The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5
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I just read Iris Murdoch's Under the Net. I've heard this called her best book, but this is only my second of hers and I liked The Sea, The Sea a bit better. I've also heard it described as her most philosophical book, and again I don't have enough to go on—nor do I have much of a grounding in philosophy—but I can at least see where that idea comes from. The book struck me as a kind of self-consciously intellectual overlay to a comedy of manners that has an overlying conceit of being not intellectual and not quite a comedy either, but of course it's very much both. Not to mention a huge nonsexual same-sex love story (the actual love interests were much more flimsy). And while I don't think there's such a thing as free indirect first-person speech, where the narrator is at the same time floating a little above his own head, if there were this would be it. There's always the feeling that Murdoch knows a lot more than she's letting on to the reader… which of course authors are supposed to, but the sense of it isn't usually quite so pervasive. Anyway, it was entertaining and oddly-paced enough to keep my attention. And there's a great dognapping scene that was worth the price of admission (not to mention a great dog).
Now I'm reading a super compelling poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, by Natalie Díaz. Good stuff, a lot of it knockout worthy so far.
Now reading bowlaway. Funny that both McCraken and her husband Edward Carey had books out this year after a long hiatus., Loved his, and so far loving hers!
Nicki (and anyone else who'd like to chime in), what books about trees could you recommend? I know you loved The Overstory, and I thought I remembered you mentioning a couple of others while you were raving about that one. But I can't seem to find them. I have a friend who declared herself a "tree nerd," so I offered to let her know of some good tree books that I'd seen recommended. Do you have any? Thanks in advance!
I finished Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man, one of the collections I was reading last fall for LJ's Best Books 2018 award, and one of the books I was hottest to read all the way through. It's a super strong debut. Brinkley digs into the inner lives of urban men and boys of color in wonderfully nuanced, intelligent stories that deal with some big themes—masculinity, racism, class, anger, disappointment, fathers and sons, aging, the male gaze—without ever getting heavy handed. His characters are complex, often thorny, and always striving toward honesty with themselves—if not always with one another. These deep dives into hearts and minds are warm and emotionally astute, the city settings vivid, and the writing beautiful. Each one of the nine is a standout, but damn I loved “J’ouvert, 1996."
Now finishing up Deborah Eisenberg's Your Duck Is My Duck.
Chase had another, Bonneville Blue, which was stories. Also lovely -- I just looked her up; she died last April. Those were her only books.
So, are we doing that Eve Babitz readalong? I have Slow Days, Fast Company and I started it the other day, and I'm loving it! Almost bought the Babitz bio yesterday, but it was a bit expensive for something that had such huge spacing between lines of text (200 pages, but probably 85 pages worth of text), so I'll wait until I can get it cheaper or at the library.
Now reading During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, which is all the fault of you book enablers.
The only Babitz I have is Eve's Hollywood, but I'm happy to read that as part of the read-along.
And if it makes me feel like dying, I will go back to Eve Babitz or Sarah Perry, because I have been enjoying both of those, alongside my heavy metal magazines.
I read a wretched YA novel by Meg Wolitzer Belzhar that was just wrong in every way and am happy now with a jolly mystery by Patricia Wentworth Spotlight.
During the Reign of the Queen of Persia was, yes, fabulous—thank all you good folks for that recommendation. I love a book where the writing is so strong it bleeds over into the day-to-day personal narrative in your head and makes it that much more vibrant and beautiful, and this book did just that. Really, really lovely. Beautiful images of the natural world and great, spiky, complex characterizations of the people.
Now, against my better judgment, I'm reading the 900+-page Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Gayla raved about it on Goodreads and I figured I'd give it the 25 page test to see if I really want to invest in something that ponderously huge. I have no idea where 25 pages is, though, since it's an ebook, but I read the intro and the first chapter and they're really engaging, so I'll go ahead. I have more air travel ahead of me this weekend, so that might be just the thing.
Wasn't the Joan Chase fabulous? I don't know how it slipped past me all those years ago but I'm sure glad I read it now. The writing was just exquisite. I know what you mean too about how it adds an extra level of vibrancy to whatever is happening around you. And those aunts!
I am happy with my cozy mystery Spotlight.
A particular favorite is “Abroad,” about two horribly clueless and entitled would-be artists encountering picturesque “peasants” in Spain in the 1950s. Another is “License to Kill,” about a young woman taking an old lady grocery shopping who gradually reveals her past as a deadly spy (she only strangled a man to death just that *one* time) as they stroll through the aisles. There’s also a ghost story that doesn’t reveal itself as such until, well, I won’t spoil it. She does a lot of very effortlessly clever things with time and memory and POV. Lovely little jewel box of a book.
And speaking of biographies, did y'all know that Georgia O'Keeffe had a sister who painted a lot like she did? I didn't, but the LJ art editor gave me Ida O'Keeffe: Escaping Georgia's Shadow to review, so I guess I'll find out more. Now if I could only wrangle a trip to Dallas to see her show, too...
I really enjoy historical fiction if the writing is good and the intent is honest. I think Paula McLain does it well, as do Ellen Feldman and Nancy Horan. I've loved so many of their books.
I have a few good things to say about biographies, too, but I'm very sleepy and so will save it for later.
Only peripherally, and only because when my folks were here in early January, we took a trip to see an exhibit at the NC Art Museum in Raleigh called "Okeeffe: The Beyond" which is kind of about how her work has influenced other artists. It was pretty fascinating to see what other artists took from her, and how it ...transformed? infected? evolved? in their own work. One of the things I remember most vividly about the exhibit was some of Okeefe's still lifes, and how she was constantly stripping away surface detail to reveal what was, uh, "really real."
There was a quote of hers above one of those "rock on stump" still lifes in the exhibit -- "Nothing is less real than Realism. Details are confusing. Only by selecting, omitting, and emphasizing do we advance to the true meaning of things."
The exhibit made me entirely re-evaluate my own reaction to Okeeffe, to be honest. And naturally, me being me, I came home and immediately got a copy of a Roxana Robinson's biography of her. Ida is in that biography, briefly. Here's Ida on learning to paint: "Now that I am lost completely in paint and colors the days are all too short. At night I even dream of colors. When I paint am I not in this world at all. It affects me worse than music."
But she doesn't get much time in the book and what time she does get is entirely "in the shadow" and serves mainly to emphasize the genius of her sister.
So I really appreciated being able to meet "Jimson Weed," for example, in person. But it was the still lifes and the landscapes that really got to me. I felt like I was walking in some kind of underlying reality that holds up this one. I hope that doesn't sound too goofy.
It's hard to really see her work separated from all the poorly printed dorm room posters or boxes of tiny notecards and refrigerator magnets etc., especially since it's often so freighted with patronizing blather like being called middlebrow or "this here big pink flower looks like lady parts haw haw haw," and subsumed in her relationship with Stieglitz so seeing a lot of it at full size and at full strength is a good corrective, and then seeing the light do the same things to the same places is kind of a revelation.
Also, there's a fair amount of it in the main SF museum, and seeing it alongside other art--particularly other regional artists--puts it in an interesting context.
I read Dawn Tripp's Georgia and thought it was quite good, a little purple at times but it made a decent argument that she lost so much control of her own voice after that relationship with Stieglitz, that it made her hyper conscious of not letting go of her need for control - over her appearance and the content of her work, sometimes to her detriment.
It's a bit like Frida Kahlo - the hype is so enormous and the reproductions so ever present, it's hard to just get back to the work which is so singular and resonant and beautiful.
I also finished the 4th Cormoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling, Lethal White. I like these books a lot, but it's mainly the characters I like. The mysteries are convoluted, there's WAY too much going on, and she puts in everything and the kitchen sink. I guess when you're a billionaire writer, no one edits your books anymore, and you can just put it all in there. So I'm mostly there for Cormoran and Robin and whatever happens to their friendship/relationship/agency.
I also finished a book by a homicide detective, whom you may have seen on tv if you watch stuff like that. He's the Homicide Hunter, Joe Kenda. The book was interesting, because he's not always completely PC about how he feels about criminals, and he doesn't give a toss if you don't like that. He'll admit that sometimes it took all he had not to choke a motherfucker out, even though he deserved it. So his personality came through in his stories, and that was interesting. (And I've never watched his show, actually.)
Currently reading Pig Island still. I'm not even halfway through, and I don't really know where else this story is going to go. The descriptions of Mo Hayder's books have always seemed like my kind of thing, but this is my second try on this one, and it's not really blowing my skirt up. But, still a ways to go. Maybe my skirt will fly away eventually.
So. Lost in Math by Sabine Hossenfelder. I read it. Twice. I understood about one word in five because particle physics is not my forte and this is a book by a mathematician and scientist that questions the assumptions her fellow physicists use to formulate theories ei, that truth is "beautiful." Hence the subtitle, "How beauty leads physics astray" -- "astray" here being into the wilds of string theory and other fantastic and utterly untestable "theories of everything."
It's a good contrarian view if a little complicated to follow for the layperson. There are graphs of neutrino decay rates, energy scales in relation to each other, a graph of how much dark matter is theorized to exist in the universe, screenshots of a geek video game called "Quantum Moves". The graphs are somewhat mitigated by the captions: "Figure 7. The energy content of the universe for people who don't like pe charts".
