The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading?
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Also still reading the Shirley Jackson bio. Very close to being done with it. I think it is fantastic.
I liked Station Eleven--the scale was nicely small for an apocalyptic novel, and her touch light. That opening scene has stayed with me, too.
But sitting on my desk is a copy of an old memoir that came in the mail the other day:
My Adventures in Bolshevik Russia, originally published in French as "Sous lenine," by Odette Keun. She was a Dutch journalist/lady adventurer (after failing at becoming a nun) in the early 20th century, a war correspondent, and also, incidentally, HG Wells's lover after Rebecca West.
I did manage to read thirty-odd pages of Mercury yesterday, and I'm really enjoying it so far.
I knew little about the marchers and the story is so horrific, it is beyond belief what people did to these people who just wanted equal rights. Very sad story but beautifully rendered in both graphic
In audio I am half-way through Stonewall, which is a YA nonfiction work about the Stonewall riots in 1969. I knew a little bit about the riots but this really takes you through the events blow by
blow, so to speak. For example, it is believed that it was a woman dressed as a man who caused the original riot to take place. She was being pushed into a paddy wagon and she screamed that
the people on the street fight back and everything went crazy then.
I am about 3/4 of the way through The Detour which has been on my shit or get off the pot pile for a while. It's about a young German man who is working on obtaining art works from other countries for Germany's museums and a trip to purchase The Discus Thrower from Rome. I honestly don't know if its good or not but its holding my attention and its only slightly disconcerting to read about fascism this week.
One of the interruptions was sticking my toe into the world of book clubs—someone I know through FB organized a translation book club for writers, and let me squeeze in even though I'm not a fiction writer. The book was Super Extra Grande by Yoss, a Cuban sf writer/biologist/heavy metal rockstar—she chose it on someone's word without having read it, and none of the three of us who ultimately showed up loved it. It was weird, fun in parts, cheerfully but also annoyingly adolescent with a lot of futuristic dick-swinging. Interesting language and science play, with a plot out of a 16-year-old's comic-book script. One of its major assets was that it was short—I'm not sure I'd have stuck with a longer book. Anyway, it was fun to talk about, and we went out to a Cuban restaurant which was a bit loud but the food was great. It'd be nice to have a bigger group sometime, but I appreciate her organizing this and I'd go back again.
Then I watched Monument Men which was stodgy and old fashioned, but somehow likable.
I started Katherine Govier's The Truth Teller which I've had on my shelf for at least 3 years - I bought it in a wonderful used bookstore outside of Bannf. It seems to have everything - quirky private school in the Toronto suburbs, classical allusions, girl gangs and bad behavior.
But at some point, I am going to have to read the paper again and decide how to live in the world right now. I have literally thrown the daily NYT in the recycling bin every morning and only listened to music in the car. It just feels so fucking brutal.
>5 SPRankin: I read Station Eleven for my book group last year. Freaked me out to no end, because too much seemed plausible. (Not everything, but enough.) Well written, and I ultimately couldn't go to my book group because I didn't feel able to rehash it.
Also Mister Monkey by Francine Prose, which reminds me a little of Thomas Mallon's Bandbox, mainly because it's fizzy and funny and a little cacophonous. Usual suspects, line up.
JulieCarter, the Lucia books get easier and smoother the more you know the players, so the further you get, the smoother it all gets. They're also super-repetitive, in a PG Wodehouse way, which I mean as a total compliment.
Whew, it's tough remembering how to do all that linking. My fingers remembered though. Though I should be linking to LT pages, shouldn't I?
I am so hypersensitive about it that I am only reading books about plants and pretty animals. The Hidden Life of Trees, The Genius of Birds. Honestly, if there was a book called "The Emotional Life of Stones" I would be reading it.
SP, touchstone not working for me. Wrong brackets? Spaces?
It made me think of Lauren Groff's book last year Fates and Furies which I thought was just a mess. The gods are interesting but they aren't particularly nuanced and if you model your characters on them, I don't think you can expect they are going to garner much sympathy.
I have more books on the pile but I've begun to read the paper again and catch up on past New Yorkers.
>30 davidabrams: David, I see you're listening to Trollope. I'm seriously craving some Victorian fiction. I'm toying with starting The Barsetshire Chronicles again and rereading The Warden or taking on Our Mutual Friend--can't decide.
>42 karenwall: Feel better soon, Karen!
It is my first time and I read "I Stand Here Ironing" this afternoon and it was powerful.
Then I found out they had me down for this afternoon. I don't think so, I was complaining to Mark that I had to wait nine days for an appointment.
What I really did like though was that at the end, the prophet was just as vulnerable as any of them, and the connections you tend or neglect or abuse are what's most important. Which is also exactly what the Arthur character learns at the end of his life--even without a plague. That seemed to be the point that Mandel made over and over again.
an infant. Maybe it's because I've never had children, and I do feel sorry for the parents-but the book just doesn't engage me and I really don't want to read 297 pages about their grief. I get
the point-it's sad..let's move on
to something else..at least for this reader. It seems as if everyone has to graphic-novelize everything that has ever happened to them. The art in this book is nothing
special and the story....well it's pages and pages and pages of grief and I get the point. Heartless perhaps, but truthfully really bored.
Anyway, nothing like outdated political satire for escapist reading.
I'm far enough into NW to say I'm definitely reading it. I'm also reading Libriomancer, at my 18 year old's' insistence, and it is fine except their world is ending too (in a way) and apparently even fiction/magical world ends are stressing me.
(In other news, I'm off the picket line and back at work. My group in the union got the shaft, but I expected that, and it is very nice not to be outside handing out pamphlets).
I just finished Zadie Smith’s 2010 essay collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays in anticipation of reading her new novel once I'm in a fiction-y mood again. They weren’t particularly pertinent to anything in my life—I don’t care about the posthumous disposition of Kafka’s work, and I never really got on the David Foster Wallace train—but I like seeing how she does her reviewing, what's in her toolbox. She does a lot of thinking on her pages, and it veered close to being a vanity production in a lot of places, but I still enjoy watching her do it.
My library's new ebook interface is barely out of beta, though, and has a lot of trouble with footnotes—you can get to them OK, but then it returns you to the beginning of whatever chapter you were reading—a serious pain in the ass if it has 30 pages and you were on 25. So that was annoying. I hope they work that bug out soon, though, because I love the app with a white hot passion.
Then I was stuck on the commute from hell last night, which included not one stop where they dumped everyone out and took the train out of service, and then a second stop on the new train in between stations, where it sat and sat and someone would come on the PA periodically to say things like: "Something caused the train to go into emergency. I have to go to the tracks to investigate," and then in a couple of other instances, "Ladies and gentlemen, due to this train being stalled we are experiencing a delay." Um... doh. But at least we were on the aboveground portion of the route, and there was power/light/ventilation, and no crying babies or crazy people, and I had peed before I left, and all my devices were charged. I was counting my blessings like a boss, believe me, because that all served to stretch my already too-long hour commute into two hours and I didn't get home until nine. But fortunately I had a new hold come in, of editor Robert Gottlieb's memoir Avid Reader: A Life, which is totally entertaining. Oh, and I had a seat—not always a given on my commute—so I got a few chapters in before I finally made it home.
I've been eyeing this.
>61 southernbooklady: >60 lisapeet: there is a member review of the Gotlieb that is, ummm, discouraging. "Entertaining" sounds way more enticing than "no gift for characterization, not of others and not of himself. Motive is always a black hole, other people are ciphers, and he's a detached and impersonal Zelig."
"But at least we were on the aboveground portion of the route, and there was power/light/ventilation, and no crying babies or crazy people, and I had peed before I left, and all my devices were charged."
So glad you were prepared!
not the order they were written. This one starred Phylishia Rashad on Broadway and the part is so masterful that she must have been incredible. As it deals with the memory and after-effects of slavery it is a very sad work.
I am at present reading two other books. The first is Wehrmacht Priests. Catholicism and the Nazi War of Annihilation by Lauren Faulkner Rossi, and the second is Jeffrey Rutherford's Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry's War, 1941-1944. Both are, in my opinion, truly excellent examples of historical scholarship.
A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Sue Russell would have loved them so reading them felt very poignant.
I started John Le Carre's The Pigeon Tunnel which is most satisfying.
I've been reading The Magicians (so I can delete the tv show off my DVR), and I'm really enjoying it so far. I'm looking forward to having some downtime so I can actually put a dent in it.
What it is:
Each participant chooses, purchases, and orders/mails a book carefully selected from the Guardian Best Books of 2016 lists (see below) to another participant, round-robin style. This is a long-standing BookBalloon tradition, full of ritual and mystery. Not really! It’s just lots of fun!
