The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 2

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The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 2

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Mar 30, 2017, 7:35pm

. . . because we were all reading so much the previous topic was getting really looooonnnng.

Here it is for reference, though:

Mar 30, 2017, 7:35pm

. . . because we were all reading so much the previous topic was getting really looooonnnng.

Here it is for reference, though:

Mar 30, 2017, 10:29pm

Oh man, I hate it when a good book goes really bad. Reading Ordinary Heroes. Liking how the story is going, but the amount of anachronisms is really bothering me The father of the narrator obviously is a time traveler from the 21 century, questioning about the way that Blacks were treated during WWII. Yeah, some people were ahead of their time, but when his driver starts taking photos of a work gang, he notices that the driver did not ask permission - what? This is 1944! This is happening more and more and is distracting me from the good story. That is when the narrator shows us instead of telling us. Ok, lets see how far I get, maybe there is some hope soon (and who knows maybe the father is a time traveler from the 21 century?)

Mar 30, 2017, 10:32pm

For my book club we read Arcadia by Tom Stoppard -- my recommendation. I was curious how we would like the play format.

I haven't read many plays since college and was surprised how many of our group not only liked the format but actively read plays. For myself, I found the format cumbersome even though I really enjoyed the story. In fact, if the play is performed where I can go and see it I will try to go.

Overall I was comfortable with this choice because we ended up having a lively discussion in spite of celebrating a member birthday.

It is much better than those times that are embarrassing!

Mar 31, 2017, 8:20am

Thanks for the new thread, Nicki.

I'm about halfway through The Patriots and enjoying it a lot.

Mar 31, 2017, 10:46am

I loved The Patriots. It was one of my best for 2016!

Mar 31, 2017, 10:36pm

The Non-European, Non-North American Travel Writing Discussion is now officially up, here:

Abr 1, 2017, 8:04pm

For the aforementioned discussion, I started reading Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul today, and got through a big chunk of it. I love his writing, love how he uses small and vivid memories-- precisely painted-- to evoke deep thoughts and feelings. All the same, I'm not sure it belongs in a discussion of travel literature, given that he wrote it in the same house he grew up in, and has lived in for most of the past half century.

Abr 1, 2017, 8:24pm

Yeah, I saw your question on the thread. I think for me as a traveler, who would give her eye teeth to be able to handle a flight to Turkey, its a travel book because its how I can vicariously go there. Its that way for many of the authors you list who are writing about their own country in memoir style- Im reading it more for the location than I am for the narration.

Abr 1, 2017, 10:26pm

I currently have two nonfiction books going--Washington's Farewell by John Avlon (this was a gift from friends) and No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller by Harry Markopolos (my current audio book). Markopolos spent something like 8 years trying to convince the S.E.C. that Bernie Madoff was a crook.

Abr 2, 2017, 12:42pm

Finished Lilli de Jong. There is a huge deus ex machine - actually, there might be two, now that I think of it, and there's a ton of historical research that isn't always worked into the plot that successfully but still, the book really moved me, may be because it was my first born's 21st this week and I was thinking so much about motherhood. It's a really interesting subject - unwed motherhood in the 19th c, wet nursing, baby farmers - with some really horrific moments.

Editado: Abr 2, 2017, 1:40pm

Finally got ahold of a copy of The Lauras by Sara Taylor. Spent much of the morning sitting outside reading it. Aside from a few over the top new novelist descriptive phrasing I am really liking this. Have never read The Shore, will have to get that.

Oh and also back to Ordinary Heroes. Willing to overlook time travel issues to find out how much this little white lie of the narrators is going to cost him...

Abr 4, 2017, 8:29pm

Where is everyone?

FInished The Lauras, liked it for the most part; felt that the climax ended up not being the end of the story, so the second climax was, well anticlimatic. Still very well written, and look forward to what this young new novelist will do next.

Now what? Was planning on reading Celine next but my enabling sister put Stolen Beauty in my hands so that may be next (Id read The Painted Kiss, which is more about the relationship between Klimt and the model, so not sure how much this is more of the same ) Im almost finished with Ordinary Heroes (its getting better, or maybe Im becoming less picky)

Abr 4, 2017, 9:42pm

I started The Gustav Sonata yesterday and am loving it.

Editado: Abr 5, 2017, 8:54am

I'm about two-thirds of the way through Andrew Dickson's Worlds Elsewhere, which is pretty entertaining, although it did not, despite his best efforts, instill in me any great desire to become more familiar with Bollywood cinema.

Abr 5, 2017, 11:10am

I probably shouldn't even be posting about this yet, because I just started it, but I have a feeling this is going to turn out to be a real find. The Gargoyle Hunters by John Freeman Gil.

Abr 5, 2017, 12:09pm

Oh that is such a Cindy book - its on my list, soon to be in my hands!

Abr 5, 2017, 4:11pm

I am reading the new Gail Godwin Grief Cottage. It's a bit Turn of the Screw - a lonely orphan living with his eccentric great aunt on a Folly Island-like beach in south Carolina encounters the ghost of another boy, drowned in a hurricane decades before - with eerie and homoerotic overtones.

Editado: Abr 6, 2017, 5:28pm

The Gargoyle Hunters is really good. Yo, Lisa. I think this one's right up your alley.

"Hilarious and poignant, The Gargoyle Hunters is a love letter to a vanishing city, and a deeply emotional story of fathers and sons. Intimately portraying New York’s elbow-jostling relationship with time, the novel solves the mystery of a brazen and seemingly impossible architectural heist—the theft of an entire historic Manhattan building—that stunned the city and made the front page of The New York Times in 1974."

“Extravagantly satisfying … It held me, delighted me, and left me enthralled. The Gargoyle Hunters teems with the particular vitality of its time and place, yet it is never for one minute especially ‘nostalgic.’ It is stamped with the moods of Manhattan — specifically, the Upper East and Upper West Sides — and the flavors of the mid-1970s, and yet it seems … delightfully and commandingly strange. And it reads, like all the best novels do, as both the encapsulation of private, urgent experience and a radical, inscrutable transformation of the same.”
—The Los Angeles Review of Books

Edit: Sorry, Cindy, I didn't see your post. Yes. I think you, too, will enjoy this one.

Abr 7, 2017, 7:22am

I put it on my library hold list, Pat—that does look good.

Finished The Patriots, and liked it very much. This is one of my favorite kinds of historical novels, which look at relationships through the lens of history and history through the relationships it helps form, with the understanding that the two are rarely separable. I appreciated that Krasikov's characters weren't simple or even always likeable—she did a good job of telling a story where the lines between what we do to each other and what we do for each other are not necessarily well delimited. I think the narrative could have been a bit tighter, but I don't begrudge Krasikov her sprawling narrative... it is a Russian novel, after all, and she's done a terrific job with it.

Now about to start Idaho on my long schlep down to Brooklyn for an Urban Librarians conference...

Abr 7, 2017, 9:29am

Started a thread of sky about a Chinese American family who decide to take a trip to China to visit their grandfather. Really liking it so far (and its very short, so should finish it today)

Abr 7, 2017, 12:38pm

American War: A novel
by Omar El Akkad

Environmental disaster, war AND plague! Yeehaw

Abr 7, 2017, 3:59pm

I was crazy about The Patriots. It was one of my favorite books last year and as much as I admired Krasikov's short story collection, I found the novel light years better.

I loved the unsentimentality of it.

I am within about 20 pages of the end of Gail Godwin's Grief Cottage and really enjoying it. It is a ghost story - the way Turn of the Screw is - but it's also a coming of age story and one that is, for the most part, quite delicately rendered with some emotional depths I wasn't expecting.

There's a little bit of eccentric kudzu Southernness but I am trying to ignore that.

Abr 8, 2017, 6:39pm

I finished up The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit and I've been thinking about it for a bit since. It's a bit of a puzzling book; there's something at the heart of why Christopher Knight lived in the woods for a quarter of a century that goes unexplained and that in turn makes the book unsatisfying (though it's the subject that's at fault, I think). The author interviewed him and spent time with him, but Knight is really bad about explaining his motives. It makes the book a little bit sad -- and Knight is perversely anti-Thoreau, anti-journal, just ends up sounding like he just wanted to live alone in the woods to read Playboys and eat candy. Which might be the case; the author does make the point a few times that Knight was basically a giant toddler.

Abr 8, 2017, 8:26pm

Really loving The Gustav Sonata.

Abr 9, 2017, 12:31am

I have that on my kindle, April, so good to hear.

Abr 9, 2017, 12:33am

Reading The Gargoyle Hunters -- it's picaresque fun but I am hoping for darker.

Abr 9, 2017, 12:21pm

Finished Worlds Elsewhere -- it really is a fun book for the Shakespeare fan. In the end, I think any grand conclusions about Shakespeare's "universality" elude the author, but his pursuit of the Bard through the continents makes for fascinating reading. Germany's "unser Shakespeare" was scary, India's Bollywood versions were vivid and appealingly exuberant; I had a lot of affinity for South Africa's Shakespeare-as-resistance (and felt ashamed I knew nothing of Sol T. Plaatje), and whatever the opposite of "affinity" is for the uncertain fate of Shakespeare-as-state-propoganda in Maoist China.

But honestly, the strength of the book was not in its history lessons or its travel dialogue (as a traveler, Dickson seems constantly exhausted by the vagaries of train time tables and taxi cabs in traffic) -- it was his account of the myriad of performances he sees, the (seemingly hundreds) of film adaptations he watches. Those are amazing -- school competitions, pirated dvds of old Merchant Ivory productions, outdoor shows in Wild West period dress somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains, high culture adaptations into Chinese operatic form. The book is worth reading just for those.

Abr 10, 2017, 1:17pm

The last two books I read had giant deus ex machina moments which really bumped me out of the novel in a most unpleasant way. Aren't editors supposed to work with writers? Harrumph.

I am reading Lit which I am not loving. It is so much showier than The Liars Club and even Cherry. I'm a Virgo, so I'll finish it but I am finding it irritating.

Am I alone here? Am I missing a special Mary Karr gene?

Abr 10, 2017, 1:34pm

Are you sure you're still a Virgo, since they changed the dates and added a new sign? ;)

I read a book! An honest to god, real live book! Well, I had a major crisis at work and had a lot of work done on my house, so I ended up splitting time between reading the real live book and listening to the audiobook in my commute to work (thank goodness, I never would have finished it in time!). I read The Nix. It was my pick for our book club, and it was a great choice. I think everyone liked it a lot (or loved it), and it made for a really good discussion. There was too much in it, as I saw several of your reviews say, but most of it worked. I thought it was strange that I really didn't like any of the characters. I'm not opposed to unlikeable characters, but to me, every single character was generally unlikeable, for very different reasons. But in the end, I really enjoyed it and I'm glad I read it. And I'm glad all my friends read it and we had such a good discussion. I think it's one that will come up in future meetings.

Other than that, I've listened to a few true crime books, The Dry, and Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. Now I'm free to read anything I want (since my house is currently the cleanest it has ever been!), and I'm stumped.

Abr 10, 2017, 2:24pm


Editado: Abr 10, 2017, 3:05pm

The Gargoyle Hunters is a mighty fine read, especially for anyone who lived in Manhattan during the '70s. With two exceptions:

-- John Freeman is an adjectivist of major proportions (giving him a pass on hyperbole since his protagonist is a 13-year-old boy).

-- There are two substantive characters, both female, who disappear at the end of the book, their fates unknown.

Abr 12, 2017, 2:16pm

Idaho was really interesting, dark, and off-the-grid (multiple narrators and non-contiguous time frames) look at loss and the part memory plays in that. At the story's base there's a murder—a matricide—but it isn't there to be solved, although one of the protagonists invests much energy in getting at its emotional core. Rather, there are a lot of twinnings that are pulled apart and the wound examined—sisters growing apart, parents and lost (both figuratively and literally) children, marriages, unconventional friendships, even an amputated leg wracked with phantom and emotional pain. Ruskovich stays on the side of the implicit, rather than spelling out her connections, and this makes for a tension that carries the book through what might otherwise be a distracting series of time and POV jumps. It's a dark story—not sure why it's been marketed as a thriller or mystery, since it's neither—filled with some lovely writing about the natural world and the small internal shifts its characters make. Maybe a bit heavy on the latter, but mostly the book is satisfying. Very different from much of what I've read this year.

And now thanks to my ridiculously swollen library holds pile (is it a pile if it's electronic? well, whatever) I am promptly starting Human Acts.

Abr 12, 2017, 3:45pm

Put aside Celine, picked up Gargoyle Hunters, enjoying it very much so far.

Abr 12, 2017, 10:25pm

Julie, try The Gustav Sonata--I loved it.

Abr 13, 2017, 11:07am

Abr 14, 2017, 9:18am

Finished Homegoing, which I liked, but feel that I should have liked more than I did. I think the political climate is blunting my ability to connect deeply with what I'm reading and it is really bugging me. This is like the third or fourth book I've read that I felt like I was seeing the whole story behind glass or something. So I have to assume the problem is me, not the writers.

Meanwhile, it is the height of gardening season for me, massive amounts of digging, planting, weeding, and generally shoveling dirt around. I listen to Shakespeare while I'm working in the garden and I'm focusing on the later plays this spring. Next up, Cymbeline, because of some comments Andrew Dickson made in his book, Worlds Elsewhere.

And on my bedside table are a few travel accounts for the Non-European Travel discussion:

Defiled on the Ayeyarwaddy: One Woman's Mid-Life Travel Adventures on Myanmar's Great River by Ma Thanegi, because I love the title, Basho's travel account because I love Basho, and Che Guevara's Motorcycle Diaries, because I don't think I've ever read them, and that seems weird to me.

Abr 14, 2017, 11:19am

If We Were Villains appeared on my Kindle as a long forgotten pre-order. It's compared to The Secret History, which I didn't like, but the Shakespeare angle pushed a button.

I'm only on Scene IV (Chapter 4), so it's mostly been all set up, so far. It's about a murder among a tight-knit group of 4th-year students at a private, lakeside "thespian" academy which deals solely in Shakespearean performances. They keep erupting in quotes from the plays during conversation which hasn't annoyed me nearly as much as I thought it would. Yet.

Editado: Abr 14, 2017, 12:47pm

Pat D, that sounds very appealing.

I finished Lit and though I liked the recovery bits, I found it kind of ho-hum and gratuitous. It needed a good editor with a sharp red pencil.

Started The Lauras and have twice needed to change my expectations, presuppositions and everything else that makes you think you are reading one book when you are reading another. I like it............I think.

Abr 14, 2017, 2:54pm

erg, left my book in David's car, so I picked up kindness of enemies off my tbr shelves. Started it last fall and then got distracted by another shiny cover. Glad I found it again.

Abr 14, 2017, 6:47pm

ANOTHER book getting Secret History comparisons is Jennifer Finney Boylan's Long Black Veil. I was a huge fan of Boylan's first two books -- The Constellations and The Planets, both written when she was still identifying as James -- but they were kind of quirky family comedies so this is an interesting hairpin. It'll be on my porch tomorrow.

Abr 15, 2017, 12:12pm

>35 AprilAdamson: April, I saw that you gave it 5 stars, which definitely made me take note! Thanks!

I had to get A Gentleman in Moscow for book club, and I've bought a few books for my Kindle. But I still haven't even cracked the surface of all the books I bought with some Christmas money (except for The Nix). I need to be watching less tv.

Editado: Abr 16, 2017, 10:29am

Finished Human Acts, which was both beautiful and harrowing. Both the writing and translation are lovely, which serves to hammer home the way violence—maybe especially when it's political in origin—has implications for years and generations afterward. The book is a series of narratives of ordinary people caught up in the student uprising and military massacre in Guangju, South Korea, in May 1980, beginning with one 15-year-old boy and spiraling outward, including an arresting author epilogue. It's not an easy or comfortable read—a lot of it is very violent, encompassing human acts ranging from torture to the tender washing and dressing of anonymous dead bodies—but it's a strong and I think necessary one. Not just to get a window on an event that happened nearly 40 years ago and was given pretty short shrift in American news, and not just to make a horrific historical event more real, but to also remind us that hey, this is what can happen to ordinary people living ordinary lives in an unstable and militaristic regime… and shouldn't that sound at least a little familiar to all of us in 2017? In one of the later chapters, "The Factory Girl," as events in Guangju ramp up—the rise of a militaristic leader to fill the power void left by an assassinated president, the institutionalization of media censorship and misinformation, and the violent arrests of protestors, the young narrator says:
Through the newspapers, you witnessed the seemingly inexorable rise of Chun Doo-hwan, the young general who had been the former president's favorite. You could practically see him in your mind's eye, riding into Seoul on a tank as in a Roman triumph, swiftly appropriating the highest position in the central government. Goose bumps rose on your arms and neck. Frightening things are going to happen. The middle-aged tailor used to tease you: "You're cozying up with that newspaper like it's your new beau, Miss Lim. What a thing it is to be young, and be able to read such fine print without glasses."
And man, that gave me a full-body shiver. A flicker of a reminder to all of us who have thought the same thing in the past three months, which I imagine is most of us… pay attention.

Now I would be reading Hari Kunzru's White Tears but the NYPL ebook app is acting up—or more likely their servers, since I'm not able to download books I've checked out. Not like I don't have anything else to read, but I've only got eight days left on the checkout so I'd like to start (even though it's not huge—under 300 pages, anyway). That will give me an excuse to write my review of The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures, which is just the prettiest thing.

Abr 16, 2017, 12:51pm

So many passionate posts about "Human Acts" have beyond convinced me I should read it, but I think It's just too akin to the news which has me feeling very defeated these days.

Christopher Logue's "War Music" is (obviously) about war, also, but it's just as much about language and art. I was so involved with personal dramas for most of last year that I'd not heard Logue's poet friend was compiling all the published parts with left behind manuscripts into one, complete volume. Even though I have all of them in various, separate forms, my fingers got all tangled up in their rush to Amazon and the click button.

While I was there, I skimmed over some of the reader reviews, and as is wont to happen every blue moon, I was transfixed by one in particular. I know this sounds stalker-y, but it was such a beautifully written review, I wanted to read more by him/her. As it turns out, Temple Cone is a he, who is a published poet in his own right, and a professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has a bunch of other degrees, too.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking the short time to read, ‘I Can Hear Death Pronounce My Name’ Review: Christopher Logue, ‘War Music: An Account of Homer’s Iliad’ by Temple Cone. It's the entirety of his posted Amazon review as published in The Washington Free Beacon. Few have so eloquently mirrored my own feelings about Logue's masterwork. It remains one of the most affecting pieces of literature I've ever experienced. Such a damn shame Logue became ill and died before he could finish it.

Abr 16, 2017, 6:41pm

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple

I have read a LOT about this story but there's a lot in here I'd never heard before, especially about his early life. I usually skip the childhoods in bios - SORRY BIOGRAPHERS! - but this one is fascinating. His mother was a piece of work.

Abr 17, 2017, 5:32pm

I so wanted to like The Lauras but it was very disappointing. It really doesn't know what it wants to be and for a book about discovery - very little is revealed.

The premise, a woman and her adolescent child (you never know whether Alex is boy or a girl) hit the road - the mother has much unfinished business to take care of. But big questions like, why does the mother decide to bring Alex along in the first place why is Alex so ambivalent about being separated from her/his father, how are all these people supporting themselves - are never answered.

There is real frankness about teenage sexuality and a fantastic, although slightly upsetting scene about hitchiking and blow jobs which again, I admired for it's upfrontness. But overall, I don't think the novel works.

Reading some of the short stories in You Should Pity Us sent to me by Lisa P. I think Sue Russell would have really liked this. And about to start Wild Tales

Abr 17, 2017, 5:45pm

It makes me so sad and frustrated to see her avatar on Goodreads and know I can't talk to her about a book.

Abr 17, 2017, 5:54pm

I feel the same way, Lisa. It makes me sad every time.

Editado: Abr 17, 2017, 11:40pm

edited: never mind, had a 'duh' moment

I had similar problems with the Lauras, lots being unsaid, but ultimately liked the book. Loved the idea of a road trip to go back to the people from your life (the scene in her parents house....) was perfect. But Im not sure her escape would have been that easy, or lasted so long. I certainly dont think her rescuing that teenager was realistic and didn't see the reason for her to be addes. The mix gender issue was interesting, because I kept switching what I thought Alex was the more I read into the book. Anyway - It may be a very good book to discuss, but I expect lots of people wouldn't like it for very different reasons.

Abr 23, 2017, 3:02pm

I am still reading the stories in You Should Pity Us Insteadand I like them very much. Also reading Wild Tales which was a freebie on the bookpage shelf. It's very engaging. I was a big CSN fan although I always felt that Nash was the most facile songwriter of the three and I definitely preferred things with when NY joined them. But this is a fun, fast read and the sections that are actually about what transpired in the studio are pretty interesting. Once again, astonished at how much drugs these people ingested and lived to tell about it. I know not all of them did.

Abr 24, 2017, 10:55pm

The Kindness of Enemies I cannot recommend this book enough. Its about two cultures, filled with hatred for the other, and yet they both want peace. Really brings home the Checyna and Russian conflict. Beautifully written

Now reading Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London Love her essay on NYC and the suburbs, and find her look at Jean Rhys, comparing her to herself at 20 at loose ends in Paris interesting but a bit too long. But liking the style, and the descriptions of cities

Editado: Abr 24, 2017, 10:57pm

Finished White Tears, which I liked but not loved. The ideas behind much of the setup were good ones, but I felt like it came a bit unraveled just when things should have been tight. I thought that both the framings—of the dangers behind obsessive collecting and cultural vampirism—are worth building a novel around, but conflating the two ended up muddying the waters (no pun intended!) and took away from what could have been a really spooky, punchy story. Still, fun to read, and it's cool to run into a novel with blues and record collecting at its heart.

Now I'm reading The Animators, which I confess I was drawn to because it reminded me of The Interestings (name, subject, and cover).

Abr 25, 2017, 10:44am

cindy, both of those are on my home pile and I think I'll move them up a scooch.

The last third of Wild Tales was a bit of a snooze.

Started a new novel by Estep Nagy We Shall Not all Sleep. WASPS on an island in Maine.

