The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 4
This is a continuation of the topic The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 3.
This topic was continued by The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5.
Join LibraryThing to post.
I just finished Old Filth, a reread, after having reread Man in a Wooden Hat. I remember how much I loved these books when the came out. Reading them now makes me look more critically at them. Actually I think MWH is a much better book, and should be read first for the reader to get a good sense of who these people are and what this is all about. I really loved the character Bette, and her relationship with the rather clueless Edward Feathers and the change of relationship between Feathers and his arc rival, in old age. I loved how it ended and seamlessly worked into her origincal work
Now to FIlth. First let me say that I usually enjoy books that play with different time periods and different settings. This started to be the case until the time changes were so fast I forgot where we were and often who was speaking Then there was a section where he decides to take a drive (he is 80 years old and has never driven on the freeways before) So much is happening in this section and its so mixed up that I really wondered if this was an hallucination, or some dream he was having. It happened later when he was younger - I couldn't tell what was real. then the ending is tied up into a nice neat bow. Don't get me wrong the writing is outstanding and she kept me rivited to the page through the ending. But I think this would have worked better with a different narrative style
Was going to read the third "Lost Friends" but I find I am now rather tired of the whole cast. So one for later..
Kindle version on sale today at Amazon for $1.99
A Million Drops
by Victor del Árbol et al.
Not in Canada apparently. But I'll keep an eye on it, sometimes they offer deals at different times.
I finished There There yesterday and I'm still mulling it. I didn't love the pow wow vortex at the end, and I wanted him to do more with the idea of 'there there' as in a space that was there but is no longer there there. It's all the way through the book, but I don't understand how it (or if it) relates to the Pow Wow. I suspect it needs a re-read.
Now I'm reading Three Weeks in December which is a perfect vacation book.
I loved Three Weeks in December, muchisimo. There There is on the virtual bedside table.
cindy, I felt very similarly about the Jane Gardam books although I thought Old Filth was extraordinary but with each successive books, I was less interested in the characters. Gardam somehow loses the grip there.
Mir, yes about There, There. I appreciated the way everything moved toward this one event but I didn't think it totally worked. And like other books with multi-generational, multi character plots, some are so much more interesting than others. I don't want to say too much because people are still reading, but I could have been happy with a book just about Jacqui and Opal.
I do think the pow wow is about asserting presence where there has been absence, if that makes sense.
I finished The Barracks and god, it was good. It's about exactly what it says - life of a single Irish family living in a police barracks. It's thoughtful and slow moving and so so deep andrich. It's a very readerville/book balloon kind of book and I found myself thinking of LuAnn especially.
So shout out to you, girl. Find a copy. It's gorgeous.
Now reading elizabeth chadwick Templar Silks, the last in her series about William Marshall. As usual, a well written historical fiction that is full of history, characters and plot. Forgotten, she wrote a series on Elenor of Aquitane a while back - I only read the first one, and then got distracted. Need to get back to those. (these are all books with exPat D's name on them.Pass it on if you happen to have contact with her. )
Just saw new thread, posted in 3.
Niven wrote two or three autobiographies, I'm not sure a
So that woman who wrote Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up -- I think if I had been her sister I would have killed her. Also, I think she might be insane.
I'm three chapters into Barbara Pym's Excellent Women and am enjoying the sly, self-deprecating narrator; I find myself laughing at her and with her in her depictions of other characters.
What are you sorry for Kat? I'm pretty sure there is never anything you need to apologize for!
>4 mkunruh: >6 laurenbufferd: Yeah, agree with you both. I think it's a great first novel—there's a lot of wonderful writing, and I think he paints his overall picture really skillfully. Some characters more vivid than others, as I guess is to be expected—yes, Lauren, wouldn't an Opal and Jacquie book be excellent? I also wanted to hear more from Orvil poor old Thomas Frank. Also agree that the ending—vortex is a good word, Mir—feels a little forced. But I can also imagine Orange wanting to end all that careful plotting super decisively, and it was that.
Anyway, good stuff and I very much look forward to whatever he might do next.
And now for something completely different, super summery and one from the TBR (from Lauren, originally), I'm reading Jill Eisenstadt's From Rockaway.
Yes to all of the above.
I continue to pick my way carefully through Dear Friend, from my life, I Write to you in your life which is extraordinarily painful and beautiful. If you are interested at all in writing and/or depression, including suicide ideation, this is your book. But it ain't easy.
To counteract that, I'm reading the new Jane Harper mystery Force of Nature. I really enjoyed the The Dry - soon to be made into a major motion picture. Loads more fun.
Oh, I loved From Rockaway! It got unfairly lumped in with Less Than Zero and Bright Lights Big City and a handful of other New Bright Young Thing novels, but it's really its own thing. It got quite a vicious skewering with that Spy-O-Matic Cliff's Notes parody thing.
SBL, I agree about Marie Kondo's mental health being not quite 100%, but I just finished her book and found it interesting. She agrees with me about getting rid of things, though she takes it in another direction, and I like books about organizing the home anyway, so it was a pleasant read that got me thinking about making my home a place that gives me more pleasure than it currently does.
In fiction, I'm reading an ARC of Grenade, by Alan Gratz and dedicated to our own Niki Winters, which was fun to discover. He wrote my favorite middle school book of last year, Refugee, and this one is quite good, too. He is very good at building suspense.
My adult book is The Many Lives of Greta Wells. It's moody and includes time travel, so I'm all over that. If the main character were a seamstress, I'd think it was written for me.
Yippee! There are people here! I was starting to think everyone had disappeared. I just finished Elizabeth Poliner's As Close to Us as Breathing, and I loved it. It's a multigenerational saga that centers on three sisters in 1948. The story takes place on the Connecticut shore and by moving backward and forward through time tells the story of the extended family, their summer vacations at the family's summer cottage, and their trials and tragedies. Somehow I really connected with this story. Although I wasn't alive in 1948, there were things that reminded me of the late 1950s. She really captured the time and place. Anyway, recommended.
Hey April good to see you here again! Yeah we seem to have had some down times lately but people are posting more now :)
I am reading V.S. Pritchett At Home and Abroad These are essays written in the 50s and 60s, about his travels. Obviously lots has cchanged, but I enjoy reading these accounts of travelers from different times. Ive learned quite a bit of history that I didn't know about (like the 1750 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed much of Portugals coast) Im now reading about his time in the States.
He has another set of essays much later, Lasting Impressions which are more literary critic type selections.
>16 LyddieO: I read The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells a couple of weeks ago-- I wanted some more Andrew Sean Greer after reading Less. I think I liked the latter more than the former but it definitely made for a perfect Sunday-ish kind of story.
I read the Kondo book pretty soon after it came out. I still worry about whether my socks resent me, but it taught me a much better way to put t-shirts in a drawer.
I began reading the Kondo book but didn't finish as it seemed rather crazy to me.
I finished Excellent Women. Though I loved the humor throughout the book, it didn't prepare me for the disappointment I felt at the ending. The novel's theme foretold it, of course, and the strictures of Mildred's time and place pretty much guaranteed it would end as it did, but I had so hoped she would break free.
Now I've begun -- and am enjoying -- Appointment in Arezzo.
>16 LyddieO: Marie Kondo's mental health being not quite 100%
She lost me at her empathetic description of the existential pain of socks forced to live balled up in a drawer.
But really, I think her whole book could be summed up as "only keep the things that bring you joy," which is good advice. And, it was nice to have the green light to shred most of the papers I've been afraid to get rid of.
>19 SPRankin: SP I was really disappointed by Impossible LIves. After reading his excellent Max Tivoli (which should have been the book they made the movie about), I was expecting it to be much better written. Not sure I finished it. I also liked Less.
Now reading Swimming Lessons which feels like the perfect read to take on a road trip to the mountains. Not sure why.
I'm reading Less now, so I'm only a little bit behind everyone. I got about halfway through in a morning, so I'll hopefully finish it this week (or at least the weekend).
And then I'll have to read ANOTHER book someone picked for book club that is going to be a terrible choice! I don't just pick books for book club that sound like fun reads, I pick books that will garner discussion. So I hate it when someone picks a horror book or a Mindy Kaling book. Just because it's fun to read doesn't make it a book club book!
I finished From Rockaway, but it didn't quite do it for me—a near miss—which I think was all for stylistic reasons. The combination of flat affect and post-adolescent angst kept the book at arm's length for me. And the casual racism/homophobia/sexism from characters who are otherwise sympathetic—I know it's a product of its time and place, but it was a bit too deadpan. And
On to Confessions of the Fox, the many blurbs for which completely entranced me. I hate reading e-galleys with footnotes, but I'll make an exception for this because it's fun.
I felt like From Rockaway really didn't hold up when I read it again last year. As I recall, I said it was both duller and sadder than I remembered though it captured the boredom of adolescence in a way I recall quite clearly. Something delicious about how time was so elastic then, so many unfilled hours. Technology has really taken that away.
And I gave the sequel a go and it was unreadable. So much for that.
I read American for Beginners which I received as an early reviewers book from LT. It was sweet, a bit like those #1 Home in India for old people books but a bit edgier. In this, a widowed lady from Calcutta comes to America to find her gay estranged son. It was good but close to breaking my new rule which is no books about brown people written by white people for a while.
Force of Nature was a great sequel.
Next up, the new Pat Barker The Silence of the Girls.
I'm reading Confessions of the Fox, which is fun, weird, and extremely different from anything else I've read lately. At about 1/3 of the way in I'm interested to see whether he'll pull off the momentum—switching between a modern-day narrative and an older, found text can be a great framing device (I'm thinking The Weight of Ink) but the author has to maintain the energy of both threads of it doesn't work. At any rate, so far I'm liking it.
I'm really tempted to read The Dry just because it sounds super entertaining, though I have more than enough books in front of me without checking something else out of the library. Then again, when did that ever stop me?...
My interview with Jane Harper which should link to The Dry review (shameless self-promotion )https://bookpage.com/interviews/20826-jane-harper#.W0isWk2WyUk
Circe Wow, just wow. Im only a quarter through and hoping that it stays as good as this. So far really enjoying it
Loafed around in the heat all day yesterday and finished Confessions of the Fox, which was a wonderfully out-there debut novel—ambitious as hell, smart, and fun. At its surface level the book is a twinned narrative involving a discovered manuscript and a contemporary academic who annotates it heavily (and personally) as he transcribes it. But there's a whole lot more going on, particularly in the manuscript, which is ostensibly a biography of the early 18th-century English folk hero Jack Sheppard—who was the model for Macheath in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera and later Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera—and his prostitute/moll Edgworth Bess. But aside from being a rollicking retelling, it's also a queering of the legend: in Jordy Rosenberg's retelling Sheppard is a trans man (as is his modern-day professor Voth), Bess is Southeast Asian, and one of the main characters is a gay black man. But beyond even that set of identity politics, which would be innovative and entertainingly loaded on its own (Rosenberg is a trans man as well), there is a lot of really interesting subtext—on colonialism, big pharma, academia, archival authority, racial and gender identity and rights, industrialism, commodification, medical ethics, slavery, and I'm sure I'm missing something else. You get the idea, though.
For the most part Rosenberg pulls off this hyper-intersectionality, and mainly he keeps the energy rolling along. Voth's personal footnoted drama can wears a little thin at parts, although I'm sure it was written to, and there is some overly neat—and slightly wtf-inducing—consummation of Voth's intellectual odyssey toward the very end. But this is a fun, thoughtful, prickly read. Rosenberg absolutely goes big here, and it's worth your time if you're up for it. (This is not, obviously, a beach read, unless this sounds like your idea of a beach read—it is mine, or would be if I ever got within ten miles of a beach—in which case, have at it.)
Now on to some slightly more straightforward fare, because everyone seems to love it (and it's super gulp-worthy so far), Jane Harper's The Dry.
Wow, that sounds good. You kinda had me at ThreePenny Opera though.
I really liked the new Pat Barker The Silence of the Girls even though it might make you think of the Iliad so differently, you can't go back to it. Like Wide Sargasso Sea and Jean Eyre. You know all those Trojan women that were captured? War sucks.
Most of the story is told by Briseis, the Trojan queen who becomes the property of Achilles and then Agamemnon, causing Achilles to stop fighting and the resulting death of Patroclus etc etc. But then there are chapters told by Achilles and I don't know, they feel a bit cheaty - or like filler. It would have been awesome if the whole book had been from a woman's pov.
Still, it's Pat Barker.
I am taking an online class through Future Learn/University of Edinburgh on how to Read a Novel. Not that I don't know. But it's fun. The novels we are reading are all short listers from the James Tait fiction prize . First up White Tears which is really so much about white people, it's crazy making. But I can't put it down.
Its just the middle of the year, but I really doubt anything will stop Circe from being on the top of my years best list. Unless of course its Achilles, which I hope to read next.
I've picked up Lauren Groff's Florida but it is slow going because work is a bit hellish at the moment. I never have time to really get into it.
There was a good interview with her in the Harvard Gazette though, of which this bit was gratifying:
GAZETTE: You are a mother of two. In 10 years you have produced three novels and two short-story collections. Can you talk about your process and how you manage work and family?
Yay Lauren Groff -- good answer.
I finished Three Weeks in December -- the last bit was a bit of a struggle because I knew what would happen with one character and the other made me anxious. But, I'm still glad I read it -- interesting situations she set up in this novel.
I then read in quick succession Train Dreams and Daisy Miller. Both were excellent. Now, I'm reading Heart Berries which feels brilliant but I'm only about 10 pages in.
Daisy Miller was a great read, and my first James (which is funny considering all the books I've read with James as a character). I want to read more James, so which novel should I go to next? Portrait of a Lady? Wings of a Dove? Bostonians? Lauren? DG? Any suggestions? I have access to all his novels, so don't feel limited by my list.
I really love Portrait of a Lady and it's less opaque than some of the later books which are wonderful but very challenging and a bit glacial. The Bostonians is great as well. Get some under your belt and then tackle Wings of a Dove or The Ambassadors.
Just my two cents.
I am dying to read Heart Berries, especially because the author is going to be here in October.
I am really enjoying White Tears. Has anyone read this?
I really liked Heart Berries. For such a short, loosely structured book it demanded 110% of the reader's focus at every single moment. I'm still not quite sure how she accomplished that, and I read it twice.
Song of Achilles which includes an interview with the author and several interesting essays about mythology. I will be some time.
Read Jane Harper's The Dry, my impulse library checkout. Good, serviceable thriller with a solid surprise ending that kept me engaged the whole way through. The characterizations weren't always subtle—the obviously bad guys were bumbling drunken oafs and the good women were always lovely, of course, as opposed to one lady whom we're meant to know is unpleasant even before she opens her mouth because she's red-faced, with dull hair in a limp ponytail, squashy with a muffin top, and smokes. But I'm not going to take points away from the book for not trying to be what it isn't, and what it is is very entertaining.
Not sure what's up next. Maybe catch up on some New Yorkers.
Song of Achilles So far. wow! And interestingly, Im glad I read Circe first - gave me a review primer on the gods and monsters.
Lauren has read way more James than me, but I'm a fool for Portrait of a Lady. It was a really thrilling experience to read -- but I was reading it in Florence, where a good deal of it is set and was one day reading it at a sidewalk cafe and a particular building was mentioned and I looked up and it was the very building across the street from me and the front door opened and it was a real time-travel moment when I thought the woman walking out wasIsabel.
I also quite like The Beast in the Jungle, though it's just a long story, I guess. It's NOT a delight to read, but I suppose part of the thrill of it is having gotten through it.
Random thought: Heart Berries is a terrible title but maybe we are actually finally out of word combinations.
