circumstances, but not the cause--which compels the only real farmer in the family, Loyal, to hide his lover's corpse and "light out for the territory", leaving behind his plans to modernize the farm and finally make it something to be proud of. From his wanderings across the country he sends home postcards, at first pretending that his lover is with him and they are seeking a better life, then later giving just a little information about what he's been up to (trapping, mining, prospecting, searching for dinosaur fossils/tracks), but never giving a return address, and never returning home to see what's happening to the family he left behind. The reader, of course, does know what befalls the rest of the Blood tribe (Mink, Otter, Jewel....you gotta love the names, which inevitably made me think of Snopeses and Bundrens)-- none of it much good. Through it all, we wonder when somebody is going to turn up that body. What the author does about that is one of the best parts of a novel that I found a compelling and worthy recipient of the PEN/Faulkner award. Not for those who are looking for an uplift, but I'm kind of a sucker for these hard-scrabble, down-on-their-luck poor folks in the hands of a fine story-teller.
Great haul Linda. I really ought to read another Stephen King. My sister gave me a copy of one of her favourites : The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, the book that got her reading him I think.
Will look forward to your thoughts on those Howard Norman novels.
88. High Country Fall by Margaret Maron Another Deborah Knott mystery. I loved the life story developments in this one, and the ending (although I saw what she was going to do) made me tear up a little. The "mystery" plot was a little clunky, I thought. Maybe it's just that it was based on real estate wheelin' and dealin' and I HATE real estate transactions.
I can't quite see the Doig title *craning neck*. I do like his writing.
Heart Earth...it's a memoir put together with the help of a cache of letters Doig's mother left behind. She died when he was only six. It's referred to as a "prequel" to his memoir This House of Sky, which is on my shelf, as yet unread. Laura found this one for me, and it was waiting on the nightstand when we got there last week. Ain't she a honey?
Happy Thanksgiving, Linda! Good review of Postcards. I had not heard of that one. It sounds good.
Nice book haul, Linda!
I hope that you have a Happy Thanksgiving with your family!
>203 EBT1002: Oh, yes, Ellen...the ONLY reason I bought some of them was for the challenges. *innocent eyelashes* And as for the Doig, see >202 laytonwoman3rd: above. I have not yet read Dancing at the Rascal Fair, but have read three others of his.
Happy Thanksgiving, Mark and Darryl, to you and yours.
Viz your thread topper, Linda, I am about to start my first Robert Penn Warren book although not the one he is most renowned for.
Have a lovely holiday, my dear lady.
Goodness, Paul, you can't just drop a statement like that and not tell me WHAT BOOK? Thanks for the holiday wishes. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and had a very good day, traveling "over the river and through the woods". (We don't actually cross a river, but there is one in view for the last few miles of the trip to the farm where my family gathers for Thanksgiving.)
Marilynne Robinson, aged 3, and her brother. She says “My brother told me I was going to be a poet … There we were in this tiny town in Idaho, and he was like Alexander dividing up the world: I’ll be the painter, you’ll be the poet.” I will be starting Lila as soon as I finish my November reading...
>210 PaulCranswick: Ooooh...haven't read that one yet...looking forward to hearing what you think of it!
Oh hurrah, glad to see you'll be reading Lila soon! What a cool photo, too.
>209 laytonwoman3rd: Very cool photo and delightful quote. I really have to get to her one of these days...
89. The Litigators by John Grisham (Audio) This is not one of Grisham's best, but it was fine to listen to while driving about. Promising Harvard grad David Zinc has a meltdown on the way to his grinding job at a monstrously huge law firm in Chicago, leaps back into the elevator and leaves the office building for good; after spending the day in a bar and getting spectacularly drunk, he ends up on the doorstep of the "boutique" firm of Finley & Fig---ambulance chasers without a hope in the world of making a success of anything. When he sobers up, he talks the partners into taking him on, although he knows absolutely nothing about their kind of practice, and isn't sure he wants to associate with these losers anyway. A mass tort case that Wally Fig believes will make their name and their fortune turns sour; Fig & Finley leave David holding the bag and....well, that's enough. The end game was satisfying, the reader (Dennis Boutsikaris) was very easy to listen to, and I forgive the author for a couple of instances of artistic license that no one unfamiliar with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would ever notice at all. A 4-star performance of a 3-star story.
91. Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez, Illustrated by Tom Pohrt
Just marvelous. A deceptively simply tale of two friends setting out on a quest to travel farther North than their people have ever gone before, the trials they overcome, the other people they meet, the lessons they learn. And, oh, the feast that Tom Pohrt's illustrations spread before you...
This book should be a part of the permanent collection of every child being raised to read.
What a perfect time for you to drop in, Linda! I kept thinking of you as I was reading Crow and Weasel. If you have not read this one, I highly recommend it to you.