Abr 27, 2017, 8:16pm

I'm juggling:

still reading the Trollope Barsetshire series (about to start Book 3, Doctor Thorne). I like these -- I'm right on schedule, one every two months, to finish in a year, but I wish they were grabbing me a little more. But it's fine, it's nice to have ten pages a night or so where sometimes nothing happens.

also The Road to Jonestown, which is all sorts of detailed -- I dunno where he got all the childhood stuff.

and finally, Hunters in the Dark. Super blurby blurbs make Highsmith/Greene comparisons and that's about right tone-wise. Also some Maugham thrown in; he's a very Maugham-esque storyteller. It's a very TPC book, I think.

Abr 28, 2017, 3:25pm

That one's enticing.

Abr 29, 2017, 9:46am

I just read The Animators in one big (for me) gulp. I love novels about making art—not only the thought process but the physical act as well. Reading My Name is Asher Lev at age 12 flipped that switch for me, and I always really enjoy when a writer takes on what goes into the act of creation (reading about writers doesn't do the same thing for me... maybe because I identified as a visual artist early in life, long before I ever thought of myself as a writer?). I also, and I'm not proud of this, love novels about drugs—not the moral-arc, Behind the Music narratives of hitting bottom and then redemption, though it's OK if that happens. But those descriptions, when they ring true, of what it's like to step outside of yourself like that... I think I'm like the happily-partnered person who still likes to read the occasional steamy romance: it's entertaining to read travel reports from a road I didn't end up taking.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that I liked The Animators very much. Good solid writing, some really inspired dialogue, and an interesting arc to the story. I may not be a professional artist or a dedicated stoner, but I really lit up at the exploration of what it means when a woman puts her work first, how that reverberates through her life and relationships. Whitaker did a bang-up job on the friendship between the two women as well. I'm not sure I bought the family dynamics all the time but hey, not my family so who am I to say? All in all, this was a lot of fun.

Now on to Dan Chaon's Ill Will.

Abr 29, 2017, 10:59am

Ok, need to read Animators, if for no other reason that animation has always fascinated me. But it looks like a good solid story as well. Thanks Lisa!

Abr 29, 2017, 1:48pm

DG, that's why Trollope was a good read for me when I was nursing. it was very episodic and I could read it for a little bt at a time. Things didn't exactly gallop.

We Shall Not All Sleep was pretty bad. It's about two families who share an island in Maine. There's a complicated back story that involves the CIA and acts of strange and unexplained cruelties. It's part Great Gatsby and part Lord of the Flies. The characters are so wooden and the plot wasn't even predictable as much as non-existent. I very very rarely go back to my editor and tell her I can't go a book but I'm thinking about it for this one.

What makes it seem worse is that I started read The Leavers which is extraordinary and almost impossible to put down. It takes place in NY and is about a Chinese boy whose mother abandons him when he's about 12 - just disappears. He is adopted by a white family upstate. Fast forward 10 years and the kid has dropped out of college, has a gambling addiction, and is trying to make it as a musician when someone he knew from his past life shows back up with a way to contact his mother.

It is so good and I think some version of it is probably happening all over the world.

Editado: Abr 29, 2017, 2:12pm

I heard really good buzz about The Leavers at LJ.

Abr 29, 2017, 3:09pm

The Leavers looks really good. May have to get that one on Tuesday.

Editado: Abr 29, 2017, 4:42pm

I finished On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Did anyone catch him on Bill Maher? He was a very earnest fellow, but he had such a difficult time speaking directly to the audience. His academic accomplishments and list of writings are very impressive. I'm considering reading Allan J. Lichtman's The Case for Impeachment, but I haven't convinced myself to click. I'm also seriously thinking about reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but I haven't figured out which format I want to read it in, and I'm feeling kind of cheap right now. Plus, our library system doesn't have a copy. I owned a mass market paperback copy of it when I was in high school, but I didn't get very far. I've been listening to a series of podcasts from Slate Academy on Fascism which I'm finding very interesting. Other than that, I'm listening to The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin.

Abr 29, 2017, 11:58pm

Just finished The Sisters by Nancy Jensen.

A multi-generational story following 4 generations of women from one family, it was a bit uneven. In spite of that, it would make a good book club read as there are many issues to discuss. The writing is good and there are some places where the it just shines.

The major issue I had reading the book ended up getting resolved in the last chapter. And if you read it, be prepared for tears towards the end of the book.

Mayo 1, 2017, 1:09pm

I'm absolutely transfixed by a little-known debut by Xan Brooks, which I read about on an Irish blog somewhere. The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times is blowing me away with its beautiful writing. Early on, so I'm not recommending it, yet. There's another reason I just had to post about it.

Not too long ago, I picked up A Green and Ancient Light on a whim and loved it. It seemed like a very niche book to me, though, since the story was about a grandmother who takes in her grandson (for safety reasons) due to war outbreak. She lives far out in the country, in a town surrounded by mysterious woods. The plot centers on helping wounded, hiding soldiers (one in particular), and the mythology of the forest.

Then I started reading raves about this Xan Brooks novel which is about... get this... almost the exact same thing: Children being used to aid secret societies of wounded soldiers living in the woods. In AGaAL, everything is generic. It in an unnamed country and most of the characters are unnamed, also. TCiTHATDT is specific with named places and characters.

I didn't even know that was a thing in WWII (using children for that), never mind the coincidence of reading two outstanding novels about the subject released within a short span of time. I mean, that's weirdly specific and niche book publishing synchronicity, doncha' think?

Anyway. I'll report back after I'm done, but so far, the writing/language is just gorgeous.

Mayo 2, 2017, 9:14pm

You guys are in the wrong reading thread. Use this one.

Editado: Mayo 2, 2017, 10:44pm

I'm so confused. Isn't this the right reading thread? I'm now reading both, just in case . . .

Cindy, when you wander back here, I enjoyed Uprooted more than I expected to. You're right, it is very 80s fantasy -- Patricia McKillip-ish -- but it was just what I needed when I read it.

In the same vein, I'm re-reading The Crystal Cave and loving it. I thought I was permanently done with the Arthur myth stories after binging on them in my teens but Mary Stewart and Merlin might be the exception. She writes really well and I'm enjoying the semi-historical bits.

I'm also putzing my way through The Improbability of Love. It is fun and light, and easy to read before bed with a focus on food and art. Plus, a Christmas exchange gift from April, so it is that much more fabulous.

Mayo 2, 2017, 10:44pm

This is the right one, Mir, you're good.

Editado: Mayo 3, 2017, 9:35am

So which is the wrong one? (ETA never mind - the original thread was full I guess so this one was started at the beginning of the month. Make sure it says 'part 2', eventually the other one will fall down the list and not get confusing)

The beginning of Uprooted was a little slow for me - they could have cut lots of the girl needing the magician to magically change her dress every time she gets a stain on it - but Im now where its getting really interesting.

Oh and Crystal Cave (and the sequels) makes one of the best Arthur stories around. Enjoy! (Tho if you are intersted in a more historic based version, try Bernard Cornwell The Winter King Its pretty bloody but definitely puts the story in its possible time and place.

Mayo 3, 2017, 12:01pm

Oh, The Crystal Cave! I was just talking about Mary Stewart the other day and how fun it would be to re-read her. Such a big part of my adolescence and the excitement of getting books out of the adult section of the library.

I finished The Leavers. People, it's a run, don't walk. Really engaging and timely without being preachy. It's about a Chinese boy Deming and his mother Polly living in NY - the Bronx actually. When he is about 12, she disappears completely and he is fostered and then adopted by a white family upstate. Fast forward 8 years and Deming - now Daniel - dropping out of college with a gambling addiction, trying to start a band. Both his story, and his mother's, are fascinating and the whole novel was inspired by an article in the NYT about a woman illegally detained and jailed in an immigration camp in Texas.

It's very compelling, upsetting, and even funny in parts. Also, a total love letter to NYC.

Thanks you to the Library Thing Early Readers for the chance to read this marvelous book!

Mayo 3, 2017, 1:29pm

I've got a library hold on that one.

Mayo 3, 2017, 1:47pm

Just finished and enjoyed:

The Boy on the Bridge
by Mike Carey

Sequel to his "Girl with All the Gifts"

Mayo 3, 2017, 1:48pm

Read a TON of Mary Stewart in my early teens. Thanks, Mom.

Mayo 3, 2017, 2:24pm

Hey Kat, my mom is why I read a ton of Mary Stewart too.

Also, when I was in the K-12 system they still streamed Jr and Sr High courses, so that students were either in the university entrance stream or not. I was a very dreamy, unfocused, socially awkward kid and my grade six teacher (may she rot in hell) thought I was stupid, which she made clear to the whole class, and recommended that I go into stream that would not take me to university. My grade 7 English/History teacher caught on early that I wasn't a complete waste of space, particularly once I started talking about The Persian Boy by Mary Stewart, and all the Greek Tragedies that my mom and aunt were feeding me. So she called me parents, they raised hell, and I was moved. I still did horribly in all math/science courses, but always did fine in History and English. So I credit Mrs. Stringham who was a brilliant teacher and fabulous human being and Mary Stewart for saving me from complete misery in HS.

All this to say that I was also incredibly lucky to have educated parents and other family members who always thought I was smart enough -- if I hadn't my grade six teacher (and others) would have had a far greater negative impact on my life. Being a flaky kid with adhd who reads all the time, does not help in any education setting, but particularly not in the 70s and 80s.

On topic, I finished the Crystal Cave last night and started listening to Colin Firth reading The End of the Affair on my way to work this morning. Also, woot woot re: new Mike Carey book. I really enjoy his novels.

Mayo 3, 2017, 2:44pm

I'm currently flying through The Book of the Unnamed Midwife. It's nice to read something that moves a little faster than most of the literary fiction I usually read. I also decided to click on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. That may take me a year to get through, though.

Mayo 3, 2017, 4:55pm

Lisa P, may it arrive soon.

Mayo 5, 2017, 12:16pm

I have about 20 pages to go in Waking Lions. I have a few quibbles but for the most part, I am really enjoying it. Another very timely piece of fiction and an Israeli novel that is really different from others I've read. A young doctor is coming home one night from work and fatally injures an Eritrean man. He decides not to report the accident. The dead man's wife shows up at his house with the doctor's wallet and basically blackmails him into setting up a clinic for sick and injured Eritreans who are working in the Negev (the novel takes place in Beersheba). It gets a bit more complicated from there.

Shades of The Stranger and lots of moral business to think about.

Mayo 6, 2017, 12:28am

Synchronicity-- I have also been thinking of Mary Stewart. In my teens I couldn't read enough of her books and read and reread the Arthurian books. I wanted to live in them.

I am going to go to the library now (website that is) and download something of hers.

Mayo 7, 2017, 12:48pm

I am reading Mount Pleasant. It took me two tries to get into it but it's pretty fantastic. A history of colonialism in Cameroon but more Salmon Rushdie than James Michener. A graduate student returns to the Cameroon and meets a 90 year old woman who worked in the Sultan's court in the 1930s disguised as a boy. It plays with what is true and what is fable, what ends up in the archives and what lives as a memory, what is written and what is spoken.

It's taking some patience but I like it.

Mayo 7, 2017, 1:31pm

Mir, have you ever read Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the Arthurian legend, Sword at Sunset? It's the novel that all subsequent, realistic retellings cite as inspiration. It's also the book that inspired my love for Celtic myths and literature.

Mayo 7, 2017, 3:15pm

>68 laurenbufferd: Just picked up Leavers, but right now I am head over heels over Known and Strange Things I am not sure where I heard this, hear or elsewhere on LT, but I do know that this will not be the last time I read a work by Teju Cole.

Mayo 7, 2017, 7:18pm

Last week I read Dan Chaon's Ill Will—interesting psychological horror, not so much outright scary as a good solid mind-fuck. The creepy villain here isn't something supernatural popping up out of the sewers—although there is a potential serial killer at large, and a few elements that might be supernatural or might not—but rather the totally destabilizing effects of loss and how that in turn opens up cracks in our psyches for all sorts of evil to get in. Or if not evil, then the lack of resources necessary to combat evil. It's a scary look at disassociation in its many forms, and the truly bad ripples that fan out when people aren't connected. I really like what Chaon was doing with this, and didn't have a problem—as I see other people have from the reviews—with the experimentally structured parts. The author's intent was pretty clear there and I thought it was a good way of achieving that.

Also lots of drugs in this one! But not fun ones at all. And also an image that was in the last book I read as well, one of those cat wall clocks. What are the odds of that? (We had one in my son's room when he was little so it popped out at me.)

Catching up on New Yorkers right now.

Mayo 7, 2017, 9:05pm

Lisa, I really liked Chaon's Ill Will. I did have a little trouble with the part that was structured differently, but I figured it out. I think the fact that I was reading it on a Kindle contributed to the initial confusion. Good read.

Mayo 7, 2017, 9:32pm

I was debating on that one. Now I'm interested. Thanks for the reviews, ladies.

Mayo 7, 2017, 9:56pm

I'm reading Waking Up White, and finding the author's realizations about white privilege and her mistaken attempts to help people of color based on lack of understanding to be insightful and interesting. However, she comes from such an upper-class, sheltered, naive place that I find her difficult to relate to at times. A couple of her reactions about others not seeing things the way she always saw them are so over the top I can see how right-wingers invented that silly label, "snowflake."

Mayo 8, 2017, 11:59am

>78 Pat_D: Maybe? I definitely read Eagle of the Ninth and I think I read her Boddicea one, so there's a good chance I've read it too. Maybe I should revisit. My love the celtic myths started with Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion series. I should try to re-read those as well.

Pat, have you read the Carsten Stroud Niceville trilogy? If not, I think you'd like it.

>77 laurenbufferd: Mount Pleasant looks fantastic! Another book to add to my sample pile.

Mayo 8, 2017, 10:06pm

Currently reading Swing Time. Thanks, Cindy!

Mayo 9, 2017, 11:07am

mir, I'll send it to you when I finish. It gets reeeeaaallly rambly towards the end and I think loses the threads of what makes the novel so interesting but I get what he's doing and it's cool.

I keep thinking of that feminist essay from way back when Can the Subaltern Speak by Gayatri Spivack as this novel is very much about the story of the colonized and the key witness is mute.

Going east for a few days and having fun deciding what books to bring.

Mayo 12, 2017, 4:14pm

I just got that Chaon from the library

Mayo 13, 2017, 9:36am

A couple of years ago, I sort of rashly picked up Lonesome Dove even though I knew the story and it turned out to be a really great reading experience, that old-timey kind of true page-turner without too many post modern ramblings about issues other than did so and so die from the snakebite?

So I'm trying it again with another big fat book I know without ever really having read it -- Gone with the Wind -- and it's the same exact experience, so much fun to read. The movie jettisoned about a third of the plot (and about a million characters) so there actually is an element of surprise in it. It's not completely problem-free; I still can't really decide if it's an overtly racist book or not -- it's definitely more nuanced than the movie in that regard, but there are still some cringey bits. BUT NO TALKING ABOUT THAT. It's all about the page turning.

Editado: Mayo 13, 2017, 10:43am

mir --> "Pat, have you read the Carsten Stroud Niceville trilogy?"

No, but it looks good and I put it in the basket. Thanks.

Mayo 13, 2017, 10:51am

deeg I hadn't read it in decades so it was an interesting read for a book group a few year back. And yeah even tho I knew the story and remembered some of the characters left out of the movie, it was still surprising.

Mayo 14, 2017, 7:35pm

Oh dear, Gone With the Wind, oh dear. It's the writing ...

Mayo 14, 2017, 10:20pm

Yes, that's definitely not its strong suit. But the sheer force of the story really keeps it going -- she throws in EVERYTHING into the plot and some of it sticks.

Editado: Mayo 15, 2017, 4:35pm

Back at home after whirlwind trip to fetch Son # 1 from college and be with my mother on mother's day. I did lots of crossword puzzles and also read Dawn Tripp's Moon tide which I thought was a bit thin. Also, magical Negro so yuck. I really loved Tripp's Georgia so I'm chalking this up to an early work.

I do like novels that take place in and around where I grew up and this one fit that bill.

Mayo 15, 2017, 9:04pm

I'm reading Graham Swift's Mothering Sunday because what the hell is the point of having all these books if you can't pull the right one off the shelf for a theme read?

I've had, let's just say, a REALLY fucking challenging week. Only able to read in fits and starts, but still managed to get through five back issues of the New Yorker, so I'll call it a win. I'm thinking this might be a good excuse to pull out some of the shorter books on my shelf, and aside from the Mother's Day connection, Mothering Sunday is a tiny little thing.

Mayo 15, 2017, 9:59pm

>94 lisapeet: I'm having the same problem, Lisa. All the stuff in the news is making me nuts, but I can't tear myself away from the TV or various political podcasts I listen to. I have 3 or 4 books going, but I can't settle on anything. I'm actually going to start yet another book hoping it will stick.

Mayo 15, 2017, 10:01pm

Lisa, I loved Mothering Sundayand thank god for the New Yorkers. They provide a load of sanity in the world right now.

Editado: Mayo 15, 2017, 11:27pm

Finished Known and Strange Things and definitely want to read his novel Open City Also finished a reread of Jan Morris Locations This is probably my favorite of her travel essay collections. Been ages since I read it, and for some reason it just fit the bill. Perhaps the fact that it was written 3 decades ago in what seems in retrospect such an innocent time helps

Started Adam Gopniks Angels and Ages. Beginning with the fact that Darwin and Lincoln were born on the same day. From there he proceeds to look at the time period in each country, their lives and their ideas. Its slow reading - there's a lot to think about on each page and it takes me a bit to get it all. But Im enjoying the mind exercise.

Mayo 16, 2017, 6:44am

>95 AprilAdamson: My reading stutter was situational—I spent the week in the hospital with a family member (everyone's OK now) and every minute I wasn't up and talking to someone or getting something or finding something I was trying to get work done, so it just wasn't conducive to diving into any in depth reading. And while that's over with, thank goodness, I'm still a week behind at work and so busy playing catch-up that probably short books are a good thing right now (until my next library hold shows up... either the good or bad thing about ebooks is that you don't know how big they are going in).

I can't do the news junkie thing—I think it would drive me insane right now. I do a quick read through the NY Times and Washington Post every morning and that's pretty much it, unless something big breaks, and of course I have to keep up on individual stories and the politics around them for work, but that's usually pretty focused down and I honestly don't have time to go down the news hole when I'm doing it. And I don't watch TV, which I'm sure helps on that count.

I do listen to podcasts about journalism, but they're not necessarily immediately topical, or if they are they're at a remove, talking about the people covering the news and what they do—which is oddly helpful sometimes when the world seems to be too awful of a place. But in general I need to keep it all to a low simmer for my own peace of mind.

And yeah on the New Yorkers. I'm so glad I resubscribed, and this time around I'm keeping up reasonably well.

Mayo 16, 2017, 5:25pm

I've reading A Man Called Ove and it has sucked me right in. Probably because I over identify with the main character!

Mayo 16, 2017, 7:27pm

>99 LuRits: That's such a sweet book, LuAnn.

Mayo 17, 2017, 3:44pm

Did anyone read The Essex Serpent? It was supposed to be all that and more but I am having trouble getting into it.

Mayo 17, 2017, 4:14pm

DG, I felt the same way about Lonesome Dove and Gone with the Wind. I think I read Lonesome Dove before I saw the series, or vice versa, but whichever one I did first, I IMMEDIATELY sunk myself into the other version. Completely loved them both, and still do. I read GwtW several years ago, after having seen the movie many times, and I LOVED it. I don't care about the writing or if it's racist or whatever. It was so fun to read, and I thought that version of Rhett was about the most romantic, desperately in love man I've ever encountered. Sigh. (But I tried not to think about Clark Gable and his stinky false teeth.)

I have The Essex Serpent, but haven't tried it yet. I ended up getting it for free (because it took months to arrive here from UK, and I complained), and I love the jacket. I doubt I'll get to it anytime soon, though.

Mayo 17, 2017, 7:24pm

I tried but could not get into Essex Serpent. I may try again but I'd have to be desperate. I think the hype on this one was close to criminal.

Mayo 17, 2017, 8:06pm

I picked up a galley at some book conference but also haven't read it. I'm still going to give it a shot at some point, but it's not high up on the list.

Editado: Mayo 18, 2017, 6:12pm

I've been lurking here for awhile (and a very pleasant place it is), but I'll come out of hiding on this one. I thought Essex Serpent was pedestrian. Didn't understand the hype. Thanks for making me feel a little less crazy.
>102 JulieCarter: I did love the jacket, though.

Mayo 18, 2017, 5:23pm

I am listening to
ONE PERFECT LIE by Lisa Scottoline
(emotional thriller and suburban crime story/mother of a
high-school-aged boy/stranger posing as a high school
teacher and coach/library Playaway device)

Mayo 18, 2017, 8:17pm

>105 theaelizabet: Welcome! Pull up a chair and stay awhile. Crazy is a good thing here, you'll fit right in :) So, what are you reading/

Editado: Mayo 19, 2017, 9:53am

Hi Molly, welcome. And hey thea, nice to see you round these parts!

I just read Mothering Sunday because of Mothers' Day, and funnily enough a friend of mine--my ex's cousin's wife, if you want to get granular--read it at the same time for the same reason. Lovely little gem of a book; reminded me fondly of when I was immersed in Mary Wesley for a Bloom piece a few years back.

Editado: Mayo 19, 2017, 9:27am

Lovely to see new participatory peeps in BookBalloon. Welcome! Keep posting please. :) New voices are a good thing.

I'm reading Insomniac City -- its tone reminds me just a bit of Patti Smith's Just Kids -- and enjoying spending time with Bill and Oliver.

I'm also listening to The End of the Affair, which is very different than I expected it to be and I'm finding I want to limit the amount of time I spend in Miles Bendrix's head, so I'm also listening to Broken Homes, which is easy and fun and I'm familiar with all the characters.

And, I'm reading The Reckoning the third book in the Niceville series -- it's just on this edge of horror, which suits me fine, and it's fun. Although I did check the last few pages to see what happens to a character I'm invested in because I'm a weeny.

It's a scatter gun approach to reading, but it seems to be working, and I'm working not to be too judgy about it.

Mayo 21, 2017, 7:23pm

A Rising Man: A Novel
by Abir Mukherjee

Mayo 23, 2017, 3:12pm

I am truly grateful to LibraryThing for sending me a copy of The Essex Serpent, though for me, the book was a near miss. I get what she is going for - that Victorian life wasn't all repression and prudery but that's been done before and frankly, better elsewhere . I found myself more annoyed by the intrepid heroine with her man's boots and unpowdered freckles than wanting to root for her. I was also puzzled that the mystery of the serpent is solved not once but twice.