>38 laurenbufferd: Oh, I missed that for some reason—I read White Tears. Liked it quite a bit, though I think it fell short toward the end. Still, cool to see a novel with blues and record collecting at its heart, and the idea of turning cultural vampiricism into a horror story was really worthwhile.
>43 DG_Strong: Random thought: Heart Berries is a terrible title but maybe we are actually finally out of word combinations.
"heart berry" is the literal English translation of a Salish word for strawberry. In fact, I think the Iroquois and the Cree also use words that would be translated the same. I remember a guide at the Smithsonian Native American museum talking about it -- it stuck with me, so the book's title didn't faze me at all.
Me either. Out of context it might seem twee, but in context, not at all. Book is excellent. Worth a couple reads.
I started a free online class on how to Read a Novel given by the University of Edinburgh. All four selections are short listed for the James Tait Prize. I finished White Tears which I really liked a lot - I read it as a delicious ghostly revenge story although one could argue that the main character is psychotic and the whole thing happens in his head. But I much prefer my interpretation. Bland nebbish is taken up by wealthy douchebag hipster , both music nerds and record collectors, they start a recording/production business. They craft a track that sounds like an prewar blues riff and release it on the internet under what they think is a made-up artist's name. Collectors go crazy. And then shit starts to get real.
The novel plays with ideas of authenticity and reality, privilege, race, appropriation, and the long long history of the control and incarceration of black bodies.
I started the second book in the series American War, a dystopian novel about a post 21st Civil War America where the southern states have seceded due to their dependence on fossil fuels. It's creepy and seems totally plausible. Again, a novel I'd not have picked up on my own but fascinating.
Lisa, it's supposed to take 2-4 hours a week, I think. Its a mix of lecture and reading but the interview with the author was first rate and super interesting. I think you can access the content until early September but the class itself is 4 weeks. Week one started yesterday.
Here is the link
My classmates are from all over the world - which is cool - and with all different interests and levels of reading. There is some real bullshit comments - some people are eager to tell you this isn't real literature and they haven't even read the book. But that seems to be at a minimum.
I just finished Indomitable - The Life of Barbara Grier by Joanne Passet. It is excellent. Grier was a controversial lesbian publishing activist who is most well known for making Naiad Press a success; she was also an editor for The Ladder, the first lesbian newsletter, which circulated from 1956-1972. It was illegal then to send anything through the mail that contained homosexual content, but they did it anyway. She lived a fascinating life, and the story of her also tells a great story of the history of lesbian communities and politics. Highly recommended.
Nancy, I would totally read that. Noted!
I noticed that you are reading The Great Believers. I am thrilled to see Rebecca get so much attention although I think the book good not great. It feels like its written by someone who never knew anyone who died of AIDS, which it was. Its very well meaning and very well researched and I totally get where she's going and why - it just didn't totally convince me. i'll be interested to know what you think.
That's how I felt about Makki's first book -- I think of it as "playing house" (which is harsh, I know).
I just finished Heart Berries -- I recommend it.
Not sure what I'm reading next. I considering Go, Went, Gone.
And, because I'm all impulse, I just joined the novel class. It looks do-able and I've read White Tears already, so I have a head start.
Am I so pathetic that I don't have 2-4 extra hours a week? Yes, yes I am. But I will live vicariously through you two.
>52 laurenbufferd: written by someone who never knew anyone who died of AIDS It's a weird dividing line, isn't it? But so major. I got into a beef with my entire Projects in Digital Archives class when I was in grad school a few years ago--at one point the instructor had everyone read a chapter from Sarah Schulman's The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination pointing up the need for archiving so that people who post-date the AIDS crisis can get an inkling of what it might have been like. And almost everyone in the class thought that she was being condescending--"Of course we understand what it was like!" All these kids, the oldest one maybe young 30s. And I couldn't help myself, I said, "No, no you can't possibly have any idea." Which... may not have endeared me to some of them. But I stand by my point.
How exciting that mir and lauren are classmates!
Now you've all got me wondering what The Great Believers will really bring.
>54 lisapeet: I'll stand with you Lisa. I was never in the thick of it (just in the thick of white middle-class conversations on the 'plague' -- at the height of public paranoia) but my best friend's boyfriend died of AIDS -- bf flew to the east coast and I went to the funeral -- and another friend lives with it (medicine and medical care has come a long way). But My BIL and his partner lost lots of their close friends. Endless funerals for a far too long period of time.
>52 laurenbufferd:, >53 mkunruh:, >54 lisapeet: written by someone who never knew anyone who died of AIDS
I haven't read The Great Believers, so I can't really comment on the book. But if the criteria for being able to write about something is personal experience, we're all sunk. It sounds to me like you all think whatever she was aiming for, she missed.
Yes. And I'm not saying that you have to experience something to write about it, far from it. I think your way of putting it is closer to what I mean.
And Nancy, I do think it's worth reading. Just because it missed the mark doesn't mean its a bad book or not worth pursuing.
No, of course not—but it you're going to take it on you'd better dive deep deep into it, and I'd think it would be very easy to not sound quite authentic (then again most people who were there probably couldn't write it very well either). Really, I've never lived through a war but that's what came to mind a lot in those days—it was terrifying and random. I'm still going to read the book, though. Actually I think this conversation has gotten me even more interested than I was before.
I dove into my galley of Readervillian/Book Ballooner Katharine Weber's upcoming Still Life with Monkey, and it didn't disappoint. This story of a couple—Duncan and Laura Wheeler, an architect paralyzed in an accident and his wife—is funny and smart and sad in equal measures. Weber gets at the shifts and dynamics between the two, the ill and the healthy spouse with an entire marriage's complications already packed into their otherwise comfortable lives, and paints a sympathetic but not sentimental portrait, sometimes harsh but always believable. Good, subtle, smart stuff.
Now I'm back to nonfiction, reading Kevin Young's Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News.
I likewise thought "Monkey" an excellent, powerful read. Has a particular reference to my current life. Publishes early in September.
>63 Kat.Warren: Yes, resonances for me as well. Pub date is August 21.
Almost 50 pages in and it's clear that Bunk falls well on the side of being an academic book—clever and informative, but also exhaustively researched and dense—so maybe not a good book for my commute (plus it's a 550-page hardcover, which gets tough on the wrists when I'm standing on the train). So I'm probably going to keep it as a home book, mostly, and leaven it with lighter stuff for the road. Serendipitously my library hold of The Selected Poems of Donald Hall came in, and that should be just right for this week.
I liked Still Life with Monkey too -- at least the chunk of it I read a while back in rougher form. I'm interested to see if it's significantly different now that it's finished and about to be released. I swear it was almost two years ago! I want to say that at the time it was still called Monkey Helper. I'll dig that file up. Anyway. Yay, Katharine!
Oh, that's in my pile!
I am in such a happy fiction place. The Edinburgh class has me reading things I ordinarily wouldn't - half-way through American War which is interesting and cool and falling I love with Attrib which I'd have thought was too twee in reading the description but adore. this is definitely a Nancy, Miriam, SBL, Lisa book It is very playful and very tender - not quite sure how these stories hit both notes but they do.
I watched Nanette again yesterday on Netflix and it somehow was the perfect combination.
I've been reading The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles by Gary Krist (who was once a Salon Table Talk-er). It's an interesting book -- it mixes the three main fuses of Los Angeles' explosion onto the world stage -- the physical (William Mulholland and the water wars), the cultural (DW Griffith) and the spiritual (Aimee Semple MacPherson -- together into one big, epic story. I think the MacPherson story draws the focus of the book a little, but it all works out as a very convincing thesis, that none of the three could have existed without the other two.
I do think it needs more maps, and if EVER there was a book that should have see-through plastic overlay maps and timelines bound in (like the old World Books had for the human body), THIS IS IT.
After lingering over the eight zillionth instance of Adam Haslett's Imagine Me Gone showing up in my ebook sale newsletters for $1.99, I just got the damn thing out of the library to save time on future should I/shouldn't I mental conversations. About halfway through and it's pretty good, not earth-shattering. But there's something oddly comforting in reading about depressed people when I'm not feeling especially perky.
Donald Hall is so Robert-Louis-Stevensonish, which is good in measured doses.
I have that one my kindle, Lisa. Meanwhile, I 've started Christensen's The Last Cruise And it is shaping up to be an entertaining read. I can't do much tragedy or angst just now.
Imagine Me Gone was a good, low-key read—a highly sympathetic take on mental illness and families: the glue that holds them together, the stories they tell each other over the years and how those morph, the roles people take on. I found it to be an essentially kind book, not earth-shaking but a good place to visit.
Still reading Donald Hall—not challenging, but lots of snow imagery that's nice on a 90˚ subway.
Life's been a bit tricky lately from the frivolous - something hit the exterior wiring on the house and there's been no tv or internet to the life changing -my mother-in-law is in hospice now and we've been taking turns sleeping on her couch - but that's given me quite a bit of time to read.
I am almost finished with Dear Friend, From My Life, I Write to You which is is very heavy, about Li's own struggle with depression and suicidal ideation and the writers who she is most drawn to. I am also reading the first Philip Kerr thriller in the Berlin series March Violets. There are so many characters, I honestly can't keep my Himmlers straight from my Goebbels, but I'm enjoying it. What is most interesting is the day-to-day ordinary life under fascism. Definite overlaps with today.
I finished American War and sheesh, that was a good one. I read so little speculative fiction - it always amazes me, people's imagination and ability to create a total new world. What was cool about this was how much the novel was informed by El Akkad's journalism and his coverage of the Egyptian Spring, Guantanamo, and Black Lives Matter. That said, this is not for the squeamish. There is quite a bit of torture.
Sorry to hear about your MIL Lauren, that's so hard. Glad though that you and your husband can spend time with her. On the other hand, I think a broken outside wire might be a blessing in our house.
I'm not reading much right now, but I'm listening to Knucklehead on my way into work and My Man Jeeves on my way home. Knucklehead is excellent, but the the topic (race relations) is infuriating (I yell a lot, and understand the protagonist's desire to do serious harm to those who surround him) so I keep it contained to my morning. I've avoided Jeeves until now, and I shouldn't have because its delightful and funny and super relaxing.
Next to my bed is Mind of the Raven and I am making small progress with it (a chapter or two a night). The author drives me a bit nuts frankly (I'm apparently alone on that bench, the reviewers love him) but the topic is fascinating. And I picked up and just barely started The Man Who Was Thursday. I'd never hear of it before, I associated Chesterton with what I assumed were cozy mysteries (Father Brown), but this is something else entirely and really quite fabulous so far.
Now reading A Paris All Your Own, and found a blast from the past - MJ Rose has a selection! Can't remember if Ive seen her on here
>71 laurenbufferd: Oh Lauren, I'm sorry about your MIL. Hope there's some peace nested in the stress—hospice can be weirdly soothing, knowing that your only real job is to be present and kind. I've wanted to read American War for a while—lots of folks I know have recommended it. NYPL must have bought a million licenses because it's always available, so one of these days I'll just click (one thing I love about library ebooks—they've equalized that "click" feeling for those of us who never felt like we could just click with abandon before).
I've decided I should make more of an effort to read down some of the books that people have given me, either as gifts or offloading things from their collections or hand-sells from publishers—people have given me a LOT of books and that's as good a reading challenge as any. Right now I'm reading Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, which the publicist from Catapult sent me. It's international noir flash fiction, which is a great idea, but I'm thinking flash is just not my thing. I think flash is really, really hard to do well. And especially given the challenge of setting up a little thriller or crime story in a couple of pages... Some of these get it, but I feel like a lot are near misses. It also doesn't help that because the physical book got lost in my office, I'm reading an e-galley and the formatting kind of sucks—too much electronic page flipping to get through a single story, with these weird graphic things in between. But it goes quickly and I'm almost done, and I have to say I think it's a cool idea, even if the execution fell a little short for me.
>72 mkunruh: Mir what is it about the Raven author that drives you nuts? I just saw the oddest esoteric bird/art/history book on the giveaway shelves at work and passed it over, but now I'm thinking I want to take it even though I'll probably never read it. One of those things that just paging through it once in a while might make it worth having it take up space on my shelves.
>73 cindydavid4: I don't think MJ's ever been on any of the post-RV forums, has she?
>72 mkunruh: The author drives me a bit nuts frankly
That author is a bit nuts. Can you believed he climbed some those trees?
Lisa, I'll put American War aside for you. It's really an impressive piece of fiction.
I liked March Violets. It took a really somber unexpected turn - I don't want to give anything away - and at first, I wasn't sure about it but by the end, it felt right, even though ti drastically changed the tone of the book. I am going to definitely read the next in the series.
And now for something completely different Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures.
Yes, hospice is oddly peaceful. At this point, aunts and uncles are around and there's lot of sitting around joking and telling stories.
>74 lisapeet: No I don't think she has. Fun to see a blast from the past tho.
Mary B: A Novel: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice
Couldn't resis this look at the story through the eyes of the third sister. So far so good.
Oh, I'm so sorry, Lauren. Hospice care is so deeply honorable to everyone involved.
I am currently listening to an absolutely beautiful audiobook of Rebecca, narrated by Anna Massey. It's going at the very top of my book-listening-to experiences along with Juliet Stevenson reading Mrs Dalloway. Oh, those ladies with those cut-glass accents...
I haven't read the novel in a long while, and I had forgotten how intensely plants and gardens and forests figure in the story. Just pages and pages of elaborately detailed descriptions that build the settings of Manderley and Monte Carlo and wherever the de Winters end up--and never a word wasted. It's quite a feat of "show don't tell," both in world building and character building. What kind of nineteen-year-old (or twenty or however old she is) can so precisely describe every single growing thing around her and be so exquisitely sensitive to every leaf and petal and vine--be frightened by the boldness of red rhododendrons?
Someone I knew would call people "human exposed nerve endings," which doesn't really make any sense but you know exactly what it means. And that's the second Mrs. de Winter--a human exposed nerve ending. She's just oppressively observant.
I love the movie, but her character is terribly underserved. All the focus is on her naïveté and timidity, and the way she feels almost unbearably exposed to everything is played as nervous insecurity. It really doesn't help that one of the drippiest actresses ever plays her. Sorry, Joan. I am Team Olivia.
Anyway, it is FAB.
>77 lisapeet: She's been shortlisted for the GG, and I had no idea. I've just preordered that book (comes out tomorrow, so almost instant gratification) and ordered others from the library. You linked to that article on FB or Twitter (or both?) and I thought it was fabulous.
Oh, and I'm charging through The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen. Super easy read and I'm dying to know how she negotiates this plot.
miriam, its such a crazy ending but it works in a weird way. And is kind of daringly dark.
I am TEAM REBECCA all the way. I think it's a genius book. I read it every few years.
I am re-reading Transcription because I read it so quickly, I think I missed a few things and also because it's just pleasure. I am also reading Shirley Collins' memoir All on the Downs which is quite wonderful - all the bits before and after her time with Alan Lomax. If you are at all interested in British folk music, this is a great read. Just a wee bit of gossip, mostly about songs and nature.
>79 cindydavid4: Ok, so after a little slow start (don't like reading about children mistreated even if its just a novel), I have been enjoying this book very much. Definitely paints a realistic picture of Mary Bennet, and her attitudes at times can be explained by her experiences at the hands of her family. But I have now reached a part of the book where the writing is really lovely; its like she's imitating Austen, but with her own style. Really hard to believe this is a first book. Hoping I won't be disappointed, but so far I really am smitten.
I was having a hard time getting started with The Last Cruise. Maybe I'll just start all over and try again. My mind has been wandering a bit lately.....
For good reason (thinking of your FB post). Once you get into the flow it's fine, but I can concentrate on very little when life interferes.