How it works:
1.Indicate your interest in participating in the designated thread OR
2.Send a message to me, the Designated Swap Organizer (DSO). I have a highly scientific method of matching gifters to giftees. You can reach me via private comment or email me at fufferdatcomcastdotnet. I need your email address and shipping address.
3.Once you receive your person, peruse the Guardian lists, make your choice, and send it along. Keep it secret; keep it safe. Feel free to gloat privately. Since many of the books on the list are British, it’s often the case that they arrive after the holiday season is over and call potato chips “crisps.” This is not a big deal.
4.Once you receive your book, rush back to this thread to report what you got and how excited you are to read it. This won’t be hard, because you will be very excited!
The Guardian Best of 2016 list:
Part I: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/26/best-books-of-2016-part-one
Part II: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/27/best-books-of-2016-part-two
I'm "reading" Pnin, NW, The Homecoming, Berryman poems (thanks to The Receptionist), and dipping into Ulysses. I'm listening/reading the Scylla and Charybdis chapter but have to keep re-starting because I zone out to Jim Norton's voice -- I listened for an hour walking the dogs and all I caught was something about Hamlet, his father and the ghost, Anne Hathaway, and the famous 2nd favourite bed. As you can tell, I'm a bit scattered. Mostly, I'm watching Gilmore Girls/The Queen/The Expanse and playing Hearthstone.
Gayla, I have The Terranauts from the library, but I'm reading too many other things.
Felix was my favorite character in NW and I spent way too long looking at pictures of Black House (which is the original of Garvey House) on the internet.
Still reading The Pigeon Tunnel and a reread of The Wife of Isaac Harman which has such a similar plot to A Lady and her Husband that I really think that Wells and Reeves collaborated or at least discussed it before hand. Maybe even decided to write two books with similar plots. Both books came out the same year.
Now I'm on to Jeff Chang's We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, which a few people have recommended to me lately.
And I have soooo many nominations for LJ Movers & Shakers to read this weekend—we pick 50 up-and-coming librarians every year, and it's kind of a big deal. I'm second project lead, and need to get through at least 150 of them in the next few days. They go quickly, but still. That's time I could be reading real books, dammit.
I also approached Dahmer with trepidation but as far as I can recall he doesn't deal with the psycho parts. It is mostly about Dahmer as a very weird troubled teenager.
Best description: of Blanche Knopf as "a tiny woman who looked as if she had gone straight from Dachau to Elizabeth Arden. No wonder everyone was scared of her."
Ok now on to find something a tad more serious...I've got Mary Semple's new one Today will be different and summer before the war.... we'll see what happens
The Terranauts is very much in Boyle's wheelhouse -- like, say, The Inner Circle and The Road to Wellville, it's about a small group of people fiercely committed to some ideal that the rest of the world doesn't quite understand.
But it seems about as far off to me as the review I read likening Smoke, by Dan Vyleta, to the Harry Potter books (or CS Lewis or Phillip Pullman). Once I'd read Smoke, I was like "that's a nopetopus comparison." (Maybe the Pullman comparison works.)
>105 gayla.bassham: I haven't read Terranauts, but when Bruce, who is reading it, described the plot, I said "oh, a perfect Boyle story"
"that's a nopetopus comparison."Seriously. Unless "Harry Potter" is now a metonym for "British boarding school novel with vaguely supernatural overtones."
Baby Sitters books, I just am crazy about Telgemeier's graphic art work which is incredibly fun and beautiful.
I also read her book Sisters which was a lot of fun. I have two more books of hers to read-Smile and Ghosts and I will have read all of her work. I just love the way she draws.
He's kind of like Madison Smartt Bell that way -- MSB didn't really ignite in a major way for me until the Haiti trilogy.
Well worth reading.
next up, Illeanna Douglas' I Blame Dennis Hopper which I am then giving to DG. (Don't tell him)
It is such a generous book and deeply felt. The characters are beautifully rendered. It's quiet and moving. I recommend.
I also really enjoyed Commonwealth which we just read for my book club. I've been off Patchett a bit but this one works and is skilfully constructed.
And now for something completely different, since all my library holds are coming in at once, I'm reading Nathan Hill's The Nix.
I finished I Blame Dennis Hopper this morning. It's very sweet, very charming with some good anecdotes. She seems like someone you'd really want to hang out with and she is so passionate about movies. I especially liked reading about Grace of My Heart, one of my favorite underrated movies.
by ROB EWING
The Crimson Thread, an interesting retelling of Rumplestiltskin set in turn of the last century NYC, among immigrants striving for the American dream. Would recommend.
Stealing Snow, by Danielle Paige, who wrote Dorothy Must Die, which I haven't read but which has done well and gotten some attention. Good premise - it starts with Snow White is locked in an insane asylum, having trouble with mirrors - but it was disappointing. I thought the plot was kind of a mess - it really dragged on - and the characterizations were bland, and there were a lot of loose threads left dangling (since it's the setup to a series, presumably on purpose. But I thought it made the book feel rambling, and not in a good way.) Would not recommend.
Ever After High: Next Top Villain - this was fun. Shannon Hale wrote the prequels, which were excellent (I love Shannon Hale's writing and this was a good successor. (Apparently it's all a spinoff of some kind of TV series? We haven't had a TV for about 4 years so I don't really know.) Recommend, but only when you're in the mood for pure spun sugar fluffy stuff.
Now I'm reading not quite a retelling, but definitely related:
The Grimm Legacy, which is fun so far (about 2/5 of the way in) - about a girl who becomes a page at a library for magical artifacts - working in lots of Grimm references. There's a potentially annoying romance angle, but I'm hoping it doesn't end up with the obvious outcome.
(Also, this is why I never post what I'm reading - because no one's taste overlaps with mine. I still miss the Young Adult Reading Group at Readerville.)
I just finished Tuck Everlasting, which I should have loved, but didn't. Something about the writing style couldn't keep my attention, which is a problem when the story is less than 140 pages.
On audio, I'm listening to No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline, which might have some helpful ideas, but the author seems a bit right-wing ideologically, and makes some sweeping statements without offering support for his ideas. For one thing, he doesn't acknowledge the role accident of birth plays in people's lives, despite all the research making a connection. Another thing that amazed me was when he told the reader "no one is smarter than you." Not, "no one has your exact combination of talents," but "no one is smarter than you." Now, I'm not dumb, but I would bet money Stephen Hawking is smarter than me overall, even if I could beat him at a Dick Van Dyke show trivia contest.
All that said, I'm looking for something new to read. Can't decide if it should be for work or for me.
SP, I loved The Golem and the Jinni.
A child of the late 20th century, who just wants to slap these people upside their pretty little heads.
>131 Cara_DB: Cara, "The Crimson Thread" and "The Grimm Legacy" both sound up my alley, thanks!
I decided to start the Guardian Swap week with a book that Kat gave me last year Polly Samson's The Kindness. It's an odd book and even though I tend to be a big fan of the domestic British novel, I find myself slightly irritated by her 'never met an adjective she didn't like' style. There is a mystery about actual events in the novel though - and so one is drawn forward by the plot.
(and late to the discussion, obviously)
Now I'm re-starting Katherine Carlyle, because SP sent it to me in the Guardian Swap last year, and I never finished it. She also sent me the Countess Luann de Lessep's book, which I also didn't finish. But, I already have class, damn it. Chic, c'est la vie.
When I say YOU, I mean ME.
I am, however, reading The Nix, which is very entertaining. Very long, too. I fear the library is going to suck it back into the ether before I'm done, because my checkout period was interrupted by a bunch of heavy-duty work reading (finished, thank dog). The good news being that I can get my hands on a hard copy pretty easily. The bad news being it weighs approximately 50 pounds, and I spend a lot of time reading standing up. Oh well, good for my core strength training regimen, right?
I finished NW thought it was very good, but didn't understand the ending at all. Lauren? Pnin is still happening, but in small bits here and there.
Oh, and I just put a hold on The Nix at the library, because it sounds like a perfect winter break read.
what a nasty piece of work. I wonder what I will get from it this time around.
The Kindness was ok. I admired how it was kind of a domestic novel written like a thriller and the way Sansom constantly shifted past and present was really interesting - there was a kind of flow to it all that was very appealing. But I never really warmed up to any of the characters and so ultimately, it was hard to give much of a shit. I think having read this and some of her short stories, I can safely say, she's not my cup of tea.
Next up Dragonfish and I'm hoping for a nice cold weekend to stay inside and read.
I forgot to add that I'm listening to The Undoing Project which I'm really enjoying, mostly because I read Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow and the extra background on Kahneman is interesting. Plus, I love to read about that tug-a-war between thinking and instinct/intuition/bias.