On the other hand, I was strangely moved by the end and the whole thing reminded me of AS Byatt's Possession, another book which irked me no end but made me cry. So there you have it.

But I am totally intrigued by the idea of cyanposia or seeing blue everywhere which one character suffers from.

I am currently reading Kamila Shamsie's A God in Every Stone.

Editado: Mayo 23, 2017, 3:51pm

"But I am totally intrigued by the idea of cyanposia or seeing blue everywhere which one character suffers from."
I suffered from this one night because of, erm, let's just say it was....a little square piece of paper. I saw blue everywhere, and my friend messed with me by coming downstairs with blue hair. I couldn't tell what was real. It was insane.

On topic, I finished Death in Holy Orders. I will probably read more by James, as I thought this was fairly well done, if not a ton of fun.

I really need to get started on A Gentleman in Moscow for my book group, but I just can't seem to want to read it right now. I don't know why. Boo.

Editado: Mayo 23, 2017, 9:23pm

Essex Serpert a super bust for me. All that hype, nowhere to read.

Editado: Mayo 24, 2017, 7:48am

May is my month of short books. I finished Ghachar Ghochar, which I liked a lot. It's always easy to say "Chekhovian" about books or stories that present intricate family dynamics from the inside out by painting these clear little portraits of everyday life, but hey—if the shoe fits (OK, it's in the cover blurb, but I would have thought of Chekhov anyway). The story takes a multi-faceted look at how money can complicate a family, particularly when there are a lot of cultural proscriptions in place, and the author packs a lot of nuance into 118 pages. Kudos also for the really good translation—apparently this is the first book to be translated from the language, Kannada, into English.

Mayo 24, 2017, 8:53am

I thought the same thing about the translation! It was so smooth -- and I thought it was kind of a good joke that the title was untranslatable because it was a family in-joke.

It's a very good book, on my shortlist for the year so far.

Mayo 24, 2017, 9:11am

I'm dying to read that. Well, not dying, but planning to.

Mayo 24, 2017, 9:13am

Now where is the language Kannada spoken?

Mayo 24, 2017, 9:28am

I had to look that up as well, its from southern India, including "minorities in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Goa" (from Wiki)

Mayo 24, 2017, 11:07am

Actually I think I'm wrong about it being the first Kannada translation into English--that can't be right. Maybe HIS first, or maybe the first by a major publisher? At any rate, yeah, it went down smoothly.

Lauren, I can send you my copy if you like.

Mayo 24, 2017, 11:19am

I would like. :)

Mayo 24, 2017, 5:30pm

I am a bad person for keeping quiet when you asked.

Editado: Mayo 26, 2017, 5:44pm

I've just finished Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir by Joyce Johnson. NYT book reviewer Dwight Garner has a newish bi-weekly column called "American Beauties," wherein he recommends books of the last 75 years that have fallen off the public radar and he recently recommended it. Johnson was Kerouac's very young lover for the couple of years surrounding the publication of On the Road, but her look back is about much more than that. It's really a little jewel.

Next I think I'm on to Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and for my fiction read, possibly White Tears by Hari Kunzru.

Editado: Mayo 27, 2017, 9:52am

>122 theaelizabet: thealizabet - welcome! I read the Dwight Garner column as well. I read Minor Characters years ago and had mixed feelings but this column made me want to give it a another try. If you are interested in that time period and another woman's pov, might I suggest Diane Di Prima's Memoirs of a Beatnik.

I am just about done with God in Every Stone which is about Pakistan just after WWI and then again in the 1930s - archeology, betrayal, colonialism, and a British woman who makes everything just a bit worse. I like it, although it's a bit overloaded with facts and places - I really wanted a street map of Peshawar.

Also Greco-Buddhist art. You DO want to know about that.

I'm hoping to interview Shamsie for bookpage so bought a bunch of her earlier novels and will be cramming over the two two weeks. Nerd fun.

Mayo 27, 2017, 10:45am

Shamsie keeps popping up -- And as a result my desire to read her increases. Have you read Burnt Shadows Lauren? I think I'll start with that.

Mayo 27, 2017, 11:45am

I have. If I recall, it is very ambitious and by that I mean it doesn't quite completely come together, as I am not sure the current book I am reading will either. But I really really the way she looks at things with a global perspective- Burnt Shadows takes place in Japan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US and even when she stumbles or the dialogue is clunky, I feel grateful that she is willing to take it all on, you know?

Editado: Mayo 29, 2017, 9:38am

>123 laurenbufferd: Thanks for the welcome and the recommendation! I did a deep dive into Beat literature a long time ago and I'm not sure how much much I want to return. The woman's POV is always intriguing, however.

Shamsie is new to me. I'll have to look into her.

>107 cindydavid4: >108 lisapeet: >109 mkunruh: Thanks for the welcome and a hello to you, Lisa!

Mayo 29, 2017, 9:19am

Well! I finished up the one millionth page of Gone with the Wind and even though I was verrrry familiar with the arc of the main story, it still managed to keep me in a sort of suspense until almost the very end. It leaves you with a very different feeling than the movie, in which I think Scarlett is allllmost a villain. But Mitchell is no stylist, so the book is CHOCK FULL of howlers.

It'll be tough to watch the movie now without being the annoying person who sits there and says "oh they left out blah blah blah and so and so is really three different characters in the book and OHMYGOD are they kidding?" so be warned about that if you ever invite me.

Because of a mention from Lauren, I'm going to get So Big today (if the bookstore is open), the Ferber book. That's a good idea for the summer, sort of galumphing whopper books that are all plot but THINK they're something else.

Mayo 29, 2017, 11:38am

I feel grateful that she is willing to take it all on, you know?

I do know.

Mayo 30, 2017, 1:09am

I'm reading Broken River by Robert J. Lennon. I'm about halfway through it, still undecided, but unable to stop reading it.

It's about a creative, bohemian family (sculptor father, novelist mother, and 12 yr. old Irina) who move into a small, long-abandoned, recently renovated house out in the woods. The daughter has dreams of becoming a writer and gets obsessed with a murder which occurred to former occupants of the house.

The writing is very good, the story is very readable, and I genuinely like Irina's voice even though I'm usually allergic to precociousness, but Lennon uses a ghost-like, omniscient device similar to Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo which is still too device-y feeling to be organic to the story. We'll see. It feels like this book was written for the express purpose of snagging a movie rights contract... which might be just a little too presumptuous, but there ya' go.

I can't put it away, though, so there's that.

Next up is American War by Omar El Akkad.

Editado: Mayo 30, 2017, 9:42am

To celebrate the beginning of summer and missing my number mumbletymumble college reunion, I am re-reading From Rockaway which came out a few years after I graduated. I think in the 80s I was kind of amazed by it, now it seems a tiny bit boring. And maybe living through the 1980s once was enough.
But I didn't know that Eisenstadt was from the sweet 'n low family.

Mayo 30, 2017, 5:46pm

From Rockaway was the best of that whole batch of books -- Bright Lights Big City, Less Than Zero, Slaves of New York, etc's the only one of them I still have left, though I do have the Spy-o-Matic that uses all of those books to help you write your own that-kind-of-book.

Editado: Mayo 31, 2017, 9:47am

>131 DG_Strong: DG, I agree, although I don't have my old copy. All those 80s novels kind of run together and I'd forgotten there are some real similarities between Rockaway and Bret Easton Ellis' book.

I have her new book if you are interested. I think it's kind of a sequel or at least has some of the same characters. Swell.

I started a monster historical novel Rebellion by Molly Patterson. We shall see.

Editado: Jun 4, 2017, 9:43am

I read Lincoln in the Bardo last week, and while I think that at some other point in my life—any other point, maybe—I would have found this a bit pat and gimmicky, it happened to hit that right-book-right-time for me. I did like the world-building off the bat (which sent me to reread the first chapter of Kevin Brockmeier's weird and wonderful The Brief History of the Dead), but found the hand of authorial research on the heavy side (I think I hold all historical fiction up to how E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime expanded my 14-year-old head). What injected the needed degree of soul for me, though, was the Buddhist subtext (and sometimes text—cf. chapter XCIV) on suffering and sorrow, and the reminder that much of living involves entering into the suffering and sorrow of others—in the novel's case, literally, which might have struck me as overly crafty at another time but, just now, I'm totally OK with. The historical "climax" was pretty heavy-handed. But I still felt more uplifted than not. (Granted, maybe this means I should just be reading some Buddhist texts and dispensing with the fictional cloak, and that's a point.)

I also read Lucy Knisley's graphic memoir Displacement in one sitting, and it was just delightful—a story of the author accompanying her elderly grandparents on a cruise. What can I say?—a lot of the dementia jokes made me laugh out loud, which is always a good thing. It was very sweet and funny.

Now on to Lisa Ko's The Leavers—thank you for the rec, Lauren, because it's really engaging. And damn but I need engaging right now, because life is really challenging. (Don't mean to be vague, just that a lot of what's going on is not my news to share... but trust me, things are tough in my corner of the universe right now.)

Jun 4, 2017, 11:20am

So, The House of Twenty Thousand Books. God, I loved it. Loved it. But not because, or not only because of the books. In fact, I think I would have liked to hear more about the books, believe it or not, but this is not exactly a book about books. It is a book about a man, of whom the best record of his life is to be found not in photographs, or journals, or even letters, but in the books he kept close to him. In this, it is very familiar -- I look at the over-full shelves of my own library, which like his spills into every room in the house (unlike his, even the bathroom) and I see not a book collection, but a record of a life as I go from passion to passion. Thus it is with the Abramsky home at Hillway House, a structure that grew increasingly more dilapidated as the books and people within seemed to become more and more alive.

Sasha Abramsky's...well, tribute is really the only word for it, to his grandfather Chimon Abramsky is structured around this house the author practically grew up in. He steps in the front foyer, with all the books of early socialist literature to be found there (only one small cupboard grudgingly given over as a place for people's coats), to talk about his great grandfather and his family's suffering under the late tsarist (pogroms) and then the new soviet (Siberian labor camps for dissidents) regimes, and to explore how Chimon became committed to socialism, and even to Stalinism, despite what his family endured, what friends reported when they escaped.

He guides the reader to the kitchen to remember his grandmother Mimi, an Communist activist and psychologist who for years was the head of the Psychiatric Social Work Department of the Royal Free Hospital, as well as the social hostess of Hillway, who fed political and philosophical debates that would coalesce in the impromptu salons with an apparently endless supply of kosher food.

He takes the reader to the Master Bedroom, where Chimon kept his most valuable and historic works of Socialist and Jewish literature -- a complete collection of William Morris's The Commonweal, books with notes handwritten by Karl Marx, annotated by Lenin, manuscripts by Trotsky. We are then guided into the Front Parlor -- where his rising interest in Judaica makes itself known, into the Dining Room, where Jewish history vied for space with prints by Russian Jewish artists, works about revolution, about the need for a Jewish state. Tradition met modernity in this room.

And finally the reader is taken upstairs, perhaps the most mysterious rooms in the house to Sasha as a child -- the books often written in mysterious languages, on old parchment. First edition Spinoza. A manuscript with notes handwritten by Rashi (the great Talmudic scholar), illuminated Hebrew Bibles and copies of the Talmud from the Renaissance.

As the reader is guided into each room they are given not a bibliography of books, exactly, but the author's own thoughts about what the books meant to their owner, to Chimon. The house is a portrait in books, a record of a passionate intellectual life full of great energy, great joy, and also great grief.

The whole account is worth it just for the portrait it gives of leftist and communist activism on the eve of WWII and in the years that immediately followed. And also for its account of how the community tore itself apart following the revelations of Stalin's atrocities. And also for the way it documents the struggles of a conservative and orthodox Jewish community to adapt to a modern, humanistic, and even atheistic time.

And while the account is not without its flaws -- Sasha Abramsky has many questions about his grandfather for which he can only speculate answers, and there is a staggering amount of name dropping since Hillway was the kind of house intellectuals of the era made a point of dropping in to visit, in the end these are minor quibbles compared to the picture the author creates of the man, the family, the house, the movement, the era.

Jun 5, 2017, 2:44pm

You've really wetted my appetite for this one, Jews, books and socialism, particularly Stalinism,
love to read about it all.

Jun 5, 2017, 5:45pm

>135 alans: I'd love to read a good history of socialism and communism as a movement. But I have to admit, when the author is talking about the implosion of the Communist Party (in Britain, at least) the rationalizations of Stalin's defenders made for some uncomfortable reading because they were so familiar to the kind of thing we hear these days on the news.

Editado: Jun 5, 2017, 6:31pm

I finished up the David Sedaris Diaries book (there's a second volume coming). It's a very funny, straightforward diary -- the early parts are the best, before he knew writing was really gonna be his job and the entries become a tiny more self-conscious and maybe...contrived? They are repetitive almost from the start (he really has a thing about recording sightings of amputees and handicapped people of all stripes, enough that it started to make me a little nervous -- for looong stretches, the diary is basically a record of all the crazy/homeless/handicapped people he runs into, almost always at an IHOP) but the thing that really stands out to me is that for better or worse, his voice is fully-formed almost from the start (the diary begins in 1977) -- his timing and his tone were developed already and almost never changed. His sentences get more elegant as time goes on (meaning I think they get a little more writerly and a little less diary-entryish), but the underlying person expresses himself the same way at the same things throughout. It's really interesting and I had two conclusions about that -- either he went back and Sedaris-ed them up a bit or he really was pretty confident about what was funny to him way back then, even before he became a "humorist."

Jun 6, 2017, 1:06pm

Read and really enjoyed Rebellion by Molly Patterson. It's a massive thing but contrary to form, that didn't really bother me I just kept reading and enjoying. There's a teeny bit of history - the Boxer Rebellion, the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Kosovo, but it all happens off stage somewhere and everything that matters is up close and personal. It's a bit like Jane Smiley, her style is very very understated and unflashy. But meanwhile, lives are changing.

There are four stories - two sisters in the 19th century -one a missionary in China, the other living on a remote farm in Illinois. The 20th century bits are about the farmwife's widowed daughter Hazel and a young woman living in rural China outside of Chengdu in the late 1990s. The parts kind of come together, although I found myself caring less if they did or not - and the mystery of what happened to the missionary is not all that compelling. What was endlessly moving though was the incremental bits of people's lives and the small acts of rebellion - infidelities, private hopes and dreams, an old lady secretly driving after her car keys are taken away - that are such a big part of being human.

Just started Home Fires which is shaping up to be a 21st c Antigone.

Jun 6, 2017, 1:48pm

My review of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time : Holy fucking shit, could that man write.

Jun 6, 2017, 2:21pm

I'm doing better with reading. I finished a couple of mysteries (Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James and F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton), reread The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (because I had a dream that was similar to this book, so I was in the mood and read it super fast Saturday morning), and I'm a good ways into A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, which I am really liking.

If I can get A Gentleman in Moscow read in time for my book club, I'd like to read a short history of the Russian Revolution and similar things to what were recently mentioned as part of The House of Twenty Thousand Books. I think I have A Very Short Introduction to the Russian Revolution (Oxford University Press), so it may work. I'm not familiar enough with the history and the ideas, that's for sure. But, depending on timing, I may just have to rely on Wikipedia!

Jun 6, 2017, 7:48pm

Starting up again with Gargoyle Hunters, for a beach read (actually a balcony read coz its too dang cold to sit out on the beach and read! Walking along the beach is fine tho :) Finished 12 AM at the Cat's Pajamas I liked the premise, think it got a bit to twee and convuluted, but it was an ok book group read.

Jun 8, 2017, 7:42am

I finally started reading the Elena Ferrante books, something I've been saving up for when I had a stretch of free time to become really absorbed. Then I realized I was never going to have that free time, so I started them anyway, and found myself really absorbed, nonetheless. I just finished My Brilliant Friend in English, and am now on to The Story of a New Name, along with a re-read of the first book in Italian, L'amica geniale -- very very very slowly.

I have to say, the books are a real surprise. I wasn't expecting such an intensely woman-centric story. They are among the great female friendship novels -- something I'm usually a little allergic to. Ferrante, well, she makes almost the whole of the rest of the genre (I'm looking at you, ya-ya sisterhoods and red hat clubs and sweet potato queens and yes, even you, Lee Smith's Last Girls) pallid and insubstantial.

In any case, I'm pretty much devouring them. It's nice to have a stack of books I know are going to really hold me for while.

Jun 8, 2017, 10:42am

I am also waiting for the right time to begin those. I think I am going to have a similar reaction.

Editado: Jun 8, 2017, 11:03am

Lauren, read it! I read it shortly after reading The Door and was in women-centric heaven for that whole period. I haven't read past My Brilliant Friend. I will eventually (maybe when I'm on vacation) but they are coherent as stand-alone novels and really don't need to be read all at once.

(Edited about 5 times for coherence and grammar)

Jun 8, 2017, 11:28am

>144 mkunruh: They do work as standalone novels, but given the ending of My Brilliant Friend, no way was I going to not pick up the next right away!

Jun 8, 2017, 11:49am

Ha! Are you glad you did? I needed a break after I read it. But that's more me and my need for variety.

Jun 8, 2017, 12:15pm

I am! The narrator's voice is really phenomenal.

Jun 11, 2017, 10:08am

Finishing up My Life as a Russian Novel, which is sort of a let down compared to Ferrante. The books is one of those memoir-as-fiction things where the author is the main character in his own story. On the whole I'm finding it sort of cerebrally interesting -- especially the writer's struggles to (re)learn Russian and how his sense of who he is seems to change depending on the language he speaks. The legacy the language brings with it of an aristocratic Russian family ousted by the Revolution, landed in France, collaborated with the Germans during the war, and generally mourned the order of the past and despised the shallowness of the present. And I'm empathetic to his own fascination with the bleak and despairing -- the book opens with a news story his is writing about a Hungarian prisoner of war (WWII) who was forgotten in a psychiatric facility in a remote Russian town for 50 years.

The other side of the book is a kind of extended male fantasy -- sex is what's most often on his mind when not distracted by his own or other people's despair -- at one point he notes he is most attracted to his girlfriend because she thinks about her pussy as much as he thinks about his dick. The fantasy is epitomized by his now infamous piece that ran in Le Monde and is reprinted here of a letter to his girlfriend instructing her how to masturbate -- a letter he has timed so that she will be reading it on a train, along with all the other people who might be reading Le Monde alongside her. It's the height of arrogance and control -- telling his girlfriend how to get off on a train where people are reading about him telling her how to get off -- and he works hard (!) to make all 8000 words unbearably erotic. But the exercise, or experiment, is ultimately a failure, which can't have been too much of a surprise to a guy who insists, over and over in his memoir-novel that he is "all about the real."

The combination of detailed despair and detailed sexual fantasy confessionals (even his real sexual encounters seem experienced as fantasy) would probably leave me a little cold -- I'm not a big fan of self-indulgence -- but the truth is, Carrere writes beautifully and he has an ear for truth when he is able to step back from his own myopia. That's what has kept me reading, and when will make me read his other books. I'd like to read one of his novels-written-as-novels, to see how it stands against these nonfiction romans he is known for.

Jun 11, 2017, 9:31pm

It's been a long time since I've read back-to-back books that were disappointing. Both If We Were Villains and Broken River are ultimately awful. Don't waste your time.

Now reading American War.

Jun 12, 2017, 12:26pm

The only Ferrante I've read is Troubling Love which I remember as, well, troubling. And fairly dark and engrossing. I've put off the others too. Maybe this summer.

Jun 12, 2017, 2:35pm

I finished Home Fire which is shockingly timely and very well written. I think it is her best and can't wait to interview her at the end of the week. to continue to get up to speed, I read her first novel In the city by the Sea which I did not find as charming as other reviewers but certainly interesting in light of what followed.

Her first novel is from the the pov of a young boy who witnesses the death of a neighbor and whose uncle is kept under house-arrest by the president of Pakistan. It doesn't quite hang together and is too whimsical for the subject matter- at least, I found it so, but maybe I am underestimating a kid's way of dealing with or understanding tragedy.

I read a few pages of Jill Eistenstadt's Swell and decided life was too short. Just too silly.

I am reading a book I received from Library Thing about modernism and Woolf/Eliot/Forster etc called The World Broke in Two and I have a rather opaque hg wells novel to finish and about 200 other books to read. Sigh.

Jun 12, 2017, 7:54pm

I'm about halfway through Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West and it's really good. He's both a mountains person and a mathematician, so it's a funny mix of passion and dryness, sometimes in the reverse of where you think those might apply. It's also surprisingly humorous and capital-R Romantic, in the old sense of that word. He gets off the main subject easily and just when you're about to skip ahead, he brings it all back with almost A-HA!-like moments. Muchly recommended, at least so far.

Jun 14, 2017, 7:40am

Huh, DG, that one looks good. Wasn't even vaguely on my radar either, so thanks.

I very much enjoyed The Leavers—it's good to read a multigenerational coming of age story that's so lacking in clichés, and a story that's about a parent's growth as much as her child's. Strong story, interesting and nuanced characters, and a great sense of place—both China and New York City are characters as much as the people are. I recommend this one to all the usual suspects.

Now I'm in the middle of Hannah Tinti's The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which is well-written, totally undemanding, and wildly entertaining in that almost-miss-my-subway stop kind of way.

Jun 14, 2017, 10:41am

I have both of those from the library. Pleased to hear that the Tinti is fun.

I'm reading A Hundred Thousand Worlds. It was an impulse purchase just before Christmas (preparing to read all those books I didn't read, because I got jammed up The Nix) because I liked its cover and it was blurbed by Karen Joy Fowler. It's geeky to the magnitude of 10 but I'm enjoying it. An interesting follow up to The Animators which I just finished this weekend.

i'm almost finished Zadie Smith's collection of essays (Changing my Mind) -- they are really uneven, and i didn't like her film reviews much, but she is just that close to my age that her generational references are familiar and I like the way she makes me think about fiction. And I'm most of the way through Pinker's Sense of Style. He's a real uptight SOB, but I agree with much of what he says about writing, and I can use much of what he talks about with students I see, so I'm tolerating the tone.

Editado: Jun 14, 2017, 1:12pm

I feel the same way about Smith - I think she is so smart and her thoughts about reading and fiction always make me want to return to reading myself which is a great thing. I still maintain her great novel remains to be written - she somehow gets in her own way.