>85 cindydavid4: Well, I am not disappointed! What an excellent book! I know people were upset at how the author changed some of the characters and gave them not so happy endings*. But it was realistic. Besides, storytellers have been changing stories for thousands of years. I approve of this one. (wow, two 5 star books in two months! Im on a roll but not expecting a third anytime soon)
*Tho I do remember how I felt reading Geraldine Brooks March, and how she changed papa March to someone I didn't recognize. So I get it. Just have to keep remembering its all about story telling!
Kate Atkinson's Transcription is so good, I read it twice, just to make sure I got all the plot points. It's got your spies and intrigue, also early years of BBC radio (incredible overlap between MI5 and the Beeb, just saying) but also wryly funny and has a great twist.
Everyone should read it.
I have never been able to get through a Sebastian Faulks novel but I got one from the Early Readers program here at LT and I'm trying to do right by it. Paris Echo. An academic with a secret and a young illegal immigrant from Algiers meet in a very unlikely way in Paris. I don't quite believe either of them - it feels very far fetched and you can hear wheels turning as you read. I should probably just put it down and admit Faulks is not for me. But he's very popular.
I don't think the touchstones thingy is working.
It is Cindy and it's out in September. I think you'll really like it.
I finished Paris Echo and I really thought it was lame. I have never been able to get through a Sebastian Faulks novel but I really wanted to give this one a try as I received it from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. Derivative and far fetched and just a little insulting. The parallels between the Occupation/Imperialism was heavy handed, the romance tepid and too many unbelievable moments - as a single woman, would you take in an ill homeless person perched on your doorstep and then a Moroccan teenager? do unpublished grad students get post-docs in Paris? If you sneak into a country illegally, can you then purchase a ticket and fly home as if you were there legally? Also, I found the other worldly- ghost memory- time slipping bits to be more decoration than device.
I was mostly frustrated, glad it was short, and released from reading other novels by him.
Still, thank you Library Thing for the opportunity.
>91 laurenbufferd: Oh good I'll preorder it. Im not big on whodunits, but she manages to make them work for me.
Now rereading Circe because I haven't been able to read anything else..!
I’m happily settled on the screen porch here at the beach reading Jane Gardam’s The Hollow Land . Connected stories and so far, well, it is Gardam so I’m happy. And apparently even happier that I didn’t bring anything by Faulks!
I clearly lack the Faulks gene but am comforted by an abundance of Gardam DNA.
I quite liked Claudia Dey's Heartbreaker. It was quirky, but quirky in the good way that knocks you out of your usual ruts of signs, signifiers, and shortcuts to emotion to get at some good truths. And despite its odd premise, including an anachronistic cult complete with strange customs and ritualistic nicknames, the book gets less and less odd as it goes along, and resolves in a real and satisfying fashion. Because it's about basic stuff, really—love, deceit, loneliness, family, and a missing mother. And very much about innocence, helped along by the quirky but reasonable narrative setup: the first chapter from the POV of a tough-but-innocent 15-year-old girl, the second from a sweetly dispassionate-but-loyal old dog, and the third from a not-quite-tough-enough-but-wise 19-year-old young man. But hey, enough with the hyphens—it's good, odd, and sweet, and that's plenty.
Now reading Jeanette Haien's The All of It: A Novel because it was on some lit list of great short novels and I did the impulse library click and here it is.
Oh and now I'm totally stoked for the Atkinson—I've got an e-galley in hand, so that should be up at the top of my pile soon.
I've per-ordered the Atkinson. I'm really looking forward to reading it, but I'm pleased it's not coming out till mid-September. Work's nuts right now and I need to finish The Last Cruise (I have very little left, but I am a bit worried about where it's going right now) and re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude before my next book-club meeting (also mid September).
Book List of Shame
Were there such a list it would include "One Hundred Years of Solitude" the reading of which, for me, would require marooning on a desert island with no literary competition.
Some but not all Proust
Capital by Karl Marx
Yes and ditto Pychon
If so many of us are reading the Atkinson, maybe we should have a mini discussion - just a few days of sharing thoughts. Or not. I just miss those (even tho I am in two very active RL ones)
Me too with DiLillo. I've read some but when I think about them, it's just a grey fog. Not a character, not a scene.
I am reading a kind of mystery I guess - there's a missing person at least. The Western Wind It takes place in a small English village at the end of the 15th century and is told by the village priest. It's absolutely without tweeness or even the kind of overly minute research=y details these kinds of period mysteries often have. I like it, I think.
>102 laurenbufferd: The new Samantha Harvey? I had just set an extra copy of that aside for you... but now I'll divert it to someone else.
I've never even tried Delillo. Or Thomas Pynchon, who for some reason I always think of together.
It's not odd to think of them together. I like and read both -- often I feel foggy while reading them and readily admit that I haven't really understand what they are doing (Pynchon more than DeLillo on this), but I like that how they unsettle my narrative expectations and how they work to make theoretical ideas into stories. Also, very male, but I don't always dislike that. And Crying of Lot 49 is still one of my favorite novels.
Western Wind sounds interesting -- I just put a hold on it at the library. When it's published and arrives at the library I'll be first in line!
Lisa, don't! Postage is too expensive and I've got a shit ton of books right now, I'll wait till it arrives from the library.
I just finished up Early Work by Andrew Martin. It starts out promisingly, though it's obvious from the start that it's a book about a young guy in a good relationship who lets his wiener cause trouble for him and it never quite leaves the runway once you realize that. It's a book of small things -- there's virtually no plot at all beyond will he or won't he break up with his steady girlfriend and go for the one who likes sex in the foyer. But he has a way with a line; it's quite funny.
One thing that struck me though (especially since Delillo just came up) is how ugh, curated the taste of the characters is. They talk about Delillo and Pynchon and god, Renata Adler (I MEAN) and all of their music is juuuussst so - Kendrick Lamar and Gram Parsons and on and on - and it's a thing I sometimes hate in books, when the author can't help himself but put all his own TLS/Pitchfork sensibilities into a book. They're AWFUL PEOPLE, I need them to have AWFUL TASTE.
>106 mkunruh: Oh, OK. I don't mind the postage, but if you're feeling buried in books I get that part.
I just read a bit of an obscure one, The All of It, which was recommended by somebody or other as a great short novel alongside a few others I've really loved like William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow. And it didn't disappoint! Lovely story with all the best ingredients: mid-'80s Ireland, a priest and a funeral, complicated love, rainy weather, and fishing—which all come together in a deeply satisfying tale about the forms unexpected good fortune can take. Some really beautiful writing, as well. Recommended to anyone with a soft spot for any of the above; you know who you are.
Now I think I'll read Sigrid Nunez's The Friend, which I keep opening on my iPad and not reading. I've heard mixed reviews, but it's got a big dog in it and I feel like one of those today.
I did not get that book at all The Friend but we can hash it out in person in a few weeks!
I like The Western Wind but I must not be paying enough attention because I realized tast night the chapters were going back in time so I need to start it again. Face.
I'm finally waist deep in The Heart's Invisible Furies, at the behest of a friend -- I resisted it forever but I'm finally doing it to sort of silence her about it. It's surprising, almost a true picaresque (though it remains to be seen if the narrator is really rowdy enough for that description), which you almost never run into anymore. There's not a whit of meta or modernity to it, other than the kinds of sex and the occasional "fuck." I like it a LOT more than I thought I was going to, which is going to kill me when I have to admit it to my friend. I do think it's a little....traditionally written; I'm not certain Boyne is much of a stylist, but it's okay, all the story story story keeps me from noticing too much.
I found The Friend to be really cool to the touch in a way that didn't quite do justice to its subjects—grief, literature, male-female friendship, and the love of a good dog. It seemed more like an exercise than a novel, and all the literary references felt distancing, more like name-dropping, than contextual—I think because there were just too many. This was a good book at heart that tried to be too many things, and they were all important enough things to merit their own focus. There were parts that had some teeth, though I wonder how much of that is personal—Nunez's musings on what an old dog in pain might feel and how much they might communicate that hit hard because I have an old dog whom I know to be in some degree of pain. But ultimately it was a bit dissatisfying, and touched me less than I would have imagined. Still, no regrets for having read it, and I did appreciate sentiments like this:
Your whole house smells of dog, says someone who comes to visit. I say I'll take care of it. Which I do by never inviting that person to visit again.
I think also it's just a matter of the Renata Adleresque tone not doing it for me. It doesn't when Renata Adler does, either.
Now on to Patrick deWitt's newest (yay!), French Exit, and Collaborative Library Design: From Planning to Impact, which I'm reviewing for LJ (and moderating a panel on at our Design Institute in Minneapolis later this month, so I might as well learn something about it).
I've been enjoying Donald Hall's A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety. He was mostly a poet--the poet Jane Kenyon was his wife. I'm finding the book a great antidote to feeling that I'm OLD. He speaks hilariously of his resentment of friends in their seventies who complain about being old.
Clicking on the new deWitt and investigating Heart's Invisible Furies.
Ha, I love that Renata Adler came up TWICE this week -- she crops up in Early Work by Andrew Martin also. I mean...what are the chances?
Plate o'Renata Adler shrimp.
A phrase that I would put good money on never appearing anywhere, ever again.
>114 DG_Strong: We were out with friends this evening and one of them mentioned Renata Adler and I yelled "RENATA ADLER HAT TRICK!" And then had to explain that.
The Western Wind is very impressive - its being billed as a historical mystery but it isn't really either, even though there is a dead body and its set in s 15th century English village. It's very artfully written - the story takes place over four days and it's told in reverse order so you know more and more as you go through the novel but not necessarily how it's resolved. It is a bout a death in an isolated village, the visiting prying dean, the lord of the manor, and the poor overwhelmed priest who is trying to keep it all together. There's also some very clever references to the Brexit crisis and the problems of England being an isolated country. I'd recommend this, esp if you hate cozy medieval mysteries because this ain't one.
I finished up The Heart's Invisible Furies, which felt a little bit like a near-miss; I feel like it was lacking some third act grand sweeping thing to really put it over, but then I think about The Goldfinch, which I thought was ruined by that very thing, so maybe it was fine without it.
On to French Exit, which is whizzing by; I read half of it in like eight minutes.
>119 DG_Strong: I concur about Heart's Invisible Furies. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but I wanted it to be better.
About halfway through Pachinko for Sunday's book club which I'm enjoying and, since it is way too long, am grateful that is so readable and is going down easily. Once again, all my eholds at the library have been coming through simultaneously -- so I have The Great Believers, the Incendiaries, and Outline all Kindled up and ready to go. I've also been listening to Louie Anderson's "Hey Mom" in the car - a left over audio book from our beach trip. I've always had a soft spot for Louie. Im glad I'm listening to him read these letters to his long-dead mother, not sure if reading them would work as well.
Oh and while at the beach, I read The Music Shop, The Waiting Game, The Leavetaking, Into Love and Out Again, and The Hollow Land. All good choices, different and enjoyable in their own unique way. Perhaps the weakest of the lot was The Music Shop - but really they were all good. The Waiting Game was wicked fun, the Lipman Stories were a reread and I quite liked them as much this time around. The Hollow Land is Gardam - how can you go wrong -- and I'm damned if I understand why anyone felt a need to label it as YA Lit. The Leavetaking was a bit challenging - maybe it was sand and surf but it took me a bit to get into the rhythm of the book, but the second part was more straightforward.
French Exit is a WEIRD book. It's funny, though. "I'd rather fuck an eel" is basically my new password.
I'm reading Kate Christensen's The Last Cruise and am puzzled by the few reactions to the book I have seen thus far. I get that it is not a heavyweight contender, nor was meant to be. Yet there is quite a lot of luscious reaping to be had therein.
Only 30 pages in, there is this supremely fucking perfect monologue by one of the dicier characters.
Mick stood on the dock watching as forklifts unloaded pallets into the Queen Isabella’s delivery bay, to be picked up by other forklifts and cube-waltzed into her belly before being conveyed to the storage rooms below. He was still a little drunk, but he was an expert at working under the influence, any influence, for any length of time. He could work for thirty hours straight and put himself into a waking trance, drunk, stoned, or high, and never drop anything or miss a detail. His hands and his brain had struck an agreement: his brain did what it wanted, and his hands ran the show. That was how he survived this job.
He shoved his hand into a box of asparagus on a waiting pallet. The stalks were damp. Any wetter and he’d have to reject them. He nodded at the forklift driver. It was almost five o’clock in the morning. The sky over the harbor was the color of eggplant. Inland, the horizon showed streaks of eggshell and cream. Everything looked like food to Mick; not edible, but in need of attention, quality control, prep. The air smelled like diesel exhaust. He felt as if he’d never be allowed to lie down and sleep again. His eyelids crackled with dry sand. His mouth was so parched he sucked his own tongue.
Az Isten verje meg… he was thinking in Hungarian, he was so tired. He allowed himself to slump, standing with his eyes closed for five long, ticking seconds, a micro-nap, as his brain rebooted itself. Then he straightened up and got back to work. A pallet of broccoli came by. He thrust a hand into a random box and felt the springy green firmness of a flower. In four days, it would be limp and browning. But for now, it was perfect. Thank God. He hated sending broccoli back; he always needed every stalk. Broccoli was the cornerstone of the plating garnishes, a staple of the salad bar, a key player in the vegetable-of-the-day medleys.
He had a good idea of the Isabella’s menu, but didn’t know yet precisely what it entailed. He’d find out soon enough. He had a meeting with the executive chef at 0730. Normally, the job of overseeing the deliveries was done by the storekeeper, but this cruise was small and just a one-off, so they hadn’t hired one. Mick was one of three executive sous-chefs, working directly under the executive chef in either the one main restaurant galley or the buffet galley, he didn’t know yet which. He
was usually a station chef, a line cook; this was a promotion. He suspected it was only temporary, since he was filling in for someone else, but if he did a good job, it wouldn’t go unnoticed. Nothing ever did on a cruise ship.
Anyway, it was nice to be outside, on land. He’d spend enough time in the belly of this ship in the next two weeks. He might as well get all the fresh air he could in the meantime. Not that this air was particularly fresh. He rummaged around and pulled an oyster out of a box marked WASHINGTON STATE. He fished a shucking knife out of his jacket and opened it, slurped the sweet-briny nugget from its bed. He scowled at the forklift driver as if it were possibly bad and shucked another one, making the guy wait. The second was as energizing as the first. He nodded at the driver and the pallet moved on.
His hand snaked into a box on the next pallet and encountered a neatly packed row of rotund things with rough prickly skin and hard spiky tops. They felt like tiny magueys grafted onto the tops of miniature barrel cacti. They were fresh, firm and full of turgor. He thought of aloe, with its thin green slime, good for kitchen burns. But this wasn’t a succulent. Then all at once his mouth was filled with the memory of a fruit: juicy, tart, sweet, fibrous. He felt a powerful craving for grilled chunks, with pork, soy sauce, something spicy. Pineapples. The cruise was going to Hawaii: of course. He waved the pallet on.
The Isabella rose sleekly from the water, much smaller than the last ship he’d worked on. That had been a five-month stint on a vast white behemoth that accommodated four thousand passengers, most of them Americans who had opted for the package that included unlimited sodas from dispensers that read a chip in their ship-issued plastic cups. The ship itself mirrored the people on it, oversized, out of proportion, expelling ground-up food waste and treated sewage into the ocean, spewing colossal a clouds of exhaust into the sea air, a giant pissing, shitting, farting beast.
While the kitchens in its massive belly disgorged ton after ton of French fries, pizza, and grilled slabs of steak upward to be chewed and swallowed and deposited into smaller, individual massive bellies, belowdecks the foreign-born, mostly Third World crew worked long, hard days, slept little, ate little, gave themselves over to keeping this untenable system, the dream vacation, going.