I finished Amy Schumer's The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo last weekend (I'm not sure if I mentioned that here, and I'm too lazy to scroll through all the posts). I enjoyed it, because she seems much more normal than I expected. I can't stand people who are "ON" all the time, so I really related to a lot of the stuff she talked about...oh wait, I did mention it here, didn't I? Because I mentioned the giant hockey penis. Anywhooooo.....
I just received two great new books and just bought four great new books that I'll get right before Xmas, and it's about to get cold as balls this weekend, so I can't wait to light a fire and read!! (Yes, it occasionally gets cold in Texas. Tomorrow it will drop from the low 70s down to the low 20s. Good times! Ugh.) So, I might be reading I Contain Multitudes, The Book of Memory, The Nix, Rock Crystal, Reunion...crap, I can't remember everything I bought on kindle and real life. But first, I guess I'll finish Katherine Carlyle.
Now I've started Jane Alison's Nine Island, which is nice and different.
But I can't stop reading news on line: WaPost, NYT, Democracy Now, the Guardian, CNN, MSNBC. I have somehow decided that if I don't keep up with every available political newsbit, my world will end and I won't recognize that it's happening. I can deal better with feeling powerless than I can with feeling uninformed.
Linking here is different from other sites we've used—you can use HTML but you don't have to. To do intra-LT links you just need to make square brackets ("" "") around the book's title, no spaces after or before the brackets. Then check to the right of the posting window where it says "Touchstones" to see if the book you wanted is listed—sometimes the LT algorithm is funny, like for The Nix it always defaults to Oliver Twist for some reason. If that happens, click on "(others)" and you'll see a list of works, and when you find the book you wanted click on the plus sign—it should then show up in Touchstones. For a link to an author, use double square brackets on each side.
No late night tv either.
I do read the New Yorker though and if that has something political, so be it.
I finished Dragonfish and what a disappointment. I don't know what I was expecting but that was not it and I'm really surprised that it was written by someone Vietnamese because it is riddled with all these inscrutable orientalist clichés. Even as a mystery, it was very unsatisfying.
I am reviewing Margaret Drabble's newest novel for Bookpage so I thought it was be fun to revisit some older work. Plus, a used bookstore is going out of business and let's just say, all those old yellowing Penguins seemed mighty tempting for a dollar apiece. So I'm reading The Summer Birdcage, Drabble's first, and I simply could not be happier.
Now on to News of the World, of which I'm too early into to have an opinion but it seems very popular all over the place.
I finished the second book in the Carsten Stroud trilogy, well written, engaging, with great dialogue and the best bad guys. If I didn't have a pile of other books that I want to read I'd have dived right into book three. As it is, I will probably read it before my break ends.
I'm back to Pnin, I should finish it to day. I'm a bit giddy reading it. He's so light on his feet with words, clever without being mean, and has an excellent eye for the world around him (and Pnin). I laugh a lot reading it.
And I started The Nix and it's promising, although Samuel's a tool (this from someone who plays WoW on occasion, teaches first-year students, and works at a Uni).
And Mir, yeah--Samuel's a tool. But the toolbox he's in is really interesting, I think. It wasn't a super character-driven book, but the busy setting/plotting was a lot of fun.
21st c. hindsight however does make me ponder the character of Stephen - almost certainly a gay man and deeply closeted, his own life and others around him a misery. What a different world it is today and I could easily imagine the novel being told from his point of view.
I couldn't help but wonder too - if the sticky relationship between the two sisters was a mirror of the Byatt/Drabble feud. Or the start of it.
Next up: The Garrick Year.
News of the World is good clean fun—old man-young girl road trip set in post-Civil War Texas, not exactly believable every moment but that's not the point. It's a charmer. Will report further when I'm done, which should be soonish as it's not a big long thing.
Kat, did you like (or are you liking) Mincemeat?
I finished News of the World, continuing my most excellent end-of-year reading streak. Absolutely charming, this one. It's essentially a road-trip novel set in post-Civil War Texas with an old itinerant public newspaper reader and a 10-year-old former Indian captive being returned to her relatives—there are good guys and bad guys, stalwart horses, lovely descriptions of the natural world, and a gentle but refreshingly firm moral thread running through the story—very little not to like here.
Now on to Rebecca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby. Also reading, for an LJ review, the insanely gorgeous and captivating Explorers' Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery and Adventure. Coming out from Chronicle in March, and already recommended to, like, everyone here.
I enjoyed reading Solnit - will have to ty Faraway Nearby. BTW Lauren has a review about it worth reading.
I was assigned carrots and green beans for our big family Christmas dinner tomorrow. I can't decide if I should spell out "Merry Christmas" with them or cook them.
Edit - because having trouble with my link.
I am also a lover of Faraway Nearby. There are so many images from that book that lingered in my brain, like the ice museum and the room full of drying apricots. It's fantastic.
I continued my Drabble run with The Garrick Year (super delicious!) and The Millstone which I'd never read and was about a young woman who gets pregnant the first time she has sex and decides to keep the baby. It's quirky and sad and wonderful and self-reflective in the most unexpected of ways.
These first three (if you count A Summer Bird Cage) are all first -person and have similar narrative voices - snappy, bright, slightly self-deprecating but with healthy sense of self young women on the very beginning of adult life. Because I plan to read them in order, I am curious to see where Drabble moves to third person or at lease multiple pov. That said, I feel like I've spent the last week or so listening to the gossip of a highly amusing friend over a whisky or two. There are worse things.
Unfortunately, deadlines loom and so I started - for review - Exit, West. Part of this appeared in the New Yorker and I think it may have worked better as a short story but the jury is out. Almost fable like, it's about refugees and magic doors that lead from one country to another.
Now I'm reading The Gilded Years, about which I have mixed feelings: the story, of an African-American woman passing as white to attend Vassar in the 1890s, interests me, but the author commits the historical fiction sin of including too many irrelevant details, so that the dialogue and descriptions feel unnatural. I can't decide if I want to finish it or not.
I finished Exit, West. I loved the premise - that the world is full of secret doorways that allow refugees to pass from one country to another - rather like the Narnian wardrobe, and thus the world is transformed - but it began to wear thin by the end. It's quite fable-like and in a way, that works, because the reality is so horrendous - I mean, how can you write a novel about Aleppo - and the book certainly doesn't shy away from violence or the uprooting that takes place, it's just expressed in a different way. I'm just not sure it's 100% successful.
There were a bunch of Franzen-y things about it that irritated me. Maybe if I was a New Yorker it would have felt like a delicious skewering because I'd recognize certain types, but I'm not. So instead it seemed like a book that gave a huge amount of attention and sympathy to a bunch of unpleasant, entitled white folks who all got an undeservedly deus ex machina happy ending solution to problems they had fucking created for themselves.
To some extent the narrative pointed out the self-made nature of the problems, but I felt like - as with Franzen - the reader was supposed to be on the side of all these badly behaved siblings. Like Transparent, but without Maura to provide a moral compass and person to really identify with.
That said, it did occupy my attention for a while and it was certainly a quick and breezy read. So - 3 stars? Out of 5? I'm probably being too hard on the book - it pushed a couple of my buttons pretty hard.
I ended up really liking The Faraway Nearby all the way through. She writes like some of my visual artist friends think and talk about their art, and even though she can fall into the Artsy Essay trap once in a while I basically very much liked what she was up to. That's a favorite thing of mine, writing about association-making, and I thought she did a good job. I'll definitely read more of hers.
Now I'm about to start Tessa Hadley's The Past, which I kind of downloaded by mistake. It was on laurenbufferd's year-end best of list and I was just checking to see if the library had an e-copy, but ended up checking it out instead of clicking on the description. Which is fine because Lauren and I have similar taste and it looks to be a good change of pace from my last book.
I'm also REALLLLY loving Explorers' Sketchbooks. If you know anyone who you think would like this as a gift, they definitely would.
I started reading Deep Work last night, to prep for a new campus-based bookclub. After having trouble concentrating on the book's Introduction and first chapter, I realized I may need this concept more than I thought!
Reading the Daily Show an Oral History. You probably do need to be a fan of the show or at least have watched the show from time to time over the years to enjoy it. I am, and I do, quite a bit. The way its set up with comments from several people about specific times in the history of the show are very entertaining. Really wish Jon had waited until the 2016 election before leaving. Miss him a lot.
I'm reading The Hare with Amber Eyes for my RL bookclub. We're meeting Saturday morning, and I'm on p. 92, so I'll need to read with focus, but it's enjoyable and I'm enjoying de Waal's pleasure in storytelling and sharing what he discovered with the rest of us.
I will return to The Nix after bookclub.