The author helps the unwary reader to wade through all the math and theory by being extremely down to earth and conversational, and suitably self-deprecating as she is calling into question most of the assumptions theoretical physicists are relying on to be proven by data coming from the Large Haldron Collider. In vain, as it turns out. Evidence for their theories remains non-existent.
So yeah. Had to read it twice. And look stuff up while I was reading. But I think the whole book is worth it for her Come-to-Jesus rant in the last chapter about how easily we are deluded -- even scientists -- by confirmation bias:
If you search the literature for support of your argument, there it is. If you look for a mistake because your result didn't match your expectations, there it is. If you avoid the person asking nagging questions, there it is. Confirmation bias is also the reason we almost always end up preaching to the choir when we lay out the benefits of basic research.
If the book does nothing else, it gives the reader a hefty prod in the direction of thinking skeptically, and with some awareness of the mountain of biases we cart around on our own backs day in and day out that have us believing at least six impossible things before breakfast.
I'm shocked, Nicki. Shocked.
Started rereading The Handmaid's Tale again. I watched the series over the last couple of weeks, and it's so visceral and disturbing that I thought I'd try the book again. This is my 3rd read of this book, and it just doesn't quite pack the punch that the show does. And ohmygod, Serena Joy (from the show) is going to get a healthy appreciation for irony before it kills her!
Got to see him at our indie, just as Hummingbird's daughter was starting to get big. Amazing speaker, and quite the background, very much intertwined with Teresa's
SP, have you tried the NK Jeminison Fifth Season series? I still read SF a bit, but my tolerance for genre tropes is thin, and I almost never read Fantasy (even less tolerance), and I still thought the series was excellent. Super smart and the best kind of world building (no pandering to the reader, serves a purpose, and makes reading interesting).
Still reading Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, and it looks like I won't finish by the time my checkout ends (EOD tomorrow, ten chapters left). I'll see how long I have to wait on hold... this last one took me a couple of months, so I may end up just buying the ebook, though I hate to spend $15 on something I'll probably not read again and--more annoying--can't lend. Although it's packed with REALLY good information, and I may be happy to have it to refer to again at some point.
Julie, it's so good seeing you post about books again.
SP, I can't wait to start The Raven Tower. I bought the Kindle version immediately after reading your post. I've learned when someone here posts passionately about a book, whether it's in line with my tastes or not, it's a sure bet.
I REALLY loved Sally Rooney's Normal People which I had heard so much about on all those British book sites. I think it publishes here in mid April but I decided I couldn't wait and ordered it from England a few weeks ago. It is so well written and has great heart. A relationship between two young people, starting in high school and moving into college, tracing their missteps and fumbling and self doubts and it just felt real all the way through. I loved it.
Then I grabbed something off the shelf, Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop. I didn't recall having read it before, but there were some markings in it (I've had it for so long I suppose I could have read it or I bought it used and forgot that I did). It was really terrific and the best thing about it, for my money, was the ending! And I'm so often disappointed with the ending of books so this was a real treat. I liked it so much I'm thinking of just digging out the other Fitzgeralds I have buried in the back of the shelves. Soooooo good.
I also read my first by Nell Dunn, Poor Cow and that was another winner. Set in 60's London, I guess a sort of female version of the British angry young man, except that she's not really angry. More pragmatic and funny and despondent and liberated in a rather unliberated way. I have the follow-up novel that takes place with the same character twenty years later so may go for that next.
I finally finished Flight Portfolio and got a bit less sour about it as I moved toward the end. It is well researched and really earnest. I think it's a good 50-75 pages too long but it's a cool story. I'm backing off my initial criticisms and though I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend it, I do think it's an interesting subject and worth reading - here's a cool thing though - the youngest member of the network that helped Jewish artists and writers get out of France ended up teaching at my college. I think he was about 17 when he was in Vichy and worked as a courier and messenger . He eventually made it out of Europe himself and worked at the New School and then by the early 60s he was at Bard.
I am currently reading You're on an Airplane which is ok and a little sad and revisiting some of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series which I never ever tire of and often find comfort in. Thinking about what to read next...………...
I've seen so many films about Truman Capote, and read fiction and non-fiction about him, but never read his writing, so now I'm reading The Dogs Bark: Public People and Private Lives. When I first picked it up, I thought I might lose interest pretty quickly, but that's not happening.
Anyway, there's lots of other stuff that is more my usual fare--like a famous 1903 fight between the guy who killed Ford (the guy who killed Jesse James) and a policeman that involved ear biting and clothes being set on fire from a gun firing at close range that roiled over several blocks that the author locates on present-day OKC landmarks, and an account of the city's six-month ordeal in the 1950s of daily multiple sonic booms to test supersonic flight, and of course, a lot about the Land Rush in 1889. And given my daughter's hair-raising tales about spring storms, I'm anticipating and dreading more about the city's famously freakish weather.
Overall, it's a little bit like reading a podcast, but it's quite fun.
Trying to read my book club book (The Story of M) as well as the Wonkette book club book, A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis. All while being depressed and angry and so tired and fat.
And I'm also listening to Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal by Brian Posehn (a comedian, if you're not familiar). So far, I am way more metal than he is, though I haven't been metal for 40 years like he has. I just have way more brutal taste. LOL. But he's certainly more dorky. Or he was when he was young, anyway.
>79 laurenbufferd: Wait what YOU NEVER READ TINKERS? Well shoot, I'm glad you fixed that. I loved that book so much I've been hesitant to read the sequel, Enon. I may just be happy never doing so.
So as predicted, NYPL sucked my e-copy of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom off my iPad with nine chapters left to go. And since I have some other stuff I'm reading for review, I'm holding off buying another copy, and instead put a new hold on the library book so I can torture myself by looking every day to see where I am in the queue (#25 in line for 18 copies, and sadly I know this without even checking my phone). We'll see how long I hold out. The ebook is $15, which is right at that sweet spot between "only $15!" and "$15 for a goddamn ebook!"
As I mentioned a while back, I'm reading this Ida O'Keeffe: Escaping Georgia's Shadow for review, which isn't all that compelling other than the sheer fact of her existence. It's a catalog to accompany an exhibit, essentially, and reads like wall text. Which isn't a terrible thing, but neither is it super fun. But it's interesting to learn about her and the actual text, minus art and footnotes, isn't very long. Then there's also a book I'm supposed to be reviewing on artists' postcards which I can't remember the title of because it's at home--the art book editor here has my number.
And then for Bloom tomorrow I'm interviewing Jim Mustich, who wrote 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die--and who had that marvelous weird little mail order catalog, A Common Reader, which was like an analog Readerville precursor. I've been wanting to write about A Common Reader for a while now, and then when he published this book I figured that would be my opening, and he turned out to be really interested in the project, which made me SO happy. He actually lives up in Westchester so we're having lunch. I met him once about ten years ago--Karen Templer set us up when I was blogging for Readerville--and it'll be fun to catch up, find out more about A Common Reader and this crazy 1,000 Books book, and also just feel like my own projects haven't gotten lost in my day job.
Also finishing up Lauren Groff's Florida, which won The Story Prize a couple of weeks ago and was the only one of the three I hadn't yet finished. Also my least favorite of the three, but hey, that's what makes a horse race. I was secretly rooting for Jamel Brinkley's A Lucky Man.
Also finished Florida, which was good but not knock-my-socks-off good, partly because the tone was so similar throughout—the sort of existential dread of being a woman, a mother, a Floridian, with guest appearances by snakes, hurricanes, and that SOB (apparently) Guy de Maupassant. I will say she does a damn good job writing about mother love for small boys.
Next up, The World Exists to Be Put on a Postcard: Artists' Postcards from 1960 to Now, for review, and I don't know what for actual reading. So much to choose from.
I am reading a lot of Al Anon lit because.. And Laure Ingalls Wilder because it's comforting. I read a crazy book about the Getty Museum and Trust Chasing Aphrodite which would make a great movie if anyone besides me would watch a movie about adults in positions of public trust in the arts behaving poorly. It is so full of bad behavior and mismanagement, it's kind of shocking that the actual looting of antiquities takes second place to the museum directors who swanned about using trust money to jet around the world on private vacations and do favors for their rich friends.
But I have to get back to fiction.
I read The Cook, by Maylis de Kerangal, tr. Sam Taylor. This was a shortie, an atmospheric little translated novel about a young man with a lifelong love of cooking who approaches the profession from a bunch of oblique angles, unsure of where he wants to land. Form follows function here—the book itself flashes in and out of brilliantly illuminated scenes from his life, almost like sights glimpsed from a train window (and in fact the novel opens on a train, so that might not be so fanciful of an analogy). Told from the point of view of an unidentified close friend, it follows Paolo through the places he works, and then owns, during his early career as a cook or chef, and the episodic narration really gets at how intense—both wonderful and awful—working in a kitchen is at any level. Great food descriptions, too. Not sure how long de Kerangal could have sustained the story past the novella stage, but it works the way it is: a tasting menu, a series of amuse-bouches, rather than a heavy meal.
Now back to Frederick Douglass, since my library hold came back in.
I started reading Dominic Smith's The Electric Hotel. I really really loved The Last Painting of Sarah de Vos. Some historical fiction is so formulaic and so twee, but I found his work totally engaging.
That's The Electric Hotel, yeah? I have that one... it looked good, and loved The Last Painting. Lemme know what you think.