The Leavers so far is my best of 2017. I as fascinated by the story and thought Ko's sense of place was extraordinary. She supposedly has gotten a lot of flack for the character of the mother but I thought that story line was all too believable.

Determined to finish this wooly seldom-read HG Wells novel, some old New Yorkers and The World Broke in Two though the temptation to play games on my phone and catch up on old seasons of Empire and American Crime is almost overwhelming.

Jun 14, 2017, 8:21pm

I'm reading 12 Lives, too.

Editado: Jun 16, 2017, 4:31pm

mmm, I had a post here - ah well, I finished First Fifteen Lives of Henry August and it will certainly be close to the top of my best books. Extaordinary story, and really good writing. Started Sudden Appearance of Hope by the same author. Loving the writing, but too many of the same things keep happening repeatedly, and Hopes special trait makes things very convenient for her, almost too much so. But Im interested enough to keep reading.

ETA never mind; a twist happens that has me very interested. So on I read (and its really an easy read, she's has a way with words that really works for me)

Jun 16, 2017, 6:37am

Kat, what do you think of the Tinti book?

Jun 17, 2017, 12:47am

Translation question - I am wanting to read Dangerous Liasons for the reading through time group (18th century). Ive seen the movie and the play, thought this would be a good time to finally tackle the book. Is there a specific edition or translation I should use? Thx

Editado: Jun 17, 2017, 1:21am

Lisa, As you know, there are parallel versions of the story revealed in alternate chapters (this apparently is quite the thing just now); past (Sam the Dad's story) and present (Loo the Daughter's time and version). The first several Dad chapters involved me entirely but ... so many crimes, so many sleazy criminals, so much lowlife, too many bullets -- I began to scan the Dad chapters. Loo chapters, however, kept me on course and quivering.

Tinti is just plain brilliant when coloring in the natural world around her characters, that was a treat.

It is an oddity of a charming story of a father / daughter unit, with a deep undertow that creeps up on the reader.

It's an oddball book and I liked it quite well but the undertow is it's saving grace.

Did I say oddball book? Clashing.

Did you read her earlier novel The Good Thief? It's another version of the "innocent child" adrift in the world with all its ills. I think that is her thing. And, zip loved that book.

Jun 17, 2017, 5:21pm

I finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles and really liked it a lot. I've been having so much trouble, but the other day, while reading this, something seemed to just click. Then I was pretty interested in getting to reading each evening. I hope it sticks!

Editado: Jun 17, 2017, 7:05pm

I have that one on kindle, Julie. Love his "Rules of Civility."

Rules of Civility (By: Amor Towles) published: February, 2012
by Amor Towles

Jun 18, 2017, 6:59am

>160 Kat.Warren: so many crimes, so many sleazy criminals, so much lowlife, too many bullets
Yes... I think it could have effectively been The Nine Lives of Samuel Hawley. Still, for all its shaggy-dogness, it was a good yarn and kept me engaged. I do have her The Good Thief but I haven't read it—I'll definitely pick it up after this one has had time to settle, though. I like her writing and, maybe even more, her editorial choices (other than the fact that this book could have been a bit tighter overall)—I'm a longtime subscriber to and fan of One Story and I think a lot of its success is due to her good hand as an editor.

I liked Rules of Civility well enough, though it wasn't terrifically memorable.

Right now I'm reading a book I won here at LT, An Atlas of Countries that Don't Exist, which is super pretty—cutouts!—and I'm enjoying the geographical stuff. This is a fancy book, though, so I'll need to grab something else for tomorrow's commute.

Jun 18, 2017, 8:48am

I'm reading Sarah Dunn's The Arrangement for the office book club. Eh. Two chapters in, the characters are not that interesting, nor are their lives. I'm hoping it becomes more engaging.

Jun 18, 2017, 9:18am

I've just finished Secondhand Time, and I think it will take me a little while to marshal all the feelings it brought up in me into some kind of coherent response. I thought, since I've read Svetlana Alexievich's other books, that I would be prepared for what this one would evoke in me, but then I had thought the same about Zinky Boys having read her Chernobyl book and I wasn't.

I know it is trite to talk about books being "profoundly moving" but that's what Alexievich's books are to me. Not just "interesting" or "fascinating" but moving, these relentless, passionate, bitter, hopeful, cynical, compassionate, bewildered, apathetic, angry, excited, agonized accounts of what was gained and what was lost with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Russia. There is one section that begins with a mother's account of her son -- who committed suicide -- and goes on to talk to the boy's friends and their own reactions, and I have to say, I could barely stand to read it. The pages were just saturated in grief. And frankly, it made everything on the news, all the petty sniping over in the Pro/Con section of talk (I've done my share), look utterly pathetic and pointless.

I find myself wondering what it would look like if Svetlana Alexievich wrote a book about the United States, about the transition represented by Obama and then by Trump. I have a feeling I wouldn't like what she would find.

Jun 19, 2017, 11:43am

I'm listening to Al Franken's Giant of the Senate and really enjoying it.

Editado: Jun 19, 2017, 9:01pm

>166 AprilAdamson: Me, too!

I'm also reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann.

Jun 20, 2017, 5:20pm

I'm reading a book called How to Survive a Summer, which is one of those Secret History type books where Something Happened in the past and the current-day narrator has an experience that triggers thinking about it, so we actually DRIVE TO HIS PAST and of course it's in Mississippi, because all Something Happened Books happen in the south. In this case, it involves a gay-conversion (FROM, not TO) camp, so that part is interesting because you don't run across those a lot in literature, but on the whole the book feels like a LOT of other books.

Jun 21, 2017, 11:26am

I finished The World Broke In Two and many thanks to the Librarything Early Reviewers program for getting a chance to read it.

It's an interesting premise - that 1922 was a significant year in the lives + work of V Woolf, TS Eliot, DH Lawrence and EM Forster although I don't think the author quite pulls it off because Lawrence - although he moved to Taos, wasn't really publishing anything that significant - or certainly not as notable as Mrs Dalloway or The Waste Land. Still it was interesting and very much about the business of writing, the day to day struggles, the difference between working and creating. My mind wandered some at the back and forth Eliot had with his various publishers over The Waste Land. On the other hand, there was a very funny anecdote about Forster, Thomas Hardy and a pet cemetery. Interesting too, how all four writers reacted to Proust and Joyce, both of whom had significant work published in the early 1920s. In some ways, you could say that all four writers began writing in reaction to or inspired by Ulysses and Remembrance of Things Past.

For me, the biggest problem with the book was that it didn't inspire me to go back and read any of those authors the way a really good biography or work of criticism can.

I am done with all my Shamsie work but have gone back to finish up Broken Verses which is an overdue library book. Enjoying it very much although her new novel Home Fire is the one to be reading, y'all. Out this summer.

Editado: Jun 21, 2017, 11:49am

I started reading The Essex Serpent last night. I originally bought it from the UK to send to SP for the Xmas swap, but I didn't get it until almost February. So it's mine! (Sorry, SP. You also missed out on Golden Hill and a book with pictures of gross food from the 50s-70s, like salmon aspic with dijon mustard.) The premise sounds interesting to me, because of the female amateur scientist and skeptic. I only read a little bit last night. I know a few people read it here or tried it and weren't impressed, but Ron Charles loved it, so I am hoping I will too.

Jun 21, 2017, 1:12pm

>169 laurenbufferd: because Lawrence - although he moved to Taos, wasn't really publishing anything that significant

I'm sort of fascinated by that whole group Mabel Dodge Luhan collected for her literary colony.

Jun 21, 2017, 1:56pm

In the middle of Ruth Rendell's The Rottweiler and she continues to amaze me. I haven't read one bad book by her. She is my favourite writer, not only are her characters psycho.they are also
hysterically funny. Just a brilliant character writer.

Jun 21, 2017, 4:56pm

I've just cracked the cover of The Trespasser by Tana French--our next book group read.

Editado: Jun 22, 2017, 5:30pm

I have a few books going--Magpie Murders, George Cukor: A Double Life, and The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America--slowly for all three, though I'll probably finish the first one tonight. I posted on Facebook that the mystery-within-a-mystery aspect of Magpie was eluding me, but now it isn't and I was just being impatient and not stupid. Phew! For the moment, anyway.

I've also read some pure-T trash as an any-port-in-a-storm effort to stop pointlessly obsessing over politics. It worked, but AT WHAT COST?

Jun 24, 2017, 4:25pm

Loved "Magpie Murders."

Jun 24, 2017, 6:39pm

Jun 25, 2017, 2:07pm

What translation did you end up with, cindy?

I read another of Kamila Shamsie's back-catalog Broken Verses which was way ambitious - which coming from me means too long and too much plot. I think that may be why Home Fire is such a success- the plot of Antigone is pretty straightorward and there aren't a ton of characters so there isn't a way to make a jumble. I would have been happier with 50 pages and about 3 plot points less.

Then I read the delightful and bittersweet Displacement. Thank you so much, Lisa P. What a perfect Sunday morning book. A graphic novel about a young woman (the author) taking her elderly grandparents on a cruise.

Started reading the stories from Snow in May which is a Sue Russell book if ever I read one. Sniff.

Editado: Jun 25, 2017, 5:21pm

>177 laurenbufferd: Helen Constatine, Penguin edition. Its amazing to me how something written 250+ years ago could sound so current and fresh, the sign of a good translator to me. I should be horrifie, am horrified by the plans they make, but oh, I am laughing hysterically reading these letters. I suspect I'll be laughing less as the plot thickens, but I certainly am not having any trouble reading it. Amazing that the author didn't write anything else. He certainly had the talent.

Jun 29, 2017, 10:08am

I am disturbed by your lack of posting, people. No posts in 3 days on any thread? That's weird, or something is messed up.

Anyway, I was picking up Cover Her Face by P.D. James (in an omnibus) at the library, and picked up The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher in audio on a whim. I was enjoying the parts that Carrie read in her own voice, but this morning, it moved to the actual diaries that she kept back in the 70s while she was having this affair with Harrison Ford (read by her daughter, Billie Lourd). And wow, those parts are pretty amazing. It makes me think, as smart as we all knew she was, she really hid a lot of her intelligence throughout her life, not to mention her pain. If this is how she wrote diaries? She was always meant to be a writer. Her diaries are what I always think I'm going to write like when I start a new journal, and then I always sound like a big, pathetic moron and end up quitting within a few days. Sigh.

Jun 29, 2017, 10:46am

Been spending too much time doing other things I suppose, but I am still reading Dangerous Liasons and Sudden Appearance of Hope. I should be fun with the former, but Im at a point i the latter that has me glued so Ill probablly finish that first.

I have been going through my annual cleaning of the shelves and found two book I want to reread, because I don't remember reading them! The Tale of the Rose, memoir of Consuelo St Exupery, wife of the writing of Little Prince and In the Falcon's Claw by Chet Raymo, also author of Dork of Cork, one of the first books I got from RV recommendation. I did read the former, its just been so long so it will be a new read for me!

Jun 29, 2017, 12:09pm

Julie: It's the time of year. Posts always slow down in the summer. That may change soon with the late appearance of Game of Thrones.

Jun 29, 2017, 7:49pm

Juggling a couple of things:

People We Hate at the Wedding, which is funny but doesn't quite live up to its spectacular title. I hate that Stephen McCauley blurbed it because that's how I really would describe it: it's like a Stephen McCauley book.

Also High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel. It's one of the westerns I call the Big Five (The Searchers, High Noon, My Darling Clementine, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Red River) and honestly I would like a book about each one of them.

Jun 29, 2017, 10:04pm

I read Denis Johnson's short story collection Jesus' Son last week—not sure why exactly, other than that he died, but I'm so glad I revisited it. I don't reread often, so I was happy to find that this collection thrills me as much as it did when I first read these stories almost 30 years ago. Johnson's use of language is still surprising—and considering all the fiction I've read since I was in my 20s, that's pretty impressive—and those swooping, propulsive sentences continue to delight me. That first graf of "Dirty Wedding" still does it for me—

I liked to sit up front and ride the fast ones all day long, I liked it when they brushed right up against the buildings north of the Loop and I especially liked it when the buildings dropped away into that bombed-out squalor a little farther north in which people (through windows you'd see a person in his dirty naked kitchen spooning soup toward his face, or twelve children on their bellies on the floor, watching television, but instantly they were gone, wiiped away by a movie billboard of a woman winking and touching her upper lip deftly with her tongue, and she in turn erased by a—wham, the noise and dark dropped down around your head—tunnel) actually lived.

—like an old flame who still, surprisingly, looks fine. I don't find his marginal folks as fascinating as I once did, no doubt because I'm middle-aged and staid and don't know or even really want to know characters like that anymore; no hint of there-but-for-the-grace-of-god in my heart these days. That's been replaced by a healthy middle-aged dose of compassion, which—pleasingly—deepens my appreciation of their hapless lot rather than dulls it.

So really, cheers to Denis Johnson. I could sit down and unpack every sentence in this book and I still wouldn't be able to figure out how he does it, but he does. I should probably own a copy of this—I think I used to, and no doubt gave it away. I'm sure one will turn up someplace.

Now I'm reading Sasha Abramsky's The House of Twenty Thousand Books, which I'm reading at least in part as background for a Bloom essay about cleaning out my own mother's books, and also because I've had it on the shelf forever and Nicki's recent raves made me want to read it already. Plus the whole mid-century Jewish arts'n'letters experience is very much my thing, so yes, I'm enjoying it.

Jun 30, 2017, 10:54am

>183 lisapeet: Plus the whole mid-century Jewish arts'n'letters experience is very much my thing

It was the whole socialist/communist revolutionary fervor thing for me!

Jun 30, 2017, 12:29pm

Both of you might be interested in Snow in May a new book of somewhat linked short stories about growing up in and around Magadan in the Soviet Union. They are a little underbaked - but the subject is really unique. I liked them and will be looking for more work by this young author.

I started Final Demand about a young woman who figures out how to embezzle from the telecommunications company where she works. Moggach is a funny writer for me - she's the one who wrote Tulip Fever and the novel that got made into the elderly-people-at-the Indian-hotel movie. She is super prolific and most of her novels are the problem-tackling kind (incest, divorce, aging) which I don't read too much but I enjoy hers. She's also done a ton for PEN. It's an easy, pleasing read.

Jun 30, 2017, 9:36pm

That looks good, Lauren, thanks.

One thing that drives me nuts about LT—and I generally really like its interface—is that it's impossible to find publisher info for a book that's not on your shelves. I just go to Amazon and look it up there, but that's FRICTION and we don't like friction.

Jul 1, 2017, 1:10pm

Picked up An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg liking it quite a bit so far.

Jul 2, 2017, 9:01am

I'm re-reading 1984, which I read when I was 18 and of which I remembered very little. It's interesting, because I expected all the modern connections to be to political events, but the first half mostly made me think about far, far right evangelicals, particularly their emphasis on a lack of formal education. As it went on, comparisons to modern politics became inevitable, of course. Now I'm at the hard-to-read part, so it's may take awhile to finish.

Editado: Jul 2, 2017, 9:53am

>180 cindydavid4: Lyddie, I read that about 5 years ago convinced I was re-reading it but realized quickly i'd never read it. It is an extraordinary and relentless novel. i'm not sure I could read it right now, the parallels are too painful.

Sorry, if I sound like a fragile liberal flower. I am stilling finding this a hard time politically and socially.

Did I mention I finally finished The Autocracy of Mr Parham a kind of long-winded Wells novel that also has parallels to today's climate. Like so many of his books, it has kind of a crackling Dickensian beginning, a woolly middle and a bang-up exciting ending.

Final Demand was interesting. Can there really be a victimless crime?

I started reading Christodora.

Jul 6, 2017, 2:35pm

Well I finally finished Limonov, which turned out to be an interesting companion read to Secondhand Time, although it suffered greatly by comparison. The raw honesty in Alexievich's book only served to make the deliberate rebelliousness of Carrere's subject (and of Carrere himself) come off as sort of shallow and pathetic. Not the reaction the author or his subject were going for. I enjoyed the book nevertheless, because I enjoy books about people who defy the labels imposed on them, who never really seem to check off all the correct boxes for whatever personality quiz other people are giving them.

In this case, it was sort of interesting to see how Limonov came around to a kind of fascist militant buddhist mindset, if you can get your head around that -- I had a hard time with it, myself. I appreciated the author's insight into his subject, but not his often appalled admiration for Limonov's enthusiasm for brutality. And since for the entirety of the book women only exist as things to fuck, it's hard not to see the whole book as one man's admiration for another's commitment to living out his own extended and elaborate male fantasy.

I'm now on to The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which starts off beautifully.

Editado: Jul 6, 2017, 5:06pm

>189 laurenbufferd: Sorry, if I sound like a fragile liberal flower. I am stilling finding this a hard time politically and socially.

Yeah, me, too. I'm listening to Al Franken's Giant of the Senate and it's helping a little bit.

>190 southernbooklady: Your comments about Secondhand Time in post 165 prompted me to add it to my wishlist. Sounds as though I'll need to steel myself, though.

I've recently completed Killers of the Flower Moon, which was fascinating, but I thought Grann buried a lot of the drama by the way he structured the story, (though who am I to tell a New Yorker writer how to do his job?), and I've finished Missing, Presumed (meh), and Ready Player One (quick summer fun).

I've also just finished Trajectory by Richard Russo. There are only four stories in this collection, the first of which left me flat, but the last three were quite enjoyable. This is only the second time I've read Russo, the first being Nobody's Fool. I find him to be an amiable writer, which sounds as though I'm damning with faint praise, but I don't mean it that way.

I've now just begun Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar.

Jul 8, 2017, 11:16am

London Fog. It's a 400 page book about the fog in London and it is FASCINATING. It's more literary-connected than science-adjacent, but there's plenty of both types of fog talk. You also come away from it wanting to support clean air initiatives like crazy.

Jul 10, 2017, 6:26pm

deeg, check your comment wall

Jul 10, 2017, 7:46pm

ugh, the LT comment method makes me crazy, so just in case it didn't reply to you properly -- yes, it happens periodically; it's been going on for a few years now -- I just change the password and it dies down for a bit. thanks, though

Editado: Jul 10, 2017, 11:16pm

I got it!

Tried to find Hamilton at my local indie and they are out of it. Did find instead a historic fiction The Hamilton Affair Has gotten really good write ups, and appears to be about both of their lives, not just the affair itself. Will be interesting to compare the two once I get ahold of the former

Jul 10, 2017, 9:44pm

Finishing up London Fog and overlapping it a little with Golden Hill, which is extreeeeeeeemely promising so far -- I bought it to read later, but I read thirty pages waiting for my sister to get a manicure today, so I just committed and now I'm fifty pages in. I would say it's going to be a big book, but I think that cat's out of the bag; it's already a big book, I think. It's odd to say it, but it reminds me a little of the Flashman books, only it's, hmmm, fancier.

It showed up on the Guardian lists during the xmas swap last Christmas and I allllllmost sent it to Lynn but switched at the last second and now I wish I hadn't switched.

Editado: Jul 11, 2017, 2:15pm

I was in Seattle for a long weekend and let me just say two things - home made marionberry poptarts (top tarts) at The Sod House and the moss garden at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. But also, time for reading.

Two little books that Lisa P had sent me Springtime and Ghachar Ghochar, each perfect in its way with a twisty ending. I also read Christodora.

Has anyone read that yet? It felt like a Lisa P or a LuAnn book. It's about a group of people in NYC, the AIDS epidemic, art, adoption, and addiction. I thought it was really good.

New Yorkers and paperback mysteries for the plane.

Home now and just finished Sisters, Lily Tuck's new book.

Editado: Jul 11, 2017, 11:43am

I've had a galley of Christodora for over a year, so that nudges it up the heap further. Also Golden Hill. You people.

I'm on the last few pages of The House of Twenty Thousand Books, which has been fun--and the absolute right choice to use as a frame for an essay I'm writing for Bloom about the process of dealing with my mother's books. I thought the beginning of the Abramsky book was a bit on the recursive side, circling back heavy-handedly to the political, cultural, and family history more than he needed to (or maybe just more than I needed him to). I do get how much he wanted to establish that base of knowledge in the reader, and I think once he hit what he imagined that point to be the book hit its groove and was a really fascinating intersection of all those histories, and a great ode to bookishness in a non precious or readers-are-superior-beings way.

Editado: Jul 11, 2017, 1:04pm

I loved Christadora -- honestly, I kind of think it's a Netflix series just waiting to happen. Ghachar Ghochar is my favorite book of the year so far. It's a small thing that really sticks with you -- it's also one of those mysterious nothing-happens books where you end up trying to figure out exactly how the author managed to pull it off in such a small space.

Jul 12, 2017, 11:37am

I totally agree - Christodora is a mini-series waiting to happen. I thought it was very satisfying. Great characters and premise and I learned something.

The Lily Tuck fell flat for me. What am I missing.

Now reading a Nigerian novel Stay with Me about a woman whose husband takes a second wife

Editado: Jul 13, 2017, 5:56am

Reading The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. I don't mind the jumping around he does between the artist travelers, but he does tend to repeat himself often. However Just finished the chapter that takes place during the seige of Paris, the Commune and the bloody week. It reminded me how little I know French history. What a horrid time; This is the first time that the diary the US Ambassador used to document the event had been published - a stunning and brutal account documenting the horrors of that week. That being said, it was an odd juxtaposition with early chapters and while I appreciated reading about it, didn't seem to work with the rest of the book.

Also started The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shatttuck. It begins in 1938, and after finishing a chapter I had to put it down. The arguments used by the resisters to fight Hitler sound oh so familar and way to current. Not sure I want to continue, tho I like her writing.

Jul 13, 2017, 11:48am

A couple of disappointing audiobooks I picked up at the library on a whim.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron - Really disappointing. She's just saying the same things about aging that everyone else in the world says, and she's not even really saying them in funny ways. Plus, she's a slow talker, and it drove me bananas. And a lot of "upper class white New Yorker" syndrome, although she at least can acknowledge it sometimes.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham - I don't get it. I know a lot of people (not even people in their 20s!) liked this and said she was insightful or something. I'm not done, but I don't think so. I think the same as I've always thought: she's extremely self-centered, she lacks appreciation for her privileged circumstances (growing up and since then), seems pretty entitled and not all that self-aware really. But she THINKS she's very self-aware and "woke," as the kids say. I was hoping I'd learn something to make me appreciate her more or like her, but that's just not happening. I also quit watching Girls pretty early because I just couldn't stand the entitled whininess. So, she's just not my thing.

