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The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5

This is a continuation of the topic The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 4.


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Feb 6, 3:36pm Top

So many books, so little time.

Feb 7, 8:51pm Top

OK, I'll bust my proverbial champagne bottle over this thread.

I just read Iris Murdoch's Under the Net. I've heard this called her best book, but this is only my second of hers and I liked The Sea, The Sea a bit better. I've also heard it described as her most philosophical book, and again I don't have enough to go on—nor do I have much of a grounding in philosophy—but I can at least see where that idea comes from. The book struck me as a kind of self-consciously intellectual overlay to a comedy of manners that has an overlying conceit of being not intellectual and not quite a comedy either, but of course it's very much both. Not to mention a huge nonsexual same-sex love story (the actual love interests were much more flimsy). And while I don't think there's such a thing as free indirect first-person speech, where the narrator is at the same time floating a little above his own head, if there were this would be it. There's always the feeling that Murdoch knows a lot more than she's letting on to the reader… which of course authors are supposed to, but the sense of it isn't usually quite so pervasive. Anyway, it was entertaining and oddly-paced enough to keep my attention. And there's a great dognapping scene that was worth the price of admission (not to mention a great dog).

Now I'm reading a super compelling poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, by Natalie Díaz. Good stuff, a lot of it knockout worthy so far.

Feb 8, 11:03am Top

I have two books going right now. I'm listening to Bood and Ivy by Paul Collins about a murder at Harvard in 1849. I've just started it, so I don't have any thoughts about it yet. My other book is The Girl in the Tower which is the second book in the series that starts with The Bear and the Nightingale. For some reason, I am needing mindless reads. We're supposed to get a foot of snow over the next 36 hours, so I'll curl up with a book set in snowy Russia while it snows here.

Feb 8, 12:33pm Top

I've got that Paul Collins book on my list. He's a very good writer. Let us know what you think, April.

Feb 8, 2:17pm Top

I'm into mindless reads myself, these days.

Edited: Feb 8, 4:22pm Top

Mindlessness is an increasingly attractive state of being. That said, I'm reading the Marie Kondo books.. She fascinates me.

Feb 8, 11:50pm Top

When My Brother Was an Aztec was terrific. I don't necessarily read poetry with the same kind of critical filter that I do prose, but I really appreciate when a poem or collection knocks me sideways, and this one did. Powerful work about the Native American experience, addiction, love, and loss, with wonderful use of language and imagery. This was a library book but I'm tempted to buy a copy so I can go back to the well, because a lot of this was just brilliant.

Feb 9, 7:49am Top

Oh a new book by Paul Collins is always a pleasure. Oh and the Girl in the Tower will be the perfect read in a snow storm - brrrr! (I actually enjoyed this book more than Bear, and I was over the moon on that one)

Now reading bowlaway. Funny that both McCraken and her husband Edward Carey had books out this year after a long hiatus., Loved his, and so far loving hers!

Feb 9, 12:43pm Top

I forgot they were married.

Feb 11, 12:08pm Top

Hi All! I've been super sick, but I'm kind of in the middle of Pig Island by Mo Hayder, The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (I feel like I'm finally reading a book for grown-ups!), and listening to Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). Nothing exciting to report, because my brain is barely working right now.

Nicki (and anyone else who'd like to chime in), what books about trees could you recommend? I know you loved The Overstory, and I thought I remembered you mentioning a couple of others while you were raving about that one. But I can't seem to find them. I have a friend who declared herself a "tree nerd," so I offered to let her know of some good tree books that I'd seen recommended. Do you have any? Thanks in advance!

Feb 11, 1:19pm Top

>10 JulieCarter: I created a list of "tree books" awhile ago, Julie, although I haven't added to it in months:


I should look around and see if there is anything else I've read lately I'd be inclined to put on it.

Feb 12, 7:18am Top

The Collected Stories of Machado de Assis. I wish I could say I had heard of this guy before -- since the stories are 120 years old -- but that's my North-America-centricness showing, I guess. It's an astonishing find, like discovering 1000 new pages of Hardy or Maupassant (other people made those comparisons first), only all set on fin de siècle Rio de Janeiro.

Edited: Feb 12, 8:23am Top

>12 DG_Strong: I've been eyeing that one for a while. It was everywhere but no one I knew had read it, so I'm glad to hear from you.

I finished Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man, one of the collections I was reading last fall for LJ's Best Books 2018 award, and one of the books I was hottest to read all the way through. It's a super strong debut. Brinkley digs into the inner lives of urban men and boys of color in wonderfully nuanced, intelligent stories that deal with some big themes—masculinity, racism, class, anger, disappointment, fathers and sons, aging, the male gaze—without ever getting heavy handed. His characters are complex, often thorny, and always striving toward honesty with themselves—if not always with one another. These deep dives into hearts and minds are warm and emotionally astute, the city settings vivid, and the writing beautiful. Each one of the nine is a standout, but damn I loved “J’ouvert, 1996."

Now finishing up Deborah Eisenberg's Your Duck Is My Duck.

Feb 12, 10:47am Top

I am happily swimming along in during the Reign of the Queen of Persia (everyone's read that right?) and catching up on old New Yorkers.

Feb 12, 1:34pm Top

>14 laurenbufferd: I haven't! It looks good, though. I'm reading old New Yorkers too, in between the short stories, but will probably never ever catch up.

Feb 12, 3:27pm Top

I read that sometime in the early 90s. The only thing I remember about it is that I liked it.