You won't read any of that in the blurbs! One of which is by bestselling author and grifter AJ Finn.
But, in response to the message before, I'm curious about the meanness of the descriptions of women especially given that the author is female. That would be an interesting discussion in general. How much true disparagement of women is contained in classic literature authored by women? This could be a much-studied thing in academia, but it just occurred to me.
I'm reading Educated which is truly horrifying.
But I wondered occasionally if this was going to be a James Frey thing and turn out to be completely untrue. Did anyone else feel this way?
I finally finished Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom thanks to a second library checkout and some recent time on a plane. And it was absolutely worth those 912 pages for the comprehensive overview not only of Douglass's fascinating life but of the period and the very fraught courses of abolition and reconstruction (both of which are commonly defined to sound like contained processes, and both of which were anything but). Blight paints a thorough picture of the politics of the day—not simple, to say the least, but really worth taking the complex, deep dive. I'd venture to say that there's really no way to drive home the nationwide (and beyond) horror of slavery and the multiple ways it was embedded in the culture, economy, and political and personal life of the day without going into that kind of depth, and even if Blight waxed a little purple here and there, it was overall a very nuanced, empirical examination of a hugely knotty movement. I came out of this enormously well informed about so many facets of abolition—just the factions within the Abolitionist movement alone were eye-opening—and I highly recommend this. Plus for once I'm right on the literary prize trend—this just won a Pulitzer and a Bancroft (and a Christopher) prize.
nb: I would very much like to see someone take on a biographical novel about his German friend/supporter/colleague/(OK, let's just say it) groupie Ottilie Assing—what a fabulous character, ripe for some good fictionalizing.
Now reading Pretend I'm Dead, which is an odd, prickly book... a bit too sharp-edged to be misery porn, though it flirts with the concept. Also Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage, which is a marvelous graphic history, totally beguiling.
And didn't that Frederick Douglass book just win the Pulitzer?
The whole book made me a bit nervous, to be honest.
I am reading On Earth We're briefly gorgeous - it took me two tries to get into it but I'm hooked now.
The narrator, Mona, is somewhat of an aimless hot mess in her early 20s, cleaning houses, taking photographs, collecting odds and ends (both human and inanimate), staying home alone a lot, and musing at length on everything that crosses her path, But she's not really a mope so much as dry and prickly, even as regards her neglected, abusive childhood. Beagin's decision to stick to the third person is a good one, I think, taking the sharpest edge of indulgence away from Mona's voice. But what kept me along for the ride was the fact that you never had any idea where it was going at any given moment—a refreshing place to be as a reader. Also, I'm always interested in personal takes on housecleaning, fictional or non-, and Mona's engagement with what she did was all about the act of cleaning itself, rather than any class or societal implications—so, obviously fictional, but kind of intriguing nonetheless.
This read more like something I would have been into in my 20s, a disaffected Denis-Johnsonish type narrative, but young and female, and in parts I found myself annoyed by its haplessness. But overall the novel was just so weird that it stayed in my good graces. Even the format—four extremely loosely linked long chapters—made sense as a way to narrate a clearly very episodic life. I have the sequel and will definitely give it a whirl as well.
I've just started a forthcoming book, James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America... two things I really don't like there! (That would be Trump and television—I'm fine on America, at least in theory.) I'm doing another panel like I did last May, interviewing authors for Library Journal's Day of Dialog event, and this year the books are all current event/hard news themed. And regardless of the TV/Trump subject, the book is so far very interesting.
Turning their attention again to a notable naturalist in Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage (Nobrow), French author Fabien Groleau and illustrator Jérémie Royer (Audubon, On the Wings of the World) tell the story of Charles Darwin’s first expedition in graphic format. Highly eye-pleasing, accessible artwork and engaging writing bring to life Darwin’s five-year journey aboard the H.M.S. Beagle and the discoveries that would eventually drive his theory of evolution, focusing on the young man’s development as a naturalist. This retelling stays close to Darwin’s experience, with narrative drawn from his journals; a notable thread throughout is his horror of slavery, shown without glossing over his Victorian dismay at the lives of “savages.”In other words, it's not comprehensive, but it's a really fun piece of Darwiniana. I'd say great for middle grades to adult, and if someone's not familiar with Darwin's life it would be a great intro. But even if you're steeped in the man's history, it's gorgeous and fun to read.
Groleau and Royer take full advantage of all the storytelling techniques in their graphic toolbox, letting the reader share Darwin’s wonder and delight through skilfully cinematic treatment: wide pans of lush land- and seascapes share spreads with closeups of birds and butterflies; flashbacks and shifts in narrative viewpoint through inventive layouts give this chapter in Darwin’s history a novelistic feel.
Anyway! I'm now reading Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer and it's flat-out beautiful.
I think he has a story to tell, I just don't think this tells it.
I read The Victory Garden which was awful.
I am reading Less which made me laugh aloud and that's good.
Reading is working for me again. Kind of a surprise, actually, and also a relief. I prefer it to TV and mindless iPhone games, so I'm going with it.
I read a bunch before this, but I just finished Hild, which despite Griffiths fictional additions and a really unbelievable (frustrating?) ending I was stupidly happy reading.
Now I'm well into Overstory which is super fabulous. Bruce is being a sport about all the tree facts I insist on sharing. Like, did you know that each kind of fiscus has its own kind of wasp to pollinate it?
Because I have a fig tree in my yard, I actually did know this. In fact, the pollination cycle of a fig is so weirdly specific it beggars belief. You can't read about it without thinking "this is what evolution came up with as a successful strategy?"
Next up is probably Beartown for my book club. Finally someone picked something that's not a dystopia or terrible horror novel. I really ought to start Theory of Bastards, since Kat recommended it a while back (and we all bought it, apparently) and it just won a Philip K. Dick award.
But right now I'm on a nonfiction roll for a current events nonfiction author panel I'm moderating at the end of the month. I just finished James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America, which was interesting for me because, in addition to looking at how Trump's career and political ascendance is interwoven with the ways that television has changed and also influenced American culture, it's also a sociological overview of TV itself. I haven't read much of that kind of thing, so I can't tell if it's going over old ground, but I found it absorbing—particularly as someone who stopped watching television regularly in the late '70s, other than a run of The Sopranos in its last few seasons. At the same time I knew OF everything he mentioned—living proof of the fact that even if you don't watch the stuff, it creeps into your general cultural consciousness—and it was neat to see it all put together in a timeline and appraised as a thing. I'm guessing if you're a Cultural Studies person this might be old hat, but I'm not so it was an interesting read. And it made me dislike Trump even more, which I didn't think was even possible.
Now reading Dina Nayeri's The Ungrateful Refugee. At least long drawn out delayed flights and missed connections and emergency overnight hotel stays are good for something.
I'm just finishing up The Ungrateful Refugee, am about halfway through Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America, by Karine Jean Pierre, and should start Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another--these are all for this panel that I'm moderating at the end of the month for LJ. After that, I will probably read a bunch of fiction that has nothing to do with Donald Trump or the incredibly shitty ways immigrants are treated in most of the world.
Finished Dina Nayeri's The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You. And interesting blend of memoir, narrative, and rhetoric, this takes a hard look at the experience of refugees and the mythology around immigration. There are a lot of tools in Nayeri's toolbox here, and she makes use of them well. It's a little rough around the edges in parts, but this is also an early galley so I imagine there will be more editing before it pubs. And when she gets impassioned she really gets the job done beautifully.
Now reading Moving Forward, by Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief public affairs officer for moveon.org—doesn't even have a touchstone here yet. She says this is aimed at younger folks who may be considering a career in politics, but I'm enjoying it a lot. Her personality really shines through, and I'm looking forward to doing this panel with her on it.
Also just finishing up Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted which I enjoyed quite a lot.
I also just finished Afternoon of a Faun by James Lasdun. He's the kind of guy I usually love to hate, but I loved this book about a quasi-celebrity guy who's quasi-celebrity friend has been accused of sexual assault in the autobiography of a women the friend hasn't seen in forty years. He does a good job about all the conflict he said/she said, etc., but the ending was perfect and I think the author gets it. I loved this also.
I also started reading No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder. Exceptional journalistic writing, but I'll be reading it in pieces in between fiction. It's a lot to handle, but she handles it well.
The panel itself was a lot of fun. I love doing these author things, and my four panelists were excellent—right on the money with good answers to all my questions, and I think the audience enjoyed it. My new favorite person in the world is Karine Jean-Pierre, who is just insanely personable and nice.
Also finished Jen Beagin's Vacuum in the Dark, which is a sequel to Pretend I'm Dead, which I also read. Interesting kind of push-me-pull-you thing going on there, and I imagine Beagin was aiming for a love/hate experience for her readers. The main character is equal parts alienating and relatable, as was the storyline(s) themselves. But I enjoyed it overall. I particularly like the two books' subtext of the ways we (especially women, I think, though it probably crosses gender lines) are defined by our relationship to cleaning. I spend... my god, a HUGE amount of my very limited free time just keeping my house from looking like shit, and I think about the whole time I'm vacuuming/mopping/dusting/putting crap where it goes—the unpaid labor aspect, the class aspect (because if I were more successful I'd have someone "come in" once a month), the woman's work aspect... so I particularly liked the books for their musings on that. (Then again maybe that’s a stealth win, because the time I spend cleaning my house I’m not watching the news.) Plus the cleaning tips, which were kind of awesome.