I finished The Dark Flood Rises. Another novel where not a lot happens but the company is charming. I guess the easiest way to put it is that it's about how we age - whether we scramble about, staying busy and trying to be vital or give ourselves over to the inevitable. It's a tricky novel and not for everyone. But I liked it.
One of the books I gave DG was Precious Bane and I started a reread this morning. A beloved favorite.
ANYWAY, something soured me on the last couple, so I was happy to discover ANOTHER writer writing National Parks mysteries (though I think they're all set in Glacier NP), Christine Carbo. They're not great art, but I think they're better than the Barr ones. I hate that I feel the need to compare them, though. Mortal Fall
First real book is Jane "Stone Cold" Austen's novel about people who overspend, hate the military (until they don't) and have to move -- Persuasion.
I'd link but I haven't learned how yet.
Halfway through Precious Bane which I felt inspired to re-read after giving a copy to DG. It's as wonderful as I remember. Maybe better.
Caveat: one dog does die.
Edit: It appears all three volumes are already out. I guess for some reason, I thought only the first one was out. Maybe just my library.
I read and read for the last few days and finished Precious Bane last night. Sigh. So good.
did I say anything about The Dark Flood Rises? I liked it, though I don't think it's for everyone. It really is about getting old and what you make of the time you have left and how you want to live. So though I am not experiencing that personally right now, I am dealing with elderly parents and in-laws - looking at the choices they are making - or that are being made for them. for sure, everyone in the Drabble book has money and comfort and in some cases, the agency to have what they want. In that way, they are lucky and I suppose nobody would approach a Drabble novel thinking they were going to read about anyone who wasn't academically or even financially privileged.
The charm that is in the early novels - the feeling of being in the presence of someone so young and bright and engaged is a bit worn thin here. Though that may be me as a reader.
I received The Fortunate Ones as part of the Early Readers program here and I'm so excited that I'm going to read it right away so as to make a good impression. Like I need more free books. But still.
I just finished Stamped from the beginning, a history of American racism. Dispiriting and dense, but definitely worth reading and I'm glad it won the NBA for non-fiction.
I'm starting Nothing Ever Dies, about the Vietnam War, and The Association of Small Bombs, a novel about a terrorist attack. I'm also reading a couple of chapters of Dombey and Son every night to keep me from existential despair.
I can't remember if I posted, but I'm currently reading The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. I'm really liking the setup, so I'm hoping for great things. Plus, everyone that has read it seems to be raving about it.
Astor had a sort of tragic life--she had terrible taste in men (except for Kaufman, who was apparently quite the...long-laster), and was terribly used and abused by most of them, and accepted a steady paycheck from MGM in exchange for fighting for better roles. But Sorel never makes her look seedy or grotesque. His Astor is elegant but earthy, and even with her mistakes and limitations, manages to achieve at least one iconic role and many other splendid ones.
I've always had a pash for sad-eyed, complicated, long-suffering 30s actresses like Astor, Kay Francis, and Aline MacMahon who just drape around elegantly and have Tragic Problems.
Also, there's a great line about horrible June Allyson constantly and annoyingly chewing gum during the shooting of Little Women, so of course THAT made me happy.
Tons of fun.
I am in for a Wuthering Heights reread. I read it three times but not as an adult. I think I knew it was more about obsession than love but I was sort of involved in that kind of thing so I related. I still have my marked-up paperback, that should be interesting to go over. But I also have a lovely box set of it and Jane Eyre that I inherited from my mother, they even have book plates with "Hope Mouton" in them. That was the name of her first husband and when I was twelve and found this out I wanted to be Karen Mouton instead of Karen Burleson. Yes, even though it's just French for mutton.
I love Margaret Drabble. The Realms of Gold surfaced on top of a stack recently so I might try that.
I have The Past by Tessa Hadley from the library but the touchstone thing is linking to The Giver. If Lauren and LuAnn liked it, I feel I will also.
Now reading Marrow Island, about which I knew nothing other than that it was on a few lists last year and sounded interesting. I liked her book Glaciers from a few years back, which was slight but sweet.
I'm reading The Lauras and can't put it down. Unless it really goes south this will make my best of the year list. Thanks for sending it DG.
BTW, I finished Exposure by Helen Dunmore and really liked it. It wasn't quite what I expected. It sounds like a spy novel, but it's really about what happens because of a choice made by one spy. It's very British--very restrained. Recommended. Great choice, Cindy.
The daughter of the original owner - now in her 70s and living in LA meets the daughter of the American collector in contemporary LA. It's a lot of coincidences and parallel events, secrecy, lies and sacrifice. Also kindertransport, so you might cry.
But I'm glad I got the change to read it. Thanks Library Thing!!
I just got a copy of The Last Kashmiri Rose and am going to curl up with that toot sweet.
I finished Marrow Island and liked it well enough, though it didn't knock me out. I guess you would call it an eco-thriller... is that a thing? Anyway, it was a bit slow to get going but ultimately entertaining.
I've been reading a lot of books lately with really strong senses of place and descriptions of the natural world, which is nicely immersive, and this was definitely one. The characters a little less so, but the plot was fun. I thought I had figured out the plot twist and it was probably more gruesome than Smith's, but hers is probably better. Anyone here read it? I want to tell someone my idea, but there's no point unless someone's read the book.
Now I'm about to crack Rachel Cusk's Outline, which comes recommended by all sorts of people whose taste I like.
I did speed thru the end because there was a free little library down the street from our hotel (Memphis) and I wanted to leave it there.
And at night, before lights out, I'm reading passages from What there is to say we have said -- letters between Eudora Welty and William Maxwell
I have that on my bedside table and do the same. I actually do a fair amount of pen-and-paper correspondence (mostly because I love stationery so much, but also because I love excuses to write things by hand)—so hey, if you want a letter, LuAnn, send me your address.
So I started something that Library Thing Early Readers sent me The Year of Needy Girls. It's interesting - part Children's Hour, part Dennis Lehane about a lesbian couple on the north shore outside of Boston. The one that's a teacher is accused of assaulting a student and the one that's a librarian strikes up a very unlikely friendship with a man accused of the assault and murder of a young boy. The writing is a bit herky-jerky but I'm fascinated by the story, especially the thin line between student and teacher and how easily that gets crossed. I live with a teacher and though I am not saying he has ever acted improperly, there is closeness and passion and opportunity. It is very very difficult to navigate and the need can come from either side.
"I have that on my bedside table and do the same." ~ Lisa
Such a lost delight (letter writing/receiving). When I was younger and we lived overseas, it was perfect joy getting letters from friends. I'm not sure, but I think I own that in either PB or Kindle, but I want a HC.
Cindy, I kinda' like the cover art for those quirky Johannes Cabal books.
I can't recall ever reading any Barbara Pym.
>263 Pat_D: Pat, if you want a letter, PM me your address and I'll oblige.
Almost done with Outline and I have a lot to say about it, but not now while I'm lingering at my desk at work writing the last thousand emails before I leave for a conference.
The first is an odd, little thing about a young boy sent to live with his grandmother in an unnamed town bordered by a mysterious forest during WWII. Too early on for an opinion, but its strangeness keeps me turning the pages.
The second is partly because I'm on an American Revolution reading kick, and partly because it's sadly timely. Early on in that one, too.
I'm a notorious non non-fiction reader. For too long, assigned non-fiction (textbooks especially) impinged on my reading life. Now that I can pick and choose in that genre, I'm making a concerted effort to include it more in my reading.
I finished The Year of Needy Girls. Smith definitely digs in to the complexity and intimacies of teaching and does a great job with the sense of place - North Shore Massachusetts so I was all about it. I felt like her writing never quite caught up with her storytelling - there was something very plodding in her style and there was no sense of when any of this story took place which made me crazy. No constant cell phone use so that tells you something but still. I'd have appreciated a marker here or there. But I'll keep my eye on Smith.
Went back to Jerusalem the Golden which is quite quietly extraordinary. For anyone who feels like their life is a series of happy accidents, this is your book.
Like me, you mean? OK
I've just started Hag-Seed thanks to the generous Cindy.
I just picked The Nix by Nathan Hale as my book club pick, and it's long. So I will get started on that, probably after my cruise (next week!). Now I need to pick out a book or two to take on the cruise. Probably just one book and my Kindle Voyage. Oh, and I'm probably going to read Bad Feminist very soon.
>273 lisapeet: Lisa, ha - I thought that might hook you. The main character grows up in a fiercely anti-intellectual family with an ineffectual father and a withholding mother so her successful pursuit of an education and a London life has a special resonance. Everything that leads her to new friends in London feels like a sweet sweet accident.
I was so lucky - I received lots of support growing up but I know a few folks who are self-created to the point that they may have been hatched, so little encouragement did they get.