What Laura said. I'm going to look for Crow and Weasel. Thanks for letting us know about it, Linda.
I understand the basic story line of Crow and Weasel is based on Inuit mythology.
>139 laytonwoman3rd: Some preliminary choices for the 2015 AAC noted.
>139 laytonwoman3rd: Oooh, that's the McCullers I've got lined up, too. I'm not gonna lie: I love the idea of reading the same book as you at the same time and seeing what you've got to say about it, lady. Excited, I am!
Morning Linda! Love the Robinson photo! And it is good to see the AAII love. I am getting pumped too. I plan on adding Kent Haruf, RIP, next year too. I have to find a good fit.
I started reading Lila last night. Oh. My. Very hard to stop...and she doesn't help, because there are no chapters!
I have Lila on hold at the library. I think I'm going to turn into a Marilynne Robinson fan.
Oh oh oh those Crow and Weasel illustrations! Must have that one for my children's art book collection.
>209 laytonwoman3rd:: weren't those children beautiful!
>209 laytonwoman3rd: They have exactly the same mouth, did you notice? The brother is a professor of Art History at the University of Virginia.
I got it too, Caro. It's used but supposedly in "very good" condition.
92. Lila by Marilynne Robinson Another exquisite portrait of a human being trying to sort life out. After a rugged childhood and youth, an early adulthood that included prostitution, violence and homelessness, Lila Dahl stumbles onto a world of peace, love and welcome that she can barely understand, let alone believe she may aspire to join. Her unlikely savior is The Reverend John Ames, a "beautiful old man" who long ago resigned himself to being alone and lonely after the death of his young wife and infant son. How these two come to accommodate each other and grow together is lovely to behold. Ames' whole life is guided by his faith, but there is very little of the "preacher" about him. Lila has grown up in the company of people who warned against having anything to do with churches or priests, but her yearning for some understanding of life's more bewildering aspects responds to John's essential kindness and wisdom. There is no missing the Christian message of this novel, but it is not the dreck that we are bombarded with these days; it has nothing to do with worship, with creeds, with leaders and followers, or "us" and "them"; it is something much cleaner, much saner and rare as hen's teeth. Besides that, it is a gripping story, beautifully written, and it completes the picture we only glimpsed in Robinson's Gilead.
Lovely review, Linda, thanks. I picked up Lila with a discount offer, so I'll be reading it soon.
>241 laytonwoman3rd: lovely -- I like your description of the Christian message.
>242 jnwelch:, >244 EBT1002: Thanks, Joe and Ellen. It's marvelous reading. I want to re-read Gilead now, but I don't think it matters if you don't remember it much before reading Lila, Ellen. This book easily stands alone.
>243 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura. There was never much doubt that we'd love this one, was there?
It sounds beautiful, Linda. I have a hard time with the "dreck", as you know, but I think I could read this one.
Yes, I have read Gilead and I loved it for those same reasons.
ETA: I chose not to read Home because it seemed too sad.
>246 tiffin: I think you could too. Let me just share one passage that I marked, and have gone back to re-read several times:
"She went to the movies...And when she was sitting there in the dark...she was dreaming some stranger's dream, everybody in there dreaming one dream together. Or they were ghosts all gathered in the dark, watching the world, seeing all the scheming and the murder and having no word to say about it, weeping with the orphans and having nothing to do for them. And then the dancing and the kissing, and all of the ghosts floating there just inches from a huge, beautiful face, to see the joy rise up in it. Like sparrows watching the sun come up, all of them happy at once, no matter that the light had nothing much to do with them. Another day eating bugs, that was what it amounted to. Or maybe they ate the bugs so that they could watch another sunrise."
93. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín Meh. I listened to this on audio, and the reader was excellent. She caught the Irish lilt just right, didn't overdo anything (well, one Scotsman didn't come across too well, but his appearance was very brief), and differentiated subtly between characters of similar type (mother & daughter from Ireland, brothers from Brooklyn). If not for her performance, I think I would have Pearl-ruled this book. Its style made me think it was written for a young adult audience, although its subject matter was not appropriate to that age group. The story was nothing new, and the handling of it added nothing worthwhile. The main character, Eilish Lacey, lacked a spine, kept putting off important decisions until someone else, or circumstances, decided for her, and was constantly swept up in the moment without taking true account of potential consequences. But the worst of it was ...there were never any consequences. Her actions or inactions seemingly had no effect on her future whatsoever. Her intentions were never blatantly selfish or unkind, but in the real world she could have truly messed up her own life or someone else's. It was impossible while reading to avoid expecting an emotional disaster of some sort, and yet virtually nothing ever happened. I think there's a literary term for this that I'm forgetting. I feel a bit cheated, as there didn't seem to be any point to Eilish's story at all, at all. I can love a simple story if the writing is brilliant, but this didn't rise to that level. This makes two strikes against Colm Tóibín, as I didn't care much for his Testament of Mary either. He seems to promise more than he delivers.