Now reading Rebecca Solnit's Cinderella Liberator, which I got for my birthday.
Finished Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. I'd heard so many things about it, but I wasn't blown away. For a similar subject matter, I thought The Hate U Give was far superior, though they are told in very, very different ways.
Working on Beartown by Fredrik Backman. I've been wanting to read this (and a couple of his others) for a long time, and my friend picked it for our book club. Once you get into it (and I do think it helps if you're familiar with hockey, or at least what juniors' sports teams are like), it's intense. I've had to put it down because I just can't handle all of it at once. But it's really good so far, and so accurate. It keeps throwing me off to remember that it's set in Sweden, not in the northern US. Stories like this really do happen, and happened at a local high school near me. Just devastating to see how awful people can be just because it suits their own interests.
I'm definitely looking forward to having more time to read, at least for a few weeks (or months) until I get another job. (If you're not on Facebook, I gave notice at my job and my last day is this Friday!) I have stacks of Europa Editions and NYRB Classics and other random paperbacks and remainders and gifts I've been meaning to get to for a long time. Not to mention all the Kindle books and the library! I'm also planning to watch a lot of tv shows, but I'll try to make sure I don't do that to the detriment of my TBR!
Julie, I'm glad you got away from that job—it sounded pretty toxic. Chill out, read some books, and figure out your next steps far away from there.
Cinderella Liberator was super short, a contemporary retelling of the Cinderella story by Solnit—kind of a Stories for Free Children (dating myself here) for the new century. If I had youngsters I would definitely read them this... guess I'll just hold out for grandchildren someday. In the meantime it was fun, though, and I love her use of Arthur Rackham's original—and totally timeless—illustrations.
I am reading the new Obreht Inland.
And good for you, Cindy! Sorry about the shitty year, but sounds like you got out from under (not that you had a choice, I guess).
Thanks for the nice comments. I went down to tucson this weekend to visit with buds, and it was so nice to relax and not worry about Monday (julie, my sympathies; I hae been in that boat. But happyreading!)
Every time I said I was reading this, people would tell me that his last collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, was the real killer, so I'll probably be librarying that one up one of these days. But now for something completely different, and I'm packing Red Clocks for my commute, a donation to my TBR pile and recommendation from Lauren.
(I'll join you in never getting to retire, Julie. But at least you're getting a break!)
I felt very underwhelmed by Inland, it feels like its 100 pages too long and even though the writing is good - very good in some places - the plot is a mess and it's way over researched.
I have like 1000 books to read so I'm just going to pick something off the pile.
Now on to The Wolf and the Watchman, historical thriller that a few LibraryThing folks recommended and that's what I'm in the mood for.
dg, yes I know! Impossible to talk about. Try reviewing it. Rueful emoji face here.
I am reading a Ntozake Shange book called if I can cook/you know god can which is a bit like spending a few afternoon with a nutty but wonderful friend who has a lot of opinions and take wonderful trips and meets incredible people while you just have a boring old life. It's super fun, short, and makes you hungry even though I can't cook or eat most of what's in the book. Its kind of a Black Arts movement cookbook/memoir.
I am also reading a novel that came from one of the wonderful magical shelves at Lisa P's house Fame Gold Citrus about a eco-disaster that turns all of southern California into a RL desert. It's creepy but I like it.
Next up, The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019 100th Anniversary Edition, which I think I'm reviewing for LJ.
Reading Florida the short stories by Lauren Groff.
What a fabulous literary trick to have in one's bag!
Another Collette novel that impressed me is Cheri. Have you read it? Entirely different in effect produced -- brittle writing about brittle people. The subject is what happens in an affair between a "courtesan" of a certain age and her younger lover when his status changes from single to taken. Merciless.
Definitely a later novel.
Unfamiliar with movie you refer to. . .? Also ignorant of "The Good Wife." Another movie?
https://bleeckerstreetmedia.com/colette for movie information
The Wife is a movie based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer. Book is great and movie is a decent adaptation. Anyway both movies tell a simillar tale about creative ownership.
But you're probably more familiar with her than you think -- Gigi is based on a Colette story.
I am reading a total bookballoon book- The Tin Flute by Gabrielle Roy - a gamechanger in the history of Canadian lit, perhaps the first book from the POV of working class urban French Canadians. It reminds me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn except its less coming of age and more slice of life - the young woman who works at the five and dime and supports her fmily, the beleaguered mother and ne'er do well father, her handsome on-again off- again suitor, the boys who are joining up to fight in Europe (it was published in the mid 1940s), all against the backdrop of the St Henri parish with the factories, churches, and poverty, looking up the mountain to the wealthier Scottish and English neighborhoods. It's a gem.
I stumbled across a copy in the cheapie shelves of the local used book store but there are plenty out there and you all need to read it.
I tried reading a Kathy Reichs thriller because it was set in Montreal but it had everything I don't like - animals getting hurt, serial killers, psychosexual hijinks, and pages and pages of forensic stuff. Not for me.
If you haven't watched the documentary about The Voter Suppression Playbook narrated by Jeffrey Wright, Rigged, you really should.
Click click click.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is my personal gold standard coming-of-age story. I think I've read it at least fifty times.
So, if you like quirky characters, odd lifestyles, unexpected behaviors, and novels that take a deep look at the human condition without sacrificing humor, give French Exit a try. The title is a pun in so many ways. . .you may wish to count them!
French Exit - Patrick deWitt
The Library Book - Susan Orlean
Mean - Myriam Gurba
Circe - Madeline Miller
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - John Carreyrou
The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemisin
Heart Berries - Terese Marie Mailhot
Improvement - Joan Silber
Less - Andrew Sean Greer
The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life - David Quammen
Agree, "Exit" seems light on the surface but shows great depth on reflection. Number me among the long-time deWitt fans. Think I read "Brothers" in 2012 or so. Definitely not a John Wayne western!
Thanks for the list! I loved Andrew Sean Greer's sensitive The Story of a Marriage (won't Touchstone correctly). It falls into my category of Little Gem Novel, like Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie. I have Less in my TBR stack. Must get to it!
Circe intrigues me. Read another one-name-female-from-Greek-mythology novel, Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin and really liked it because it was highly imaginative with a weird twist at the end.
I'm reading Lie with Me, which is brief and fevered and it's funny that it has a blurb from Andre Aciman on the cover because the only other book you think of while reading it is Call Me by Your Name. It's translated from French by Molly Ringwald, which isn't at all the joke I was anticipating. It's quite elegant.
>155 DG_Strong: But you're probably more familiar with her than you think -- Gigi is based on a Colette story.
Oh right, I did know that (saw the movie and musical,never read the book) And I found Cheri and Vagabound, so I will try those.
Another fan of French Exit.
Now reading Paradise by Abdul Razak Gurnah based on a recommendation hereabouts. Not sure about it. Lots of characters moving around, lots of description but no real plot. Think it might be more of a coming of age novell
Oh also tried Book of Air and Shadows, started out well, but soon started to get a Dan Brown vibe. Too bad, the premise looked interesting.
Don't think Besson's novel will be read by me. Looked at several comments about it and it doesn't seem in any way original. But that doesn't mean I'm right, it just means I am easily swayed when people use the word "gray" in a book review; I hear polite euphemism for dull. My loss.
"Achilles" has been on my Kindle for years but haven't got around to reading it. Will have to shift my bones and get busy. As a YA, I loved the series of books by Mary Renault on Greek heroes/kings. They fired my imagination and probably inspired me to dip my toe into the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, a mini-hobby that has given me much delight through the years.
To happier and lighter themes, in line with the surface of "Exit," and referencing French authors, may I suggest the Little Gems by Antoine Laurain? His novella, The President's Hat is a superb humorous political satire, using the device of Miterand's chapeau traveling from one temporary owner to another and the strange endowments it confers on them while they possess it. It's a very French story in style and humor. He's also written The Red Notebook (no Touchstone), which I have but haven't read yet.
There's something about the French when it comes to writing succinct biting novels. Which reminds me of something else French! (I could go on and on!!!) Has anyone here seen the film Ridicule? I love it! https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/ridicule-1996
Now reading Mary Gabriel's Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art for my book club. This will be my second 900+ page book this year! But since it's mine, and not a library book (and since I don't think my book club is meeting again until August), I can dawdle a bit and leaven it with a little fiction and catch up on some New Yorkers/NYRBs in between chapters. This is very much up my alley, though, both time period and subject matter. Art ladies! I'm in.
I am reading three books: Jill Ciment’s new one, “The Body in Question,” so far quite good. Adored her “Heroic Measures.” And, Marlantes’ “Deep River.” Also, Alison Light’s “Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury.”
The Tin Flute was everything. What a fine fine novel. Brilliant slice of French-Canadian urban lifei n the 1940s. So glad I tumbled across it. If you can find it, read it.
I am reviewing the new Jaqueline Woodson Red at the Bone so read Brown Girl Dreaming over the weekend. What a perfect book.
I love this idea, of using the letters (in his case) and writing (in hers) to not only explore their lives but their work as well. I know less about Colette so I am eager to learn more (and have couple of her books coming my way) And I like the Fermoor book much more than I liked the bio from a few years ago. I am back to liking the man again.e Anyway so I am alternating between the two this week.