But yes, Jerusalem the Golden is a real treat.
Did I mention that I really liked Rachel Cusk's Outline? Lauren, I think you might dig it. It's all about show-don't-tell, how a writer can make an entire protagonist out of the negative space created by other characters. It's a funny, plotless book, and you think everyone is so shallow until you stop reading about them and they sort of... resonate. Interesting sleight of hand there. Plus it triggered, in me, these weird little episodes of deja vu the way a certain pulsing frequency will give epileptics seizures. She's got a new one out, Transit, which continues with the same narrator, and I want to read that one too.
She has a really thorny backstory. I can't imagine why anyone wants to write memoirs, but everyone does.
Now I'm reading Zadie Smith's Swing Time, slightly hampered by the fact that my e-galley sucks—all the "f" ligatures are missing, which is to say any combination of "ff" or "fi"—"offered" reads "o ered," for example. I like it enough that I'm going to soldier on, which is saying something.
She was in town last Thursday and was just as charming and funny and prickly as I expected. It was a great interview.
I finished Jerusalem the Golden which takes an unexpected turn when the book shifts to Gabriel's story. From then on, you don't get as much of Clara and I missed that intimacy; I thought her story was so much more interesting; indeed the last third of the novel sees her character from a slight distance and it's weird.
But I loved the ending.
A novel about how family works - or doesn't work. Or works in ways you don't expect.
I started the new Bernard Schlink The Woman on the Stairs. I never thought Schlink's The Reader was all that but I am curious about this one.
Despite the fact that doomsday is neigh, I've started Mercury and it is different than I expected but satisfying. And I'm listening to Blackout by Willis in the car. To be honest I thought it would be non-starter -- she does go on, and it's annoyingly naive at points, but I can't stop listening and its a bit of a antidote to the craziness that is our world right now. Last night in fact, I came home and snuggled into bed to listen to it and play "Don't Starve."
Speaking of Margot Livesey, I picked up a copy her of Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing when I was at ALA last weekend—very interested to see what she has to say. Plus the cover is totally eye-catching—the designers that Tin House uses work really well with that small book size.
>281 laurenbufferd: Your remark about Cusk and absense is interesting in light of Smith's protagonist who is nameless and seems to exist in the shadow of others.
I actually noticed that similarity right off the bat, because within the first three or so pages of Swing Time you get this:
A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow.I read that and thought, hey, intra-book overflow!
I'm liking it a lot, though. You're right—she can really write a character—to the point where they feel so universal that way, no matter what they're actually up to or where they're doing it. Anyway, it's a fun read and I'm glad I got to it. It's lumped in my head with Michael Chabon's Moonglow, because they're both on all the same lists and I'm pretty sure I got them in the same batch of galleys, but I've got a couple of other books at the top of the pile before I hit the Chabon. And anyway I'm not even halfway through Smith because I worked all weekend and, having resubscribed to the New Yorker, read that both ways on the plane to Atlanta.
The Woman on the stairs kind of won me over but I still don't really get what's great about him. Maybe it's the translation but I always feel like there is a missing something for me. In this novel, a German lawyer visiting Australia sees a painting in a gallery of a woman descending a stair and remembers his involvement with painter, the owner and the model decades before. Then they all meet up again. It's a bit creaky as a plot but there is something about it that digs a bit deeper.
It's about a London family caring at home for the Scottish grandmother who is well into senile dementia. The story is told in alternating chapters by one of the granddaughters and her mother (the grandmother's daughter-in-law). it's funny and sad and sweet and if you've ever cared for an elderly relative, pretty much spot on.
I picked this up in the used bookstore thinking that Forester was another author entirely but then realizing I'd read her bio of Daphne DuMaurier. But really, a most happy accident.
My mother passed almost two years ago, and Dad has been going downhill fast ever since. He's still mentally sharp, except for the normal 82 y/o forgetfulness, but both knees are so bad he can hardly walk, and I had to rush him to the hospital Christmas Eve for abdominal pain. He wound up having emergency surgery for ischemic bowel, then developed aspiration pneumonia, B/L pleural effusions, respiratory failure, blah, blah, blah. He amazingly pulled through (thanks to my great fellow nurses and other wonderful healthcare workers), came home on the 6th, but I'm no longer physically capable of total care and had to employ Home Health and a Physical Therapist. He's making an incredible recovery, but he is 82 y/o, and...
Anyway, probably TMI, but that book sounds like it was written for a lot of our generation and this community, specifically. So, that's a click.
Have I mentioned how much money I saved while on my internet sabbatical?
Sad to learn of your father's decline, PatD.
My mother-in-law seems to be at the very beginning of dementia - at any rate, the topics of conversation has shrunk to about 7 things and most of our chats end up where they started, with a repetition of whatever the first question was.
It's hard to know what to read next because I am having attention span issues but I had Lauren Beukes first book MoxyLand and am giving that a try. Her books dip into genres that I am not usually a big fan of but I am fascinated by her imagination and her vision.
Gave up on Chadwick's Summer Queen, something I have never done before with this author. Maybe its because I know so much about Eleanor and that time period that Im bored, or maybe because Im tired of her tired descriptions of various characters making love on practically every page. They all start sounding the same, and I just roll my eyes.
Now reading Fear Institute the third in the Johannes Cabal series because I couldn't get ahold of the second yet. Already loving it
I so enjoy her imagination and can't wait to see what she does next. She makes me a fan of all these genres that I don't much care for. Notable in and of itself.
Keeping on the sad train - reading Laish.
I think Beukes has great great ideas but she does have trouble with the wrap-up.
This media black-out thing is really working! Last night I read Aharon Appelfeld's Laish which was wonderful. I admire the way his novels can work as allegory, folk tale and straight up history.
Back to the home shelves with Joan Thomas' Curiosity, a novel I bought when I was in Alberta however many years ago that was. This one is about fossils!
Next up is Sonya Chung's The Loved Ones—Sonya's a good friend and my Bloom co-conspirator, and I read this in a very early draft, so I'm eager to see how it's changed.
Mir, I did much the same right after the non-election. I can't march, but I've been making calls and sending emails like crazy, and I decided it was an especially important time to support real journalism. I sub'd to TNYT online edition and The New Yorker. I also donated to the ACLU.
I'm making an effort to keep away from as many businesses which either support Trump or carry his family's merchandise as is feasible. Apparently, that's beginning to make a difference to some major brands. There's several articles today reporting the effects of the boycotting.
Commence your Home Business right now. Hang out with your Family and Earn. Start bringing $75/hr just over a computer. Very easy way to choose your Life Happy and Earning continuously. Begin here...
My New Yorker subscription is the only reason why I am sane right now. Also, my pets.
A lot of reviewers say to stick with it, though, so I will.
Pat, Kat, Lauren - been there, twice over. Hugs to you.
Finished Fear Institute and have just gotten Jonathan Cabal Detective. Might not get to it right away as I happened upon Alive Alive O by Diane Athill at the local indie. I've read essays by her in various places, always liked her. Read the first page of this one and knew I'd like it. I was right - from the long lovely description of the house she grew up in (built by her great great grandfather) to modern day colonialism in Trinidad, and the harrowing account of her miscarriage have all been very readable and thought provoking. Its a small book and I probably coul finish it in a day, but think I'll take my time with it.
I did suddenly remember I'd read The Eustace Diamonds before, so this isn't really my first Trollope experience (ha, Trollope experience)...but it was so long ago, I can probably say it is.
Still, I kept wanting to ask, as I started each new essay, "but what does this all mean to you?" Sometimes, I get an intimation, but mostly Cole seems to keep a reserve, a distance between himself and the reader, that feels...not reflective, exactly, but deliberately framed.
I had to stop reading Curiosity because I have a deadline with a new book Silver and Salt. It's making me a bit cranky because it seems like a pastiche of about 10 other books I've already read - disturbed daughter of famous photographer, remote Greek villa, mother thwarted from pursing her career as an opera singer. Stop me when you've read this. And how many times does an author have to tell you how thin her protagonist is or how much she's built like a boy or how small her tits are? Seriously.
Still, I've to write something so I'm trying very very hard to be fair and unjudgey.
It was a really interesting but really odd book and I have some questions. Thanks again DG for getting it for me for the Guardian Swap.
(For some reason by links aren't showing up until I come back and edit - this time the link goes to Harry Potter!)
I have The Lauras on my TBR shelf so haven't gotten there yet.
Starting Margaret Drabble summer bird cage.
the gay communist who came from the north
Bayard Rustin has a name. And he's well worth reading about.
I am back to Curiosity and happily so. I was pretty hard on Salt and Silver and it certainly got better but I think it's a slim book stuck into a whole lot of extra words and pages. Pretty much everywhere I wanted specificity, I got innuendo and filler. Still, we at BookPage are positive and there are good things to say as well. But where was your editor, girl?