But this ship was a different animal entirely. He had learned from the brochure the office manager had handed him that the Queen Isabella had originated in a more elegant, scaled-down era, before cruise ships got put on steroids and turned into so-called “floating cities.” She’d been built in France in the early 1950s, renovated and refurbished in the 1970s, sold to Cabaret Cruises, an American company, and re-renovated and re-outfitted in 2002. She had just two raked funnels and only five decks from the waterline up, and carried a fraction of the thousands of passengers they crammed aboard those supersized monsters. Her lifeboats hung from davits, low down. Her curved stern swooped high over the water. Her bow rose at a sharp angle.
Mick had been told very little about this cruise, but he knew that it was the Isabella’s last before she was retired: a two-week cross-Pacific jaunt that would take them to three ports of call in the Hawaiian Islands followed by a reverse trip back. The tone was meant to echo and imitate her first cruise in 1957: retro menu, classic cocktails, cabaret singers, jazz bands, string quartets, old movies, blackjack and baccarat in the casino. Everyone would be expected to dress for dinner. There was no Internet service, and no one under sixteen was permitted on board.
All of this Mick approved of, not because he hated contemporary music, or kids, or the Internet, or informal clothes, but because he loved cooking the classic old dishes from vintage menus: oysters Rockefeller, lobster Newburg, clams casino, steak Diane. He liked aspic. He liked Hollandaise sauce and champagne sherbet and avocado halves stuffed with shrimp salad; he liked real cocktails, martinis and highballs. He romanticized that time of honestly fancy food and drink, back before farm-to-table became an elitist idea claimed by the rich instead of what the peasants ate, before the magic tricks of molecular gastronomy with its emulsions and foams, before “craft cocktails” in Mason jars made with infusions and smoke and fey garnishes.
Growing up in Budapest at the end of the twentieth century had been something like having a 1950s American youth. It felt familiar to him, cozy and civilized. So he didn’t dread this cruise as much as he’d dreaded the last one. Two weeks of making food he knew, and then he’d finally get to see where things stood with Suzanne. His hand was shoved deep inside of a box of onions, looking for the dry-papery rasp that meant they were fresh. He sniffed his fingers. There was a trace of mold. That was bad, but the onions felt okay. He’d get someone to sort them and use up the moldering ones fast.
Another wave of exhaustion penetrated to his bones. He waited for it to recede. It didn’t. He stumbled and caught the edge of a pallet to keep from falling. Automatically, his hand found the inside of a box. Wet, slimy, and jagged. He pulled his hand back: broken egg. There was never just one. He was too tired to care, and it smelled fresh enough on his hand. He waved it through. The albumen tightened around his fingers as it dried. He fished a sanitary wipe from a pocket and wiped his hand clean, then fished out and put on the latex gloves he should have been wearing all along.
Another pallet: iceberg lettuce. Images of wedge salads with bacon and Roquefort dressing rose in his mind,
antic, dancing, plates tilted and spinning. He squeezed a few heads. They had crunchy heft and enough watery give. Okay then, on they went. Then his hand was inspecting a T-bone steak, prodding, massaging, pinching gently. He sniffed his latex-covered fingers, inhaling the mineral tang of flesh and blood. The water shimmered with fresh, early sunlight. A pelican was strutting along the dock. Everything kept closing in on his eyes, zooming dark then expanding again. Sleep, his brain commanded. He needed a catnap before his meeting with the executive chef, whose name he hadn’t been told yet. Otherwise he’d be incoherent and crazed-looking on his first day of work.
Did my review sound iffy? I thought it was a really interesting novel. And Mick is the most interesting character in it.
I quite liked it - I think the ending is bold af, as the kids say.
Reading Underground Railroad, and Home Fire Heard the interview with her on NPR, and since I seem to be in a ancient Greek mood, thought it was an apt choice. Antigone was the first play I remember going to, my sister played the lead and I was about 5. Still remember the black and white costumes and bare stage. It was grade school when I learned the story, and its always been one of my favorite of the Greek tragedies. So this should be iteresting
"French Exit is full of all sorts of high weirdness and odd turns of phrase"
I took so many little notes! Some of his sentences have words flipped into a more formal order than others and it gives the book a tiny bit of a (dark dark dark) fairytale quality and then it takes a supernatural turn that confirms that (his last book was almost a flat-out fairytale, so it's not a complete surprise). I laughed out loud quite a bit (that bit where Frances and Malcolm are both calling Madeleine "the witch on the boat" had me almost in laughing tears).
I thought the ending packed a wallop, even if you basically know it's coming...and it has a beautiful final sentence, the kind of thing you suspect he wrote the book for.
Shhhh don't tell me. I'm only about halfway through because I'm reading about ten different things at once.
I should probably pull the above out a little more: I'm reading for an award, Library Journal's Best Books of 2018, and I'm not sure how much I should really share here. I'm on the short stories team, and am reading some great stuff... but I may have to go dark this fall when it comes to writing about Best Books finalists. Which is kind of aggravating, but on the other hand it's a pretty great aggravating situation to be in. And at least it's temporary, and I'll have lots to write about once the reading and voting periods are over.
So if you see a little less activity from me here, rest assured I'm reading like a fiend, but playing my cards (pages) a little closer to the vest than usual.
Can't wait to hear about the best short story collections of the year.
I will leak the winners to anyone who comes to my house and takes a kitten.
I am within pages of finishing My Brilliant Friend and I just loved it. I can't describe what was so right about it - rwading it brought back all kinds of memories I didn't even know I had - what it felt like to be engaged in parallel play as a child (more a spatial sense than a memory), the competition that exists between friends - but in an environment that is totally unfamiliar - brutally violent and poverty-stricken. I can't recommend it enough.
I also read (while on vacation) April North's White Shotgun which I thoroughly enjoyed. She's a great writer.
And then some lady in the Bronx loaded me up with books to bring home.
>135 laurenbufferd: I am right there with you about My Brilliant Friend. It's hands down one of the best books I have ever read.
>135 laurenbufferd: I tried to load her up with kittens, too, but it didn't work.
It was very hard not to steal that one. Her markings were beautiful.
I loved the Ferrante and can't wait to read the next one. I've never quite read anything like it - its both raw and refined. Hard to believe the young people she is writing about were just kids, the violence and deprivation they experience makes it seem like they are much much older.
, I really enjoyed that mystery - I've never been sure why she wasn't better known. She's a very good plotter and Ana Gray is a great character. looking at her website, it appears she writes some historical fiction as well, and is pretty active in television production. I'm going to plan on reading more.
I happened to have a book from the Booker long list hanging about so started that. From a Low and quiet Sea
Oh, I have that! Haven't read it, but impulse bought it ... I seriously need to curb my impulse to click. I just finished listening to the mystery that made the long list (much to many people's dismay) and enjoyed it quite a bit and so will check out Belinda Bauer's other mysteries.
Lisa, I completely get where you're at with wanting the kittens re-homed, but she is a beauty.
on edit: I'm enjoying Transcription but it is a bit odd. I feel like I'm holding my breath waiting for the twist/direction. Plus, she really needs to move out of WWII.
I loved it, Mir, but your mileage may vary. I did totally re-read it when I was done because I felt the twist needed some explanation. But I was satisfied on all counts.
Now that Donal Ryan is no longer on the Booker list, must I keep reading From a Low and Quiet Sea? It's awfully generic.
You are absolved. Generic reading is not required. I like that The Long Take made the short list because I want to read it and I'm hoping they'll release it for Kindle as a result.
Also pleased that Canadians are represented and that 4/6 authors are women.
It was such a snooze. I can't for the life of me.
I'm interviewing Oyinkan Braithwaite and reading her book My Sister, the Serial killer.
This week's (or last week depending on when you get yours) the NYer has a review of Transcription
by Kate Atkinson.
>144 laurenbufferd: Hm, I had that but maybe will skip it.
Short story reading is going well, and I'm actually kind of enjoying my method of reading the first five or six in each collection with the intention of coming back to finish later. I'd say coming back to the ones I loved, but I'm such a completist I'll probably get to them all eventually, though there are about 20 on my real and virtual pile right now. So far most are good and a few really excellent, one (John Edgar Wideman's American Histories) I didn't really connect with but I'll probably go back to it as well to see if a little time and space and not reading on an airplane make me feel differently. And because there's nothing more fun than making my life more difficult, I've added to of my own picks onto the long list—one, Josh Weil's The Age of Perpetual Light, on the basis one of the stories which I read long ago in One Story and adored. I'm reading that one now, and still adoring that first story in the collection—interesting to see if the rest of it holds up to the lead-in.
Lisa, would you list your top 5 stories that you've read, so far? Don't bother with links, I can look them up.
Nope, not really. I'm most of the way through the Atkinson, but the combo of a wickedly busy work week and the shit show you folks are dealing with* equals serious lack of focus. I spent yesterday afternoon glued to twitter, following Flake's flip flops, rather than catching up on reports I needed to write. So I'm doing those today rather than reading.
Oh, I am listening to Dry by Jane Harper, mainly because of you folks, and that's fairly riveting, but even that got too much this week. I switched to The Fifth Season, hoping for something a little less real life. But I might go back to Jeeves or even Tamora Peirce -- something that requires causes 0 anxiety.
*Seriously, there but for the current grace of god, but oh my word it's nasty. All those boys who made our life hell are sure determined to keep on doing so, aren't they?
As have I - tho I am taking a FB break. Got a bunch to do for school, and have been wanting to read the Atkinson which is on hold for me at my bookstore
Speaking of buying books, a sad reminder Robin Williams rare books up for auction.
There are one or two I'd like to have, for the pleasure of owning them, and as a memorial to Robin. Speaking of, has anyone read the new bio of him?
No. I wasn't a fan.
I've never Facebook'd, either. I created an account when my unit's nurses wanted to use it for group communication, but I never got into it. That UI is so ugly it hurts my eyes.
I am trying to figure out Twitter (for the umpteenth time).
>151 cindydavid4: I'd love to see a list of the books he owned that were -- not rare and beautiful, but so well-thumbed you could tell he returned to them again and again.
I was a fan. I actually cried when he committed suicide. But I haven't felt any pull to read the biography -- celebrity biographies being a genre I'm inherently suspicious of.
I've read Outline by Cusk, The Great Believers, French Exit, and The Incendiaries over the past couple of weeks - but agree it has been hard to concentrate on anything.
In the car, I've been listening to Sharp: The Women Who Made An Art of Having an Opinion and old Stephen Colbert audiobooks - to avoid NPR and the desire to hit people with my car.
Reading fiercely. I don't really have any other effective escape valve in my life, other than petting kittens, so I read. Trying to stay away from too much news coverage, though—I get what I need from the NYT/WaPo and I'm done, because otherwise it'll make me crazy.
Even though I'm skipping around in my short fiction collections right now, I did read all of The Age of Perpetual Light, by Josh Weil, in its entirety because it was a library book. It's not actually in the running for the award I'm reading for, but I wanted to give it a look because I saw the lead story in One Story a couple of years ago and fell in love with it, and have been waiting for this collection to come out. And I'm still in love with the story—"No Flies, No Folly" is gorgeous and haunting—and I think a bunch of others were very strong as well. Weill's range is impressive, from the dawn of the 20th century to a speculative story set in the nearish future, each one loosely structured around the theme of light. While I didn't think every one was a mad hit like the first, it was a good collection and definitely worth reading.
Pat, I'm thinking about your question. I'm still sifting through the 20-odd books I have in my pile, and some of the bests haven't yet settled out for me. A few standout stories would be:
"No Flies, No Folly," as mentioned above, The Age of Perpetual Light
"The Hare's Mask" in All That Is Left Is All That Matters by Mark Slouka Another story in the book, "The Dog," is possibly one of the one of the most disturbing, or at least most affecting, stories I've ever read—but disturbing on an emotional, gut level rather than a sensational one. and I thought really skillfully done. It pushed the collection up another notch in my eyes (I already thought pretty well of the book to begin with). I'm still thinking about it days later. I'm also its perfect target audience, so I don't know that it would have the same affect on other folks. But it was a knockout—felt both visceral and allegorical at the same time—and it literally made me sob.
"J'Ouvert, 1996" in A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
"Spiderhole" in Zolitude by Paige Cooper
"The Finkelstein 5" in Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
"The Musical Vanity Boxes" in Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin
And I know there are others, but I don't have the books in front of me and my memory is just woeful. Well, that and I've read half to three-quarters of 15 collections in the past few weeks.
Thanks, Lisa. Whenever I'm in a reading slump, I turn to the short stories. It's not that I don't have plenty of books on hand that interest me. I'm just having a hard time concentrating. I'm dealing with a lot of anxiety about these midterms.
I finally finished The Great Believers, which I found troubling in all sorts of ways, though I am about 75% sure I mean that as a compliment.
One of the things we always say when tragedy occurs is that Art will come out of it -- and that's usually the case. The early 80s phase of the AIDS crisis laid waste to that theory, though, primarily because it killed off practically all the artists it most profoundly affected. So the wake (ugh, not an intended pun) of that has been filled with, hmmm, "survivor art," which The Great Believers most definitely is. I do think the book is a little too long -- and the more contemporary Paris plot doesn't really work until the very end, and feels like a stretch for a resolution, a real effort to give someone in the story a relatively happy ending. But the 80s/90s plot does ring true in a lot of ways; it's the exact time I started losing people (86-90 was tough), so it was easy to cry "foul" when I felt like Makkai got things wrong (relatively rare, but enough to make me wince) and be genuinely moved when she nailed it.
There's a bit of Hamlet-mentioning( by a mostly minor character) that weaves through the book and I kept wondering what Makkai was doing with that (because it's not got a Hamlet plot) and then there's a very off-handed whopper towards the end that explains it -- it's a bit too on the nose, but it certainly brought the tears up.
It is the kind of book, though, where everyone has a name like Fiona or Yale or Julian or Nico or Cecily or Nicolette (Frenchly pronounced) or Asher or whathaveyou. And then the closest things to bad guys are just named Charlie and Bill, so there you go.
Mixed response, I guess.
I felt very similarly, DG. The things that were right were so right which made the things that were wrong really stand out. I thought Fiona was really a bore and the Paris plot so forced (although I cried at the resolution) and the side plot about the artist and the gallery unnecessarily fussy and fiddly. And still. I think it's an important book.
I finished Old in Art School and golly, it's good. Its so candid and funny and thought provoking. And sent me off in a million directions with lists of artists to look at and books to read.
I am interviewing Oyinkan Braithewaite My Sister, the Serial Killer today. Did I say I didn't like this? At first, it felt a bit hollow to me - all surface, no depth. A week or two later, I think it's a bit better - there is something underneath that skin of smooth writing, something much creepier and weirder. Are the sisters heroes or monsters? And it very much toys with Western expectations of African writers which isn't deliberate but I think is interesting.
I am still reading a bit of Charles Baxter Through the Safety Net and I just started The Electric Womanwhich is about a woman who joins the circus after her mother has a stroke. DG, have you read this?
I was sad that I didn't really like The Great Believers because I expected to. Yes, it had some moving bits. I think I expected to feel like I was with "my people," but I did not.
I'm now on to The Mars Room, which feels like my people right off the bat. I've never been to prison--really.
I liked Great Believers but agree with the assessments about its unevenness. I thought the daughter thing was a whole nuther story altogether. I was in NYC in the 80's and I thought it captured some things right about that time, although it was worse than what she described.
