The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5

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The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 5

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Feb 6, 2019, 3:36pm

So many books, so little time.

Feb 7, 2019, 8:51pm

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

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

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

Feb 8, 2019, 11:03am

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

Feb 8, 2019, 12:33pm

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

Feb 8, 2019, 2:17pm

I'm into mindless reads myself, these days.

Editado: Feb 8, 2019, 4:22pm

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

Feb 8, 2019, 11:50pm

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

Feb 9, 2019, 7:49am

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

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

Feb 9, 2019, 12:43pm

I forgot they were married.

Feb 11, 2019, 12:08pm

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

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

Feb 11, 2019, 1:19pm

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

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

Feb 12, 2019, 7:18am

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

Editado: Feb 12, 2019, 8:23am

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

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

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

Feb 12, 2019, 10:47am

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

Feb 12, 2019, 1:34pm

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

Feb 12, 2019, 3:27pm

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

Feb 12, 2019, 3:32pm


Feb 12, 2019, 4:11pm

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

Feb 12, 2019, 8:03pm

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

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

Feb 12, 2019, 11:07pm

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

Feb 13, 2019, 9:37am

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

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

Feb 13, 2019, 10:43pm

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

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

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

Feb 14, 2019, 8:51am

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

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

Feb 14, 2019, 2:20pm

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

Feb 16, 2019, 9:05am

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

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

Feb 16, 2019, 9:38pm

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

Feb 17, 2019, 9:10pm


Feb 20, 2019, 12:59pm

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

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

Feb 20, 2019, 1:38pm

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

Feb 20, 2019, 3:37pm

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

Feb 21, 2019, 10:05pm

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

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

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

Feb 22, 2019, 11:16am

Wow, Lisa. It's been so long since I read a biography, I don't feel like I have the patience or attention span any more but that looks like a great one! Sadly, I keep buying them though - I must have 15 gorgeous bios or memoirs yet to be read.

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.

Editado: Feb 22, 2019, 9:47pm

My plane book today was Penelope Lively’s recent-ish story collection The Purple Swamp Hen and it is the most fun. Sharp, witty and exceedingly, achingly British. I would say they’re old-fashioned, only they’re so fresh and so skillful and mercifully merciless.

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.

Feb 23, 2019, 6:57pm

>32 laurenbufferd: I feel the same way about biographies I do about historical fiction—it has to be really well done for me to take the ride, but if it is I'm so, so happy. The Frederick Douglass book does a great job of integrating Douglass's own memoirs (he wrote two), and Blight gets this really broad weave out of them, his historical sources, and even a little conjecture (which I usually really dislike in a biography, but he has a light touch with it).

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...

Editado: Feb 23, 2019, 9:08pm

That's a shock. I've read lots of Georgia O'Keefe stuff and never knew she had a sister. Please let us know about Ida!

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.

Editado: Feb 24, 2019, 8:28pm

Now reading French Exit

Feb 25, 2019, 2:36pm

>34 lisapeet: did y'all know that Georgia O'Keeffe had a sister who painted a lot like she did?

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.

Feb 25, 2019, 2:44pm

I'm putting that bio on the list. Thanks, Nicki. I read the historical fiction novel about O'Keefe that came out a year or two ago. It was good, but there was no sister.

Feb 25, 2019, 3:13pm

I was really glad I went to the exhibit. I've not had much exposure to O'Keeffe. The only work of hers I remember from my hometown Albright-Knox Art Gallery was "Black Spot No. 3." -- interesting but not a work that ever really grabbed me:

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.

Feb 25, 2019, 3:54pm

I was in Santa Fe a few years ago and went to the big O'Keeffe museum but really it was forays into the landscape that inspired her that sort of finally woke up her art to me.

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.

Feb 26, 2019, 7:11am

I really love her cityscapes—I think they get at the feeling of New York in the 40s/50s so perfectly (though of course I wasn't there then, so I'm guessing—but art that stimulates a good guess is successful in my book). I saw the big retrospective of hers at the Met in the late '80s and it was really a game changer to see all that work in person. I came away with a whole new appreciation of her, including the dorm room faves—but yes, the still lives and city paintings in particular. I'm looking forward to the book.

Feb 26, 2019, 8:43am

I think O'Keeffe is one of those artists whose art wasn't limited to canvas, but permeated her life. My mom, who is into textiles and fiber arts, told me there was an entire exhibition done on her clothes, which she made herself.

Editado: Feb 26, 2019, 11:27am

I was just going to mention her NYCscapes ... wonderful and so different from that which she later became known for.

Feb 26, 2019, 3:21pm

I saw the clothing exhibition and it was a great one - made a really strong argument for how important her appearance was to her - and how she controlled it. Even very young, she had a strong sense of herself and the way in which her clothing choices would broadcast certain information - or not. Fascinating and beautiful show, especially some of the blouses she'd made for herself as a young woman. Perfect tiny stiches.

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.

Feb 26, 2019, 3:32pm

That clothing exhibit came to a museum that is within walking distance of my house, but did I get there? Nooooo.