This book is an excellent corrective for all those people who think of the American Revolution was a glorious era when brave, noble patriots freed the colonies from the oppressive English. Instead, virtually every party involved comes in for a critical pasting. Taylor doesn't hold back from describing the brutal behavior of the patriots towards loyalists, native Americans and others as they desperately tried to keep the revolution afloat. Nor does he forget all the people who regularly switched sides hoping to avoid trouble. And amid the chaos were the speculators trying to make a killing wherever they could.
The British come off as an incredibly over-extended empire trying to do things on the cheap but lacking the actual leadership talent to accomplish anything in America. Strangely enough, England came out of the revolution with a stronger empire, but one wonders why they didn't send some of the people who were successful in India, for instance, to fix things in the colonies. And, their craven handling of their native American allies left many of them at the mercy of bloodthirsty patriots.
Oddly enough, the French come off the best, basically bankrupting themselves to kept the Revolution going. But, Taylor notes they got completely snookered in the peace settlement and ended up with little of tangible benefit for their efforts.
I picked up the book to learn more about the period AFTER the Revolution, and Taylor again doesn't hold back in his description of the utter chaos, bungling incompetence and venal self-serving of many of the Founding Fathers. Moreover, he makes it clear that the Constitutional Convention was the creation of conservative elements who had grown horrified by the aspirations of the common man. Fascinating stuff.
You should pick up Randall's book on Ethan Allen: Ethan Allen: His Life and Times. He's considered sort of a hero of the Revolution now, but he was often little better than a thug, and his "Green Mountain Boys" weren't a regiment so much as a gang. He's a great example of the complicated motivations of "the common man" in that long war. Exactly the kind of populist rabble-rouser that would make Washington and Madison cringe, even if he did manage to take Fort Ticonderoga with a massive amount of luck.
I'm still reading The Loved Ones, which I'm liking a lot—she has this great weird rhythm that, once you fall into it, is really pleasurable. And I also started a galley of Sarah Gerard's new book of essays, Sunshine State, on the plane to Miami today. Because, Miami. I left a foot of snow and now I'm sitting on the 19th floor of the Marriott looking out over Biscayne bay, and it's 74˚ and I've been walking around in my black pants and boots looking like such a New Yorker and soaking up the vitamin D for all it's worth. This is probably my entire winter allotment of sun for 2017.
But the upshot was I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and waiting in rooms, so I finished Katherine Manfield's Urewera Notebook. It's an account of a trip she took with her family -- horse and carriage -- through rough New Zealand territory. And while the trip was very uppercrust in its conception and implementation, you can tell that the writer herself is always bucking the traces. Her ability to describe a scene is phenomenal. She also rarely uses periods, but uses em dashes the way I use commas, to signify a breath, a transition from one thought to another. The book is so littered with them it looks like someone took all of Emily Dickinson's poems and them out line by line end to end.
SBL, I'm so glad I'm not the only one that does this!
Thanks, I'll have to look for that. I have The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America by Bernard Bailyn which I need to get to, as well.
I just took up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell though, so it might be awhile. :-)
Hmmm. Maybe I should read it, just to hearten myself about the current political climate with a historical perspective.
Currently reading The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester and it's sort of a trudge so far, despite all the jacket copy and reviews calling it a fast-paced romp. And the lack of character building in the main character (who has real possibilities) is making me grumpy. Or the news cycle is making me grumpy and this book is doing nothing to alleviated it. I'm 100 pages in, so I may just bail and switch to Don Winslow's Cartel. I read all of Winslow's Neal Carey books and enjoyed them, but Cartel sounds much more serious (based on what I remember of a Fresh Air interview with him when the book came out.)
Or: Scott Lynch's second Gentlemen Bastards, Red Seas Under Red Skies, has just come off a library hold for me, so that's an option. I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora, #1 in the series, but read it so long ago that I've completely forgotten any pertinent details. The perils of trying to read a popular series via a library.
I did recently re-read and enjoy The Transcendental Murder, by Jane Langton. While the library ebook didn't include her charming line illustrations, I hadn't read it for probably 20 years and had completely forgotten the plot so it sort of counted as new. Still enjoyed the writing and will probably read more. The Dante Game was a favorite of mine for YEARS.
In the stack now are Daniel Wallace's newest book Extraordinary Adventures, and a new one from one of my favorite Southern presses, Hub City: Flight Path: the Search for Roots Beneath the World's Busiest Airport. The author, Hannah Palmer, discovers the places she grew up in have all been covered over by the expansion of Atlanta's ever-expanding airport, so it's kind of about runaway development and the pressure on the South to modernize.
That airport, by the way, is a bear. it is bigger than some small countries.
I was just there. I bypassed the in-airport train and walked from my gate to the taxi area and I think it clocked in at over a mile.
I'm listening to Ragtime. Much to my surprise, I'm completely hooked. Such a swirl with Houdini, Goldman, and Perry all playing roles. It doesn't hurt that Doctorow is narrating it.
Reading actual words is more complicated. Between the news and marking 130 papers, reading more print isn't that attractive, but I should finish Mercury today or tomorrow. I like it quite a bit, but stories that circle around failed communication kind of drive me nuts. Plus, I'm not sure I buy the whole obsession.
I hurt my ribs on my cruise, so I am spending a lot of time in bed. Watching tv mostly, but I'm trying to incorporate more reading. Hopefully something will snag me. :)
Still reading Sunshine State, and I think for my commute I'm bringing Delia Bell Robinson's A Shirtwaist Story, because I'm interviewing her for Bloom.
Now I've made a lateral jump from sunny Florida (Sunshine State) to snowbound Minnesota (History of Wolves) because a whole bunch of library holds came in at once. At least I have the one to warm me up when the other gets too chilly.
Silver and Salt was more problematic. Again, the pacing. And too much high falutin language and hints when I just wanted to know who did what to whom.
I should go back to Curiosity but it seemed like a good time to re-read The Liar's Club so I am.
I think I just wasn't the target audience -- I think it's geared more toward people who live in the fabled liberal bubble. (It is interesting to me that no one is writing books to help the people who live in the rural evangelical bubble better empathize with others.)
I put a library hold on Do Not Say We Have Nothing months ago, and it arrived yesterday (digital hold), so I ditched other books to start it. It is very good, and unless it goes south I suspect it will be on my "best" list at the end of the year.
I finished The Bishop's Wife and though it didn't bother me as much as it bothered Kat, I didn't think it was much of a mystery. That said, I'm reading another For Time and all Eternities because the plot revolves around polygamy. I can't help myself.
Five Quarts: A Personal and Natural History of Blood
by Bill Hayes
Or Leech Therapy (which, believe it or not, is still used as a last ditch option to revascularize failing tissue grafts/flaps). Comes with a strict protocol (ours were done only in an ICU setting), flown in from actual medical leech facilities, counted and signed out from the pharmacy, etc.
Some things I don't miss.
I whizzed through History of Wolves and liked it, for the most part. I appreciated what the author was doing with the two storylines, though I never felt they quite worked in tandem. But still, a good, prickly portrait of loneliness and the different ways people with the best of intentions can hurt their children—something that's been on my mind lately—the different ways one can be "raised by wolves." Plotting issues aside it's a very well-written book on harm, harm mitigation, culpability, and what to do with misplaced love, all set against the beautifully rendered backdrop of northern Minnesota.
A major subject of the book is Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science teachings, and in the book I put down when this hold came in, Sunshine State, I was in the middle of a long essay on Christian Science and its spinoffs. What are the odds?
Still can't go back to that one, though, because three more library holds just came in at once—two e and one print. Can I read them all? We shall see. Right now I'm reading Anna Noyes's Goodnight, Beautiful Women as part of my (probably hopeless) attempt to read all The Story Prize finalists before the award event in March.
The Strays: A Novel
by Emily Bitto
I finished Curiosity. A very slow start but I really liked it - the writing was lovely and Anning's story is so fascinating.
I started Han Kang's Human Acts and it is grim.
I was thinking comparison with Jan Karon's episcopal Mitford but Karon is the better writer by far ... for what it cozily, whitely is.
It's not just about Trump. It's an excellent primer on the history and methodology of Russian espionage and cyber warfare, too. Very fast reading, intriguing stuff. This isn't conspiracy theory malarky. It's all facts and educational but reads almost like a LeCarre thriller. Evidently, Trump has been under deep, deep surveillance for quite a while.
I can't remember a time when our intelligence was so sharing... in books, on talk shows. When I finished the book, it struck me just how desperate our intelligence community must be to be putting this stuff out for the public to see and hear.