Editado: Jul 13, 2017, 1:45pm

>202 JulieCarter: Julie I tried reading both of those and had the same reaction. I also have an adverse reaction to any of their movies. They love to show off how many different ways to use curse words, but they aren't in the least funny to me

Same with McCarthy - don't like her stand up or movies (well a few exceptions) however her role as Scott Spincer* was soooo Perfect!

* yes I know its a typo but i think a rather relevant one :)

Oh and just so you know I also don't like men comics who have the same style - its not just that they love using curse words, its that they think they are hilarious and they just arent

Jul 13, 2017, 3:06pm

I love Ephron's movies. Well, some of them. When Harry Met Sally is still one of my Top 5 favorite movies. And I like Melissa McCarthy (but I don't think she does standup) most of the time too. But I am just having a hard time connecting to a lot of people, and Ephron and Dunham are just falling into that category I can't connect with right now.

Jul 13, 2017, 6:22pm

Oh the movies she write and/directs are great. Just not that wild about ones she was in.

Jul 14, 2017, 10:07pm

I liked Christodora very well.

Jul 15, 2017, 1:02pm

>205 cindydavid4: Cindy, I'm confused, who are you talking about? Nora Ephron was a writer, producer, and director. Not an actress. If you're talking about Melissa McCarthy (who I didn't mention in my first post), she is an actress (sometimes producer), not a writer or director.

On topic, I finally finished the first Adam Dalgleish mystery by P.D. James, Cover Her Face. I recently read Death in Holy Orders, which is #11 in the series, and I liked it enough that I thought I'd go back and start from the beginning. The first one was very different to me. It was set up almost like an Agatha Christie or some other English country house or manor house mystery, if you know what I mean. Dalgleish didn't show up until halfway into the book, it seemed. And he relayed the facts and solution to the mystery much like those old kinds of mysteries (in my somewhat limited experience/knowledge). But it was not bad. I think she just improved throughout the series, and he developed more of a personality, so that's good. I have several others that I bought at the used bookstore, so I'll read them eventually.

I just started Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton this morning, and I'm already 100+ pages in, with very little time investment, so it's going to be a quick read (as long as I actually spend some time reading and not farting around with the teevee, like I usually do). It's a book club pick. I've enjoyed all of Crichton's books that I have read so far, but this one so far seems to fit alongside his earliest books, which I don't think were his best. But then, I haven't read many of his very late ones either. Anyway, hope it's good!

Editado: Jul 15, 2017, 10:36pm

julie, never mind. Got things confused. :)

Oh I loved Critchons early work; read Jurassic Park long before it came out as a movie, and loved Andromeda Strain. I stopped reading him when he got too political, but I haven't read Dragon Teeth, will have to try that one.

Now reading Burr by Gore Vidal, and still working through The Greater Journey Americans in Paris. I like his writing when he is talking about specific subjects or events, but when he just goes on and on about how the Americans spent their days and nights it just gets a bit much. I was fascinated by the recent chapter on medical school in Paris; didn't realize that the way doctors were trained in the US developed from American drs coming back from Paris and teaching in medical colleges.

Jul 16, 2017, 12:54pm

I liked Death in Holy Orders too Julie, but then I am partial to nuns. There were two next to me on the plane coming home from Seattle. They do like their Starbucks. I'm just saying.

I read the PD James in order a few years ago and I think it's really worth it. They get slightly more misanthropic as they go.

Stay with Me was very good - about a Nigerian couple who are childless and the lengths they go to have a baby, all against a backdrop of government coups and assassinations. It was up for the Bailey's Women Prize earlier in the year (I can't remember what won but not this).

I saw Roxane Gay earlier this week so have been reading some favorite essays from Bad Feminist and also enjoying In a Lonely Place.

Jul 16, 2017, 8:32pm

Lauren, The Power by Naomi Alderman won the Bailey's.

Jul 17, 2017, 7:33pm

I started The Ministry of Utmost Happiness last night. I'm loving it already, but it's making me do my homework on Indian terms, locations, etc. I don't think this is going to be a fast read since I don't know anything about Indian history or politics.

Jul 19, 2017, 1:03am

I feel such a misfit because I have no Arundhati Roy chops whatsoever.

Jul 19, 2017, 1:02pm

I really enjoyed In a Lonely Place which had a cool afterword about how and why it could be considered a feminist novel (it was published by the Feminist Press in their Women Write Pulp series. I didn't find that wholly convincing but I am intrigued enough to read more. And I thought the novel was fantastic.

Now reading a sweet book with a stupid title Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I can't even read this in public.

Jul 19, 2017, 2:27pm

Kat, this is my first time reading Roy. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jul 20, 2017, 3:38pm

I'm in the middle of a few books, but the one that is best holding my attention is Lucia in London. I always like reading this one because Lucia gets her comeuppance and some of the characters actually laugh at her behind her back. As much as I like her, she deserves it.

Jul 21, 2017, 7:21am

The Mapp ones have all the famous bits, and it is sheer pleasure to have Lucia and Mapp together, but Lucia in London is my favorite of them all -- it would be unbearable for us if we had to witness Lucia humbled, so it's good that she breezily ignores (or perhaps never realizes) any social blundering on her part.

Jul 21, 2017, 9:59am

She realizes some of her social errors, but she certainly doesn't let anything stop her from moving forward.

Jul 21, 2017, 11:39am

DG> "Finishing up London Fog and overlapping it a little with Golden Hill, which is extreeeeeeeemely promising so far"

I read GH and liked it a lot.

I finished American War: A Novel which was a slow starter, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

Presently reading another apocalyptic novel only this time it's about an Amish community: When the English Fall.

Jul 21, 2017, 7:46pm

Reading Doris Goodwin Keans Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream and Galileo's Daughter the first from a friend after our conversation about presidents, the latter for a book group. Ive read it before and loved it. Been a decade or so, and Im enjoying rereading it.

Jul 22, 2017, 1:50pm

I've had The Complete Mapp and Lucia (which I don't think is complete, but the ebook was $1.99 once upon a time) thanks to DG and Lyddie's conversations about it over the years. Still haven't read it, but someday.

Lauren, I liked the blurb for that Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows when I first saw it. Let me know what you think. Yeah, books you don't like to read in public... I have one that I've been dipping in and out of called Fantasies of the Library, which is actually a cool little collection of scholarly articles on information theory, metadata, book-as-object, etc. And the person who recommended the book to me had a copy with this very dignified distressed green cover. But my copy, which I found at work so I guess it's the most recent edition, looks like this—those finger cot things are what you use when working with a lot of paper, so I get it, but the whole thing looks verrry lurid, and I'm sure anyone who sees me reading it on the 1 train thinks it's about people screwing in the stacks.

I just finished a galley, Eileen Myles's Afterglow: A Dog Memoir. I think a lot of the time poets' prose efforts can be so packed that they're by nature uneven—I guess you can say the same for poetry as well. That's definitely the case with this book, and honestly I get the feeling that Myles would be just fine with the idea of taking what you want and leaving the rest. Some of it is just gorgeous, lyrical, madly associative and evocative. And some of it is just too dense or esoteric for the likes of me, and I was perfectly happy to read along and let some of it settle to the bottom in order for the stuff that resonated for me to rise. Although Myles definitely stretches the definition of "a dog memoir," there is some marvelous writing on dogs, and about dog ownership in particular—both the intense scrutiny that's borne out of love and also the dilemma of all that tenderness and adoration weighed against the wrongness of leading another living being around by the neck. I love her directness, often bordering on crudeness, and the love that shines through it all for her departed Rosie—"the physiognomy of dearness unsurpassed." This one takes a little suspension of the need to get every sentence, but the rewards are great.

For a little context to go with, I've been in and out of a collection of Eileen Myles's poems, I Must Be Living Twice. And for something completely different, I'm reading David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon.

Editado: Jul 23, 2017, 7:56am

I'm about halfway through Andrew Sean Greer's Less. It's his lightest, funniest book so far, though I suspect it's his most personal also. It's a book about a mid-list writer turning 50 and it's hard to shake that it feels somewhat autobiographical. But I like it quite a bit. It also might be the only book I can recall that features an unflattering past review in the jacket copy.

Jul 24, 2017, 10:42pm

Loving Golden Hill a lot.

Editado: Jul 24, 2017, 11:50pm

I found that at the used bookstore today for a very reasonable price and it is now mine.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is an odd mix. I hate the title and find the plot kind of implausible. But it's not all sexy grandma wink nudge either and deals with some real issues like honor killing and arranged marriages. It's very engaging and Nikki is a great character. So, thumbs up and I hope Jaswal's next novel has a better title!

I am reading another British novel - this one called Greatest Hits. It's about a singer - JoniMitchellSandyDennyKateBush - who is called to put together a greatest hits album mid career which gives her a chance to review her life and her music. It's ok. I can't say I don't have a sense of exactly what is going to happen even if I am only midway through. The cool thing is that the author - Lauren Graham - worked with Kathryn Williams to create an album of the songs. I am a big Kathryn Williams fan - first came across her music a few years ago when she worked with the Durham Literary Festival to create a song cycle based on The Bell Jar. So I'm reading and listening and enjoying, even if neither are the greatest. I like it as an experiment.

Editado: Jul 25, 2017, 5:42am

>222 Kat.Warren: I thoroughly enjoyed it. I must be the only person on earth never to have heard of Francis Spufford.

Now about a third of the way into The Rebel Angels, my first brush with Robertson Davies.

Jul 27, 2017, 8:23pm

Now reading The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. Bodes well.

Jul 28, 2017, 1:44am

Dear god, this is a fine book. See directly above.

Jul 28, 2017, 12:08pm

It's sitting in my TBR stack. Good to know, Kat.

Editado: Jul 30, 2017, 12:40pm

Greatest Hits was really a disappointment. I could have told you almost exactly what was going to happen after reading the first 20 pages and 380 pages later, got no satisfaction over being 90% correct. I never really felt like any of the characters were real, just little puppets that were being moved about on a well-appointed stage. I enjoyed the accompanying album though.

Just started Dogs at the Perimeter. I cannot promise a dog will not come to harm here - it's upsetting already.

Jul 28, 2017, 9:33pm

Greatest Hits was really a disappointment
Your touchstone, for whatever earthly reason of Librarything metadata, goes to The Association's Greatest Hits, and now I have the unshakeable earworm of And then along comes Mary, eeeeee-eee-eee.... And now you all do too.

The Weight of Ink looks good, thanks for the rec. And the library has an e copy, so yay.

Last week I read David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon—an interesting telling of a really terrible episode, a string of murders of Osage folks in the early '20s for their oil rights, and how the difficulty of working within the small-town racist corruption helped establish the FBI. Solid storytelling, easy read. But it's also tangentially about research, the choices you make to tell a story when you have a big pile of source material (literally, to hear Grann tell it) but no personal accounts, and when there's no convenient narrative arc or aha moment to hang it all on. And I think he did a good job of it, though you know someone else would have come up with an entirely different book.

Now I'm going to read Stephen Florida, a book I swooned over for months just for its cover. I finally got a copy at Book Expo because I must have sighed so deeply when the Coffee House Press publicist told me it was her last copy that she pressed it into my sad little hands.

Jul 29, 2017, 9:31am

Ok, so I am exactly halfway done with the Trollope year -- the six Barsetshire books -- having knocked out three of them; I'm about a month off schedule, but I think I can make it up. It's a good self-assignment, they're easier to read than I thought they might be, but I will confess I'm not berserk over them. We'll see how it goes for the back half, though.

I picked up The Mysteries of Paris earlier this week -- it's a humongous book, almost 1400 pages, with five or six (so far!) major plots. It was originally published in 150 installments, so none of the chapters are more then ten or so pages long and then you switch to another of the plots for a bit, then another, etc etc. The characters have names like Schoolmaster and Songbird, so it's not exactly a deep character study or anything; it all services the plot, plot, plot and so far there's a LOT OF PLOT.

It predates Les Miserables by about twenty years, and I have to say: it's pretty easy to point a finger at Hugo and say, uh, dude, you blatantly stole that.

This translation is from 2015 and is some of shockingly modern-sounding (that should probably be a criticism, but it does make the book easier to read -- though at 1400 pages, it'll still take a while); supposedly this book, which had practically disappeared, suffered from a bad translation before, which I guess contributed to its obscurity. I hope that's changing; it's tremendous fun...and with the short chapters, great for episodic summer reading (though it's a wrist-breaker at over two pounds).

Editado: Jul 29, 2017, 6:17pm

it has been a long while since I read two finest books in a row. Happy kat dancing.

The Weight of Ink
Golden Hill

Jul 29, 2017, 8:01pm

>230 DG_Strong:

The mother, father and great-aunt of all potboilers... Too bad about the language, Sue was inordinately proud of his mastery of specific jargons then in use by the denizens of the underworld.

Editado: Ago 1, 2017, 9:17am

Dogs at the Perimeter really was quite extraordinary- the kind of book that you finish and feel like you must read it again to put all the parts together. It's about a Cambodian woman living in Canada - she separates from her husband and child because she begins to have terrible flashbacks of her childhood in Phnom Penh and the loss of her mother and brother and doesn't trust herself around her son. In a parallel story, a scientist whose brother disappeared after working in the refugee camps in Laos and Thailand goes to Thailand to try and find him.

Its very violent, although no dogs are harmed.

This is an earlier novel by Thien- I think Do Not Say We Have Nothing was such a success, that the American publisher is issuing older work this fall. I am reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing now - it feels ungainly at 450 pages where Dogs was so slim and contained. But it's early days.

Editado: Ago 8, 2017, 12:40am

Where are all you people?

I wanted to speedread my way through Do Not Say We Have nothing but I couldn't because it's so good. Yes, it's too long and I'm not sure the frame works - the family in
Vancouver and Marie. But the story that takes place in Shanghai and Beijing and the way that the Cultural Revolution rips apart this family is so well told and goes really deep emotionally. I loved it. The narrative has a way of repeating and spiralling around itself - I can't explain it and I''m not even sure how she did it but it's pretty incredible.

The set piece of the events in Tienanmen Sq is a tour de force.

If you haven't read it, you should.

I spent much of the weekend getting to and from my darling father's 80th birthday. It was ridiculous fun, not least of which because he was wearing a seersucker suit and a Liberty tie. I read old NYers and To Love and Be Wise.

Ago 8, 2017, 6:56am

I'm reading Gabe Habash's Stephen Florida, which is ca-razy. Really intense voice, like licking up straight espresso powder... can he sustain it for the entire book? I'm about 2/3 through and I think so,but we'll see. I really kind of like the intensity of his strange, manic narrator. Again, it's probably just right for me right now, but still—someone else has to read this so we can compare notes.

Part of the delight is reading this in print form on the subway and checking out other commuters' reactions to the very intense cover, which I think is my favorite of the year.

Ago 8, 2017, 9:42am

I've been reading, but I've been so busy I haven't had any time to sit and really formulate my thoughts about the books I've been absorbed in -- a situation that always happens this time of year and yet always frustrates me. For some reason, I don't feel I've finished a book until I've finished with it, in my head.

Here are some quick notes, though. Apologies in advance for their haphazard, half-complete state.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is saturated in the vivid scenery and lush, over-the-top language I remember from The God of Small Things and that I find so beautiful and rewarding. It is also highly polemical -- it is hard to avoid the thought that each of the main characters Stands For Something, which is not something I remember from Roy's first book, but then it has been 20 years since I read it. I find the politicization easy to tolerate, because it itself is so easily subsumed by the panorama Roy is painting, and because I am perennially drawn to explorations of people driven by ideals and visions. But the whole book is worth reading just for the account of the birth of the Jannat Guest House.

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them I found I liked for many of the reasons others don't -- its lack of focus, its myopia, its attempts at sarcastic humor confronting the hair-splitting obsessions of the lit crit crowd that come off more bitter than funny (although the account of the Tolstoy conference is pretty hilarious), its utter lack of profundity. "This has nothing new to say about Russian Literature!" reviewers tend to bitch. Instead, it is an extended account -- in a series of collected essays, of Batuman's own love -- or love/hate -- relationship with the books in her life. And that...that I totally get.

The only section I didn't like so much was the one that gives the title to the book, about Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, which I read in college as The Demons. That section is taken up with a fairly long and unnecessary recap of the novel that irritated me, such that by the time she gets into the question of how flawed the book is or may be, I was too annoyed to pay close attention.

But I was willingly drawn in to her arguments with fellow grad students about Isaac Babel -- her summation of him as "an accountant" perversely making me go back to his stories just to see if I could see what she did. (I couldn't). Her account of the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, a stellar example of a failed travel piece, nevertheless has me hunting around for a copy of Ivan Lazhechnikov's The Ice House -- so far without success. And Batuman's extended account of a summer spent in Samarkand studying Uzbek poetry that other readers found off topic, kept me fairly riveted. She was there because of an accident of grant funding, but then this is how most of my own travels through the land of literature have occurred -- serendipitously, by accident and whim rather than design. Why study Uzbek poetry? Why climb a mountain?

Editado: Ago 8, 2017, 11:04am

I'm still struggling in the reading department, but not so in the audiobook department.

I finished You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day. I suspect if you don't know her, then you would have little to no interest in this. If you know her and have enjoyed her work in the "geek world," such as The Guild, Dr. Horrible, and Tabletop and everything on Geek & Sundry, then you may like this (she's also in plenty of shows, like Supernatural and Eureka, but if you don't know her geek persona, you may not be as interested in this book). I LOVED it. Despite the fact that she seems to have been fairly lucky in her career, she is apparently a violin prodigy and a genius (graduated from U. of Texas with a 4.0 in math and violin performance, was valedictorian of her college class there, and got an almost perfect score on her SAT at 15 or 16 despite not having gone to school for many years)...I still like her and relate to her (i.e., I'm a little envious, but not so jealous that I judge her overly harshly). I enjoyed her journey, her sense of humor and confidence, and her struggles with depression and anxiety. For a fan of hers, it was a really fun book. Loved it.

Other than that, I haven't been reading that much, or not sticking to anything. I started All Grown Up and am really liking it. I'm also reading a pretty silly romance, but it was free (part of the reading group on Goodreads that Felicia Day is part of, called Vaginal Fantasy book club or something, with her and some other women in the geek world). I'm not getting along any better in it than I do in anything else, though.

Ago 8, 2017, 11:53am

>237 JulieCarter: I have a huge crush on Felicia Day.

Editado: Ago 8, 2017, 10:11pm

For some reason those Bruno books keep popping up everywhere, which I figured was the universe telling me something, so I picked up the first one, Bruno, Chief of Police. It's the kind of mystery I like, where there are several chapters of ambience-establishing before the crime occurs, and I am assuming that means I've already been introduced to the killer. Do those types of mysteries have a name? As opposed to the ones that have a totally new character show up at the halfway mark, one who we had no idea existed?

Bruno is the opposite of Maisie Dobbs -- he eats and drinks nonstop, almost to the point of ludicrousness. There's no way he can be getting anything done with all those little glasses of eau de vie he keeps getting offered at every stop.

I do like it; I'm glad there are a handful of them to move on to.

Editado: Ago 9, 2017, 12:27am

"Bruno is the opposite of Maisie Dobbs."

Praise the lord.

I am quite liking my current reading. On chapter is titled "Ayn Rand Is Bullshit."

The Driver: A Novel by Hart Hanson

Ago 11, 2017, 10:36am

The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency and Mink River are my current reads. I'm also listening to Exit West. All three of the books are enjoyable, so it's nice to switch off and get little tastes of whatever suits my mood.

Ago 11, 2017, 1:37pm

I loved Exit West and hope he wins the Booker.

Speaking of winners, I'm reading The Power. Damn, it's good. The only downside is there is no Sue Russell to share it with.

Ago 11, 2017, 7:21pm

I am reafing Mink River, too. In fact I came here to tell you, April, that The Plover guy has another novel out.

Ago 12, 2017, 7:28am

Dang, lots of book reading synchronicity going on here, lately.

I've had that Mink River book forever. I'm not even sure I read it. I'll have to click the link.

I also have the Stephen Florida book, but I know I haven't read that, yet.

I came by this morning just to type that Kat was totally right about The Weight of Ink. Not sure if it'll be on my Best Of list, I'm only at the halfway mark, but it's very good. It's one of those books with historical, parallel plots, and this author is remarkably adept with the transitions and relevance. She's a fine storyteller, and the book is really well-written which is rarely the case with historical fiction.

Ago 14, 2017, 8:13am

The Misfortune of Marion Palm is funny, sharp. It might have a style that makes some people crazy, little start/stop sentences, subject, predicate, subject predicate. And each chapter is like two pages long. But the story is moving along and it's sweet, everyone in the story is charmingly confused all the time.

Editado: Ago 18, 2017, 1:06pm

I am absolutely REELING from The Power. What a wild ride.

The premise is that women suddenly have the ability to electrocute others. It's starts with teenage girls giving each other shocks for fun, then the yare able to harness and use the power, pass it on to older women, defend themselves etc. Soon baby girls are being born with it. But absolutely power corrupts absolutely and this feminist fairytale gets very dark very fast.

The women whose stories you follow are an American mayor with political ambitions, the daughter of a British mobster and a young woman who has grown up in foster care, kills her abusive step-father and transforms herself into Mother Eve - the leader of a woman-centric religion. Then, there's a Nigerian photo-journalist - a fellow - who documents the trajectory of the Power - an outsider looking in and puts himself at terrible risk.

It's not perfect and it's funnier than you'd think it should be - there is a framing device of correspondence between two writers - a man and a woman - that really puts the whole thing in perspective, but it's very very clever and like any good speculative fiction, it makes you rethink a lot of things.

Somebody like HBO better scoop this puppy up. It would make a great mini-series. I heard that she just sold the rights of her first novel Disobedience to Rachel Weisz.

The only thing that makes me sad is that Alderman was a writer I shared with Sue Russell and it's just not fair that Sue isn't here anymore!

I had to take a break from upsetting books and am reading the new Fay Weldon who I've never been sure I even liked Before the War and a very cool book of essays I received from the Early Readers program We Wear the Mask about passing in today's culture.

Has anyone read The Madonnas of Echo Park? Skyhorse's essay was really interesting and I'm curious about his fiction.