One thing I didn't think came across was that in my experience anyway, very few of my gay friends were really "out" all the way - many had come to NYC so that they could live a bit more openly but were still not out to family and friends back home. The worst years for me were 84-87 - there was so much fear and denial. My best friend's parents were there for him in important ways but I was stunned when I read his Midwest obit and they cited the cause of death as complications from childhood polio.
But this was a book more about surviving that time in some ways. I don't think she is successful there but I got a lot out of it and am inclined to applaud the attempt.
That said, recently a friend died suddenly of heart failure in the middle of the night. He was diagnosed in 1989. He was in early 60's. I know in my heart this is another AIDS related tragedy: decades of medication, years of stress and poor health habits related to chronic depression. He overcame much of that initial sense of doom and lived with a lot of joy in the years since that time. But when I heard he died recently, it brought it all back.
Sorry to ramble.
I'm reading the first Ana Grey -- North of Montana and although I'm having trouble with all forms of sexism these days, Smith does a good job of showing Ana's difficulty navigating the patriarchy (so to speak). I'm also still listening to Dry and still enjoying it. And very excited that The Long Take appeared in my mailbox yesterday (I forgot I ordered it). And so it will be next.
I did too Kat, but the ending is a bit of a bang (not necessarily a surprising one, but it speeds up) and I understand why Lauren re-read it at that point. The narrative is fouled by the voice, I think. I get why Atkinson does what she does, but it keeps readers at arms length, and that's a problem in this book. Just now, as I type this, I'm thinking it suffers in similar ways to Egan's Manhattan Beach but I'd have to mull that for a bit (and probably re-read both, which isn't going to happen).
Finally finished up my Best Books judging, so I can go back to reading like a normal person. But I'm going to finish up most of the 21 contenders, because I liked almost all of them at least enough to read all the way through. That was a cool project, looking at short fiction collections as whole entities rather than just thinking about which stories I liked—thinking in terms of LPs rather than 45s, if you will. Plus it's neat that this is part of my working life.
First thing I did, though, was finish up Collaborative Library Design: From Planning to Impact for an overdue review. And what a page turner! Well... not exactly, but it was a nice library architecture book, an overview of what it looks like when collaborative design works and why you want to make that happen. Not in my usual wheelhouse, though I do some work in and around library design and architecture awards for work—my trip to Minneapolis was for one of our Design Institute, which was all architects talking about projects and challenges and such. It was a good palate cleanser, though.
Now on to an anthology I'm blurbing for a friend, Fierce: Essays By and About Dauntless Women, which is both timely and really different from a lot of what I've seen lately.
I haven't done much reading this past year, but I made an effort to read as many Trump/current affairs books as I could. I strongly recommend both Malcolm Nance books (might be dry reads for those who aren't computer savvy). He goes into exact detail explaining/describing how the hacks were perpetrated and who did them. There's lots of misinformation out there about these subjects. For instance, did you know that the RNC was most probably hacked at the same time the DNC, Clinton campaign aides, Podesta, etc. were hacked? In spite of the unrelenting, clamoring cries about "Hillary's emails," her personal server was the only one NOT hacked... despite many attempts. Clint Watts wrote an excellent book about hacking, social media, and the Russians, also.
Michael Wolff's book has an air of gossip but it's very readable. I thought the most readable, concise book for those who aren't news junkies that covers Trump Inc. from before the campaign until after the election is Isikoff's and Corn's (of the ones I've read, so far). Woodward's book was along those lines, also, but it's more about White House shenanigans.
Unger's book has the best and deepest investigative reporting about Trump's mob and Russian GRU connections and his generally dicey/criminal finances going back to the '80's. It's *amazing* journalism. David Cay Johnston has been writing (and trying to warn about the Trumps) for years, and his two books about the money trails are very good, too.
However, IMO, the best one I've read, so far, is Greg Miller's. It covers the election and ensuing two years, generally, with a concentration on the circumstances and results of Trump's worst and most destructive policies and decisions. Miller is a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winner with some of the deepest resources of all the investigative reporters who have been writing about this Trump travesty.
I just started Michael Lewis' new one, and it is fascinating. It's all about the Trump "administration's" complete ineptness, and their purging of the State Department and other key agencies. No matter how awful you might think things are with this gang, Lewis' book will shock you.
The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election ~ Malcolm Nance
The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West ~ Malcolm Nance
Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News ~ Clint Watts
Fire and Fury: Inside the White House ~ Michael Wolff
Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump ~ Michael Isikoff and David Corn
Fear: Trump in the White House ~ Bob Woodward
House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia ~ Craig Unger
It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America ~ David Cay Johnston
The Making of Donald Trump ~ David Cay Johnston
The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy ~ Greg Miller
The Fifth Risk ~ Michael Lewis
Wow, Pat. You have a strong constitution. I've only read FEAR and then I had to take a 72-hour nap.
Thanks Pat, I just clicked on the Miller book. I'll probably also read the Woodward and Lewis.
Nancy, on some days, just reading tweets makes me want to take a nap. On Thursday, a person I followed tweeted about the ND Senate decision not to change the requirement that ID needs to provide a street address (many Reserve residents don't have regular street names, and use PO boxes as their addresses):
(from Washington Post)
Native Americans were widely credited with delivering Heitkamp’s last win, which set in motion a six-year legal war of attrition pitting the GOP-run statehouse in Bismarck against tribal leaders and voting rights groups. Census Bureau records show 46,000 Native Americans live in North Dakota, including 20,000 on tribal reserves. According to court filings, at least 5,000 of those on reservations do not have conventional addresses.
I was stalled for much of the day after that. If that stalls me, a Canadian, I can't even imagine how you must feel.
Right now, I'm reading The Long Take and it is excellent. LA, film, noir, poverty politics and a close look at city design, all written in verse, makes for a fabulous read and a very happy woman.
>164 Kat.Warren: Heh I wonder if we are all at the same section....I did what I often do at these times, sneak a peek ahead. Looks interesting enough to continue. It did help to read the author note - learning what was real and whats invented or reimagined.
Also finished The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter for a book group; Its a book I really wanted to like, but there was just too much meta/post modern stuff that felt very out of place in a book that takes place in the 1800s. But it was worth the read - not sure I'd read any more in the series however
There's so much voter oppression being waged by the GOP and their surgically placed federal judges, I swear I cannot imagine anyone, Republican voters included, wanting to keep these crooks in office. It's extremely depressing and exhausting to keep up with it all, but I actually agree that this is the single most important election in my lifetime and I need to stay informed.
>167 Pat_D: You have a strong stomach, Pat. Actually that got me interested in the Nance books, dry or not, because I'm interested in cybersecurity issues. I see NYPL has The Plot to Hack America, so maybe when I've read down my huge pile of half-finished books and am totally sick of fiction...
I feel, as many do, like I'm in a constant state of low-grade anxiety (except when I'm in a state of high anxiety). I'm still obsessively reading WaPo, NYT, New Yorker, the Atlantic in the feverish hope of keeping informed politically. I do it because I'm afraid not to. It's really wearing me out.
Same. This Saudia Arabia thing really has me down. I can't get over the barbarism. I felt this way when Daniel Pearl was beheaded -slightly nauseous all the time. But this feels worse because we have to see our president lie and equivocate all over the place while his supporters continue to put all ethics aside to back him.
I'm no liberal fragile flower but this is truly sickening.
I read like crazy to be ready for the panels I hosted over the weekend at the Southern Festival of Books. Old in Art School The Electric Woman The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Greece and on Saturday night, found myself with some breathing space so started Angela Thirkell's High Rising. Now Thirkell is the kind of thing I used to just eat up, it would really put me in my happy place but I think its a sign of the times that it feels like a strain to read. Or at least where my head is. And the mild anti-Semitism really grates. Boo.
I blame Trump.
One pitch though for The Electric Woman. Its a weird premise and I don't know why it works but but it somehow does and ends up being profoundly moving. Sometimes the best advice is there is no trick, it just is what is.
Noted. I'll add Electric Woman to my wish list.
I'm almost done The Long Take, but was distracted by The Fifth Season. The Fifth Season was supposed to be my car book, but it's much too good and engrossing to stay there so I'm actively looking for space/corners to continue reading it. Kind of nice, actually, compulsive reads are few and far between these days.
>174 laurenbufferd: The Electric Woman sounds like a good one. NYPL has the ebook available—that'll be my go-to when I need a "click" to satisfy my acquisitive soul.
And the Saudi thing, yeah—really distressing. I'm horrified at how antagonistic this administration is so journalists and the written word. Not just because it's my beat—it's so IMPORTANT. And that level of cavalier aggression is horrifying.
This collection I'm reading, Fierce, is fun—a collection of essays on lesser-known pioneering women throughout history that each blends the biographical account with the essay writer's own history, so I guess you'd call the form historical/personal essay. And while I'm really played to death on the personal essay format right now, a lot of these make it work.
One thing I need to tactfully broach with my friend, who edited and runs the small press that published it, is whether there's going to be another editorial pass. Because I'm finding a lot of small errors, mostly punctuation and a few of word usage/grammar. It's a slippery slope because while I'd like nothing more than to do line edits for the entire book for her—I'm a good editor, and I would punch up the quality a lot—that would be a lot of intensive work and I'd have to charge, since the book is about 350 pages. If she doesn't have another editing pass set up and doesn't offer to retain me for a full read-through, I can point out a few really glaring things, like em-dashes used instead of hyphens in one essay, but I'm going to have to refrain from pointing out everything I think should be addressed. Which is... frustrating. It's hard to read something without my editing hat on, even more so when it's the project of someone I like and want to succeed. I'll check in with her and see where the book stands.
Last Stories William Trevor -- just flat out beautiful, as I would expect them to be. Jeez, I'm sorry he's gone.
Lisa, It's worth it to have a frank conversation with your friend. I've been in that position a few times and it has always been worth it to say something. I don't know why, but there are a lot of people--even writers--who just don't see or get the editorial process or understand why it's important. But they are always to happy to discover that something can be made more beautiful.
I am reading We are the Clash - it's a bit like walking in on an argument you have no interest in but I am enjoying it nevertheless, especially revisiting the early 80s and how the politics influenced the evolution of the band once Mick Jones left.
I am also reading The Incendiaries which feels a bit meh and Appointment in Arezzo which I LOVE.
Reading Imagine Me Gone I hope the ending is not as predictable as it seems, but so far I am liking it.
I wasted too many hours of my life reading Where the Crawdads Sing. Just awful. I feel compelled to share this given the attention and promotion that book is getting. Awful.
>178 Nancy_Sirvent: I did check with her, Nancy, and she has more rounds of edits scheduled, so all is good. I pretty much figured she would, since she runs a professional operation there, but as you said, it's always better to ask. I'm sure she didn't mind that I did... especially because I wrote her a really snappy blurb for the book. Which I liked a lot—a very mixed bag, and some of the essays were better than others, but a great idea to highlight some of history's unsung game-changing women, and I enjoyed it.
Also finished finished Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah's Friday Black, which I thought was terrific—Lauren's heard me singing its praises. In troubled times it seems like there's always a directive for creative types—writers, artists, filmmakers, poets—to turn their anger, fear, frustration into meaningful statements. And yeah, easier said than done—particularly, done well. But Friday Black is very much that sort of work for these times, and a really good, unconventional read... though probably not up everyone's alley, as it's also very uncomfortable in parts, confrontational, often violent. The stories are smart, sharp, often harrowing; about anger, race and racism, consumerism, guilt, culpability, violence and its seductions, and the fierce pull of human decency against all of the dark matter. Adjei-Brenyah's voice and style are highly original—nothing here is in any way predictable. And while no catharsis is handed to the reader, there's still a sense of release to reading them, which maybe lies in his intelligent handling of all that complexity. Plus it's just good—rough around the edges in a few places, but a terrific debut, and highly recommended.
Standout stories are "The Finkelstein 5," "Zimmer Land," "Light Spitter," and "Through the Flash," none of them for the faint of heart (but who can afford to be faint of heart these days anyway?). And "The Hospital Where" is a wonderful writer's origin story.
Now reading The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction for review, since apparently I'm not actually done with short stories just yet—or they aren't done with me.
Now reading The Library Book, I've liked most of Orlean's books and essays (exception Rin Tin Tin but maybe its coz Im not a dog person). Anyway, its living up to the hype so far.
I had no idea The Story Prize has put out an anniversary book. I must get this.
Cindy, I liked The Library Book quite a bit; it was the perfect sort of subject for her, the way the story had all of those little fillips and detours and sort-of-related extras. That's actually one reason I LOVE the Rin Tin Tin Book, because it forced her to focus a little more one thing. But I still love Saturday Night the best -- so far, no losers from her.
I agree with you about The Incendiaries, Lauren. I expected more and thought it rather flat.
I really really liked We are the Clash, even though it was a bit like wandering into an argument that I really didn't have an opinion about (is the last Clash record really the Clash?) since I stopped caring about the band @ Sandinista. I loved the juxtaposition of what was happening with the band and British and American politics (still relevant today, fyi). I learned a lot and it relit my white hot hatred of Reagan - not that that pilot light ever really goes out. It also reminded me of Know Your Rights from Combat Rock which was an excellent addition to Monday's pre-Election Day radio show.
I also really enjoy a good piece of grassroots history and this is surely it.
Thanks to the Early Readers program at Library Thing for the book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
The Tessa Hadley is divine! Late in the Day. About a quartet of friends and the sudden death of one of them. Adult and very smart.
I am reading the new biography of Buffy Ste Marie (very earnest) and What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky.
I'm about halfway through The Library Book. It is madly entertaining and I think John Szabo should be President of the United States.
I do find myself thinking as much about the nature of nonfiction as about the subject, though. It sometimes feels like the outrageous characters are carrying the book. I find myself looking for the undercurrent, the thing that drove Orlean to write the book and kept her at it, because I don't think it was just that it was "a good story." I know journalists must cultivate a certain objectivity and aloofness in their trade, but I find I am constantly looking for cracks in that armor, something that hints at how important it is she tell this particular story -- and with Orlean they are few and far between. As a result, my favorite bits are not the biographical reconstructions in the huge and fascinating cast of librarians, or the descriptions of the colored and checkered history of the institution, but the more poignant personal moments -- her descriptions of walking through the detritus littering the floor of a closed branch library. Her attempts to weather a series of long, hostile phone calls with a former director who wants to write his own book on the subject. And especially her conversations with the library staff that remembered the fire; their horror, grief, depression, and ptsd. I think Orleans is strongest in her feeling for the present, rather than the historical.
But I have a ways to go, so I may revise my opinion.
>190 southernbooklady: Thats funny because it was the way she kept herself out of the story that made me pay attention to the story itself (aside from the moments you mention, which indeed were important and relevant to the topic) I tend to stay away from non fiction that is more about the author than the subject so I appreciated her take on it.
That being said, her background as a journalist comes out in her interview and investigation of the possible arsonist. She has always struck me as an empathetic listener, the type that those who love to talk enjoy talking to.
>191 cindydavid4: It's not always clearly delineated in my mind, but I draw a distinction between "what drives the story" and "putting oneself in the story." I tend to fault Krakauer, for example, for the latter. It often seems to me that whatever he's talking about, it's also about him. That gets on my nerves.
On the other hand, Meagan Marshall and Jenny Uglow write biographies clearly driven by some deep affinity for the topic, and yet I never get the feeling that they are imposing themselves on the subject. I think Orleans has that affinity in this book, but it comes through best in her coverage of the contemporary characters, not the historical ones. She is, perhaps, a journalist first, historian second.