I think everyone of voting age should have to read it.
"The Tech That Could Save The New York Times"
"Welcome to Macedonia: Fake News Factory to the World"
"Black News Matters"
"Robots Wrote This Story"
And for DG:
"Inside the deeply nerdy, insanely expensive world of Hollywood prop collecting"
(I originally tried to link to The Nix but LibraryThing inexplicably chose to link to Oliver Twist instead.)
Best thing I have read so far in 2017.
I received this as part of the Library Early Reviewer program so many thanks given.
One caveat - this is a very very violent novel with scenes of upsetting torture and brutality.
I am also reading a daily story in Mary Gordon's Collected Stories and my, they are fine.
I'm listening to The Dry by Jane Harper, and if you enjoy Australian mystery/thrillers, so far this is a good one. I've heard a lot of great things about it, and it's certainly drawing me in.
Doing a bit of triage, and putting down Truevine for now—at the probable risk that my hold will run out and I'll have to wait another six weeks to get it back—for They Were Like Family to Me, in an attempt to read all The Story Prize entries by the time I hit up the award event next week.
They Were Like Family to Me, on the other hand, opens with one of the most wrenching stories I've ever read. Well written, but jesus, painful. Holocaust setting, as I think all of the stories may be. I'm definitely interested to see where the rest of the stories go from there.
I have some birthday money to spend, so hopefully I'll be reading up a storm soon.
I am listening to both The Dry and Lincoln in the Bardo. LITB I had to start over, because I was very confused about what was going on. I read a review so I could kind of grasp it, and now I get it. But just listening, the first chapter is told by one of the ghosts, but you don't know that yet. And then it's a bunch of quotes and excerpts from books, both real and fake, and I was very confused. But once I caught on, it's really good.
I found him charmingly unpretentious and funny.
I am sad that the new Mary Gordon is a flop. It has all the right Mary Gordon elements but put together wrong and kind of cranky to boot. I am reviewing it and there are nice things to say and even some interesting bits but still, disappointed.
It's funny that the women writers I started reading when I was just starting out to be a woman - Margaret Drabble, Margaret Atwood, Mary Gordon, Doris Lessing - aren't giving me the signposts I need now. Maybe it's an aging thing - or I just need something else. But there is kind of a vacuum. Does that make sense?
It looks like my copy of Lincoln in the Bardo has finally shipped. Thanks for the advice about chapter one, Pat.
I absolutely hated Lincoln in the Bardo, and I knew it almost right away but I stuck with it anyway. I was going to keep my mouth shut but now I feel like I need to set off a warning flare. I'm normally ok on Saunders but I thought it was all just too fussy and formatted and LOOK AT ME so I'm glad to hear he was at least not like that in person. But really, I hated it. Maybe I would like listening to it, though, with all different voices. I also think it's a ripoff because if you got rid of all the white space, you'd have a Melville House/Art of the Novella-type book that would cost eight dollars. THAT'S MY VOTE.
In better news! A two-book double-whammy race for best book of the year so far:
Ghachar Ghochar is a slim, Chekhovian (a blurb did that bit of thinking for me, but it's correct) family story set in India. It's very DG -- almost nothing happens! and then it does. It's only 118 pages, so they all have to be perfect and I think they are. It's translated, but never once did I get the feeling that a word wasn't quite the right one.
Even better is Eveningland, a set of interlocked stories set in Alabama (modern kind of Alabama, not cotton-field kind) and it's a whopper. After years of reading southern lit, I gave it all up cold turkey because I could not read another book about a hair salon or a coon dog or a bullet that shot the wrong person or any combination thereof, but this was a really good re-entry for me. The closing piece, the longest one, a novella called Landfall, is one of the best things I've read in the past three or four years.
>406 DG_Strong: I have Ghachar Ghochar, so that makes me happy. DG, have you read The Eye Stone? The jacket copy says something like "medieval Venice noir" and I thought of you for whatever reason. Though it also invoked both The Da Vinci Code and The Name of the Rose... I'm OK with the second but the first gives me pause. I know, I know. Blurbs.
One reason that I think I loved it so much -- and this is not to take away from it IN ANY WAY -- is that it's a very traditionally told family saga (though distilled down to a really short book); in a lot of ways, the way it's told is exactly the opposite of Lincoln in the Bardo, which I had read just before and eyerolled my way all the way through.
I'm reading it very slowly. Not hating it, but only because there's some lovely writing in fits and bursts. DG's right, though. It's undercut by the unnecessary contrivance.
I've set everything aside until I finish the phenomenal but very long TRUMP, PUTIN, AND THE NEW COLD WAR by Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa in The New Yorker. It's a "must read" for its content, and for its prize-winning writing, too. There's also a feature on Grace Paley on the Web site.
I have Eveningland on my wish list, but I'm not buying anything new until I knock off some things from the TBR pile.
The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble
The American Abortion War by Joyce Carole Oates
So far so good. I do love a meaty JCO tome. The Drabble is working very well although I'm less thrilled with the Canary aspect.
Nicki, the first story, "In the Land of Armadillos," is based heavily on the story of Bruno Schulz.
Now I'm reading the last of The Story Prize finalists—I think I'm actually going to get to all of them this year—Rick Bass's collection For a Little While.
Salt Houses is quite good -about a Palestinian family who emigrate from Nablus to Kuwait to the United States. Nothing fancy, just a straight up multi-generational tale. Like more recent African literature, this is more cosmopolitan than refugee camps, but the sense of loss and disruption is still there.
Just wanted to chime in -- Eveningland is a wonderful book. It had a lot of my Southern bookseller friends talking a couple months ago when the arcs were first making the rounds -- it got more behind the scenes discussion than Lincoln in the Bardo.
As it happens I'm in Atlanta this week for work, and had dinner with some writers, one of whom was Michael Knight. Very very smart guy. He spoke a lot about how he grew up in a kind of family enclave on the gulf coast. His father had bought land along a river, which he then sold off cheap to relatives or gifted to his children, with the result that there ended up being an entire neighborhood where everyone was related, connected by family ties in some way. Knight talked a lot about the idyllic nature of such a life for a child, and how it turns into something suffocating, and eventually something longed for, only as it is fading away.
ETA: Here's an interview with Michael Knight from Jon Mayes:
Jon is a great guy, a sales rep for Perseus Books who sends me care packages of books he thinks I'll be interested in, bless him. He just married the manager at Malaprop's Bookstore and they are constantly posting pictures of their mountain home that make me green with envy.
For a Little While is totally growing on me, I think at least in part because it's collected in chronological order and the work is getting deeper and better-built as it goes. I'm about halfway through and liking it. Plus he just walked away with The Story Prize and I really liked hearing him talk last night because he took all those writerly questions about plot and characters and pretty much said "I don't know, I just do it" to everything. He was very charming.
I just started The Gloaming which you sent me. Did you read it first or just put in a box+ mail it? I am liking it, although it too is pretty odd - a woman, recently left by her husband and responsible for the vehicular deaths of three children, goes to a remote village in East Africa where she becomes the overseer of a box of severed body parts.
I think what might have put me off of the Lepucki book is that the protagonist's name is "Lady," which is entirely unfair of me. I'll keep an eye out for it at work.
The Break is excellent and heartbreaking.
So Aaliya Sohbi in true autodidact fashion teaches herself about music by buying records, and about literature by buying and translating books. She waxes elegiacally (is that a word?) about her war-ravaged city. Her only ties to this world are her mother -- old and senile -- and her half-brothers from her mother's second marriage, who ignore her if they don't actively dislike her for refusing to let them have her rather large apartment. The woman's isolation, her cerebral way of making her way though life, her innate aloofness, the way she is cut off or unmoved by the things that seem to motivate others -- desires for family, for example -- and most especially her devotion to the beautiful language and the beautiful thoughts of her favorite books....all that should have made me a devotee.
And yet I became more dissatisfied with every literary allusion, every obscure quote. I felt increasingly like I was being given an exposition of Alamedinne's own ideas and philosophy, not a sincere portrait of a reclusive woman's inner intellectual life. Aaliya seemed to flatten as the book progressed, instead of filling out the way she should have. And by the time I closed the book, the only moments that had truly stayed with me were a few scattered scenes -- Aaliya visiting her mother and looking at her, a tiny dwarf of a woman asleep in a chair, already on the threshold of death. Aaliya walking down one of the side streets in Beruit, avoiding the main roads that point straight towards one's destination, in favor of the smaller, narrow streets that wind and turn and still show all the scars of the previous wars.