Ago 17, 2017, 2:14pm

That sounds interesting. I'm putting it in my back pocket as a possible book club choice.

Ago 17, 2017, 3:27pm

The Power? Oh my yes. I think it comes out in October.

Ago 17, 2017, 6:24pm

Huh, noted. I'm all for some dystopian dark shit right now.

Ago 17, 2017, 7:05pm

I have to admit, the idea of being able to spontaneously taser people with my bare hands has a certain appeal right now. I'm going to stop by the Little Brown table at SIBA's trade show next month and see if I can get a review copy.

Ago 18, 2017, 1:05pm

There are quite a few dystopian novels coming out right now, many of them by women. Huh. Wonder why?

Ago 18, 2017, 8:50pm

I've just finished up The Misfortune of Marion Palm and I quite liked it. There are so few funny books now, no one seems to be writing comedies of manners these days -- I suppose this isn't quite that, but it's close. But that right after the new Andrew Sean Greer book gives me a little hope for the form.

Taking Dark Vineyard - the second Bruno, Chief of Police book - and American Fire to a five-day cabin in the woods next week. It's a funny mix of people -- mostly college, but a few adult-time Nashville people too, so I suspect it's going to be like The Big Chill...with Murders.

Editado: Ago 19, 2017, 9:35am

A few more brief thoughts on some books I've been reading. As usual, I'm not together enough to say nearly everything I think deserves to be said.

A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck of all people. I picked it up because Travels with Charley is a favorite of mine so I thought, oh, I like Steinbeck's travel writing! But he's a bit of an ass in this book. The trip was a somewhat impromptu affair, the idea of which came from a conversation in a bar when Steinbeck and a few other literary/intelligentsia types started wondering about what "real Russians" were like. They were conscious, even at this time just post WWII, that the picture they received of the Soviet Union was highly skewed and politicized:

"In the papers every day were thousands of words about Russia..What Stalin was thinking about, the plans of the Russian General Staff, the disposition of troops, experiments with atomic weapons...all of this by people who had not been there, and whose sources were not above reproach. And it occurred to us that there were some things that nobody wrote about Russia, and they were the things that interested us most of all. What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner? Do they have parties?...How do they make love, and how do they die? What do they talk about?

etc, etc. It's a series of very naive and condescending questions, but it prompted enough interest to organize a trip as a kind of cultural exchange. Steinbeck et al deliberately traveled without journalist credentials, which would have put them under the oversight of the Foreign Office. Instead, they ended up under the care of various cultural departments and writers' unions, which minimized their interactions with state security services, but also meant they had to navigate some truly labyrinthine bureaucracy.

It is the "et al" of the group that is of most interest here, because one of the people traveling with Steinbeck was Robert Capa. As a documentation of "real Russia" Steinbeck's account is not much of a success -- he spends more time talking about the travel conditions and the inconveniences of idiosyncratic plumbing than he does talking about, or to, those real Russians. However, Capa's photographs, which illustrate the book, more than make up for it. They are a wonder. And frankly, they rescue the text from its often petulant myopia.

The best section is the time they spend at several collective farms in the Ukraine and Georgia, where Steinbeck forgets himself enough to really pay attention and talk to the people he encounters. And they talk to him, asking hundreds of questions about farming conditions and political ideas in the United States, most of which he doesn't know how to answer. In this section, Capa's photographs show people working, or dancing, or baking bread, and and they are smiling and proud everyone is barefoot since shoes are too rare to use in the fields:

There was one woman, with an engaging ace and a great laugh, whom Capa picked out for a portrait. She was the village wit. She said, "I am not only a great worker, I am twice widowed, and many men are afraid of me now.." And she shook a cucumber in the lens of Capa's camera.

And Capa said, "Perhaps you'd like to marry me now?"

She rolled back her head and howled with laughter. "Now you, look!" she said. "If God had consulted the cucumber before he made man, there would be less unhappy women in the world."

And all in all, despite Steinbeck's general self-absorption, there does emerge a picture of the nascent Soviet Union, before the terrible realities of the Stalinist regime had fully taken hold or the extent of its crimes had come to light. Steinbeck's account lacks this looming cloud of historical hindsight. Instead this is an account of a Russia that -- infrastructure issues and bureaucratic red tape not withstanding -- had won a war at great cost and whose people were throwing themselves into building a new world.

Ago 19, 2017, 10:08am

Four Walls and a Black Veil by Fahmida Riaz is the latest book I've picked up as I make my way through this list of women who don't write in English:

She's a well-known feminist poet in Pakistan, although her work is completely new to me. Riaz writes in Urdu and is renowned for her command of the language, but of course most of that is lost to me since I don't speak Urdu and don't know anything about its classic poetic forms.

But what does come through in translation is her fury and frankly her physicality -- it was wholly unexpected. She's not one to make her thoughts more palatable by masking them in a metaphor, she's right out there: poems about menstruation, about sexual pleasure, about freedom and joy and pleasure felt by the female body. And poems of sharp scorn of the demands men make on women, the way society cages women, smothers them. Honestly, she reminds me a little of Adrienne Rich, believe it or not. So on one hand there is the ruthless ridicule in a poem like Vital Statistics:

have measured me,
waist, hips, breast,
and all the rest

The curves
held a heart
and the round skull
a brain.

If I'm valued
just by the inch,
why do you shrink,
from tit for tat,

When I start
to measure
some of your

But then there is also the sort of burst of joy you get in a poem like The Laughter of a Woman:

In the singing springs of stony mountains
Echoes the gentle laughter of a woman
Wealth, power and fame mean nothing
In her body lies hidden her freedom
Let the new gods of the earth try as they can
They can not hear the sob of her ecstasy.
Everything sells in this marketplace
But her satisfaction
The ecstasy she alone knows
Which she herself cannot sell.

Come you wild winds of the valley
Come and kiss her face

There she goes, her hair billowing in the wind
The daughter of the wind
There she goes, singing with the wind.

There is always a question, reading in translation, of what comes through and what is lost. Especially for poetry. But Riaz comes through for me. Despite the obvious cultural differences, I recognize the woman speaking in the poems, and I recognize the feelings she is seeking to give a voice to. It made a deep impression on me.

Editado: Ago 19, 2017, 12:39pm

>Marion Palm

CLICK, damn you, dg

Ago 19, 2017, 12:40pm

>Vital Statistics


Ago 20, 2017, 2:00pm

Excellent dystopian novel and great read. Do not peruse reviews or jacket copy first.

Far North: A Novel by Marcel Theroux

Editado: Ago 21, 2017, 11:14pm

I read Before the War and can honestly say, I don't think I care much for Fay Weldon.

I am just a chapter shy of finishing Where Dead Men Meet which is kind of a Hitchcockian case of mistaken identity, plus chases through Europe with Nazis and other Croat strongmen. A nun is hurt in this thriller- full disclosure. It's a bit of a mess but an entertaining one.

Ago 21, 2017, 11:50pm

I read quite a lot of Fay Weldon mant years ago and enjoyed most of the ride but have been out of her loop for a very long time.

Ago 22, 2017, 10:24am

Flitting between three books right now:

Savage Theories by Pola Oloixarac, which I'm finding tough going. You'd think, given my affinity for writers like Bolano and Cesar Aria, I'd be used to the whole author-as-character genre of fiction. But this book is testing me. It feels weirdly removed from the heart. Intelligent but not empathetic (a charge no one can lay at Bolano's feet.) Anyway, it's taking me a long time to finish.

Rebecca Solnit's Book of Migrations, on the other hand, is a real delight. I love the way Solnit looks at the world, no matter what part of the world she's in. (in this case, Ireland). This book is getting passed on to my mother.

And lastly, I've just started Confessions of a recovering environmentalist by Paul Kingsnorth -- the guy that wrote The Wake -- can't find the touchstone -- that novel written in the author's own version of Old English that lots of people didn't like, but I really enjoyed. This book I picked up because of what a bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville said about it:

Kingsnorth is better known in America for his strange fiction (The Wake), but he’s also a very divisive figure among environmentalists in the UK due to his insistence on abandoning the sustainability movement and instead seeking to protect nature for its own sake. Don’t save the moors because they can be a great spot to plant wind turbines; save them because they deserve to exist, etc. He lays out his case for “dark ecology” in this brilliant collection of essays on the environment and environmentalism, on the sacred and the sustainable, on rapture and disenchantment.

Editado: Ago 24, 2017, 11:46pm

Last week I read Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, which I thought was really interesting and a valuable read—not only about end of life issues but about quality of life issues, and where the two overlap. He lays out some powerful questions to ask yourself or your loved ones about what's important; I think it's also useful information for navigating conversations with doctors, which has a weird learning curve even under the best of circumstances. It's a practical book but also something of a parable or a koan for life in general, not just dying, and as such I strongly recommend it.

Now I'm reading Jeff VanderMeer's Borne, which I put a hold on for some reason that escapes me now. That kind of gnarly dystopian sf was totally my thing when I was about 19—it was a fun fantasy to have while living in the scabby downtown NYC of the early '80s. I figured not so much anymore, but I'm surprised at how easily I slipped back into that particular head. Liking it well enough so far, but it's also still early days.

Oh and I love Rebecca Solnit. I'll read anything of hers.

Editado: Ago 26, 2017, 3:07pm

Me three on Solnit. And I've had that Atul Gawande book bedside for over a year. Maybe it's time to get off my duff.

Where Dead Men Meet was ok although I've already forgotten most of the plot. But Venice.

I received The Other Alcott as part of the Library Things First Read programs and even though the cover is ALL WRONG, it's really kind an interesting book about May Alcott, the youngest of the sisters and the prototype for Amy March. She was an artist who spent much of her adult life in Europe, taking classes where she could (very few places where women could study art) and exhibited several times in the Paris Salon. Hers is kind of a sad story but I enjoyed this fictional take on it - in part because I am an Alcott slut and in part because I always enjoy a good expat story and this particular time - Americans in Rome, Paris and London just after the Civil War hits a certain hot spot for me.

Louisa comes off as a bit of a pill - which I think she probably was.

Ago 28, 2017, 8:41am

I'm not quite sure why because you all know I have a little bit of eyerolliness over things that edge up into woo-woo, but I like Solnit quite a bit too.

Ago 28, 2017, 2:33pm

Just finished reading the play By the Way Meet Vera Stark which was really wonderful. Last week I read The Humans which one the Pulitzer two years ago and I thought it was the biggest piece of -----, just boring and pointless. Lynn Nottage won the Pulitzer this year for her other play Sweat which I plan to read soon.

Ago 29, 2017, 12:19pm

I am cramming a bit for a review of the new Jenny Erpenbeck. Just read Visitation which was quite beautiful - time unmoored meditation on a piece of property in East Germany - a house by a river and those that live in it over time. You have to just jump in and let it flow.

Lisa P and SBL, this might be your thing.

Struggling a bit with Michele Roberts The Walworth Beauty. I am bored and find her writing to be quite choppy.

Ago 30, 2017, 11:19pm

I have another Erpenbeck, The End of Days, but I haven't read it. Did you read that one, Lauren? The Visitation sounds really nice.

I put a hold on Borne on a total whim (yet another reason why the library is great: because impulse reading is good when impulse spending is not). I don't read a ton of sf these days, although once upon a time, late teens/early 20s, this kind of gnarly dystopian fiction was totally my thing—it matched up well with the gnarly dystopian lower Manhattan of the early '80s, and I think a lot of us secretly imagined ourselves to be undercover Mad Maxes (remember when we liked Mel Gibson?). I fell back into it easily too—VanderMeer's world building and general setup were really fun and inventive. I liked the writing a bit less so—maybe I'm out of the groove of that particular genre and its conventions, but it felt a bit loosely written, or maybe loosely edited, hard to say. Which didn't stop me from enjoying it all the way through... but definitely with a few stylistic reservations.

Now reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which I like—it's being very visual for me, which books aren't always. But this is kind of a cross between Pather Panchali and Princess Mononoke in my addled little brain. So far I like it.

Ago 31, 2017, 12:25pm

I have The End of Days Lisa - it's part of my cram - but I haven't read it yet. The new book is called Go, Went, Gone.

I really liked The Visitation. I thought it was going to be more historical - like the The Glass Room which is based on the Villa Tugenhat - and it is - the house changes hands during both the Nazi and the Communist regimes but more Orlando than Wolf Hall, if you get my drift.

Erpenbeck is also an opera director which makes sense - the work is so visual.

This Walworth Beauty is for the birds.

Re-reading Bad Feminist for fun. I extoled the virtues of We Wear the Mask elsewhere -sheesh - those are some good essays.

Ago 31, 2017, 12:45pm

I have a hundred pages left in Barbara Gowdy's latest-The Little Sister. It's a mixed bag-sort of going downhill quickly. The book is like one of those Russian dolls where within each doll there is another doll. It works really well for the first half of the book but it gets way too confusing and tedious in the latter half. Have to see how it ends-too bad it was really promising in the beginning.

Ago 31, 2017, 4:15pm

I finished up American Fire and even though it's really just a long Dateline episode, I was ultimately kind of affected by it. It's a very sad book -- both culprits are just really damaged people, that distressing combo of poor and uneducated and bored and, worst of all, completely unaware that they are those things, so when they do things like ostentatiously announce (on Facebook) that their upcoming wedding (at "Shuckers," the bar where they met) will have a Guns 'N Roses "November Rain" theme and you better RSVP because "security will be tight," you really do genuinely feel for them. I'm not being funny when I say that I felt more for them then than I ever did for any of the people whose buildings got burned down.

I also can't imagine that the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Board is too happy with the book.

Sep 1, 2017, 11:39am

Mmm. That sounds good. I haven't even read the sample yet, but I might try this one as an audiobook for my nighttime listening pleasure.

Editado: Sep 1, 2017, 11:58am

>270 JulieCarter: Now reading The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which I like—it's being very visual for me

Some of the visuals are pretty hard to take -- I can read descriptions of brutality but I don't seem to become inured to them. But Roy's descriptions of buildings, rooms, dwelling places are poetry. I love the slow blooming of the Jannat Guest House in the middle of the cemetery.

Sep 5, 2017, 12:05pm

I did not care much for The Walworth Beauty. There's a teeny tiny intriguing ghost story in there but it's lost in all this pillowy prose. I kept thinking of Springtime which was just short enough and so eerie.

Still, one of the characters takes endless walks about her London neighborhood which I found intriguing. As anyone read Flaneuse? Thats my next nf read, I think.

I am still happily re-reading Roxanne Gay and I started So Big because I bought it to read this summer and well, it's post Labor Day. I love it.

Sep 5, 2017, 1:46pm

Started George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman. It took me a week to wade through his introduction. My god, the man had a high opinion of himself.

Sep 5, 2017, 10:40pm

Sour Heart, stories by Jenny Zhang. It's....vivid. I have no other way to describe it! The very first sentence is two pages long and mainly about how you get a poop to go down toilet with low water pressure and how you have to anticipate if it's going to be the kind that might not be doable in that toilet, so then you go across the street to a gas station. I mean, you know if you're in right off the bat with this one.

Sep 6, 2017, 7:12am

Heh. I always kind of like it when writers take on effluvia—there's definitely a wrong way and a right way.

I had to virtually put down The Ministry of Utmost Happiness because my checkout ran out and NYPL sucked the ebook back into its hungry maw. I'm liking the imagery—I guess that's kind of a given in a well-written book set in India, huh?—and the insider baseball view of regional politics. But it's distractingly diffuse. Hard to say without having finished, but it feels like all the disparate parts are building to form some kind of modern fairy tale, but doing that takes a little more... let's say concision. There's too much writing in here to be a real allegory, if that's what the book's trajectory is about. But the writing is good, and for the most part it's enjoyable, so I'll pick it back up again and finish when my hold comes back in in another nine weeks—though I'm pretty sure I won't remember a damn thing about the story structure by then, since there are a few too many threads to pin a narrative on right now.

Now I'm just starting Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker for an LJ review. Wilson's a good biographer and of course I'm a Darwin girl, so I have high hopes for this one.

Sep 6, 2017, 6:46pm

Sixty pages into Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and I'm loving it already. My last read was The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan, which I don't recommend. I wanted to slap the main character upside the head. I also finished the audio book of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. It was fine, I liked the premise, but it did bog down for me toward the end.

Sep 8, 2017, 4:43pm

Just one chapter in News of the World by Paulette Jiles and so far it's fine. I didn't know the first thing about Jiles so I read up on her. She was born in the U. S. but lived in Canada for a while
and got some literary awards here and now she's back in North Dakota I believe. I think people really liked this one so i'm hoping I will too.

Sep 8, 2017, 8:16pm

Quarter of the way into The Homecoming Of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield and just loving it.

Sep 9, 2017, 8:22pm

The Riders
by Tim Winton

Sep 10, 2017, 2:47pm

Sep 10, 2017, 8:54pm

Alan, I listened to the audio book of News of the World and found it quite enjoyable.

Sep 10, 2017, 10:42pm

I read News of the World about a year ago and loved it. One of my favorites from 2016.

Sep 12, 2017, 3:14pm

I'm just enjoying the heck out of Pachinko.

Editado: Sep 15, 2017, 1:56pm

The Half-Drowned King: A Novel by Linnea Hartsuyker is living up to all its hype. I think you'd like this one, Kat.

Sep 15, 2017, 2:02pm

Heh, I did, PatD!

Sep 15, 2017, 9:22pm

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Editado: Sep 15, 2017, 11:04pm

I'm still reading Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker, which is enormously well-researched, to the point where it kind of shows overmuch sometimes—Wilson gives context for his contexts—but it's still very interesting. What's the opposite of a hagiography? This would be that, not quite a takedown but a very dispassionate look at Darwin as a self-promoter and builder on others' ideas, when it comes to "his" theory of evolution, without giving due credit. I'm going to reserve judgment on his argument until I get to the end, though I don't think it really holds water and I'm not sold on it... which may be a while, because this book is dense dense dense. Very extensive road map of the science of the day, which interests me (which is why I'm reviewing it in the first place), but I find myself rereading passages often to get all of what Wilson's packing in there. Plus the book was published in the UK first, so there are a lot of Britishisms that make navigating it even more involved.

This is also really making me want to read my copy of The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World, since it sings his praises a lot.

Plus all my library holds are coming due and piling up. But I'm guessing I've got another week with Darwin here.

Sep 16, 2017, 9:58am

I am loving loving loving Jenny Erpenbeck's Go Went Gone which is a bout a retired classics professor in Berlin who gets involved with a group of refugees - all men- from Africa. It is so beautifully written - and seamlessly translated- I'm assuming since I don't read German but it never feels like I'm reading a work in translation, so... and very powerful. It really is about the experience of being woke - awakened to a social or political situation that once you see, you can't unsee - and then you have to do something because your silence makes you complicit.

I also got Juliet Nicholson's A House Full of Daughters for my sister-in-law and have been reading it very carefully before I give it to her next week. She;s Nigel Nicholson's daughter - so granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West etc. I thought it was going to be Bloomsbury fun but it's really quite a poignant memoir about her own life and the lives of the other women in her family, going back to her great-great grandmother Petipa, the Spanish dancer. There are a few moments I've had where it's like - hey lady, I'm not feeling sorry for you, you grew up in Sissinghurst! - but she makes a pretty compelling argument for privilege without emotional support is a pretty raw deal.

Editado: Sep 16, 2017, 10:56pm

The new le Carre novel is quite good and features old friend George Smiley.

Legacy of Spies

Sep 19, 2017, 3:33pm

>291 That Wilson book sounds like baloney. The guy from the Guardian bought into it hook, line, and sinker, but it sounds crappy to me. Let us know how you feel about it when you're done! (Or just link your review for us, that will work!)

So many great books out there, and I'm making an effort to turn off the tv earlier most nights, so I can read for a while before I go to bed. Reading Meghan Daum's The Unspeakable. The essays are up and down, not as provocative as I expected. Still good.

Also, reading some samples, some comics, some magazines, and Red Rising (embarrassingly, I picked this up when it was cheap on Kindle purely because Lin-Manuel Miranda's wife loved it, so he mentioned something about it on Twitter. I'm a sucker!)

Sep 20, 2017, 12:17pm

Sep 21, 2017, 9:15am

So having spent a week in New Orleans hearing about all sorts of fantastic books that are coming out this fall (Beth Ann Fennelly's Heating and Cooling Micro-memoirs is going to be irresistible), not to mention sharing a hotel room with the redoubtable SPRankin, who is telling me every evening how much I will like The Essex Serpent and The Potlikker Papers -- and having Kent Wascom's forthcoming book foisted on me by the very enthusiastic woman at Faulkner House Books who also, like me, thinks William Trevor wrote some of the most beautiful books to have ever made it into print...I've got a TBR stack that might kill me if it topples over.

But am I reading any of those, even the ones I promised to read? No. Because when I went to dig out my copy of The Essex Serpent from the middle of the stack, I had to move Paul Kingsnorth's Beast, (follow up to "The Wake"), and Umami by Laia Jufresa, and now I'm reading those.

Is there such a thing as "Book ADD"? If so, I think I have it.

Sep 21, 2017, 12:00pm

SHUT UP, you were sharing a room with SP. Now I'm jealous.

I was not so excited about The Essex Serpent. I thought it was overhyped.

Reading Negroland is very thought provoking in the best possible way.

Sep 21, 2017, 1:14pm

Dammit we need a slumber party. With books.

Editado: Sep 22, 2017, 9:37am

>296 you and me both!

Editado: Sep 23, 2017, 2:07pm

Negroland was quite extraordinary - part memoir, part meditation on growing up a particular race and class at a particular time. It manages to be deeply personal and very formal at the same time.

The rigidity of how she was raised, esp in regard to appearance, seemed so wounding. It also reminded me of my mother's experience. I don't think my grandmother ever expressed the notion that a Jewish girl or woman was or could be beautiful, her ideas of beauty were patrician, non-ethnic. The more you looked like a gentile - small nose, straight hair etc - the better. I feel so bad for my aunt and my mother.
The constant aspiration to whiteness is so wearying.

Jumping into The Madonnas of Echo Park.

Sep 23, 2017, 10:48pm

My latest reads:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (LOVED it)
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan (very disturbing and somewhat disappointing)

Currently reading:

Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Sep 24, 2017, 11:58am

Would a non-murder-mystery-reading person like The Magpie Murders? The Kindle version is on sale today (as is the very very good The Leavers, for those folks who may be Kindle-inclined) and... I think I've just been stuck on this Darwin book too long and anything that sounds diametrically different is very appealing right now.