I spent most of the week reading Jacqueline Woodson for an upcoming review I'm doing. The new book felt a bit underbaked and I don't know, over determined - with boxes being ticked off rather than anything being fleshed out. But I thought Another Brooklyn was really great.
Lisa P, have you read these?
I started Smallbone, Deceased and it's just the kind of the light clever slightly tongue-in-cheek British mystery that can make a Saturday afternoon pass by very quickly.
Now I'm on to my next big self-test. After my year of Trollope a few years ago, I'm attempting the 20 volumes in Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle. I'll never finish it, but it's fun to know what my next book SHOULD be for the next five or six years if I'm ever stuck on something else. So today I got a chunk of the way into The Fortune of the Rougons. We'll see how it goes.
A have a few recommendations from the last few months of reading.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow Not 5 star good but close and a really fun read.
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay Cindy if you haven’t read it yet you’ll love it. Same world as Sarantium but you don’t have to have read the other books first.
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp. The description sounds horrible but they are so much fun to read and this guy can WRITE. I’ve never read such New Orlean(y) books before. You don’t have to but best to start with the first book, Gather the Fortunes.
And my favorite book in a long time A Boy, His Dog and the End of the World by Fletcher. Guaranteed thumb’s up for the usual crowd here.
Waiting for the new Russo which should get here by the end of the month.
Read a bunch of other stuff but POOF, can’t remember right now and I haven’t been keeping track like usual.
We're having an ugly heat wave and are all phenomenally uncomfortable—the 22-year-old ACs are not pulling their weight (imagine that), plus we've spent most of it downstairs with Dorrie, who can't even make it up to the nominally air conditioned bedrooms, giving her sponge baths and lots of water with ice cubes in it. Torrential rains plus jury duty tomorrow. Let's just say I'm very cranky, was supposed to get a bunch of work done this weekend (cf jury duty) and didn't because my brain has turned to mush in the heat. What I have been doing is goofing around in You Are a Kitten!, a crazy little hipster choose-your-own-adventure book that Lauren B sent me from Drawn + Quarterly in Montreal. That's about all I had the attention span for yesterday, but it was perfect (and yes, there are kittens in peril—that's the adventure part—but it's over the top and the kitten always bounces back!).
Lauren, I haven't read any Jacqueline Woodson, though she's hugely popular among work folks, and I think may have spoken at an LJ event.
I was on lots of trains and planes this week and read My Ex-Life which was just right and Insidious Intent which did what it was supposed to do but without making me want to read another.
Found anothre Colette book i think lots of you would love creatures great and small, full of all sorts of little conversations her animals have, along with some animal short stories. I found some of it a bit much but loved the stories
Notable stories for me were "Dominion," "The Hare's Mask," "August," and one, "Dog," was so deeply affecting and disturbing—yet beautiful, and really masterful—that it made me sob, and I can't remember the last time a short story did that (Read last fall, and I don't think I can ever read it again, either.) This is a lovely, very adult, body of work.
I also read an interview with Laing in the Paris Review and found that very illuminating.
I read Strange Shores and found it very satisfying.
I was actually thinking of you on my drive down from seeing my mom today because I was listening to Jenny Odell, who wrote How to Do Nothing, on the Longform podcast. Did you read it yet?
I decided I was going to finish up another short fiction collection that I read part of last fall and opened up Lydia Millet's Fight No More to realize that I couldn't remember the first few stories in the book. And since they're linked shorts and I remembered really liking them, I just started over from the beginning. And I'm glad I did, because I'm liking them all over again, with the added benefit of remembering a little of where the collection as a whole is going, with this cast of only semi-likeable characters rendered really humanely. And she doesn't fall into the linked short stories trap of every one of them sounding alike—the writing is good and she makes some interesting choices. So that's what I'm reading now, along with the good-but-bulky Ninth Street Women.
I just started The Best American Essays 2019, for review. Rebecca Solnit edited this batch, so I'm guessing they're going to be more political than human interest, though I know the editors have a mandate to mix it up a bit. The type in this galley is sadly small, so I'm hoping an e-galley shows up before I'm done. But good lighting makes up for inadequate vision for the most part (and maybe this will inspire me to get decent reading glasses—the prescription I currently have is all wrong and only good for writing/drawing). And still reading Ninth Street Women.
I tried and tried to read Murmurs by Will Eaves but it just didn't take. I'm no dummy but I was baffled and aggravated at every turn. Was it beautiful? I don't even know. Disturbing, yes. A dreamy strange convoluted text about Alan Turing. Do sentences have to make sense? was the question I kept asking myself over and over.
It's hard not to dislike a book that you makes you feel lacking.
But Nancy, I am finally reading the Peggy Seeger memoir that you gave me at Christmas (two Christmases ago?) and it's fantastic. She has a wonderful funny engaging style and it's really like going to someone's house and they throw the door open wide because they are so glad to see you and sit you down with a good cup of coffee and start talking. Or bring you from room to room and let you know what they remember. It's awfully fun. First Time Ever
I'm sub djing for someone's show this weekend - an hour of music by women and I'm using the memoir as my jumping off point - Peggy, her mother Ruth Crawford Seeger, her step daughter Kristy Maccoll. It's been super fun to put together.
And I'll put Fight No More on your pile, Lauren.
My library hold of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World came in, so I started that. Still reading Ninth Street Women and Best American Essays 2019—I found a workaround for the teeny tiny type in that one, which is that the essays were all published elsewhere and most are available online. It helps to have subscriptions to the NYer and NYRB, but it's been a big help to read the bulk of them all blown up on my iPad. I'd better get a move on because I have two more books up for review, Zadie Smith's new short story collection Grand Union and something else I'm not familiar with, Driving in Cars with Homeless Men... don't think I'll get much reading done this weekend, though, since I screwed something up at work due to my own stunning incompetence and now have to spend the weekend fixing it so no one finds out. Sigh.
"But the strip of pink satin fastened to Pierre’s buttonhole was not the only splash of red that marked thet triumph of the Rougons. A shoe with a blood-stained heel lay forgotten under the bed in the next room. The candle burning at Monsieur Peirotte’s bedside, on the opposite side of the street, shone in the darkness with the lurid redness of an open wound. And far away, in the depths of the Aire Saint-Mittre, a pool of blood was congealing on a tombstone."
and you just shiver at the promise of the next book.
On NPR their book conceigre had a list of summer books; took the list with me to my local indie last night, since it was teachers appreciation night, 20% off everything. So, came home with
Sharp by Michelle Dean
The Dickens and his Carol
Becoming Dr Seuss
The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books
also had a few others on my list that neither had, so I'll get on ABE
Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper
A Thousand Beginnings and Endings
Good thing I am retired!!!
I think your bullet found its mark. What an ending! Makes it sound like this might have been originally serialized in some Paris newspaper.
This is another book in the genre of "mental disability fiction," which has seen several books make excellent forays into the subject. Just two examples, The Rosie Series (three books) by Graeme Simsion and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
Just opened it, but already captivated by FAS afflicted heroine, Zelda, who is so enamored of Valkyries that she tries to model herself on them, and brother Gert with whom she shares an apartment.
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
Thanks for the title. I'll ck it out.
There are a considerable number of fiction works, especially in the last 5 years or so, that are stories built on people on the autism spectrum. For the most part they are feel-good tales. "Vikings" is interesting because it does not feel (in the first few chapters) like that.
It bodes danger ahead, perhaps even tragedy, but Zelda is inspiring in that she's trying to be the heroine of her own legend that she is trying to create. Perhaps it's darker in mood because the disability in this book is fetal alcohol syndrome. There are moments in the novel that jar me because the author seems to forget his heroine's disability. But my impression could come from my experience of only being familiar with more acute or profound FAS patients than Zelda is supposed to be.
It's interesting to speculate why autism, especially higher functioning same, is such a popular affliction so many authors seem to give their protagonists. Why the sudden fascination, like we saw 10 years ago and until recently, with vampire stories? (An "era in literature I am glad has past!)
P.S. Would it be worthwhile to start a thread on the subject of fiction featuring mental disability? I enjoy thinking and chatting about it but don't want to hijack this thread.
Never heard of that 'genre', tho I have seen plenty of lists showing books with charactres with special needs. Id be interested in the titles you come up with
Not meaning to be a scold, but I'm an editor and those kinds of language issues are things I deal with all day. It really does matter to folks reading along.
a woman who has to live under a stairwell. Maybe I will pick up the book you just finished. I've also wanted to read all of Balzac in order but the first one sounds so boring I don't think I can
do it. I think it's a historical novel and I've tried and well......
If we focus on books thats fine. I remember when I was aware of a character was impiared - Loved the book Heide - she has a friend who is in a wheelchair, who she helps. A boy who is jealous of the attention she gets pushes the wheelchair over a cliff. Without it, Heidi is able to teach her haow to walk. Remember at the time how wonderful that was. As I started working in my profession, reliazed there were some problems with that characterization! Still love the book, but that was eye opening for me and made mme look at other booiks I was reading or considering for my classroom - is it realistic? Does it perpetute stereotypes? Is the character centralo to the plot, or simply a part of another charcters plot, Anyway; lots to think about
Neuro-atypical is useful in some cases. Yet, just as there is physical illness, so is there mental illness not to be confused or conflated with neuro-atypical.
Five years ago I would have snickered at a post like this and filed it under "PC," but in the course of my work I'm seeing how much words and categories mean to people.