I think the book suffered somewhat from the fact that I've been reading Katherine Mansfield's short stories over the past couple months. Those are almost the opposite of Alameddine's writing -- well, let's face it, of almost everyone else's writing -- in every way. Dense language that conveys layers of emotion and depth through the briefest of gestures or phrases. Short pieces that have seemingly mundane plots and yet leave the reader feeling wrung out from the intensity of the characters' upended lives. Small scenes that seem pregnant with significance. I don't think there is a gratuitous literary quote in the entirely of the collection The Garden Party and Other Stories, and the only violence in the whole book is an accidental death off stage.
Alemeddine's Aaliya speaks in first person, lives through three wars, threatens looters with a machine gun, seduces a man known to be one of the worst torturers in the country, and reads wonderful books. Mansfield's stories are third person, centered around the kind of British upperclass small dramas that never make waves even in their own bone china teacups.
So why do I feel like there was more truth is Mansfield's story of a young woman visiting a grieving widow and finding herself utterly out of her depth, than there was in Aaliya's repeatedly- declared devotion to the translation of Austerlitz by WG Sebald?
How does the TOB work anyway - is it a LT event or national?...How are books chosen?
(edited to avoid double posting): I finished Lincoln in the Bardo last week. Here are my approximate reactions as I got through the book (I listened to the audiobook):
1. Who? What? What the hell is going on?
2. Wait, are these real quotes or fake quotes from books of the period?
3. OK, now that I have read a review, I think I understand where the book is coming from/going to...I'll start over.
4. This is really good now that I know what's going on!
5. blah blah blah....Sigh. Is this seriously just all set on this one night? Is there a plot? (Spoiler alert...not really)
6. How long is this? It's just the same stuff over and over. And it really sounds like it was written by a poet, not a novelist. (Ruminates on whether it's harder to write a good novel or poetry or short stories while barely listening to the book...) (Note: I am definitely a plot or story person, not a "the language was so beautiful" kind of person.)
7. No really, how much longer? Oh good, only 44 minutes left.
8. How much longer? Oh, good. Only two minutes left.
9. It's over! Meh. I am disappointed. Started out with such a good idea. Got kind of boring, to be honest. Oh well.
I''m making it sound bad and it isn't at all - I think I am just really sensitive right now about race and how it's portrayed. I see how Finn is playing around with familiar tropes - i'm just not totally sure she transcends them.
I tried to read Deborah Levy's The Unloved. I was underwhelmed by an earlier novel but she is so celebrated, I thought I'd try another one. 5 pages in and forget it.
I have a mystery with Edna Ferber as a character. That should be fun (and DG, if it's good, i'll pass it on - seems up your alley).
Oh, and Lauren, Sarah Lawrence figures in.
I think what it came down to for me is that despite her professed love of "the outsider," all those books she loved to quote didn't seem to really change her, open her eyes on a new world. Instead Aaliya seemed almost embalmed in literature.
Perhaps that is the fate of such an "unnecessary" woman in a Middle Eastern city still buried under the rubble of twenty years of war. I was interested in the idea that a woman has to be unnecessary to society in order to be free to choose her own path -- Aaliya gets to pursue her life precisely because no one else is interested in it. An unnecessary woman reading unnecessary books and translating them for no one to read. It felt like a weirdly frozen life, though. Not exactly a "free" one.
I don't know. The books I truly love have an impact on me. I see things differently after reading them. I feel like a different person after reading them. I appreciate outsiders, sure, but really I think I love the books that upset my apple cart, challenge all my preconceptions. A lot of the books and writers mentioned in the novel do that for me -- do you know I read 2666 over a year ago and I still find myself thinking about it, often.
So Aaliya's dilettantish appreciation was familiar, but less and less so as I got further into the book. With the exception of Anna Karenina, none of those books seemed personal to her. It really irked me.
>438 AprilAdamson: April, You may enjoy the audiobook a lot more than I did, since you already enjoyed the book. I could definitely see it as an enhancement. (For me, lots of times literary fiction does not work as an audiobook. I like true crime, mysteries, thrillers, and memoirs, mostly. I think I'm not good at listening and thinking.)
>439 laurenbufferd: Lauren, What is the mystery with Edna Ferber as a character? I did a junior thesis on her a million years ago, so I'm always interested in her.
I started reading The Nix yesterday for my book club (I picked it), and it's VERY apropos to the current political and social goings on. I think I'm going to love it.
Thank you for taking the time to write about An Unnecessary Woman. I have that on my Kindle, but after reading your post, I think I'll put that one off.
>432 mkunruh: mkunruh
"The Break" seems right up my alley, but it's still only available through a third party at Amazon (PB for $24+, so that'll have to go on the Wish List).
Saunders is such a great ss writer, and I think he had a potentially wonderful idea for "Lincoln in the Bardo." I just wish he'd not felt the need to bring so much attention to the book's structure rather than its language and storyline because there is some beautiful writing in there.
I have 7 different books ongoing (I've put myself on a disciplined reading schedule. I'll post about my reading plan if/when I succeed in sticking to it). Tonight is Seamus Heaney's Aeneid Book VI: A New Verse Translation.
"Interviewed in Rome three months before his death, Heaney was asked whether he feared the end. “I think literature has helped,” he replied. “Mythology has helped.” Perhaps he will drink the water of Lethe eventually, forget his past life and return to this world, which greatly has need of his humanity and his intelligence. Or perhaps he is among those few who can remain in Paradise
until the end of time
When length of days will remove the deep-dyed taint,
Purify the aethereal sense and that sheer original stuff
Of fire and spirit.
In any case, Heaney has left us with this wonderful new translation of a classic."
~ KARL KIRCHWEY for The New York Times.
Gerald Durrell's Corfu Trilogy
Old News was sadly forgettable, even with Edna Ferber. It appears to be a series - I may try to read the first one but honestly, there wasn't much of a mystery at all and the writing is pretty bad. So don't all rush out and get it.
I am compiling books for a long weekend in Philadelphia. Is 4 too many?
Did you say you liked The Strays? I remember you read it but not your opinion. Anyway, it's on sale and I'm always hard pressed to pass up a bahhhgain if it's something I might actually want.
Also, I wish my student loans would go away and my cats all shit licorice jelly beans, but... you know.
Mybookpage review is here https://bookpage.com/features/20814-award-winners-from-down-under#.WMvUK_nyu1t
I am bringing three books, crossword puzzles and some New Yorkers. And if I don't buy a book there, it will be a first. Last time I was in Philly, I found the public library resale shop.
I'm not sure where my copy came from anymore, but it's a yellowed and delicate sixth printing from 1960. It's kind of surreal to be reading it by a clip-on booklight in the evenings, what with the vintage look and feel of the book, and the little techy light hovering over top of it. :)
I'm 5 pages from the end of The Break and made the decision to wait and finish it tonight rather than rush through it at work.
In the car I'm listening to The UnAmericans, but I have it on Kindle as well. I don't particularly like the narrator, so reading the print allows the writer's voice to reassert itself. I'm on the 4th story, so I don't know about the rest of the collection, but 3 of them have had men as protagonists. I'm fighting that a bit, and also intrigued with the juxtaposition of the male view of female partners/daughters/mothers via a female writer.
I'm about to open the cover of Roth's The Plot Against America. I heard a great discussion on Slate's Trumpcast podcast, so I decided to give it a try.
On my trip, I read a bunch of mysteries and old New Yorkers and have the same planned for this weekend though I am driving not flying so less reading time. But I did want to mention I am reading the stories that SBL sent me for my Guardian Swap. You Are Having a Good Time. I was a bit cool on them at first but there are one or two in the collection that are really outstanding. So yay.
Now gonna catch up on some New Yorkers, NYRB, Food & Wine, and I need to finally read through my trial copy of Milk Street magazine to see if it's all that and I should subscribe. Probably not, cf the above list of periodicals that I'm already behind on...
I'm looking forward to Celine, even more so now. Cool.
Now reading Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow. My sis put this in my hands and said I must read it. I don't always do what she tells me to do but this time Im really glad I did!
Back from Knoxville. I was mostly listening and not reading but I finished Cherry which I had never read and liked quite a bit - not as much as The Liar's Club though. Something about reading about other people's acid trips...............
Started a new novel Lilli de Jong which I am really liking - unwed mother in 19th c. Philadelphia and Quakers.
Oh but Big Ears - Carla Bley, Henry Grimes, Michael Hurley from the Holy Modal Rounders, Sir Richard Bishop and a slew of artists I'd never heard before and am now giant fans of. It was sooooo cool.
The Leavers is really really good.
to be a murder mystery but it was so incomprehensible and so uninteresting. Only took me about three hours to read...really not very good at all.
Earlier in the week I finished The Woman in Cabin Ten. It was fun but the story dragged on too long and I'm very tired of drunk female narrators who witness a crime. It's a very tired trope now.