Sep 25, 2017, 4:58pm

That's too funny. The woman in front of me at Costco had The Magpie Murder's in her cart and I asked if I could look at it (I'm constantly embarrassing my kids in public because I'll chat up almost anyone at almost any time). She hadn't read it though, so no feedback. It's written by the Alex Rider guy, which I think Ive read, but I can't remember if I thought he was a hack or nor.

I second The Leaver's recommendation.

Right now I'm about 500 pages into the stupidly long Jerusalem and thinking of ditching and/or skimming the remainder. Self indulgent most of it. Some of it is lovely and insightful and interesting, which is frustrating because with some discipline and consultation with an editor or even a reader or two, it could be much, much shorter and much, much better.

Plus, tomorrow the new Leckie is out and I'm ditching everything to read it when it arrives on my Kindle.

Sep 25, 2017, 6:21pm

I just started a Europa title, The Eye Stone, courtesy of Lisa Peet. There are some warning signs on the cover -- it's compared to DaVinci Code (shorthand for "plot," says Lisa), Name of the Rose (shorthand for "research," says me) and Perfume (there'll be sexy time), but it's also Venice. Venice, Venice, Venice, so I'm okay with all of that. The jacket also says "The First Medieval Noir About the Birth of Venice" like a subtitle and I am thinking, are there others that are vying for the title? Why so defensive?

Sep 25, 2017, 6:32pm

I've just finished Jufresa's Umami -- what a gem of a book. It's going to make my best of the year list, no question.

The story centers around the people living in a little complex--a mews-- in Mexico City. Each of the little bungalows (I think of them more like row houses around a central court) has been named by the landlord for the five different tastes: Bitter, Sour, Sweet, Salty, and Umami (this last is where the landlord, who has written a book on the subject of umami, himself lives). So it is one of those "neighborhood" stories, that seems to be about how all these disparate people came to be in this place at this time, and how they come together or drift apart. I love stories like that.

But as you get into the story, you start to realize it is really an exploration into grieving and loss -- each of the residents in the mews are dealing with some kind of loss or absence in their lives, as well as becoming involved in the griefs and losses of their neighbors, including one family who suffers the accidental drowning of their youngest child.

The story slides back and forth through time from various characters points of view (including the child's) and is a marvel for its portrayal of sorrow and compassion and deep, deep ache. I find myself in awe of the translator, frankly, for the subtlety and emotional nuance that come through in every scene. I'm going to have to sit tight to read more of Jufresa's work, since Umami is a debut novel. But I'm now on a mission to see what else Sophie Hughes has translated, because my god, I can't believe how beautifully this book reads.

Sep 26, 2017, 6:47am

Noted. And NYPL has it as an ebook. And available now, but I just downloaded The Weight of Ink so that's up next. No wonder I never get to reading my actual physical books—their ebook platform has all the instant or delayed gratification of the "click" with none of the actual expenditure of money.

Finally finished Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker—stayed up late just so I could finish it and not have to haul it around anymore. I didn't end up liking it all that much, mostly because I think his logic is flawed and heavily dependent on giving this "maverick" pushback reading of Darwin. I don't buy it. But it was interesting in theory, anyway, and as I said I really liked all the background on the science of the day, even if he could have effectively left about a third of his research out. I finished mainly because I'm reviewing it, so I'll probably have something more cogent to say then.

Anyway, happy to be reading some immersive fiction next.

Sep 26, 2017, 9:28am

>304 That sounds really intriguing, but given the comparisions to DVC could be horrible - let me know what you think please.

Sep 26, 2017, 9:31am

>305 Love that cover! I love those neighborhood type books when done well (cant remember the title of the last I read - about a group of people in a boarding house in NYC trying to keep the landlord's son from shutting it down...._) Anyway, I'd read this...

Sep 26, 2017, 12:27pm

Madonnas of Echo Park - mixed feelings here. First of all, it's not a novel, it's linked short stories so that put me in snit. Not that I don't like both, I just feel there's a difference between the two. Secondly, the author's note - which I found really moving - was fictionalized so I felt a bit jerked around. Thirdly, the writing is just a tiny bit indulgent.

On the plus side, Skyhorse excels at creating a sense of place. Echo Park is a neighborhood he knows. I also liked how much pop music informed the plot, including Madonna's Borderline. Anytime a Madonna video is a major plot point, I'm in.

I'd definitely read more by him.

Next up: Salt and Saffron and then I'm sending all my Shamsie to Miriam U.

Oh yeah, I'm listening to a Louise "Why use just one adjective when 4 will do" Penny mystery while attending the dentist, weeding, etc.

Editado: Sep 26, 2017, 6:25pm

Just back from the Eastern Townships in southeast Quebec, the real Three Pines.

Editado: Sep 26, 2017, 6:49pm

Heh. I read/listened to her first but she drove me nuts, so I think that's it.

And woot, I'm looking forward to a Shamsie fiesta.

on edit: I'm tired and apparently can't type whole words.

I'm reading Provenance since it arrived on my Kindle today, and I impulsively purchased Umami yesterday because Niki said it was good. I read a bit last night and it starts strong, although I was surprised by the young narrator.

Sep 27, 2017, 2:35pm

I'm about to click on Umami also, because on my upcoming cruise, my roommate (whom I've never met) lives in Mexico City. Not that this book is going to help me connect to her (that's what the heavy metal does! Metal family! \../), but it also sounds good and has a pretty cover. That's our Nicki...still handselling, even though she doesn't work in a bookstore anymore!

Kat, I need to go back and look at your pictures again, because I've read almost all the Three Pines books (I keep trying to tell you all, they aren't that twee once you get past the first few!), so it will be nice to see what it really looks like. One of the books was set in Quebec City, and Gamache did research at this historical library and he talked about a lot of the buildings and sites, and I read that book with my phone right next to me, so I could look at all the pictures while I was reading. It was a really wonderful reading experience.

Editado: Sep 27, 2017, 8:00pm

Julie, one of the Three Pines books is set in a lakeside country hotel. We stayed at the real-life hotel:

But, I confess we made the decidion to visit Quebec's Eastern Townships before I was aware of the Penny connection.

Sep 29, 2017, 12:01pm

Pedant note: it's Magpie Murders, not The Magpie Murders. It matters :)

Sep 29, 2017, 1:24pm

You are correct! However, the sale is over so I guess my question is moot.

Sep 29, 2017, 5:51pm

Sad to say the new Ann Leckie is a bust.

Editado: Oct 1, 2017, 10:51am

>316 Oh, no! I just ordered the audio book.

(Edit: Is it audio book or audiobook? I'm never sure.)

Editado: Oct 1, 2017, 10:59am

I'm currently reading The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins. I had a hankerin' for something gothic, so I grabbed this off my shelf. I'm actually enjoying the heck out of it.

Oct 1, 2017, 10:59am

>313 AprilAdamson: It's a lot prettier than I actually pictured it! Probably because it seems like it's always fall or winter in the books, so I never picture all the pretty flowers seen in a lot of the pictures. It's also a LOT bigger than I pictured it. So nice!

Oct 1, 2017, 2:40pm

Went through Sing, Unburied, Sing this weekend in a long, fraught binge. I kept telling myself to put the book down and get some real work done, but I could not look away from the page. Ostensibly, it's a story about a woman taking her kids to pick up their father from prison when he is let out.

But really, it's like the Odyssey or something. The voice of Jojo, the young boy, is not going to leave me, I don't think. I hope not, anyway.

Editado: Oct 1, 2017, 4:24pm

Salt and Saffron is hit or miss. One of the blurbers called it Rushdie by way of a Mitford sister and that is an apt description - a witty narrator, impossible to follow family connections, a happy ending. I didn't dislike it but it left me cold - it seemed like a n injoke that I wasn't really getting. But you can see seeds of later books in this early work and if you like Shamsie - which I do - it's kinda cool.

I am reading a crazily entertaining book about Woody Guthrie and the merchant marines. Woody, Cisco and Me - it would be a delightful movie so if you know anyone ....

Also trying Nathan Englander's latest Dinner at the Center of the Earth. He is s reading here on Thursday. But I'm struggling with it.

Oct 3, 2017, 1:16pm

Kat's right, the new Leckie is a bust, but I'm still enjoying it. Feels a bit like Anne of Green Gables (which is an odd comparison, I know) combined with a Harlequin Romance (pre-sex).

Oct 3, 2017, 7:39pm


Oct 5, 2017, 12:32am

I loved The Weight of Ink, though I still have yet to read chapter 29 (see the Loft for my sad story). But I can't imagine that chapter 29 will hold anything that makes me like it less. It was just what I needed—smart and sweet and historical, with a little mystery. Very nice.

Now my hold on Marlena is in, so I guess that's next even though I've heard mixed things.

Oct 5, 2017, 9:37am

I am about halfway through the Englander. I'm finding it very odd - three narratives and I've yet to see how they link up. But I'm going to hear him read today at lunchtime and hoping that sheds some light on this most oblique novel.

Oct 5, 2017, 10:19am

Just finished Evicted for a community book discussion group -- excellent and made for a really lively talk as well. Also finishing up Dream Hoarders, as Richard Reeves was recently in Charlotte. We were supposed to go but had just pulled back into town after a 1600 mile driving weekend.... Also finished Standard Deviation which I had mixed feelings about. Started out strong and is very funny overall. But didn't hang together somehow and failed to make me care much about the characters. I think it was trying to do too much all at once - or couldn't figure out exactly what or who this book was about. 3.5 stars - for the humor and needed respite from other horrors of this world.

Oct 5, 2017, 6:44pm

If you were hoping the Armistead Maupin memoir Logical Family included bits about Rock Hudson at an all-male, vodka/hot tub orgy, you will not be disappointed. Also: one too many knowing "rock hard" jokes. Meaning: ONE.

Oct 7, 2017, 4:38pm

Has anyone here read this?

When Breath Becomes Air
by Paul Kalanithi et al.

Editado: Oct 8, 2017, 1:58am

I haven't, but I added it to the list. Thanks, Kat.

I'm reading An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn.

It's a very uncontrived mixture of memoir, literary criticism, travel writing and lovely storytelling.

A college freshman lit professor is taken aback when his retired mathematician father announces he'll be sitting in on his son's upcoming seminar for The Odyssey... especially considering their complex relationship. The classroom dynamics are, in turns, awkward, funny, and touching, and an unlikely father/son cruise retraces The Odyssey's route shortly before the father dies (no spoiler that).

I don't know how many times I've read the epic poem, or how many papers I've written about it, but I've never experienced the classic through a Greek reading/writing scholar's eyes. His examinations of the language of the poem, the remarkable amount of word origins it spawned, and its parallels between an ancient and a modern story are so smoothly, so gently drawn they feel almost discrete.

I'm only about halfway through it, so I don't know if it'll hold up until the end, but, so far, I'm thoroughly hooked.

Oct 8, 2017, 10:37am

>329 I've been eyeing that one, Pat, so thanks for the report. I've bumped it up on my list, which probably means I'll get to it sometime next year. It also reminds me that Caroline Alexander's translation of the Iliad is out, and I haven't even looked at it yet.

I'm reading The Potlikker Papers right now, which is by turns entertaining and fascinating. It is a little weird to read since I've gone full-on vegetarian, though. For the first time since I made that change a couple years ago, descriptions of fried chicken and barbecue, or stuffed pork chops, or greens simmering in fatback, do not make me instantly hungry.

Also on tap is The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, because of something I read in The Guardian, I think.

Oct 8, 2017, 7:16pm

The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond. It has long-subtitle disease, and there's just the tiniest bit of dryness right at the start, which is unfortunate because once it gets up and running, it's fascinating and quite funny. Also more opinionated than I was expecting, and in kind of a bitchy queen way (I have no idea if the author is a bitchy queen): the International Olympic Committee is offhandedly described as a sweet gravy train of teat suckers...and he's not the least bit interested in mentioning them again, so that's it!

Editado: Oct 8, 2017, 7:19pm

(whoops double post)

Oct 8, 2017, 8:36pm

The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste by Jane Stern and her husband who are often on NPR talking about Road Food. This one is about 25 years old, but has aged well since the cheesey things they talk about are still around.

Editado: Oct 8, 2017, 9:14pm

My sis and I are off to Broadway this week, soooo books to bring: War for the Oaks Extremely Loud and Incredibly close (can't believe I haven't read this already!) The End of the Day Thought about bringing Notes from a Foreign Country but I'll wait till I get home and have time for some deep thought.

Finally finished The Greater Journey Really liked it, but there was a lot of (new to me) history to take in, and I needed to reread sections so that slowed me down. Oh, and yeah, started back to school. That will do it!

Editado: Oct 9, 2017, 6:33pm

Still entranced by An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, and I added, For the Winner: A novel of Jason and the Argonauts by Emily Hauser for the Kindle to continue along with my little binge on the classics.

Librarything not showing my edition:

An Amazon reader review about it being from Atalanta's perspective talked me into this one:

"Atalanta has always been one of the more interesting heroines of Greek myth: a fleet-footed huntress who challenged her suitors to a foot-race, slew the Calydonian Boar, and made a name for herself as the only woman to join the quest for the Golden Fleece. She makes a bold and appealing heroine in "For The Winner," which simultaneously grounds the legend of Jason and his Argonauts in a grittier, more realistic ancient Greece than we usually see in the myths, and weaves in the gods themselves as they comment on the human adventures below. Atalanta, determined to prove her worth to the kingly father who abandoned her as an infant, disguises herself as a man to join the cold-eyed Jason and his Argonauts as they set sail for Colchis. Atalanta battles the hardships of the voyage, the dislike of Jason who I was pleased to see as the villain of this piece rather than the hero (I never liked him, even in the myth), and the mistrust of her fellow Argonauts who will certainly cast her out if they discover her secret...or will they? Periodically the gods interject themselves from Olympus, deliciously and hilariously vain, more inclined to screw things up for the hyper-competent Atalanta than aid her along. "For The Winner" is a delightful read, all pathos and humor and a heroine to make you cheer-- "

I like these unique angles in both these books. Daniel's father doesn't like Odysseus and constantly argues in the classroom discussions re: his hero status, and Hauser's book casts the same dislike on Jason.

Oct 10, 2017, 12:50pm

The new Nathan Englander won me over - it may have been helped slightly by seeing him read - but it does take a while for the narrative threads of Dinner at the Center of the Earth to come together. It is definitely a hybrid - part spy novel, part love story, part ghost story - I'm still not sure if all the pieces come together in a perfect fit but there is something about the construction that is fascinating. Englander has always been interested in the gray areas of things - politically, religiously, socially, morally - and this novel is a bunch more of that.

There is an act of great moral kindness that literally took my breath away, so unexpected it was.

Giving myself a crash course in Korean history with Nothing to Envy and reading Faith. I think Haigh is so under-appreciated - her novels are just so quietly good.

Oct 11, 2017, 2:40pm

>328 DG_Strong: Kat, I have that one, because I've heard that it's inspiring, touching, etc. It's highly recommended by others. But it's also kind of a scary topic to jump into. But I will one of these days!

I've been reading My Brilliant Friend, finally. And the first volume of the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.

Oct 11, 2017, 10:20pm

Chapter 29 of The Weight of Ink was definitely important, and quite moving as well. Thank you, dear Mir, for the print copy! That would have gnawed at my OCD soul for a long time...

Marlena is very well-written but the story is not going anywhere exciting.

Oct 11, 2017, 10:59pm

That tome was a mighty fine one such.

Oct 11, 2017, 11:11pm

I'm only 10% in (Kindle copy, obviously) but Manhattan Beach is wildly good so far. I'm a huge Egan fan, so you might want to take my enthusiasm with a grain of salt. That said, I was a bit skeptical of this one -- not sure why, but it won me over really (really) fast.

Oct 12, 2017, 11:07am

I really really want to read that.

I thought Faith was very good. I didn't quite bite at the sister being the narrator - there was too much happening that she is relating rather than experiencing herself and I felt like it made the novel kind of clumsy. But for a straight-up novel about family, Catholicism, the priesthood and Boston, it's a winner.

I am going to NY/MA for a long weekend and have about 10 books packed, including an old Antonia Fraser mystery and The Tsar of Love and Techno.

I hope to catch a sighting of Lisa P!

Editado: Oct 12, 2017, 11:37am

Finished Elmet, which I thought was sort of two books squished together. The first half was more atmospheric, elemental; the second half was more narrative-driven. There was a character that didn't work for me, one that seemed inserted only to help the pivot to the narrative portion. Having said all that--dang, she can write, and this was her debut. I'll be curious to see what she attempts next.

Also just finished Manhattan Beach and I really loved it. Still thinking about it today. Now beginning Magpie Murders and still visiting Middlemarch.

Oct 14, 2017, 8:08am

>341 I hope to catch a sighting of Lisa P!More than a sighting, I think. (Yay!)

A friend at work just offered to lend me Manhattan Beach when she's done, so I'm looking forward to that. I've heard a lot of praise for it going around, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard setting definitely has my interest. (I know I probably say this all the time, but nothing cheers up a shitty morning commute mood more than walking into work and having the first conversation, before I even get to my desk, be someone waylaying me to talk about a book—and I'd say that happens at least twice a week, so life is good.)

Marlena was a decent read—the writing was very good, and I especially liked a lot of her teen dialogue. But the book still never really took me any place unexpected or—for all its dark corners and end-of-the-tracks white kid peril—made me worry for its marginal characters. I like that Buntin treaded lightly on certain moments that could have been full of pathos or overburdened with significance, but in the end I didn't care quite as much about those poor kids as I wished I had.

Now reading Goodbye, Vitamin!, which is lightweight but smart—another in my favorite category of Charming Alzheimer's Books.

Editado: Oct 15, 2017, 11:25am

A lot to catch up with. First nonfiction:

Kat, I read When Breath Becomes Air and it is just a great book. It’s written by a young neurosurgeon who develops stage 4 lung cancer. He writes beautifully and IIRC he was a literature/philosophy major and thought about being a writer and he has the chops. In some ways the book reminded me of The Year of Magical Thinking, in the way Didion was able to stand back and observe and write about her own grief; he was able to do the same.

My two other favorite nonfiction medical reads from last year were Being Mortal Medicine and What Happens at the End (which Lisa mentioned.) I hate to say something should be required reading but this comes pretty close.

The last one is coming out next week and is In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope by Rana Awdish. She is a young ICU doctor who finds herself in the ICU facing her own medical castastrophy. Reminded me a bit of that old movie The Doctor with William Hurt. Really one of the best books I’ve read.

The other nonfiction recommendation is American Kingpin, written by Vanity Fair writer Nick Bilton. It’s all about the guy who started The Silk Road - the dark web’s black market website started by this rather naive decent kid and how it turned dark dark dark. The police procedural part about how he got caught was great too. You just know this will end up a movie and the book reads like fiction. I couldn’t put it down.

Edited to try to fix links.

Editado: Oct 15, 2017, 11:50am

As far as fiction:

Am currently reading Little Fires Everywhere , by Celeste Ng and it’s good so far although I’m only about 30 pages in.

Written in Blood by Layton Green. I wouldn’t have finished if I wasn’t reading it for review. This guy never met a metaphor he didn’t like.

And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman. Loved it. It’s about a little boy and his grandfather who has developed dementia. So far I’ve liked everything I’ve read by this guy.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. This isn’t coming out for a few months but it’s gotten a lot of good buzz and I think they’ve already optioned it for a movie starring Charlize Theron. I liked it at the beginning but then it started driving me nuts. I didn’t buy into it at all and can’t believe the author really did work as a CIA Counterterrorism analyst. If so, we’re in trouble folks.

Lastly for now, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin which is going down as one of my best of the year picks. It starts off in 1969 in New York when the four Gold children have a gypsy tell them the day they’re going to die. And then the book breaks up into chapters/sections featuring each of them and how this prediction affected their lives. Loved it.

Edited to put in the book links (that I found.) Thanks Lisa.

Oct 15, 2017, 8:45am

>345 Hey, lynn, nice to see you.

Re the touchstone feature— it's pretty imperfect, but what you can do is as you're typing, once you've put your brackets around the title or author you want you'll see to the right of the posting window the titles/authors where they're pointing. If you go there and click on "(others)" you'll get a pop-up list to choose the one you want from—just click on the plus sign and it'll change the touchstone. I like it when they're used because I'm really into the LibraryThing recommendations—I can get a sense of the book from the recommended titles, both at the bottom of the main page and, if you really want to geek out, the category you can click on to the left with a bunch of different types of recommendations. I'm not sure what the difference is between them, but I find I have more books in common consistently with the "People with this book also have... (less common)" choices.

I have The Immortalists on my pile—I heard good things about it already but your rec bumped it up. And agreed, Being Mortal should be recommended reading for everyone.

Editado: Oct 15, 2017, 11:50am

Thanks Lisa.

I am having trouble linking to the Rana Awdish book I mentioned even though I can find it through her name, but In Shock: My Journey from Death to Recovery and the Redemptive Power of Hope is as highly recommended as Being Mortal. Terrible title but a page-turner and so insightful. It’s my choice for book club next month and I already know it’s going to be a hit. (3 doctors in my club - all heard about it beforehand but I got the ARC and told them it was as good as they heard.)

Editado: Oct 15, 2017, 6:47pm

lynn! Been missing you! Glad to see you back. How are you doing?

Im reading a couple of books for my Reading Through Time group 'Fractured Fairy Tales. (not until December, but no time like the preseng when it comes to books!) Bitter Greens and Children of Hamelin Missing readerville's YA thread that had an ongoing discussion on this topic. I'd love a list of the titles that were being read them...

Looking forward to reading The Immoralists!

Oct 19, 2017, 9:46am

I finished off John T. Edge's The Potlikker Papers, which was entertaining, if a little tour guide-ish. I thought the first half of the book was stronger than the latter half -- probably because it was more history, less "reporting," less "overview." I'm not sure what it says about me that my favorite chapter was the section on the hippie commune in Tennessee.

I'm now reading The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty, which traces the author's own family history and uses the journey as the scaffolding for tracing the history of Southern food. It is much more intense than Edge's book, much more personal, and consequently much, much more interesting:

The first meal I ever saw in South Carolina was a nightmare waiting to happen. It was a pile of hoppin' john on a plate, and it was exotic and awfule. It was field peas, rice, and various animal parts and bones. I cried and screwed up my face and demanded chicken noodle soup.