Then again there are only like five of us left in this group, so many it doesn't really matter.
Big yes to this, Lisa
In the passage I just read, she and her husband and first child are on a vacation. She is pregnant with their second child. They get to Florence and the husband and daughter go on to the rental flat to get it set up, leaving her in a hotel overnight, to follow after the rental place gets organized. AND she's complaining, unhappy, lonely, wrong time of year, bad weather. I'm like, lady, you are in mother$%^&*ing Italy, get over it.
Close to the end of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, which I'm enjoying a lot.
Also still reading Ninth Street Women (with many breaks), and yesterday I took the day off and hit up an exhibit in Chelsea, "Painters of the East End," that had work from some of the women profiled in the book. Cool show, very small but beautifully chosen and hung. I'd had a date to see the show with friends last Friday and then had a work emergency, so I made it a point to take myself, and saw a few other things around the neighborhood while I was at it, including some excellent, very exuberant large sculptures. It was fun to take even a partial art day... it's been too long since I did that.
Also stoked for The Electric Hotel—it hits a bunch of my pleasure points.
I also liked his earlier book The Last Painting of Sarah De Vos very very much.
>225 lisapeet: lisa I am so jealous that you can live in a place that has everything that you can finishe a book and think of just popping over to a show.....sigh.
>227 cindydavid4: True, though it's a little more complicated than popping over... I had to have the day off of work to make it to the gallery during open hours, and it takes me an hour traveling each way. But yeah, the availability of good culture is one of the things that keeps me in New York. That and a job that wouldn't exist anywhere else.
Today's my housekeeping day, since I ended up working all last weekend. I vacuumed the upstairs, but when I came down to do the rest of the house I found Jeff asleep on the couch. And since he's been working a schedule that's probably more brutal than mine, I figured the decent thing to do would be to let him sleep and finish my book instead... a hardship, but you do such things for the people you love.
Finished up the last few chapters of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, which was every bit as good as folks here have said—a good rollicking dystopian adventure story, fun characters, and great dogs (even the "bad" dog is cool). I could probably have done without the constant little bits of portentous foreshadowing sprinkled through the story, but they eased up as more of the action they pointed to got underway. I'm also really glad to see that people are honoring the author's wishes not to give spoilers—I very much liked being surprised by the plot twists. The ending was satisfying, and has a strong whiff of a sequel, which I will most definitely read.
I also thought the literary references were interesting choices—the sf/fantasy that Griz read wasn't too surprising, but there were also some nods to books that cross between science, literature, and faith. That was well played, I thought.
Now on to an upcoming (out in October) short story collection, Driving in Cars with Homeless Men.
I didn't enjoy "Sara de Vos" as much as it sounds like you both did. I tried to lay out my reasons in this short review.
detested a book as much as this one. I had never heard of it but a group of people in another forum said
it was their favorite of last year. ugh. The whole thing is so manipulative and dull, you feel like you're
in therapy with the main character and you just want to scream, let me out of this f----- nightmare.
I so badly wanted to throw this out the window-there was no point in continuing with it but I still find
it difficult to bail on books. Just a colossal waste of time. And the first half there is so much of this
back-shadowing-yes I suffer from trauma but I'm not going to go into that-I wanted to scream lady
either s--- or get off the pot! A most miserable experience. I think I need some Zola to clear my brain.
I have now apparently gone through enough litters of kittens and homed enough stray cats that I'm considered enough of an expert to be asked to review Kitten Lady's Big Book of Little Kittens for LJ. The author, Hannah Shaw, has an adult book on kitten rescue that just came out, Tiny But Mighty: Kitten Lady's Guide to Saving the Most Vulnerable Felines, and this upcoming one is for the 4-8 set. Really adorable photos, and a sweet overview that doesn't seem to be more than a small kid could deal with. I'm sure lots of little would-be kitten fosters will be driving their parents nuts after reading this, but I'm all for it, and this was a fun book—way, way outside my usually traveled path.
I also have reached that age where I don't feel like I HAVE to read anything. One page of the New Yorker story by Salman Rushdie and I listened to that little voice in my head declaiming SKIP IT. And so I did. Never had the gene for that guy and I never will.
I am reading the 1619 issue of the NYT magazine cover to cover and it is a breathtaking piece of scholarship, politics, economics and arts.
I am also reading Quicksand.
did I mention that the new Zadie Smith Collection Grand Union is excellent. There's a few snoozers or just downright odd ducks, but the stories that are good are so so good. And very very NYC. She does have an effortless breezy way with dialogue.
Glad you liked the new Zadie Smith, because I’ve got that up next.
.Finished Old Baggage Covers pre WII Liked the story of former suffergets who tries to influences the girls in the village in equallity. Apparently this is a sequel and I suspected needed to read it first. Lots of secrets, and lots of lectures The main character does something out of character kinda bothered me and colored how I read the rest.
Started A Thousand Beginnings and Endings a collection of short stories based on folk tales of southeast asia. Love that each author explains how the folk tale influences her take on the story she wrote. Could have used a few pages to explain foreign words, otherwise really loving it.
Next up, I'll be working on The Golem and the Jinni for my book club. I started TV (The Book) and read about half of it in one sitting, so I'll finish that up. And I don't know what else I'll be starting soon, but I love having the free time to choose and not feel pressured about it! Right now, I'm thinking I'll start looking for a job toward the end of the year (not the best time to look, but it'll get me started). I have a bazillion samples on my Kindle, but I'm trying not to buy any books and to read stuff I already have so I can get rid of some of these books.
(Sorry for the lack of links. Most of the books you probably already know about, but if you have any questions about any of them, let me know!)
Jane Gardam (1928 - )
The “Old Filth” Trilogy starting with “Old Filth”
“Queen of the Tambourine”
Nina Bawden (1925 - 2012)
“Afternoon of a Good Woman”
Elizabeth Taylor (1912 - 1975)
“Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”
Mary Wesley (1912 - 2002)
“Jumping the Queue”
“Not that Sort of Girl”
“The Vacillations of Poppy Carew”
“The Chamomile Lawn”
Alice Thomas Ellis (1932 - 2005)
“The Inn at the Edge of the World”
“The Summer House — A Trilogy”
“The Sin Eater”
I just read a great debut short story collection, Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, which I thought was just terrific. Not for everyone though—along with the usual caveat for those of you who don't like short fiction (although the stories are strongly linked), there's a lot of alcohol and drug use, family and relationship dysfunction, and a fair amount of violence. That said, it's really stunning. The book follows four young girls growing up in Boston, jumping around in time from childhood to young adulthood. They all hail from situations that now would be politely termed "underserved," but these girls are definitely underserved by the world at large, their families (which is to say mothers, as fathers are hardly in the picture)—everyone but each other, and they love each other fiercely while being unable to actually help each other in any way. I know "incandescent" is totally overused in reviews, but this collection absolutely burns with a hot blue flame—of rage, loyalty, and a kind of unrequited self-love, and the anger that comes with not having enough of what you need and too much of what you don't want. The writing is dense and beautiful, and the pacing is sharply self-aware—just when you think you've had too much of these young women's misery, some light and pleasure flares... although never too much, and never enough really. It's a rough ride, but a worthwhile one if you're up for it.
Kat, I like your list. I seem to be missing the gene for Wesley and Ellis - and believe me I have tried. But I will go to the mat for the other three, esp Elizabeth Taylor who is one of THE GREAT writers of the 20th century.
I am reading Nina Stille's Reasons to be Cheerful. It's just right.
Ok I would like to offload a book I liked but think others would like better. If you are a pet lover AND a big fan of Colette, I have Creatures Great and Small available. Great writing, some of the bits are very funny, but for me there was a lot of repetition. You have to accept animals talking,which could be a problem for some. If you are interested let me know If too many,we'll do a drawing
to place a hold but will definitely check it out when it comes around in about a month or two. I love
the short fiction genre but I am so tired of this fantastic style that everyone is writing these days-man falls
in love with mermaid, woman turns into a flying duck-I just can't stand and I don't understand why all of
the young writers feel they have to write in this manner. Is it the Macsweeney's effect? Remember everyone wanted to write like Carver....it's just soooooo tiresome. I just can't read another collection where mothers fly, or cats start to speak in Esperanto. I think Stephen MIllhauser started this and it really
surprises me that even Larry Dark who I admire greatly, has fallen for this sort of stuff. Enough please authors, can we not move on already?! Why aren't people writing about the disenfranchised in Trump's
America. Enough of this silliness.
"Mrs. Palfrey" is that wonderful exhibition of English writing -- a slow and gentle approach to a "small" story about the frustrations of growing old, a quiet but fierce self-assertion as one's life winds down, and how to leave a well-bred glow behind in the wake of one's life.
If those kind of introspective novels about people who make a graceful art of loosing their mortal coils appeal to you, here are some similar titles.