Orlean is very much in that book, all the way through—that was actually one of my questions when I did the nonfiction panel, about the choice whether to leave yourself out of the narrative or let yourself in, although I ended up soft-pedaling it because I realized that it totally separated across gender lines and I didn't want to open up that particular can. Of the two women authors, one had to be in her story because it was largely about her, and I would venture to say that Orlean's book is also about her and her relationship to the library. And to her mother, which was no small thing. But she didn't do it intrusively, which is one of the things I liked so much—she has a very light touch for moving in and out of her reporting.
>190 southernbooklady: John Szabo is a wonderful guy, and I'd vote for him. Rumor is that he didn't love being described as square-headed (and he isn't, particularly). But a lovely man and a really solid library director.
The Story Prize: 15 Years of Great Short Fiction was neat—so many of the short stories I've been reading lately have been focused on subject as much as style, but this is a greatest hits collection that's all about craft, and it was a pleasure to amble through with that in mind. Many of the stories I'd read and was glad to have a chance to revisit and really focus on, like Rick Bass's "How She Remembers It," Adam Johnson's "Nirvana," and Elizabeth McCracken's "Something Amazing," to name three standouts. And some were the first time around for me, and exciting in that sense. Particularly the knockout story, in my opinion (and also I think the longest), Anthony Doerr's "The Memory Wall." That one was a killer—so well plotted, beautifully written, strange and full of wonder.
Also finally finished Patrick deWitt's French Exit, which was wonderful. You need push the thought that this is a Wes Anderson film in the making right out of your head because there's really a lot more going on, and a lot of it is very lovely and funny, often at the same time. He has a way of getting to his characters by skating over them, then stopping and looking straight down with this simultaneously loving and unpitying eye. Every single inner child here is extremely needy, most likely because every single actual child was extremely neglected, and deWitt gives you the chance to care about that without sentimentalizing any of them. Agree with DG—the ending is marvelous. I will always have an eye peeled for Little Frank now, even if he was last seen in Paris.
Lisa, I meant to tell you, I saw Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah read last week. He could not have been more charming or interesting, especially to a room of white folk, but I'll bet that feels par for the course. I've been reading his book - and the pov is certainly unique. I don't love the stories - but I'm not sure I should. At the same time, there's no doubt his is a new talent and he really does have something to say.
>193 lisapeet: I ended up soft-pedaling it because I realized that it totally separated across gender lines and I didn't want to open up that particular can.
I never really thought of that. A good example of male writer "driven to tell a story" that is deeply personal to the author would be John Eliot Gardener's book about Bach, Music in the Castle of Heaven. Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map also qualifies I think -- there's a writer who pursues the story of how information makes its way through our lives -- I mean, whatever he's writing about, he is on some level writing about that. It's like he can't help himself.
I loved Tessa Hadley's new book Late in the Day. It was divine and very grown-up.
I read the stories from What it Means when a Man Falls from the Sky. Superb! An interesting combination of slice of life, ghost stories, folk tales, and sci fi. I look forward to reading whatever comes next from this Nigerian writer.
I'm about halfway through Friday Black and if my son doesn't take it back with him after break, plan to finish it. I think they are very fine stories, very RIGHT NOW as Tommy Orange said in his NYT review. They also make me super uncomfortable which may be part of the point.
Library Thing sent me Buffy Sainte-Marie: An Authorized Biography. It's definitely authorized - the lack of critical distance made me a bit uncomfortable and I felt like it lacked context or sense of place. But her work as an activist is really inspiring and I knew much less about that. There's quite a bit about First Nation music and the Juno awards - Mir, you might be interested. Though I'd take it out of the library - I don't think it's worth buying.
Also - to bring up Tommy Orange again! - there is a way of thinking about her experience that kind of changes your ideas about the whole folk music environment - if you are Indigenous and Pete Seeger wants you up there signing This Land is Your Land, what are you supposed to do?
I am reading the third novel in the Philip Kerr/Bernie Gunther Berlin Noir series. I really like these - I wish TPC was here so I could recommend them to him. The war is over, the Russians are in Berlin and everything seems a bit worse than it was before.
I'm reading Ladder to the Sky, the new book by the Heart's Invisible Furies guy. It's a Talented Mr Ripley kind of book -- it says so (TWICE) in the blurbs. But it's not really -- somehow the author can't quite get you to root for his sociopath in the same way you root for Tom Ripley. You spend a LOT of the book waiting for his comeuppance. I'm not sure he's much of a stylist, but the pages do turn quickly, and that's saying something, I guess. It does feel like a lot of other books all mashed together in kind of a Frankenstein way.
It's the kind of book where there's a famous author character named "Dash Hardy," and just when you're kind of certain that he's supposed to be Gore Vidal, you turn the page and there's a whole chapter where you (and Dash Hardy) are visiting Gore Vidal in Ravello (it's a good chapter; Gore's a funny character), so that throws you off the scent for a bit.
Friday Black definitely gets its chops from being such a smack-upside-the-head collection, but he can write too... Not always completely likable, but I found it to be really compelling. I'd be interested to see what he follows it up with.
Looking forward to that Tessa Hadley—your comment made me bump it up the virtual stack a bit.
And yes also on What it Means when a Man Falls From the Sky—the way she slides between genres and styles is so adept. I liked that one a lot.
I'm reading Michael Ondaatje's Warlight, which is both a little clinical and very engaging at the same time. Which might just be the author, but whatever—I'm fine with it.
imagine me gone Its one of those books that kept me turning the pages, but ended up really not liking . Actually I skipped a large section that was rather tedious and repetitions. I will say that the author hits mental illness perfectly, esp with John dealing with his monster, and Michael dealing with the medication and its affects. Not sure what more I wanted. I did love Hasletts short stories you are not a stranger here . Wonder if he is better writing short fiction rather than novels?
Finished Warlight, which I liked but it lost significant steam for me partway through, after a major shift in the action. Which is shallow of me, in a way, because the first half is all good drama and dodgy characters, so what's not to like? Whereas the second edges more into think-piece territory, musing on the nature of secrecy and how it frays relationships over time, and what makes a family (with a big overlap between the two). There are some memorable characters, great settings, and beautiful language. But the final effect was one of a vaguely cerebral coolness overlaying everything—which I know is Ondaatje's style, so I don't fault him for that. But it dampened the grit and passion that propelled the story to begin with, and my enthusiasm along with it. Still, a nicely crafted story with some wonderful imagery that will stick in my head.
>203 laurenbufferd: Hmm, those aren't on my radar at all. They look fascinating, though, and NYPL has the ebooks, so I may give the first one a go. I'm assuming they should be read in order?
I started Lou Berney's November Road because a) it was literally in easy reach of where I was hanging out under a pile of kittens and b) the 55th anniversary of the JFK assassination just passed (that's the book's basic plot device) and I was thinking about it... I guess there's nothing I can say about ways to commemorate a successful presidential assassination that won't get me on someone's watch list, so I'll just read a book.
Lisa, I do think they benefit in being read in order - the detective moves from Berlin to Vienna, some are before WWII but the majority after. There was a big article on Kerr - who died within the last few years - in the NYEr maybe last year? I think you get more following the chronology.
I did find them a bit...plotty with lots of characters, history and acronyms and I don't always have teh best retention. But I enjoyed them tremendously.
I'm ecstatic to say that while I've been recuperating I have so far read three books that I LOVED. I'm going to try to link appropriately.
She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy
by Jill Soloway. This is the gal who created "Transparent." I think the show is genius and fills what was a big empty space in popular culture. Or at least TV culture. I initially rolled my eyes a lot at this show; it was a lot about an extremely privileged family (in LA, of course!) who were giving lessons in (in)tolerence to the rest of us. However, it really does deliver on several levels. The series ended up touching me deeply and upon a second viewing I've decided that it's my favorite TV ever.
SO--this book. It's her memoir about her family, her work, the show, her personal sexual identification journey (I know those aren't the right words), and I really loved it. I loved the blatant queer stuff in general (nice to know what the kids are up to). And I learned quite a bit about about this new-fangled business of identity--queer, and otherwise. It made me oddly hopeful about the future. Highly recommended.
His Favorites by Kate Walbert. A short, masterful novel about a horrifically inappropriate relationship between a 15 yo student and her 44 yo teacher. Not a bit prurient or salacious, but tragic nonetheless, and beautifully rendered.
by Kayla Rae Whitaker. I really loved this novel. It's a rare novel about complicated relationships between collaborating women artists. It's like the whole thing was shot by a new idea of a camera. And there was so much interesting stuff about Louisville KY and about the actual creation of animation. I've had the book for a year or so and almost didn't read it. Don't do what Nancy almost did. It's really great.
I finally went back and read the last few months of posts here! I have not been reading, and since last night I finished the main story for a very big video game I've been playing, I thought maybe I should try to read again! Here's hoping.
That said, I have been listening to audiobooks some. I have been delightfully surprised by Robert Galbraith's books (aka JK Rowling) with Cormoran Strike. I'm only on the second one, but I really like them. Interesting characters and well-written, I'd say. It's just so clear that this author is a lot smarter than most of the crime/mystery authors I've read. Recommended.
My darlings, it's that time of year. The Guardian book list is out (at least the first part). Is anyone interested in a swap this year? If so, I'm glad to be the organizer of said swap. I know this has been a tough year for some of us but old traditions die hard. I'd welcome the chance to dive in to this treasured expression of generosity, book lovin' , and gift giving.
Just let me know.
Lauren, you're a saint to do this every year. I'm probably out this time around, but I always enjoy watching from the sidelines.
Finished Lou Berney's November Road, which was a solidly entertaining noir crime thriller set in the wake of the Kennedy assassination, in a bunch of easy gulps. Not particularly deep, but a good ride (though I could have done without the epilogue).
I read Homegoing which ran out of steam 3/4s through. She had to work to hard to get those last two characters to meet and by then, I didn't care much. But I'd read what Gyasi writes next - I thought the most successful part of the book was about mining in and around Birmingham. I hope she digs into that time period more - no pun intended.
I am really enjoying The Lost Man which is the new stand alone by Jane Harper . Also reading The History of the World in 21 Women which was a Library Thing Early Reviewers read. I admit, I thought I'd read a few chapters and call it a day because I don't feel the need for a capsule biography of Madonna or Marie Curie. But Murray is a good thoughtful writer and brings something very personal to each woman. I'm liking it very much.
I liked Homegoing all the way through, but agree that the ending was a bit of a stretch.
I just finished reading Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, and thought it was rather wonderful. Surprisingly on-point for my world right now, but would have thought it fabulous regardless. Her re-working of Oedipus was fascinating. Plus lots of words (Gretl is a linguist) and time spent on the Fen made me think of that great landscape vocabulary book I'm blanking on right now. I finished the book wanting to read it again.
Now I'm reading Children's Bach -- not what I expected at all, so much better. Current and edgy. For some reason I expected it to be twee-ish.
I just started Utmost Happiness by Roy. Also, oddly, related to gender and gender transformation. That was a surprise (although not an unwelecome one).
I'm also still making progress on the Heinrich Raven book, and have made some progress in Bad Blood, the Thanos scandal book.
My general policy these days is that reading something is better than not reading, so I read as my fancy strikes.
(post was edited for clarity and punctuation)
I'm reading The Tattoist of Aushwitz and it is just dreadful. I have no idea why this is a best seller, it's terribly written and so mundane and there's hardly any text...huge gaps between paragraphs. I keep wondering what is bringing this book to people right now-best seller in Australia, then England and now North America. Just not very good in the least. And the author insists it's not supposed to be a memoir but
a work of fiction, even though all of her information is based on interviews with the true-life person who the book is based on, but it reads over and over again like a badly written memoir. Just a total stinker.
>212 alans: alans
I started The Tattoist of Aushwitz and decided that it was not for me.
Agree with both of y'alls on Homegoing. But I appreciate ambition in a debut author and look forward to whatever she may be doing next.
I spent a lot of time in the air this week and finished The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, which was a solidly enjoyable piece of narrative nonfiction. To say that it has all the requisite elements sounds like faint praise, but I appreciate when an author does the necessary research to set the scene—especially if there are several topics that converge, as in this one—and then uses just enough of it to scaffold a good story. The fact that Johnson's obsession with solving the last pieces of the crime is never realized is both a little unsatisfying and humanizing; the book may be subtitled "the Natural History Heist of the Century," but this isn't a whodunnit that ties up all the loose ends before the last page, nor does it dig too deeply into the strange subculture of fly-tying. Rather, it's an entertaining yarn—the real fun is in the telling, as I realized when I had a second good time recounting the basic plot points to a friend a few days after reading it.
And continuing my nonfiction natural science reading (also known as continuing to have random library holds come in), I'm now about to start Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution. the subject matter ticks a bunch of my boxes and the author is cute, so we'll see.
I've been reading Where the Crawdads Sing for my book club. It's keeping me interested, but there are a lot of negative things I could say about it too. Mainly just terrible dialogue. The rest of the writing is ok, not great, but that dialogue...ugh. But, as long as it's keeping me reading, right now that's enough for me.
I'm reading Her Body and Other Parties. It's excellent. I love a little transgressive sex around the holidays.
>212 alans: You weren't the only one who took issue with The Tattooist of Auschwitz, alan:
The Tattooist of Auschwitz attacked as inauthentic by camp memorial centre
I read the new stand alone by Jane Harper The Lost Man and people, it is ALL THAT. Grim doings in rural Queensland. I loved it. I also read the new Lissa Evans Old Baggage which was just delicious - a very Readerville book about a group of suffrage activists in post WWI Britain. This was a freebie from the Early Reviewers program here at LT. Let's just say, I fell right into the book and emerged two days later utterly smitten. It's the kind of novel that is good for what ails you.
I am reading the new Louise Penny and the writing is so terrible I don't know if I can continue. also reading David Ritz's book on Aretha Franklin Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin
The Guardian list seems very short this year but I'm willing to go with it if everyone else is.
The two lists we use are:
So far, we have Nancy, Miriam, LuAnn and myself. Is this correct? I'll give it to the end of the week and then send out the list over the weekend. It can be the Epiphany book swap this year.
>221 Kat.Warren: I believe that is the AIDS section of Spillover turned into its own book. Quammen's latest, The Tangled Tree is of a piece and a natural follow up to Spillover. It is a history of the theory of horizontal gene transfer from wackadoodle notion to relatively accepted hypothesis, via a series of profiles of the scientists whose work went into building it. Mostly, of Carl Woese. But Ernst Haeckel gets a long section, as does Lynn Margulis.
The book doesn't feel as charged as one about all the infectious diseases on the brink of wiping us all out, but the history of the science is really well done, not the least because Quammen, in true journalist fashion, is at his best when he is talking about the people behind the theory. He's got a generous spirit and an affectionate tolerance for the contrarian and the gadfly in whatever discipline he's writing about. And a good appreciation for the difference between "visionary" and "crank."
Old Baggage looks really good but its not coming out till April! Ah well..
Do you have my name on the list? I told you on some thread, don't remember. But add me
Read Tangled Tree earlier thus year; it's on my years best list.
Also have the ebola adaptation from Spillover (which is super excellent read).
Finished Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution, a good popular science book that walks the fine line between being extremely accessible but not dumbing down the thesis or the science supporting it. Schilthuizen presents an interesting overview of urban evolution—how plants, insects, birds, and animals have adapted to manmade/urban environments—in an extremely digestible way that doesn't skirt the fact that this is serious business. The tone tends to default a little onto the side of breeziness, focusing on urban fauna and flora's successful adaptations to issues like noise, light, and chemical pollution and the compartmentalization of cities' green areas without digging into the more disastrous and deleterious effects. Then again, this is not that book, of which there are already many. This is, rather, an optimistic—but no less rigorous for that—look at the ways nature (both what we think of as "nature" and the kind touched by human beings) prevails.