Twitty has been a bit of a controversial figure in the Southern food scene, but I have to say, I love his perspective, and his utter lack of preciousness. And his cowhorn okra soup with fish pepper sauce.

Editado: Oct 19, 2017, 11:22am


There was less reading and more driving on my recent trip but runway delays were helped by A Discovery of Witches which a co-worker loaned me. It's really fun - kind of grown-up Harry Potter with witches and vampires and imp, lost manuscripts, inter-species lovin'.

But here's what I don't like - the romance trope of the man having to be so rich. What is that about? The vampire in this has a chateau, private planes, and endless cashmere sweaters. I mean, it's silly. Maybe because fetishing the rich has landed us with the worst president the US has ever suffered under - but I think even if Trump wasn't president, this would bug me.

Oct 21, 2017, 5:46pm

Finally getting around to Robert MacFarlane's Landmarks. Shame on me for taking so long to open it up.

It's a really wonderful piece of work -- wonderful in the way E.O. Wilson is when he's writing about ants, or Donald C. Peattie is when he's writing about trees.

Landmarks is an extended paean of the language of landscape -- specifically, British landscape. And "specificity" is the exactly the word -- the first chapter launches into a delighted recounting of the words to be found in a "Peat Glossary" somebody created from the various words for peat, working with peat, and the landscape of peat that existed in three small villages in moor country:

èit: practice of placing quartz stones in moorland streams so that they would sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn. Gaelic (Isle of Lewis)

So, yeah.

Every chapter is appendixed by a glossary, a litany of words like that.

So even though I'm reading the book in print, it only took a glance at the first glossary -- words to do with running water -- and I went running to download the audiobook. And I'd recommend the same to anyone thinking of giving the book a try. Because just reading these lists of words is not enough. You have to hear them spoken. And then it is like music.

Editado: Oct 21, 2017, 11:36pm

Hmm... I traditionally can't do audiobooks, but maybe that would be worth a try because I've had my eye on that one for a while. Where did you get that audio? NYPL doesn't have any in other than print format.

I finished Samantha Hunt's The Dark Dark, a collection of short stories of both the quietly quirky and the not-so-quietly-quirky variety, and—yes—dark, but not in the obvious ways. Many are sometimes prosaic and sometimes fantastical takes on the impulse toward self-obliteration and the reasons why, which I thought was an interesting thread to run through a collection. Also the choice to twin the first and last stories, the second an alternate version of the first that gets more and more recursive as it goes. The one I loved best, which was also the least fantastic of the ten, was the knockout "A Love Story," which struck all the right notes:
"The uncertain position we all maintain in life asking when will violence strike, when will devastation occur, leaves us looking like the hapless swimmers at the beginning of each Jaws movie. Innocent, tender, and delicious. Our legs tread water, buoyed by all that is right and good and deserved in this world, a house, healthy children, clean food to eat, love. While that animatronic shark, a beast without mercy, catches the scent of blood and locks in on his target."

My e-hold on The Ministry of Utmost Happiness came back around so I can finish that. I'm interested to see if it it gets any more cohesive or circles back to its roots in some way... I admire what she is up to with it but my banal love of plot has kept holding me back from loving this so far.

Oct 22, 2017, 4:58am

After the Parade hooked me from the first page! Hope she's got another one in the works.

Oct 22, 2017, 8:09am

>352 Hmm... I traditionally can't do audiobooks, but maybe that would be worth a try because I've had my eye on that one for a while.

It wasn't available on my indie audiobook source ( but it was on

I listen to quite alot of audio, because to be honest it powers me through really boring housecleaning tasks. At this point I'm positive I would never clean house without something to listen to getting me through the tedium of it. And your description of cleaning out your basement and attic? That is totally the kind of thing I use audiobooks to get me through.

In this case, though, I went looking because you know how idiosyncratic the relationship can be between how something is spelled, and how it is pronounced in English. Case in point -- the narrator says "Gaelic" the way I would say "Gallic." Have I been saying it wrong all my life?

Still, even without the audio, Landmarks is a mesmerizing read. Lots of ruminating about the link between language and our experience of the land. Our inclination to name things and our ability to see them, or make them real, significant in our understanding of the world we are in. I love that kind of thing.

Also, there is a great "Selected Bibliography" at the end. I really like it when writers provide selected bibliographies -- not that I don't appreciate a full and complete bibliography in a book for the documentation it provides of the scholar's journey, but I see "Selected Bibliography" and it translates in my head as "Suggested Further Reading" -- a phrase I have never been able to resist since I first picked up a book.

Oct 22, 2017, 8:52am

Heh yeah, I was wondering how I would get through those respective tasks without the aid of an old-fashioned boom box—i couldn't do that much grunt work with headphones or earbuds on—but I managed. I do like podcasts for a lot of things but books, either fiction or nonfiction, are too complex for me to follow to my liking in audio format. I tend to be a rereader—of sentences, of paragraphs—if I think I've glossed over something, and for me that doesn't work well with audiobooks. Maybe because I've only ever tried them while driving, when I need to have half a brain out for what I'm doing and tend to lose minutes at a time thinking about something else silly like traffic or directions. Maybe I'll give them a shot this winter when I have snow to shovel, a task that was probably made for audioooks if ever there was one. Anyway, that book's been on my radar for a while.

I do have this lovely little book from MIT press that looks like a similar kind of meditation, this one with less of a British focus, I think: What is Landscape? by John R. Stilgoe (great name for an author writing about meandering). Readerville Daniel sent it to me a while back and I was thinking it would be a great book to read during the snowbound winter (gee, can you guess what I'm thinking about right now?) I may recommend it to you when I'm done.

Oct 22, 2017, 11:33am

>355 I tend to be a rereader—of sentences, of paragraphs—if I think I've glossed over something, and for me that doesn't work well with audiobooks.

It's not unusual for me to listen to a book and if I really like it to then find a print copy to read. Audio is how I test drive books, I think.

Editado: Oct 22, 2017, 7:46pm

I have a hard time concentrating on audiobooks. After a while, my own thoughts relegate the audiobook to background noise. I might try again with lighter subject matter or a mystery.

Oct 22, 2017, 9:31pm

Im the exact same way. Even if I am driving, my thoughts are always jumping away from what I am supposed to be listening to, which is also why I don't listen to too many podcasts (The Moth podcast an exception, but usually I just park the car and listen).

Oct 23, 2017, 6:47am

That's the other reason I don't do audiobooks—I have no hookup for an iPhone in my car, and my long weekend drives are my only downtime for longform listening (my work commute is for regular reading). I really like podcasts whenever I'm able to do a long morning walk, but they're fairly self-contained and fit the +/-45-minute time frame.

I finished Samantha Hunt's The Dark Dark, which was neither the best nor worst collection I've read—short stories of both the quietly quirky and the not-so-quietly-quirky variety, and—yes—dark, but not in the obvious ways. Many are sometimes prosaic and sometimes fantastical takes on the impulse toward self-obliteration and the reasons why, which I thought was an interesting thread to run through a collection. Also the choice to twin the first and last stories, the second an alternate version of the first that gets more and more recursive as it goes. The one I loved best, which was also the least fantastic of the ten, was the knockout "A Love Story," which struck all the right notes:
"The uncertain position we all maintain in life asking when will violence strike, when will devastation occur, leaves us looking like the hapless swimmers at the beginning of each Jaws movie. Innocent, tender, and delicious. Our legs tread water, buoyed by all that is right and good and deserved in this world, a house, healthy children, clean food to eat, love. While that animatronic shark, a beast without mercy, catches the scent of blood and locks in on his target."

Oct 23, 2017, 11:27am

About 2/3 through My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Ok, almost every recommendation I've seen for this series is from people who loved the first one so much they immediately read all the following books (I believe there are 4 total?). I'm enjoying this book, and I'm sure I'd like it even better if I could concentrate a bit better and weren't so stressed about my stupid job that all I want to do when I get home is veg out. But I feel like, once again, I'm missing something. Maybe I'll feel the same way when I read the rest of the book.

Just had our book club meeting for The Sympathizer. Everyone really loved his writing, and they liked the book, but didn't love it. So, like 3.5-4 stars (out of 5) from everyone, I guess. Really made us all realize we need to watch that Ken Burns Vietnam series going on right now. If we want to be upset and sad and appalled, apparently!

Oct 24, 2017, 10:55am

Julie, the documentary will do all those things.

I finished A Discovery of Witches and though I never quite got over my aversion to the controlling wealthy vampire, I did enjoy myself. I didn't realize this was book 1 of a trilogy and so the story doesn't really end, it just concludes until next time. Not in a hurry to read the next book.

Digging harder into Nothing to Envy and reading an obscure HG Wells novel with a chronically depressed Wells-collecting friend. Someday, I'll write an essay about bibliotherapy and Wells and friendship - we've been doing this for four years and it's one of the most unique reading experiences I've ever had.

Editado: Oct 24, 2017, 3:32pm

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng turned out to be a good book club pick and everyone had a different opinion about it. There’s this really staid, conservative mom character who’s kind of pitted against this artsy wild-child mom named Mia and I think a lot of a reader’s sympathies (and empathy) will depend on where you see yourself on that spectrum.

I have so many books I need to read but an old mystery The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout was offered for free for Kindle and I just started reading it and am having so much fun. I love the writing style and all the mysteries from that era and forgot how witty they could be.

Edit to add - I was only able to see the Touchtones on the right once I posted and then went to edit. Is there a way to see the book links on Touchstones before that?

Oct 24, 2017, 3:34pm

"The uncertain position we all maintain in life asking when will violence strike, when will devastation occur, leaves us looking like the hapless swimmers at the beginning of each Jaws movie. Innocent, tender, and delicious. Our legs tread water, buoyed by all that is right and good and deserved in this world, a house, healthy children, clean food to eat, love. While that animatronic shark, a beast without mercy, catches the scent of blood and locks in on his target."

I just love that.

Oct 24, 2017, 4:20pm

Random. It's all just so random.

Oct 24, 2017, 4:41pm

It really fucking well is.

Editado: Oct 27, 2017, 6:51am

I finally got a new library hold in so I could finish The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I stand by my original assessment. Great writing, really vivid (sometimes uncomfortably so), and I like what she set out to do with the sprawling character pieces tied into the complex politics. And it did come together at the end in a way that was pretty satisfying. But it was still just a bit too sprawling for me—I think a little tighter would have served the story well. Still, a challenging job nicely done.

Now reading Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing, which is getting a ton of positive press right now and, in fact, is very good (so far).

>362 lisapeet: Lynn, I can see the touchstones just to the right of this typing window as I'm writing a post, but I'm on a regular desktop/laptop. I'm not sure what the phone/tablet interface looks like but I'll check later.

Oct 27, 2017, 8:31am

>366 The sprawl is one of the things I liked about the book -- the loose central thread of a story that we see in flashes from the many different people who are touched by it, but see only through the lens of their own dramas. I'm kind of a fan of the "outsider point of view" -- the perspective of the person whose view is limited, whose interpretations are always proscribed or informed by the different sense of context they bring along.

I thought Sing, Unburied, Sing was an amazing book. In fact, I spent quite a lot of time trying to pin down why I thought it was so good, as compared to, oh, say, Wiley Cash, or Lalita Tademy -- both great storytellers, both can string a yarn and set a scene, but they don't leave me shaking inside. Ward does, and I can only say that she gets inside her characters -- forces the reader inside her characters -- like very few writers I've ever encountered. I know it sounds a little crazy, but the power of Ward's internal landscapes to illuminate the external ones -- it made me think of Virginia Woolf. Not because of the style or the perspective, obviously, but because of the force of her characters' interior lives.

Jesmyn Ward was at the SIBA conference in New Orleans, but alas I think she gets stage fright in front of large crowds. She's great one on one or in a small room of people, but at the podium in front of a ballroom filled with people she kept her head down and read her remarks. I spent so much effort listening for something spontaneous that I didn't really register what she was reading out.

Oct 27, 2017, 1:31pm

I finished Nothing to Envy this morning and it really is as good as everyone's been saying. It's 10 years away from what is happening right now in S Korea but if you want a quick readable rundown of how we got here, this is a good one. I thought following the individuals lives was very effective - and without being an overly dramatic or cliff-hanger writer, I gasped and wept my way through the last third of the book.

I have an easy weekend read in my bag Elegance and lots of old New Yorkers.

Oct 29, 2017, 11:44am

I'm into The Heart's Invisible Furies now -- a novel about a young man growing up gay in Ireland before and as the Roman Catholic Church starts to lose its stranglehold on the society. It reads very smoothly, and is a weird combination of deeply furious and deeply compassionate. The events in the novel feel a little contrived, but I'm only halfway through, so my opinion may change.

There is a lot of heartbreak in this book.

Editado: Oct 31, 2017, 12:31am

Received an ARC of The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Only about 100pp in, and formerly closeted Simon's (youngest son) early years in San Francisco as a club dancer put all my other open reads on hold. This might be that super rare book that actually lives up to its hype.

BTW, this is a very pretty cover unappreciated by the online pics. When you tilt the book this way or that tiny, solid gold circles flicker on that black background in between the branches.

Oct 31, 2017, 12:28am

Told you, it’s going down as one of my favorite reads of the year.

Editado: Oct 31, 2017, 12:33am

That's why I splurged on an ARC, Lynn.

Oct 31, 2017, 9:02am

I ended up really liking The Alps: A Human History from Hannibal to Heidi and Beyond; O'Shea is a less-cranky Bryson, though also somewhat less insightful. It's a very this happened and then I drove here and this happened and then I drove here and this happened kind of book.

BUT OHMYGOD it needs maps. It has ONE, and 9/10 of the places he visits aren't on it -- for a book so obsessed with mountain passes (you learn the history of each, right down to what seems like a complete list of everyone who ever traveled through each one), why are none of them marked on the map so you can try to make sense of what those passes CONNECT that made them so important?

So have an atlas ready; other than that, it's a fun book.

Now: In a Lonely Place

Oct 31, 2017, 11:26am

I just read that this year and LOVED it.

Oct 31, 2017, 8:24pm

>373 Ok thats a click. And thanks for a heads up. Have a very good atlas but yeah, a travel book without maps just makes no sense.

Editado: Nov 1, 2017, 7:24pm

Is it Lisa who works at Library journal? Congrats on your asst editor getting chosen for the jury of the story prize. The fact that they only get to read the final three is a little weird,but hey I would jump at it.

Editado: Nov 1, 2017, 10:00pm

That's me, and yes, that's my friend Stephanie, who's an editor at LJ Reviews—I saw the announcement on Monday and went running over her desk to jump up and down. She's fabulous and smart, and I can't wait to see which books they pick.

She said she'd nominate me next year, though I can't imagine they'll pick two LJ editors in a row (and I'm in news, not reviews). But I'm very excited for her—thanks!

Editado: Nov 1, 2017, 11:25pm

Did you know Larry Dark was on Readerville for a while,in the beginning? Just the nicest man and of course the biggest advocate for the short fiction form. The man is a saint and deserves a huge award himself. I have written to him on several occasions about the award and he always responds super promptly. I love the award and what he is doing although sometimes his choices really baffle me.
Is your colleague a big short fiction follower? It’s my favourite genre,just the perfect form. Deborah Willis who was long-listed for the giller has a sensational new collection out called darkness and other love stories Just incredible stuff. Based on the critical reception I imagine Jeffrey eugenedes has a good chance of being nominated this year,and maybe Motessha (sp?)

Nov 2, 2017, 6:29am

I did know that about Larry—that's how I know him, and The Story Prize was one of the first events I ever covered as a Readerville stringer. I've gone to almost every one since 2009, I think. Larry's a great guy, both in terms of what he's doing for the lifecycle of short story collections and just in general, really nice.

Stephanie's a fan of fiction in all forms, but definitely short stories too. And as Reviews editor she sees a LOT come over the transom, so she should have a good wide-angle view of the field.

One thing I like about this prize is that it doesn't always go to the "big" collections. So it could be Eugenides or Mosfegh or someone neither of us has ever heard of. I try to read all three finalists every year—it's a great prize if you're a completist, since it's never too hard to read all three between when they're announced and the event in March.

Nov 2, 2017, 7:33am

I finished Sing, Unburied, Sing and I absolutely agree with Nicki—it is way to Ward's credit how thoroughly she occupies her characters through their voices. It's a delicate bit of business combining vernacular with poetic, precise language, and an author has to pull it off really well for a reader to buy in. I think she did that admirably. It got a bit ghost-heavy toward the end, but I take her point. If the comparison to Lincoln in the Bardo is a bit easy, it still covers how I feel about the author's need to bring in the voices he or she wants by any means necessary.

Now reading John McPhee's Draft No. 4. I really dig good books on craft, and I love McPhee—no matter how arcane his subjects are, his writing is so good. Plus he came and talked to my 6th-grade English class about writing, so I blame him for my entire livelihood. It's good stuff, and I'm happy to just go with his flow:
“It doesn’t matter that something you’ve done before worked out well. Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you.”

There are many, many days when I need to remember that one.

Nov 2, 2017, 7:36am

Well! In a Lonely Place is just the PERFECT going-into-Fall read, though it's probably important to finish up before any enforced merriment is required. I hope I get invited to a holiday party where someone asks me what I've been reading and when I tell them ALL ABOUT THIS BOOK, we'll see how long it takes the party to break up.

Nov 2, 2017, 10:07am

>380 It's a delicate bit of business combining vernacular with poetic, precise language, and an author has to pull it off really well for a reader to buy in.

In her talk at when she accepted the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction, one thing Kim Wright said about Southern writing and Southern language is that you have to remember the King James Bible is the vernacular. That everyone is sort of steeped in it.

Editado: Nov 2, 2017, 4:45pm

Ok Lisa,you were my American Idol before when I learned you write for Library Journal which I love, but now you tell us you get to go to the story prize every year and that you were this close to John McPhee when that so young. Ok so you live the perfect life right? Lucky you..I totally agree about the final cut for the story prize,always a huge surprise what Larry pulls out of his hat and I love even more the notable list,just incredible stuff.

Nov 2, 2017, 4:49pm

Has anyone read this year’s Bass? I started it and was completely blown away by all of the stories. Had to return it to the library but putting a hold on it because I found it to be very very good.

My favourirpte Rville comment was when we were discussing the Bass and someone wrote,the most exciting part for me is finally seeing what colour the latest volume happens to be.

Nov 2, 2017, 5:25pm

Damn you, DG, CLICK.

Editado: Nov 2, 2017, 5:35pm

>382 lisapeet: Interesting... I picked up some of the biblical allusions (not being particularly steeped in the KJB myself) but hadn't thought of it in terms of tradition. But that makes sense. Still, it sounded right to this lifelong northerner's ears, so that's something.

>383 Oh man, FAR from a perfect life, in that there is sad and dark shit like anyone else's. But it's a good life, and I love what I do (even though I work like a dog) (which isn't a very good metaphor anymore, is it? my dog sleeps all day on her soft bed and gets lots of treats). Larry I know thanks to Karen Templar of Readerville—she made the introduction. And John McPhee is through no talent of my own, just having grown up in the same university town where he taught... I guess we can thank my parents for that one. But I will say he made a huge impression on me when I was 12.

I haven't seen this year's BASS... I don't even know what color it is! Waiting for someone at work to toss a galley, or for Amazon to put it up on their one-day $1.99 Best American sale. Or, if all else fails, the library will have it soon enough.

Nov 2, 2017, 6:19pm

And you have raccoons in your basement! It ain't all champagne and caviar!

Nov 2, 2017, 7:36pm

This year’s Bass is blue. They really went to town when the cover was black.

Nov 2, 2017, 7:42pm

And you have raccoons in your basement! It ain't all champagne and caviar!

And if it is, the fucking raccoons are eating all the caviar and washing their little hands in the champagne.

Nov 3, 2017, 3:42pm

In a Lonely Place was re-published a few times since the first but, interestingly, in the 1970s by the Feminst Press. Cool.

Nov 5, 2017, 12:46pm

That's the version I had, Nancy and it has a great forward and afterword.

I sent my copy to LuAnn.

Nov 5, 2017, 10:00pm

Just finished The Bear and the Nightingale; The writing is excellent; towards the middle things start falling apart and then they pick up again. Turned out to be a really good read. Sequel coming this month!

Nov 6, 2017, 11:27am

A new thread has started -- see What Are You Reading 3.

I hit the "jump to the bottom" arrow far too many times before I realized that it was a brand new thread and there were only 4 posts . . .

Editado: Nov 7, 2017, 5:16am

I have the group page bookmarked and got into the habit of only clicking the middle column "Unread" of starred topics. That initial click takes me to the last unread message in that topic, but following links in messages and/or going back and forth between topics was a drag in long threads. Is that new, Miriam? I don't remember seeing that when Nikki moved us to #2. If y'all are more comfortable with the longer threads, I'm sure we could get TPTB to combine/delete.

Does anyone know what happens when the "Continue This Topic in Another Topic" link underneath this "Add a Message" field is clicked?

Nov 7, 2017, 8:27am

>394 The "Continue this topic in another topic" link creates a new (blank) topic you can name whatever you like, but it will be linked to the previous thread at the top. It's been a feature in LT's talk for years -- it was put in place because LT does not paginate its talk threads, and very long threads create slow load times for people. So it is a kind of workaround for pagination.

Nov 8, 2017, 9:45am

No, I was asking if the "Jump to Bottom" link was new. I've been aware of the "Continue this topic" link for a while but didn't understand its use. So, basically, we should use the latter when carrying over an unwieldy thread rather than use the "Create a New Topic" link? Thanks for the info, Niki.

Nov 8, 2017, 10:36am

"Jump to first unread" has also been around for a long time. I'm not sure what it does if there are no unread posts in the topic, though.

Editado: Nov 8, 2017, 10:50am


EDIT: ack, sorry, misread.

EDIT 2: Wait, what "jump to first unread", there's only "jump to the bottom" on top of the threads? The latter takes you to the bottom every time, regardless of read/unread status.

Nov 8, 2017, 11:05am

Here's what I see when I have unread messages in a thread. If there are no unread messages, it changes to "Jump to bottom"

Nov 8, 2017, 11:07am


Yes, just remembered. So that's the answer--when there are no unread, you can jump to the last message.

Editado: Nov 8, 2017, 11:37am

Ignore. I posted in the wrong thread.