A Dignified Exit by John J Asher
Tinkers by Paul Harding
Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill by Dimitri Verhulst
There are "larger" novels on the subject, but they are about other things, too, that sort of overwhelm the quiet death that can come at the end of a well-lived life. I think the above three strike the same chord as "Mrs. Palfrey." I didn't include authors Kent Haruff and Ivan Doig because their books focus more on how community is affected by an individual death. Likewise, "really big books" like A Death in the Family, The Madonnas of Leningrad, and The Garden of Evening Mists are about so much more than the significant death that occurs in them. Yet these three titles are equally beautiful, especially the last, a favorite of mine, by Malaysian writer, Tan Twan Eng
I'm on to Book 3 - The Belly of Paris -- in the Rougon/Macquart cycle. So far, the idea of reading all twenty seems like a breeze rather than a chore. Each one is so different, even in approach. The first was a sprawling family backstory thing, the second a very tight look at one member of that family (and his house! lots of gilded lamp descriptions and there's a lot of handrail detail) and now the third is something else. But they all fall together -- and Zola is really good at place details. We spent a lot of time in Book 1 leaning about the design of a particular well -- it was complicated! -- but it was very clearly done. I could sketch it if I had to. And all of that ended up mattering, but not in a Chekhov's gun way. I mean no one fell down the well or anything.
Anyway, Zola, everyone!
>239 Kat.Warren: I meant to say that's a great list, Kat. I'm not sure I have the gene for British writers as a pack, though I do love Jane Gardam, and Old Filth is a lifetime favorite... I think maybe I just haven't dived deeply enough. I need to read a little more into Elizabeth Taylor, for one—you sent me one of hers that I haven't yet gotten to, so I think I'd start there.
>243 alans: Glad to hear my random reading is useful! And that is a great rant... I'm not sure what drives me nuts stylistically lately, but that allegorical magic realism definitely qualifies when done with a heavy hand. There are some writers who can pull it off, but not many. And definitely when it turns into an MFA-grade trend it's time to put your energies elsewhere.
I'm about halfway through Grand Union and liking it but not loving it. Though enjoying it more as I go just because she has such a fierce intelligence as a writer that pushes through (almost) all of it. Warmth, a little less so, but I think if you're going to Zadie Smith for warmth you may be barking up the wrong tree. I also just read a fabulous review of Robert Macfarlane's Underland in the summer books issue of NYRB that makes me want to drop everything and read it too.
Still! reading Ninth Street Women, and I'm feeling very sad that Frank O'Hara died so young. I'm sorely wishing he was around as a handsome 93-year-old with age spots on his head, waxing lyrical from his wheelchair.
Beginning to get the feeling I know that the straight-forward agent-in-training story isn't really about what all those chapters were devoted to. I sense a betrayal coming, a manipulation by the Circus to meet their own ends, and I know it's going to be tragic.
I've read too many later le Carré masterpieces not to recognize the pattern of love affair, "second vow," mission, betrayal, death. But for The Master's sake, I'll soldier on.
Now I'm about to start another first collection, Rion Amilcar Scott's The World Doesn't Require You, which is getting super buzz so I have big hopes (as I always do when I start a book, honestly).
Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk through anything.
I really was tickled by Reasons to be Cheerful and am reading the new Michael Crummy now The Innocents . I have a terrible feeling I know where the plot is going and I just hope to Jesus that I am wrong.
"Renée's private suite of rooms was a nest of silk and lace, a marvel of coquettish luxury. A tiny boudoir preceded the bedroom. The two apartments formed but one, or rather the boudoir was scarcely more than the threshold of the bedroom, a large alcove, furnished with couches and having a pair of curtains instead of a door. The walls in both apartments were hung with flax-tinted silken stuff, embroidered with huge bouquets of roses, white lilac and buttercups. The curtains and door-hangings were of Venetian lace over a silken lining formed alternately of grey and pink bands. In the bedroom the white marble chimney piece, a real jewel, displayed like a flower bed its incrustations of lapis lazuli and precious mosaics repeating the roses, white lilac and buttercups of the hangings. A large grey and pink bed, the padded and upholstered woodwork of which was not seen, and the head of which stood against the wall, filled quite one-half of the room with its flow of drapery, lace and silk, brocaded with bouquets and falling from the ceiling to the carpet. You would have taken it for a woman's
dress, rounded, scalloped, decked with puffs, bows, and flounces; and the large curtain swelling out like a skirt made you dream of some tall love-sick wench, leaning back, fainting away, and almost sinking upon the pillows. Under the curtains it was quite a sanctuary--plaited cambric, a snowy mass of lace, all sorts of delicate transparent things, enveloped in a church-like dimness. Beside the bedstead, this monument the devout amplitude of which suggested a chapel adorned for some festival, the other articles of furniture, some low seats, a cheval glass six feet high, and chiffoniers provided with a multitude of drawers, subsided into nothingness. On the floor the bluish-grey carpet was studded with pale full-blown roses. And on either side of the bed lay two large black bearskins, edged with pink velvet, having silver claws, and with their heads turned towards the window, gazing fixedly at the empty sky through their glass eyes.
Soft harmony, muffled silence reigned in this room. No high note, no metallic reflection or bright gilding broke into the dreamy scale of pink and grey. Even the chimney ornaments, the frame of the mirror, the clock, the little candelabra, were of old Sèvres, and their mountings of gilt copper were barely visible. These ornaments were marvels, the clock especially, with its circle of podgy cupids, who descended and leaned around the dial like a band of naked urchins careless to the rapid flight of time. This discreet luxury, these colours and objects which Renée's taste had chosen soft and smiling, lent a crepuscular
appearance to the room, the dimness of an alcove with the curtains drawn. It seemed as if the bed stretched afar, as if the whole room, indeed, were one huge bed with its carpets, bearskins, stuffed seats and padded hangings, prolonging the softness of the floor up the walls to the ceiling. And, as in a bed, the young woman left the imprint, the warmth and the perfume of her body upon all the things. When one drew aside the double hangings screening the room from the boudoir it seemed as if one raised some silken counterpane, and entered some vast couch still warm and moist, where one found on the fine linen the adorable figure, the slumber and dreams of a Parisian woman of thirty.
An adjoining spacious apartment, hung with old chintz, was simply furnished all round with lofty wardrobes containing Renée's army of dresses. Céleste, who was very methodical, classified the dresses according to their age, ticketed them and introduced arithmetic amid all her mistress's yellow or blue caprices, and kept the apartment in a state of vestry-like impressiveness and stable-like cleanliness. Beyond the wardrobes, there was not an article of furniture, and no finery was left lying about. The wardrobe doors shone cold and clean like the varnished panels of a brougham.
The marvel of the suite, however, the apartment that all Paris talked about, was the dressing-room. Folks said: "Beautiful Madame Saccard's dressing room," as one says; "The Gallery of Mirrors at Versailles." This apartment was situated in one of the towers of the mansion, just over the little buttercup drawing-room. On entering it one fancied oneself in a large circular tent, a fairy-like tent, pitched in full phantasy by some love-sick amazone. In the centre of the ceiling a crown of chased silver held up the drapery of the tent, which extended cupola-like to the walls, and then fell straight to the floor. This drapery, these rich hangings, were formed of pink silk covered with a muslin of a very open texture, which was caught in plaits at intervals.
A band of lace separated the plaits, and silver fillets descended from the crown and glided along the hangings on either side of each of these bands. Here the pinkish grey of the bedroom grew brighter, became a pinkish white, like naked flesh. And in this bower of lace, beneath these curtains which hid all the ceiling save a bluish cavity inside the small circle described by the crown, where Chaplin had painted a laughing cupid, looking down and preparing his dart, one could have fancied oneself at the bottom of a sweetmeat box, or in some precious jewel-case, enlarged and made to display the nudity of a woman instead
of the brilliancy of a diamond. The carpet of snowy whiteness stretched around without the least flowery design. A wardrobe with plate glass doors, and the two panels of which were mounted with silver; a couch, two arm-chairs, some white satin stools; a large toilet table, with a slab of pink marble, and the legs of which where screened by flounces of muslin and lace, furnished the room. The glasses, the vases, and the basin on the toilet table, were of old Bohemian crystal, streaked pink
and white. And there was yet another table, incrusted with silver like the wardrobe, and on which all the implements, the toilet utensils, were ranged; it was like a strange surgical case, displaying a large number of little instruments, the purpose of which was not readily guessed--back scrapers, shining brushes, files of every dimension and every shape, straight and curved scissors, every variety of pincers and pins. Each one of these objects in silver and ivory was marked with Renée's monogram.
But the dressing-room had one delightful corner, and to that corner especially did it owe its fame. In front of the window the folds of the tent parted, and in a kind of alcove, of considerable length but limited breadth, one espied a bath, a tank of pink marble, embedded in the flooring and with its sides--chamfered like those of a large shell--rising to a level with the carpet. One descended into the bath by marble steps. Above the silver taps, shaped like swans' heads, a Venetian mirror, frameless, but with curved edges and a design ground in the crystal, filled the back of the alcove. Renée took a bath of a few minutes' duration every morning, and this bath filled the dressing-room with moisture, with a perfume of fresh, wet flesh for the whole day. At times an open scent bottle, a piece of soap left out of its dish, lent a dash of something stronger to this rather insipid smell. The young woman liked to remain there, almost in a state of nudity, until noon. The round tent itself was also naked. The pink bath, the pink tables and basins, the muslin of the ceiling and the walls, beneath which one seemed to see pink blood coursing, acquired the roundness of flesh, the curves of bare shoulders and bosoms; and, according to the hour of the day, one would liken the apartment to the snowy skin of a child or to the warm skin of a woman. It was one vast nudity. When Renée left her bath her fair form lent but a little more pink to all the rosy flesh of the room."
The very next paragraph is the sex scene, but I don't know why he bothered.