94. Justice by Larry Watson I read this for the AAC. It is a collection of stories that give a history and foundation to the Hayden family of Watson's novel, Montana, 1948. The stories are primarily character studies, but they also strongly evoke Place, as the wind, heat, snow and space of the prairies of Montana and North Dakota come to life on the page. The writing here is excellent, and now I feel Watson deserves a place on my shelves next to Haruf and Doig and Stegner. I was less impressed with Montana, 1948, but I suspect it deserves a re-read, and I further suspect I will feel differently about it the second time.
>252 kidzdoc: It's OK, Darryl. I know a lot of people did. I'm not sitting here with a mallet waiting to whack you...you don't need to hide! And it occurs to me that maybe Tóibín did exactly what he meant to do, and I just don't appreciate the intention. Furthermore, I still mean to read The Master one of these days.
>253 laytonwoman3rd: Hey, aren't you supposed to be decorating a tree?
>254 lycomayflower: Waiting for the lights guy to get finished, as you do.
Tree is done, and so am I! Carolers and porch decorating will have to wait.
>251 laytonwoman3rd: "...now I feel Watson deserves a place on my shelves next to Haruf and Doig and Stegner."
Wow. I am a huge fan of Doig and Stegner, and I expect to love Haruf as I continue reading his trilogy. I was also less impressed with Montana 1948 -- I would absolutely not put it in the same class as Dancing at the Rascal Fair or Angle of Repose. Perhaps I should give Justice a try.
Thanks, Amber. Yes, my own "lad" knows what I like!
:-) I'd be willing to bet on that one, Linda. And it was originally recommended to me by wife walklover, who loved it, too.
95. Philip Roth at 80 This is a collection of remarks delivered at a birthday tribute for Philip Roth in 2013. It was a bit of lagniappe through my Library of America subscription, and I read it to see what admirers from the world of literature and philosophy had to say about Roth's work. I came away with a grudging acceptance of the fact that I probably am missing something, that Roth's body of work is more significant than its individual parts might suggest...but not with any desire to read further of Zuckerman or Sabbath. Roth's own comments at the event, which concludes this slim volume, annoyed me as much as anything else of his I've read. He just isn't talking to me. So, as my beautiful 18-month-old grandniece is fond of saying, I am, as far as Roth is concerned, emphatically "Done!". I did learn that he loves Faulkner. Well, good.
96. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote An annual favorite. Read this year from a lovely edition containing a full page color illustration by Beth Peck opposite every page of text. Capote had a fairly wretched childhood, and for him to have been able to extract from it this poignant, beautiful story of love, companionship and mutual understanding is something of a miracle itself. My edition also includes a CD with the story read by Celeste Holm...I haven't sampled that yet.
Merry Christmas, Linda! Have a wonderful holiday. I was hoping to get to A Christmas Memory this season and failed again.
Hello Linda, just stopping by to wish you a very merry Christmas!!
I hope you and your family have a happy Christmastime Linda, and that a few special books find their way under your tree.
Happy Christmas to you and yours, Linda. I hope that 2015 is kind to you in every way. Well done for your book total this year too!
>274 msf59: But, Mark...the season isn't over yet! There's still time
Rhian, Laura, Colleen, Amber, Ron, Lizzie, Tui....thank you all so much. And a most Happy Christmas to you all.
Thank you, Darryl. You and all my LT friends are blessings in my life all year long.
97. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd The first of Todd's Inspector Rutledge series. Ian Rutledge is back at the Yard after serving in WWI and having to make some hideous decisions, one of which he carries around with him in the person of one Sgt. Hamish, whose voice in his head is a constant reminder of the war, and possibly a threat to his sanity and his career. Nevertheless, Rutledge manages to solve the grisly shotgun murder of another war hero in a peaceful Warwickshire meadow. This was excellent reading, and now I have the mixed blessing of another series to follow.
98. The Return of the Light by Carolyn McVickar Edwards A collection of tales from early peoples explaining where the light goes, and how it comes back at the winter solstice. Of some scholarly interest, surely, but they aren't told with much style or grace here. Not a keeper.
Are you gonna hit 100?(!) Better take the rest of the year off to be sure . . . .
You're about as far ahead of your usual reading pace as I am behind on mine. That clearly explains it. ;-)
Eagerly watching to see if you hit 100. I've never come close, I think the most I've ever read was in the low 80s. I'm down to low 60s this year, due in large part to taking on other pursuits, like knitting.
I'm with Laura this year, reading in the low 60's. I've never been close to 100, so I am suitably impressed.
I bought my hubby wireless speakers for the TV, and I am hoping that less noise distraction will mean more reading time for me.