Schilthuizen's style is conversational and often very funny, keeping the array of information moving along: why mice in urban pocket parks have developed different DNA; moths whose wing colors changed to provide camouflage on the soot-covered tree trunks of industrial-age England; plants that filter heavy metals; the difference between rural and urban blackbirds, who do in fact sing in the dead of night (to avoid daytime city noises—and that's not the only sly Paul McCartney reference Schilthuizen works in); and the ultimate irony—how the post-Darwin transformation of the Galápagos capital of Santa Cruz into a tourist destination has resulted in enough urban homogenization to slowly reverse the differentiated effects on the bills of "Darwin's" finches, which are what led to its fame to begin with.
Lots to learn here, and it both goes down easily and sticks in the brain—the author presents his information well and usably. Recommended for anyone curious about the subject—and Schilthuizen loves him some citizen scientists, so the book may well achieve his goal of encouraging more folks with general interests to get involved in helping track urban evolution as it marches on.
Now reading Daniel Gumbinder's The Boatbuilder, another library ebook hold that snuck up on me. After this, my goal for my time off is to read something in hardcover that I wouldn't necessarily want to haul around on my daily commute, much of which I stand up for and have to read one-handed. I'm thinking Circe, but we'll see.
I just finished David Ritz's biography of Aretha Franklin Respect: The life of Aretha Franklin. He had worked on a book with her but for whatever reason, she was unable to open up to him and he felt like it was more of a puff piece. This digs a bit deeper and he clearly did his homework with deep and far reaching interviews with her siblings, her managers, and her peers. It was a bit depressing, she had serious financial issues, was unlucky in love and worked so hard to stay current, making a slew of not particularly memorable records. And talk about a lack of self-awareness. She really poured everything - EVERYTHING - into the music and it makes you wonder, if she hadn't, if she had been a more normal person, would the music have been as stellar?
Ritz also suggests that artists who are born with a very precociously mature talent - Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland - are put in adult situations - if not sexually, then emotionally, very early and it has a lasting effect.
Also, the gospel world was a HOTBED of sex.
Not sure what the holidays will bring reading wise but a copy of Goodbye Vitamin tumbled into my lap and I'm enjoying it.
Ahhh, my reading vacation has begun. I made quick work of The Boatbuilder—it's a sweet, good-natured novel in which nothing much happens, but I enjoyed the ride very much. It follows a year or so in the life of a feckless but decent young man grappling with an opioid habit and figuring out what his next steps in life are. The protagonist, Berg, is a bit lost, but he's also a good guy whom you sense will be OK, and when his instincts lead him to boat-building and a tight little community as a way to keep himself afloat (zero pun intended, honest) you can't help but root for him. Ultimately the book is a gentle tribute to the qualities of working with one's hands, learning a craft, talking to your neighbors, and taking your time with what you do. And you can't really argue with that, especially when a book is as nicely written and affable as this one.
What a lovely review. Thanks, Lisa.
edit: except that I think the link is wrong.
I read Goodbye, Vitamin and for a quirky novel about depression, I thought it was quite good. The writing esp. Khong really knows her way around a metaphor.
I feel like I should be snuggling up with something cozy but I started reading notes on a Foreign Country and it's very very good. Its about changing your perception, not in a superficial way but in a let the blinders fall for good kind of way, that is unsettling and inspiring. Hansen moved to Istanbul with a set of ideas about the romantic bridge between east and West but with a lot of naïve and frankly dangerous ideas about Islam and America's role in the middle east. It's personal, political, historical. Very impactful.
I am also back to reading the stories in Friday Black so I guess I'm having kind of a get-woke end of the year experience.
Never Caught Fascinating story, but way too much speculation and stating the obvious. But its a small book to begin with so it adds some filler. Thought she does an excellent job of telling her story within the context of the historical events of the time.
I finished Madeline Miller's Circe in one big gulp yesterday—that'll probably be my last book read of 2018—and it was outstanding. Miller has worked her way inside the Greek myths and legends to flesh out their gods, Titans, mortals, and monsters with not only backstories but motivations, conflicts, inconsistencies, entanglements, nuances, and scars. That's surely the point for anyone who studies classics, but she's done the writer's work as well to give it all a solid armature of plot and narrative arc that's not always there when you get them piecemeal, as most of us have done. And the result is thrilling, honestly. Miller is a strong writer, and—just as important when working with this kind of deep historical material—she has an excellent ear, so not a word rings false. From the book's opening pages the witch Circe is a character to wonder and care about—a believable and fascinating anti/heroine. I loved every word.
There are also some interesting meditations here on mortality and fate, both of which are often on my mind these days. The last page and a half was as moving as anything I've read in a long time.
Also in awe of the book's insane crossover power. Circe is for lovers of literary fiction and historical fiction, book clubs, scholars, your aunt, your teenager, your best friend. This was a great book to wind up a good reading year.
(There are some neat images of Circe on Miller's blog.)
Feeling like an atmospherically wintery book for these last few days of the year, even though we've been spared any snow that stuck so far, so I'm reading Ways to Hide in Winter. No particular plans for New Year's Eve, since Jeff is on his way out to Albuquerque to see his sister and nephews and great-niece (and someone's gotta stay with the old dog—plus I'm headed back to work on Wednesday), so I figure that'll be a good time to catch up on a little letter-writing and read: finishing up as I intend to go on.
Happy New Year, everyone! May this one be good, fun, joyful, satisfying, adventurous, or restful in whatever proportions works for you.
Lisa I agree with every word in your interview; I loved it as much as you did! I'll be rereading it for my sci/fan book group next month, can't wait to talk about it! Song of Achilles is just as good. I think it helsp reading Circe first because the characters in his story were already familar.
It's always the most unexpected surprise that gets me reading again after a long slump.
I usually go to short stories to cure a slump but found this in my Kindle library: Akata Witch. I haven't read a YA book in ages, which is why it caught my eye. Actually, it's categorized as YA, but it's one of those for-all-ages books. Really unique voice from a teen with powers she hasn't figured out yet, born in the U.S. but moved to Nigeria by her parents who thought it a better place to raise an albino young girl (!?!) It's steeped in an unfamiliar (to me) African mythology, and I can't wait to get back to it today.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okoafor
I just read Ways to Hide in Winter, not sure on whose recommendation. Interesting book, though. It was a humane and—in spite of some intense violence—gentle novel that explores the growing friendship between a young widow and a refugee from Uzbekistan, each side of the relationship framed by the the punishing load of secrets they both carry, all set against the winter landscape of rural Pennsylvania. But aside from its very deliberate thriller-like pacing as those secrets slowly unfurl, the book is more substantially concerned with exploring themes of guilt, forgiveness, loneliness, concealment, and the large and small ways people harm each other. This is one of those books that prove the point that reading fiction can make you a more compassionate person—it grapples with some hard issues of personal culpability and doesn't return pat answers (or any answers, really).
The writing here is low-key, appropriately atmospheric, and for the most part well done, though foreshadowing is some dicey business and needs to be done with a lighter touch. But overall the novel was moral in an un-preachy fashion that I appreciate in fiction, and St. Vincent kept it honest enough to keep me engaged.
Now I'm reading The Devoted because Gayla Bassham sucked me in with a Goodreads recommendation.
Funny. I'm reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup because Gayla Bassham sucked me in with a GR rec. Then I saw that you, Julie, and Roxane Gay all loved it. How could I resist?
Nice rec of Ways to Hide in Winter, Lisa. I'm in. You write about books so beautifully.
Heh. I just bought Circe because of Lisa's review. We're all such bad...er, good influences on each other!
Aw, thank you! Reviewing is still such a love of mine, and one of the few kinds of writing—other than the personal stuff nobody sees and regular old correspondence—that I do for fun rather than work. It's still on my bucket list to get paid for a review somewhere, someday.
notes on a Foreign country was really good but somewhat sobering reading. Hansen went to Turkey on an exchange for journalists and came up short against all her pre-conceived notions abut Islam, the middle East, modernization, and America's unwillingness to engage in any kind of thoughtful reckoning of its own history . She brings in all experience as a journalist and American living in a foreign country, but also from novels and older historical accounts. It's informative and provoking (did you know there was a political agenda behind the Iowa writing program?) but also kind of depressing.
The stories in Friday Black were all that. Even the ones that were a tiny bit under-baked were great.
I am reading (and reviewing) The River, my first Peter Heller and it is truly excellent.
Late to the game but a few of my favorites from 2018:
Days without End by Sebastian Barry
Last Stories by William Trevor
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns
Improvement Silber by Joan Silber
The Elected Member Bernice Rubens
Your Duck is My Duck by Deboarh Eisenberg
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott (nuns!)
Why Religion by Elaine Pagels
I'm not even sure why I picked these over others - I had a pretty good reading year overall -- though few things really jumped out.
Biggest disappointment - The Incendiaries which I didn't hate but didn't live up to the hype.
Worst book read -- Where the Crawdads Sing. HATED IT
I’m off to a great start in 2019. The first two books read, completely different novels, are each really fabulous.
Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins was so disturbing, bleak, and unsettling. I could not put it down and then when I discovered it was based on a true crime I got chills all over again. I adored Jenkins’ The Tortoise and The Hare and highly recommend that as well. For lovers of those Virago Modern Classics. Harriet was recently released on Kindle, very reasonably priced too.
The second book. I read has been on TBR pile forever. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell is damn near perfect. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to Maxwell. I read Time Will Darken It this summer at the beach and liked that a lot but this was just a gem of precision, understatement, and heart. Next up in February, The Folded Leaf.
Just started My Brilliant Friend this morning and loving it so far. I’m on a roll!
>249 LuRits: Isn't the Maxwell book just the most wonderful thing? It's one of the few I reread every so often (helps that it's short).
Finished The Devoted. This debut novel is an interesting exploration of faith, fidelity, and searching, and also the ways that religion wields power over both the faithful and the questioning. The protagonist, Nicole, has left the Catholic church in which she was raised for Buddhism—she's a convert, and has been studying under the same teacher for more than ten years. But the fact that she and her teacher also have a sexual relationship leads her to interrogate her own practices of faith and submission, particularly when held up to the reasons she broke from Catholicism. I liked the exploration of the issues here, and how Hurley framed the beauty and comfort to be found in both religions, although at times the controlling nature of both Nicole's family and her Buddhist master felt a little too cut-and-dried for the sake of easy comparison. Still, this was definitely worth reading—a thoughtful novel that isn't afraid to interrogate itself a bit.
Now on to Ghost Wall because my hold came in—I hit that sweet spot of putting a hold on an ebook that just came out before the ravening hordes clicked.
I can't say why but whenever Maxwell is cited I think of William Trevor. Mad for both.
I'm not wild about cruises but we loved our Windstar cruise last summer to Scotland, Norway, Faroes and Iceland. Small ship, only 200 passengers and we had a suite with two bathrooms and a deck.
Hoping to see bears, fuchsias and lots of malamutes. Cruising is a good way to travel with demented Jim.
Just read Ghost Wall, a dark little tale: an Iron Age reenactment being carried out one summer in North England with two sets of players: an "experimental archeology" professor and three 20-something grad students in it for the class credit and a lark, and a family there to satisfy the father's obsession with the time period and a "pure" England. More than a tale of old ways vs. new, it's a class conflict story above all, town and gown in particular. The professor and his students are breezy and often sloppy, with the implication that they can afford to be, but for the bus driver father, and the wife and daughter he drags along in his wake, this is grimly serious business. That combination of class and cultural nostalgia as the driving force for dysfunction made me think of a less wan (and damp) Elmet, with a little Lord of the Flies thrown in. The abusive, obsessive father was drawn in too-broad strokes, I thought, but the 17-year-old narrator, Silvie, is complex and interesting, a terrific voice. The writing is nice throughout, and the story is uncomfortable and at the same time engaging.
And now, because a friend sent me her hard copy, Michelle Obama's Becoming. It has one of the most agreeable forewords to a memoir I've ever read, so I hope the rest is that pleasant.
Since the year turned, I've been making my way through The Pursuit of the Well Beloved and The Well Beloved, two versions of the same Thomas Hardy novel. They were written five years apart (Jude, the supposed last book, is in between them) and they have significant differences -- one is more male and one is more female-centered. It's a peculiar book for him to rewrite and try and "get right," but together they make a compelling argument for him as a square-in-the-middle -of-it modernist, which is something I've never quite bought before (at least as a novelist). There are big chunks that are so un-Hardy-like, so not based in grim day-to-day realism.
I'm fascinated by the whole thing, but if you're not a Hardy person, don't do it.
I thought Peter Heller's The River was excellent and look forward to exploring more of his writing. This had a bit of Deliverance in the plot, the writing was exquisite and the emotions earned. A few small quibbles about the pacing but otherwise, a hearty recommend.
I do not understand why Rosellen Brown is not a superstar. I'm reading her new book The Lake on Fire and it's just amazing, like every other thing she's ever written. It's about a brother and sister who come to Chicago in the early 1890s from rural Wisconsin and make their way, the sister in a cigar making factory, the brother like a cross between the artful dodger and robin Hood. It's just extraordinary. The novel came out on a tiny tiny Chicago press with no publicity behind it- why isn't this woman considered a major player? This is the great Chicago novel - so much more so than The Great Believers (sorry Rebecca).
Color me flummoxed. On the other hand, read it.
FInished Dear Hamilton which wasn't bad if you ignored the forewarning at the end of every chapter, the details repeated over and over, and a bit of a drag in the first section. The last half when she is a widow is much better done imho
I have an embarrassment of riches, thanks to christmas, New Years Day sale, birthday, and book group reads - not sure what to start with
Little edward carey
Leadership in turbulent times (thanks Luann!)
Wonder Beyond Belief
A Terrible Country
J.B (actually found in a used store and realized I know longer had a copy. )
Circe which I am going to have to read a third time (gosh darn it) for a book group.
Im almost finished with LIttle, and well into the Doris K Goodman, and will probably read Becoming next just not sure which novel I want to dive into.
I have my best list in draft form, but touchstones aren't working, so I'll try again tonight.
I'm reading City of Crows right now, and enjoying it a great deal. Pat, I think it's a perfect book for you! Not to demanding but well written and very engrossing -- Plus, witches, plague, galley slaves and medieval France. Kat, you might like this one too.
Here's my list.
The Fifth Season by Jemisin (my favourite genre read of the year)
Happiness by Forna
Everything Under by Johnson
The Transcriptionist by Rowland
Stephen Florida by Habash
White Tiger by Adiga
The Strangler Vine by Carter
Mean by Gurba
Fever Dream by Schweblin
Knucklehead by Smyer
Son of the Trickster by Robinson
Children's Bach by Garner (so excited when this was re-released)
Rock Crystal by Stifter (loved the northern lights scene -- engrossing read, I can see why deeg re-reads it yearly)
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Roy (It was kind of a messy novel and I wanted more of Anjum, but still an excellent read)
Landmarks by Macfarlane (I read this because Niki did, and so glad I did)
Seven Fallen Feathers by Talaga
Elements of Indigenous Style - by Younging (super nerdy read that probably only word for someone whose regularly editing students papers, but still, loved it)
Real World Of Technology by Franklin
Heart Berries by Mailhot
Educated by Westover
My best list, shorter than usual -- I think it was a problematic year, and thus I was less "open" than usual to the books in my hands:
The Overstory -- did I mention how much I love and admire this book? :-)
Her Body and Other Parties -- even though I read this a year ago, I still find myself thinking about scenes and moments in the book.
Circe -- as good, well, no, better than everyone says.
The Mind of the Raven -- great science!
The Cooking Gene -- a re-read, but it hit me as hard as it did the first time
Florida by Lauren Groff -- might be my new favorite short story writer
Heart Berries -- I still don't know how she managed to put so much in so short a book. I'd call it poetry if it weren't so clearly prose.