A Summer with Montaigne by Antoine Compagnon
Plus, French flaps!
I'm reading Middlemarch for my RL book group. This is my 3rd or 4th read, but it's been at least 20 years since I last read it. The audio version, read by Juliet Stevenson, is super fabulous, so I've enjoyed reading and listening alternately. I'm almost done (everyone is currently dealing with the consequences of their actions) and I've enjoyed it a great deal, but Lydgate's money situation bothers me far more now than it did when I was in my 20s. Also, I thought I might feel differently about Rosamund, but I don't. Lots to process.
In tandem, I'm reading Conversations with Friends by Rooney (in my ongoing march through the endless books I purchased on my Kindle last year) and I'm almost done The Calculating Stars which won the Hugo this year. It's an easy and largely pleasurable read, but doesn't come close to Jemisin's Stone Gate series. Someone on GGs described it as slide rule SF, and that's a good description. I like the slide rule stuff -- in the same way that I like how Ancillary series got into the making a garden work on a space colony -- but the book's reach is small and constrained, I think, by Robinette's attempt to present a 1950s world accurately.
And thanks for the mid-read review. I'll definitely read it sooner than later.
I read the new Richard Russo Chances Are and it was good but not his best. For me those would be Empire Falls and Nobody’s Fool.
I am currently reading a wonderful mystery by one of my favorite authors, Robert Goddard. Anyone ever read him? He’s so good. My current read is one he wrote years ago, Into the Blue.
(Edited to fix wonky links)
Sheesh. I'd forgotten how expensive it can be catching up here (and I know that's a terrible sentence).
Also, I realized I didn't also say, "Lynn!" so here's mine: Lynn! So nice to see your font. I was thinking about you a month or so ago and hoping you were doing ok.
Now reading Karen Russell's Orange World and Other Stories, a few of which I've already read elsewhere and enjoyed enough to reread this time around. Still fun stuff—she's smart and super accessible, an interesting change from my previous read.
The new Michael Crummy is really powerful. It's about a brother and sisters, orphaned and eking out a subsistence existence on the north coast of Labrador. Their lives are determined by the seasons - the break-up of the ocean ice, the arrival of the cod which they catch and salt as trade, the over abundance of berries that grow in the woods and offer them some sweetness. When they hit puberty, their closeness and reliance on one another becomes more complicated and what's done in innocence becomes shameful when witnessed by their occasional visitors. Even when the novel went to exactly where I thought it would go - and frankly, dreaded, to be honest, I found it extraordinarily moving and wept at the end. I'm not sure how in the world he pulled it off but it's really good. Its really why we read fiction , I think, to understand something from a different angle, to learn, to become more compassionate.
I have been jawing a lot about my lack of attention span so in the evening, I turn off my phone, go into a different room and read Villette.
Pat, it's Brian Nelson, the Oxford World Classics editions. Though they don't all have the same translators.
Now I'm re-reading/listening to Niccolo Rising because Audible as just released the whole series (woot) in audio (obviously). It hooked me fast, and now I'm looking for opportunities to drive long distances, laundry and even do the dishes happily. Her narrative choices are very smart and the structure of narrative forces you to listen/read very carefully (no gazing off into space for this one or you'll miss critical plot points), plus Nicollo is a fabulous character -- maybe because this was my first Dunnet, he beats out Lymond for me.
I'm also reading Severance by Ling Ma, another good read (so far) for very different reasons.
Also: I loved Niccolo and I loved Lymond. Have read the first Lymond more recently, though, so I'll probably continue with that one for now—plus I have the second one in the series. But Niccolo was super fun.
Severance is on my list too.
>267 lynn_r: I'm scared of the Vuong because someone mentioned that it has an instance of extreme animal cruelty and that's my one don't-go-there thing.
>255 laurenbufferd: I have to write my review of the Zadie Smith this weekend. If you have time and feel like expounding on it further, shoot me an email (and if not, no worries).
I just got the Best Books longlist and it's huuuuge, so I'm going to have to start reading a few stories at a time in each of these collections. But I'm going to finish Orange World first because it's delightful.
What I really want, though, is some kind of collection of all the poems, songs, plays, doggerels, prayers, sermons, letters, prophecies, and whatnot that are quoted or referenced in the books. Francis Crawford of Lymond and Sevigny is incapable of speaking in straight prose.
Niki, "crack" is a good description. She's just what I need right now -- engrossing, compulsive, and not pap.
Finished Orange World and I think "delightful" is going to be my standing adjective. I love how you can see her imagination at work, the "what if?" behind every story—whether it's (perhaps) a photograph she may have seen, or a news item, or a question in her own head, there's this wonderful authorial inquisitiveness bubbling under the surface of each one. Some are set in the past, some in the future; there's quite a bit of magical realism (sorry, Alan) but it's more on the allegorical tip and it works for me. Altogether just a very enjoyable collection.
Now I have to read piecemeal in order to evaluate 16 more books in the next month. I started on Black Light, which is kind of a dark horse that was longlisted for the National Book Awards... it's a little miserypornia-ish out of the gate, but we'll see. That's in print, and I have Kate Walbert's She Was Like That fired up on my iPad.
t we know anything about your early life? I suspect trauma. And who is the professor is this age of #metoo?
Fascinated and very happy.
Lisa, I am just seeing your note about Zadie Smith now and unfortunately, I worked all day yesterday and am out of pocket much of today. But if you have a specific questions, text me? Too sum up quickly, I'd say uneven but important. I think The Lazy River and Two Men Arrive in a Village manage to be classic and timeless and very specific to right now all at the same time.
The third one, The Belly of Paris, was an almost pornographically descriptive three hundred pages about food. I need no more talk of sausages or gutted fish or black pudding, especially the black pudding. I'll maybe post a long quote from it later, but there's a bit about an all night sausage making (NOT THE DIRTY KIND) where Zola writes that there is so much fat in the air that it drips from the nails in the ceiling, and well, that was vivid. It's all so very, very vivid.
I'm going to get through the first five -- so, one quarter! -- and then take a short one-non-Zola-book break.
Miranda in Milan is an odd duck. I thought it completely missed the boat on the best themes of "The Tempest," but the storyline kept me turning the pages. Plus, it's a very short, one-sitting read. Save your money, but consider it if you see it on a library shelf and need something while waiting at the DMV or for an oil change.
Anyway, my DNF evaluations of some more collections: I found Black Light more compelling as I went along—also a little extra interested because the author grew up in the same town my husband did, Lubbock, TX. It's definitely a strong debut, and I see why it was longlisted for the NBAs. Also read half of Kate Walbert's She Was Like That, which I enjoyed—though I found myself a little played out on the general milieu of upper middle class high-maintenance women she writes about, even though the writing is strong and she hits her stories from a lot of different angles. David Means's Instructions for a Funeral was good but dense and talky, more tell than show, and what I read felt a little more testosteroney than I was in the mood for. But that's one I want to go back to, since I have the feeling there's more to it
Elise Levine's This Wicked Tongue was mostly from that school of short fiction where the author wants to always leave the reader slightly off balance and unsure of what's going on, and didn't quite do it for me—some really creative language but a bit too all over the place. Philip Caputo's Hunter's Moon was well done but such guy's guy fiction—linked short stories set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and all men, guns, hunting, shooting, veterans, violence, fathers-and-sons—it makes David Means's book look like a Harlequin romance. Not for me, though I bet his intended audience will appreciate the literary nod.
Next up, Maryse Meijer's Rag.
I moved on to History of Women Photographers which weighs about 900 pounds (each individual page is about a half-inch thick) and I can only read it while sitting at the dining room table, so I think it will take a long time. But it is brilliant and sinfully beautiful and I look forward to finishing it.
Where the Light Falls: Selected Stories of Nancy Hale is winging its way for when I want to read in a prone position.
I'm reading Brian Evenson's Song for the Unraveling of the World, which is a short story collection of the kind of horror that I find very goofy—like scary campfire stories with a slightly grunge sensibility—and totally entertaining.
Finishing up with #4 in the Rougon/Macquart series - The Conquest of Plassans - this morning. This is the first one with short chapters, so I suspect it was serialized in a way the previous three were not; their chapters were like fifty pages long, which made for tricky stopping places. Each book tackles a different, hmmm, moral?, question of the time (in some cases, they're more universal); this one is about religion and its hypocrisies, which sounds BO-RING but it isn't. There's a lot of comedy in it, mainly because Abbe Faujas really gets under peoples' skin and they just spin around dithering.
The previous two were set in Paris; this one is back to Plassans, like the first. It's Zola's version of Aix-in-Provence; it's his Dorset, and it's not the first time a Hardy comparison has come to mind. I'm tempted to ALWAYS find a Hardy parallel but I think I'm right here.
Next up: The Sin of Father Mouret, which just sounds like a Barbara Stanwyck movie. Amnesia is a plot point!
Lisa-I live for your short fiction reviews. I think I said this before,you are my oracle,my Diana,for all that is coming out in new short fiction. Bless you!
DG's Zola tour to Cindy's, "Took a break from Seuss..." Heh. Only here. Only here. Thanks for the chuckle.
I'm loving Richard Holmes' This Long Pursuit. Could've sworn I'd read it, but maybe I'm just mixing up all his books in my head. It's been a very long time since I read his 2-vol. bio on Coleridge, but every page turned in TLP makes me want to reread that.