Feb 12, 3:32pm Top


Feb 12, 4:11pm Top

You know, it's people like you (and NYPL with the insane ebook collection) who totally destroy my reading plans.

Feb 12, 8:03pm Top

Joan Chase wrote another book that I quite loved, The Evening Wolves. I might even like it better than Persia. I had a friend (Lauren, it was Littman) who was in the Peace Corps in Togo and I sent it to her in one of those little mass market paperback versions (this would have been very early 90s sometime) and I mis-addressed it Corps de la Prix instead of Corps de la Paix so it took months to arrive at her mud hut and let me tell you, the fact that they could NOT FIGURE THAT OUT did not give me a lot of confidence in any of the organizations involved. Anyway, it was the only non-French book she had the whole time she was there and she read it like eleven times.

Chase had another, Bonneville Blue, which was stories. Also lovely -- I just looked her up; she died last April. Those were her only books.

Feb 12, 11:07pm Top

Finally got Overstory!!! Need to finish a few others before I get to it Possibly by spring break - that would give me a whole week to enjoy!

Feb 13, 9:37am Top

Thank you, Nicki! I'll send it along. I appreciate your help!

So, are we doing that Eve Babitz readalong? I have Slow Days, Fast Company and I started it the other day, and I'm loving it! Almost bought the Babitz bio yesterday, but it was a bit expensive for something that had such huge spacing between lines of text (200 pages, but probably 85 pages worth of text), so I'll wait until I can get it cheaper or at the library.

Feb 13, 10:43pm Top

Finished up Your Duck is My Duck, another collection from my Best Books reading, also a Story Prize finalist (as is A Lucky Man, which is why they're at the top of the pile, since I'll be covering that award ceremony in March). Deborah Eisenberg is a favorite short story writer of mine, and while this wasn't my top favorite collection of hers there was plenty here to like. Her wonderfully knotty plots and un-pin-downable relationships, and the language is, as ever, really unexpected and full of delights. Language and what it does/can do/can't do is a theme that runs through many of the stories here (and many of her stories in general, but it was thrown into particularly sharp focus in this collection). My favorites, “Cross Off and Move On" and "Recalculating," I had read in the NY Review of Books, and they felt to me to be the most fully realized of the bunch—the others had varying ratios of offbeat, marvelous writing to too much punctuation, a quirk of Eisenberg's that sometimes drives me nuts. But it's a neat collection, never boring, and definitely worth a read for anyone who likes a lot to chew on in their short fiction.

Now reading During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, which is all the fault of you book enablers.

The only Babitz I have is Eve's Hollywood, but I'm happy to read that as part of the read-along.

Feb 14, 8:51am Top

Lisa, I finished During the Reign of the Queen of Persia last night and it is ALL THAT AND SO MUCH MORE. Sigh. Couldn't have been better.

I got a copy of Wild out of someone's free box and am reading it.

Feb 14, 2:20pm Top

RE: Wild. I mainly just worried about her feet the whole time.

Feb 16, 9:05am Top

For some dumb reason, I thought I'd join in on the Wonkette read-a-long/book club thing, and the pick is A History of America in Ten Strikes. What was I thinking? This is not my usual fare at all (which is probably what I was thinking), and it already looks like an academic book. But I'm going to try it this morning and see if I live through the process. And maybe learn a thing or two, I guess. I'm sure it won't be as entertaining as Wonkette posts. Sad face.

And if it makes me feel like dying, I will go back to Eve Babitz or Sarah Perry, because I have been enjoying both of those, alongside my heavy metal magazines.

Feb 16, 9:38pm Top

Two Serious Ladies was exactly the length of the flight from Charlotte to Austin, and is the weirdest weirdest weirdest book I’ve read in ages. Obviously, I adored every second of it.

Feb 17, 9:10pm Top


Feb 20, 12:59pm Top

Oh golly, I did spend most of Wild worried about her feet. Every time a toenail came off...……..I did think it was quite good and very moving although I found the heroin bits a little , I don't know, not necessary?

I read a wretched YA novel by Meg Wolitzer Belzhar that was just wrong in every way and am happy now with a jolly mystery by Patricia Wentworth Spotlight.

Feb 20, 1:38pm Top

I just read Hiding Out: A Memoir of Drugs, Deception, and Double Lives by Tina Alexis Allen. Holy shit, what a life. In the introduction, she tells the reader many times that "She's okay now." I don't know how that's possible. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I really liked it.

Feb 20, 3:37pm Top

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden is a fabulous story collection. I had to return it to the library and don't have my notes with title but a couple of the stories had me in tears. Highly recommended.

Yesterday, 10:05pm Top

>30 LuRits: That's the one short story collection from 2018 that I really wanted to read and haven't. I'll library it up one of these days.

During the Reign of the Queen of Persia was, yes, fabulous—thank all you good folks for that recommendation. I love a book where the writing is so strong it bleeds over into the day-to-day personal narrative in your head and makes it that much more vibrant and beautiful, and this book did just that. Really, really lovely. Beautiful images of the natural world and great, spiky, complex characterizations of the people.

Now, against my better judgment, I'm reading the 900+-page Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Gayla raved about it on Goodreads and I figured I'd give it the 25 page test to see if I really want to invest in something that ponderously huge. I have no idea where 25 pages is, though, since it's an ebook, but I read the intro and the first chapter and they're really engaging, so I'll go ahead. I have more air travel ahead of me this weekend, so that might be just the thing.

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