Flights by Olga Tocarczuk -- my favorite new discovery writer
A House for Mr. Biswas -- I can't believe it took me so long to read this.
Wade in the Water by Tracy K Smith
Half a Yellow Sun -- another re-read, but god, I adore this book.
Old Ways: A Journey on Foot -- this is a writer who has really grown on me. He treats language and landscape as tangled up in each other, like they are interdependent.
Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Braiding Sweetgrass -- I find I follow her "guidelines for the honorable harvest" with the same devotion others seem to give Marie Kondo's rules for having stuff
The Tangled Tree -- worth it just for the section on Lynn Margulis
The Library Book -- Szabo for President!
Dreams in a Time of War -- I've been reading his nonfiction, lately.
The Overstory -- I feel like this book belongs on my list at least eight times.
ETA: whoops? did I post this in the wrong thread? I saw Miriam's post and thought oh yeah, I haven't done that yet. Sorry!
I seem to have a tradition of picking an absolutely stellar "first book of the year", although I wasn't trying for that. Last year was Her Body and Other Parties. This year, I picked up The Hour of Land -- Terry Tempest Williams' book about the National Parks. Oddly apropos given that they are probably all closed or something thanks to the furlough, but that wasn't why I started reading it. In one of those serendipitous book moments my mom and I seem to share, she brought me a copy when my folks came to visit, whilst I had a copy of When Women Were Birds in my stack of books for her.
Anyway, it's just beautiful. Hard to describe, but beautiful. It's a kind of exploration into the deep meaning of the parks as identity. It's not a travel book, not just a conservationist's plea, it's a long love letter to the park system and to these National Parks as answers to the question "What is America?".
It's a peculiar book, unlike any other National Parks thing I've ever read (I have a NP "odd shelf" a mile long). Almost every other Parks book starts from the outside and moves inward -- hers is the opposite. I'll admit that it's so personal that I cringed a couple of times, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just...well, again, such an unusual book.
>269 DG_Strong: Almost every other Parks book starts from the outside and moves inward -- hers is the opposite.
Yeah, I don't think she can write any other way. She is of the landscape, not someone who just walks across it. But my favorite sections were the ones where landscape and people were in the most direct conflict -- the Theodore Roosevelt Park / Bakken Oil Fields chapter. The Gettysburg Battlefield chapter. The Effigy Mounds section. (Boy do I want to see those now).
When my folks came to visit we went to see a rather amazing exhibit called The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art
Part of the exhibit is a 360-degree film of her house (the Ghost Ranch) and the vistas she walked and painted. (The view she lived with is, well, indescribable). And I couldn't help but think -- I'm sure her house is some kind of designated historical landmark, but to really preserve what it meant, you'd have to preserve everything out to the horizon and then some. Leave everything untouched as far as you can see. I found myself thinking about how much space you need to preserve the experience of the land. Ghost Ranch is something like 32 square miles. It didn't seem enough.
I'm reading my second "big book" in a month (the first was Circe, which made every best-of list last year): Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming. I don't think a book gets much bigger than this one, and I usually flinch away from celebrity memoirs. But I've wanted to read this since I saw her speak about it last summer at the American Library Association conference in New Orleans—she was so engaging—and then a friend sent me her recently read copy. I'm about halfway through and yep, you can count me as another fan. The book is terrific. Aside from being interesting and a good story well told, her writing voice is flawless—just from a technical POV it never deviates from being very clearly HER voice, intelligent and relatable and funny and agreeable. I'm sure she had help shaping this, but however much is hers and however much is theirs, it's really a masterpiece of voice and storytelling. There hasn't been a single off note so far. And it's really nice to hear her voice—and her husband's—in my ear right now (I guess that's one of the good things about celebrity memoirs—you can hear them speak in your head) when this country really seems to be going straight to hell. It's a reminder that there is idealism in this world, and hopefully it's waiting in the wings to try to undo some of the shit that's been done to us.
Also reading, because it was an Earlybird Books $1.99 special yesterday, Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable. Because that's my life goal these days... Dorrie's going to be 14 this spring and her arthritis is just starting to slow her down, and I want to keep her happy and comfy no matter what. She's such a good girl.
Miriam and Nicki, no worries about your lists (yes, there's a separate group for "best books"), I got them and put them in my spreadsheet! I don't think we'll have any more lists, so I may post the final "winners" later today.
I've been reading a little more, in the mornings on the weekends and occasionally before I go to bed. I read Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore, which was ok. Then I read We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix and couldn't put it down! It reminded me a LOT of Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box (and other Joe Hill). Part of what I loved was that the author clearly does know some actual metal music! Each chapter has a title of a metal album by many of the best metal bands out there....and one Dolly Parton album. I loved it.
I'm trying to read The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, and this is probably the 4th time I've tried. I just can't get into it. I'm forcing myself, so I've read about half of it. I may just not have the Pratchett gene, because The Wyrd Sisters didn't really hold me either. I started rereading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and it totally works for me. I don't know what it is about Pratchett, if I like Douglas Adams and Christopher Moore.
Hi Dorrie, you little cutie!
I've read all but a couple of Powers' books. I'm a big fan. Read about 1/3 of The Overstory and then put it up on the shelf for when I can concentrate better. It's one of those books I want to take my time with and make last. There were sentences in that book which I found stunning.
>272 JulieCarter: I think if I had started with color of magic, I would have thrown in the towel as well. Try his older books he wrote when he was at the top of his game : Wyrd Sisters, Lords and Ladies, Small Gods, Soul Music, Theif of Time - all which stand alone. If those don't work - Pratchett wrote a book with Neil Gaiman called Good Omens, one of my fav books of all time, and soon to be a tv series on Amazon prime. It was my first taste of their books and never looked back
Older? The Color of Magic is his first book! But I've already read Wyrd Sisters and it didn't quite work for me either. I may try another at some later time, but I may not bother. Too many books, so little time, of course! I also have Good Omens and have been meaning to read it. I've read a bunch of Neil Gaiman and liked it, so I'll definitely read it before the show comes out.
I like Pratchett in theory, but I've never loved his books (the ones I liked the most were MORT, Going Postal and Thief of Time). I have really enjoyed the TV adaptations though -- just enough Pratchett in those.
>277 JulieCarter: sorry Julie, meant to say try is later books.....thanks for catching that!
That Hadley is a knock-out. She's so smart too - I did a q and a with her for bookpage. https://bookpage.com/interviews/23567-tessa-hadley-fiction#.XEtS0WaWwdU.
Her answers make me look smart for asking those questions!
The Lake on Fire could have used with a bit of editing but it's really a gorgeous book and it breaks my heart that it didn't get any promotion and nobody ill read it. Brown is an extraordinary writer and like all her books, this one is filled with unforgettable scenes.
I just read Amy Hempel's new book Sing to It. I'm one who feels like two paragraphs do not a story make but I liked these a lot.
Lu, I read HIS FAVORITES and loved it. It packs a wallop. Glad you like it.
I'm definitely going to read the new ROSELLEN BROWN.
Lake on Fire could have used with a bit of editing but it's really a gorgeous book and it breaks my heart that it didn't get any promotion and nobody ill read it. Brown is an extraordinary writer and like all her books, this one is filled with unforgettable scenes.
I just got it from the library based on your recommendation. It is close to the top of my current staggeringly high TBR pile.
ALL OF THESE BOOKS are on my TBR pile, and it's just making me fervently wish I had more time to read.
I finished Michelle Obama's Becoming, which was—beyond any expectations—just lovely. Her voice comes through so clearly throughout, which is both good writing and, I suspect, great cowriting and/or editing, but whatever. It's good to hear from her again. There was a lot that was fun about it, from descriptions of what it's like inside the White House (she describes it as a bubble, which sounds about right—she couldn't open a window or go out on the balcony without clearance from the Secret Service) to talk about raising kids and her marriage—which, of course, she went into only as much as it suited her, but still. I'm always fascinated by portraits of other people's marriages and how they negotiate the rough stuff. And it was good to read an account of her husband's administration if only to affirm that no, it wasn't a dream. And a decent president could happen again. Sigh. Anyway, recommended for anyone, really. It was a buoying read.
Then I read George Saunders's Fox 8, which is a tiny little fable about wildlife in the big world. You have to be in the mood for dialect—it's written in fox-speak—and you have to be in the mood for Saunders' slightly dark whimsy. Otherwise it ain't gonna work. But I was open for it, plus the whole thing is about 50 pages, so I liked it.
I spent an entire flight from NYC to Seattle reading Eric Kandel's The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves, which is dry as dirt yet totally fascinating, and it kept me reading (glossing over the medical terms a little, but I think I still think I have a better picture of the brain's workings). It's a strange phenomenon: by all rights I should have abandoned it within the first 25 pages because he's not a very interesting writer. But I'm still reading, and eager to get back to it when I have a few minutes in between conference-going. Go figure.
Alternated that with Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy, and Comfortable. Because that's my life's work these days.
So... a lot of not-very-uplifting nonfiction, yet I'm very into both books. Go figure.
I have an Iris Murdoch from the library cued up next (Under the Net), maybe for the flight back, as well as Marlon James's Black Leopard, Red Wolf, which looks totally fascinating. So that'll depend on whether I want a break from my nonfiction and what I'm in the mood for.
Also already picked up
I love Marlon James so much. I am super excited to read this new one.
I am reading a book of short stories - Lot from a new writer Bryan Washington. Boy howdy, they are good. They all take place in the sprawl that is Houston, some interlinked but not all - very fresh voice, very new approach. Coming of age stories from a biracial (black and Hispanic) kid, probably gay. His story Waugh was in the New Yorker and that's pretty indicative of whats here.
Reading is so exciting right now!
Ooh, I have that one too and am really stoked for it—I want to get a jump start on LJ's best short stories of the year NOW. I wish I had more time to read... but of course the all-consuming job is what gives me access to all these books, so I guess I should just shut up and not complain.
Lisa, it's so good. I am re-reading Waugh, the story from the NYer. I just dig him so much.
The Disordered Mind: What Unusual Brains Tell Us About Ourselves was indeed dry as dust throughout—very small proportion of narrative to medical terms and descriptions of brain workings, and I think he made one joke about 20 pages from the end—but at the same time I found it fascinating and it held my attention all the way through. I will say Kandel's writing was very accessible, and none of it was hard to parse. I hope I retain at least a little of it, because there's a LOT of information there about brains, brain functions, genes, synapses, genetics, all that good stuff.
Now I'm reading Iris Murdoch's Under the Net, because a review somewhere (LA Review of Books I think) said it was both her best and her most philosophical book. It's quite entertaining and Iris Murdoch–y so far, at any rate.
OK, fine, she tapped in exasperated fashion: clicking on Under the Net.
EDIT: Yikes, I almost bought the Chinese hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/Under-Net-Chinese-Iris-Murdoch/dp/7540247304/ref=tmm_hrd_...
>293 lisapeet: there's a LOT of information there about brains, brain functions, genes, synapses, genetics, all that good stuff.
I just finished Robert Wright's book Why Buddhism is True, which is basically his take on the psychology and science going on behind the effects of mindfulness meditation. It is not dry as dust although it is a wee bit overly-enthusiastic (meditation is not going to save the planet ;-) ). But it was fascinating to delve into the nitty-gritty of how we experience and process emotions and sensory input, and their relationship to many of the problems that plague us, like addiction, isolation, an inability to connect to others, etc. He comes at it from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, so it isn't a "religion" book in any sense of the term. I had to read it twice to absorb everything.
I just finished Patrick Modiano’s Honeymoon which was interesting. I’d never read anything by him before. Followed up with Rose Macauley’s Told By An Idiot which I loved and is part of my goal of reading all those Virago Modern Classics I’ve been collecting for years. Next up I think will be Rosamund Lehmann’s Weather in the Streets.
I just finished Tessa Hadley's Late in the Day this morning, and it's so good. Such gorgeous, precise writing, and cheers to her for making late middle age seem so dead sexy.
I usually have a listening-to (above) and a reading book going at the same time, and my reading book is Wild Heart, the biography of Natalie Clifford Barney. She's an outrageously, ostentatiously larger-than-life character and great fun to read about. If ex-pat Paris 1900-1925 is your scene, then Barney is a wonderful guide.
Barney's biographer needs to get a grip sometimes, however. The book is beautifully and meticulously researched and Barney herself left behind voluminous correspondence, roman-a-clef novels and poems and stories, pictures of herself as a nymph and a page boy, and thousands of broken-hearted poets and artists who desperately chronicled her every glance--if a famous or notorious or talented woman set foot in Paris in the early twentieth century Barney gleefully seduced her--and I think the general over-heatedness of Barney's life is over-cooking the prose.
I took two books to Mexico, Vita Sackville-West's All Passion Spent and Agatha Christie's Crooked House. The latter was supposedly AC's favorite of her own novels; I figured it out at roughly the halfway point, though I will give her credit for actually planting the clues to the solution, which she did not ALWAYS do, so maybe that's why I felt so smug about it. I can see why she liked it; it's super-mean.
All Passion Spent is a very DG book -- Ima have to go back to the Muriel Spark bio and see if she ever mentions it, because that's what it felt like in a lot of ways, a late Muriel Spark book...though in this case, NOT so super-mean.
Loved All Passion Spent - think we read it for a discussion in Rvile? Have read it a few times since, still holds up - and I agree about the Spark connection there.
BTW what did you end up thinking about the Gorey bio?
I'm looking forward to that Tessa Hadley book, and thanks for the rec of the Natalie Barney bio. I'm all over it.
I read that Barney bio ages ago but I think I need a refresher.
I concur about the Hadley. ITS. SO. GOOD. I forgot I did a q and a with her for bookpage and her answers are so articulate, she makes my questions much more interesting than they were.
I just finished Susan Choi's Trust Exercise. I need to let it percolate a bit and I don't know what to say without giving the plot away. At first, the novel seems to be about two students at a performing arts high school. They fall in love and to them and seemingly to their circle of friends, the whole community is obsessed with these two kids being together, as well as their eventual break up and their continued obsession with one another. Other things happen, a group of students from England arrive to do a show and hijinks ensue. And that's just the first 100 pages, right about the point where you are wondering why you are spending all this time with these kids who you don't even like.
And then the whole narrative is upended and nothing is quite what it seemed and it doesn't get resolved until the final coda and even then you are like - huh?
I think it might be brilliant. It's certainly a thrill to read.
I am reading Joan Chase's During the Reign of the Queen of Persia which a friend gave me. it's so my thing, I don't know why I've not read it until now.
Oh, that's a good interview, Lauren.
"Without giving anything away, I felt that Late in the Day was really about a middle-aged woman committing to her identity as an artist. Would you agree?
Yes, that’s what I think. My heart was in that last chapter, those last pages."
I'm reading The Grand Babylon Hotel. Arnold Bennett is a bit of a mystery to me (I think I mixed him up with someone else in my mind forever) but it's a funny mix of Wodehouse, EF Benson and Agatha Christie, almost Max Beerbohm a little... only he has his own style. I' flying through it and I can tell I'm going to regret that.
Happy you fell for "All Passion Spent, DG, it is a favorite.
You know, not everyone is a Virginia Woolf fan given the eliptical writing; for those who find that tedious (as do I), try The Years.
Well, I'm on to Leading Men, which I was hotly anticipating. It's a little bit of a bust at the halfway point...it reads like every single St Martin's Press gay-ish novel from the early 90s you ever thought of reading. I'm sticking with it; the Tennessee Williams parts are interesting; the made-up actress parts are not. We'll see which wins out.
This topic was continued by The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.