I've never come so close to 100 before, either. I do expect to hit it this year, but the last two will be shorties. My previous best was 88 in 2012.
I've opened my 2015 thread.
EDIT: I've set up my thread a little more completely, and I'm thrilled to see people have been stopping by already! I won't add any reading to it until January, but that's fast approaching, isn't it?
99. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas "A Play for Voices", this work was created to be performed on the radio. I have never heard it, but can imagine the absolute beauty of Thomas's words when spoken by lovers of his language. It's a little James Joyce, a little William Faulkner, and 100% delightful. Humor, sadness, insight all incorporated into vignettes of the denizens of the small Welsh town of Llareggub between dawn and dark. (Do read that name backwards!) Is there a lovelier description in all of literature than this: "It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters'-and-rabbits' wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea." Sheer poetry.
Lagniappe: A Child's Christmas in Wales I try to read this every year, and it doesn't seem right to keep counting it, when it's so short, and so familiar. But I absolutely love every word in it.
Under Milk Wood, that takes me back. When I was taking a course in theatre at Acadia University we performed the play. (It was adapted so that it could be performed as a play.) I don't think I ever read the whole script but I do remember that I played Lilly Smalls - definite typecasting there.
I have had A Test of Wills sitting on one of the many TBR piles for a long while now. It seems that I must find a way to shoehorn it in early in 2015. Hmm.
>287 laytonwoman3rd: I really liked the use of Hamish as the voice in Rutledge's head. I enjoyed the second book too. I probably should look for the next in the series.
100. (Can I have a TA DA! ?) A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman You have to admire a poet who knows that by the time his readers have trudged through 61 poems warning us that we're all gonna die--sometimes advising us, in fact, to do it and get it over with--they will be ready to yell "Terrence, this is stupid stuff!". Yes, well, it does get to be a bit much when read as a narrative whole. It works as a Work, but the impact is awfully dreary. Your girl will cry for a few days, and then step out with someone else. Your friends are doomed to die on the battlefield, or the gallows. Every cheery smiling young man drags his own skeleton around with him. We. Get. It. I will dip in and out of this lovely Folio edition, with its stunning wood engravings, again from time to time, but I doubt that I will ever read it steadily from beginning to end again.
One hundred books klaxon! And a whoohoo:
>299 laytonwoman3rd: 100! Wow! I would like to get to 75, much less 100. Congratulations, Linda. I'm retired and I can't do it. I am very impressed.
>299 laytonwoman3rd: Way to sneak that one in under the wire!!! Congrats!! I've loved meeting you this year. Your commentary and insight has been such a blessing. Looking forward to seeing more of you in 2015!
Have a safe and Happy New Year!
Oh, those resolutions I can keep! Thanks for the cheers. I really surprised myself by hitting 100. Probably won't happen again 'til I quit my day job.
I haven't done much in the way of year-end round-up in the past, but I thought I'd give that a try this year. So here is how 2014 shakes out for me.
I read a total of 100 books, as previously noted. This is an all-time high for me, and I'm pretty chuffed about it. More specifically:
I’m not much for challenges, usually. But this year I joined Mark’s American Authors’ Challenge (how could I not?), and did pretty well with it. Of course, by and large reading American authors isn't much of a challenge for me. I only left out one author, Philip Roth, and that was because I felt I had already read as much of his stuff as I care to. I read something by each of the other 11 authors chosen for the challenge: Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike, and Larry Watson.
I also completed a sort of a challenge I set for myself to listen to all 7 Harry Potter novels on audio.
I resolved to read at least 35 books off my own shelves this year, and I did that. I also resolved to clear some books from the shelves that I won’t read again (or ever), and I had some success with that as well, although I did not keep a strict count. I know I hauled at least 3 heavy boxes off to the library for its sales.
I discovered a handful of new authors who I look forward to visiting with again and again: Susan Hill, Wiley Cash, Kent Haruf, Charles Todd, Ruth Rendell, Christopher Fowler.
Top Five Fiction reads (Not necessarily in order of wonderfulness)
The Crocodile Bird
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Best non-fiction read
Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America by Jay Parini
(I did not read nearly enough non-fiction this year.)
Total Books Read: 100
Female authors: 46
Male Authors: 51
Author nationalities (counting each author only once, even if I read more than one of that author's works this year, meaning the total won't come up to 100)
Books read in translation: 3 (1 French, 1 Italian, 1 Irish)
Books of poetry read: 2, but I’d like to count A Child’s Christmas in Wales and Under Milk Wood as well, because they are as near as it is possible to get to poetry while being technically classified as something else.
Graphic Novels read: 2
Audio Books completed: 10
Early Review Copies
And that's it, friends. With 2015 just 90 minutes away on my slice of the planet, I am closing down this thread. Please check in with me next year. You'll find me here.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.