Feb 26, 2019, 3:47pm

That's where I saw it! I should have called you!

Feb 26, 2019, 5:26pm

YES, YOU SHOULD HAVE!! I think at the time, though, I was armpit-deep in family health issues. It's a great museum.

Mar 1, 2019, 12:39pm

I finished a few books lately. Loved Eve Babitz's Slow Days, Fast Company (Thank you NYRBClassics, you never disappoint!). It almost made me like LA, but now I know it's not anything like that anymore. The way she describes things is so lovely. You can see the colors of the women's clothing and makeup and you can smell the weed at the little LA house parties and you can feel the warm air and see the old school bars with leather banquettes.... And of course, I'm envious of the easygoing life she was living at that time (though I know it wasn't always so). I'm definitely going to be reading some more of her books and the new bio. She seems so...I don't know what word to use, but I really like her.

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.

Mar 1, 2019, 3:51pm

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.

Mar 1, 2019, 4:50pm

Shall I read that? Ummmmmmm. . . no

Mar 1, 2019, 6:30pm

>49 southernbooklady: particle physics is not my forte
I'm shocked, Nicki. Shocked.

Mar 1, 2019, 9:10pm

The slacker.

Mar 1, 2019, 9:24pm

I am reading Convenience Store Woman. I like it. Pretty plotless so far, but it's sweet and interesting. It's a small book, but I keep wondering if there will be a surprise bloody murder or something. I'll let y'all know.

Mar 2, 2019, 2:13pm

I started reading Flight Portfolio a historical novel about Varian Fry, the American who assisted many artists and writers out of Nazi-occupied France. It's very readable and engaging although it does one thing that totally drives me crazy and that is to invent a major character and mix them into to all the historical stuff. I get why she did it - Varian was at least bisexual and the invented character is a fellow he had a love affair with at Harvard and they meet again in Southern France. So it's a way to explore that facet of his life. But it feels super fake.

Mar 4, 2019, 8:43am

Started Queen of America over the weekend, one of those novels I've been meaning to get to for ages. It was easy to get in to, but I'm having that problem I often get where my emotional attachment to the first book I read by the author (Hummingbird's Daughter) makes every following book suffer a bit in comparison.

Mar 4, 2019, 9:43am

So, Pig Island was utter garbage! Terrible. One of those books I had to force myself to stick with and it was NOT worth it! I'm putting her on my list with Stephen King of writers to never read again no matter how many people love them. I didn't read any reviews or anything until after I finished, and I was not the only person to be disgusted by how awful it was. Here's a nice succinct review on Goodreads for this book: "Pig Island was a great disappointment. Unlikable characters, unlikely villains, unbelievable plot. The high point, if there was one, was the author's attempt to wax erotic over a woman with a third leg growing out of her ass. Have I said enough?" Yeah. Terrible.

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!

Editado: Mar 4, 2019, 9:24pm

>55 southernbooklady: I liked Queen of America; it was his latest book that I couldn't get into.

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

Editado: Mar 10, 2019, 11:19pm

Taking a little break from my recent non-stop reading about Paris for for something completely different. I pretty much lost interest in sci fi and/or fantasy a long time ago, but since I thought Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series was so much fun, I happily picked up her newest The Raven Tower’s also so good! Not much to say—I’m only about half through—and the plot is racing to the Big Secret Mystery That Will Rock the Earth on Its Foundation. I just really love what she does with language and gender and world building and memory and myth, and the way she can transform a busy, busy plot into a true story. I listened to a big chunk of it yesterday on a chilly run in the fog and a hawk flew past me, and now I think I probably need to order armor or something and add a random apostrophe to my name.

Mar 11, 2019, 2:46pm

Oooh. Good reminder. I just got an Amazon gift card . . .

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).

Mar 11, 2019, 4:18pm

No, but she needs to be on my list. Re: fantasy. I was a huge Tolkien nerd (I was lots of varieties of nerd) in high school and have re-read LoTR many, many times, but lost interest pretty soon after that. I've read all the George R.R. Martin series, and liked some of it (but god, it is SO HEAVY and the whole "Ser" thing just bugs me as does rape as a plot device, hey-oh!), but the last fantasy I read and genuinely liked was Ishiguro's The Buried Giant, and that's really a thing apart. The Raven Tower is more straight-ahead fantasy, but Leckie does such interesting and non-ponderous things with it which is tricky in a genre that virtually requires a lot of telling-not-showing.

Mar 11, 2019, 4:42pm

My dad has been talking about Leckie, but I guess he only reads her sci-fi stuff, not anything that would be categorized as "fantasy." I was going to read her Ancillary series so we could talk about them.

Mar 11, 2019, 4:56pm

This is first fantasy book.

Mar 11, 2019, 6:05pm

My nephew, who's in publishing/film rights, sent me an early galley of The Raven Tower with the assurance that I'd dig it even though I'm not the biggest sf/fantasy reader. He also sent me the newest Ted Chiang, Exhalation, ditto. Haven't gotten to either of them yet (and I'm not super fond of reading PDFs), but I trust his taste.

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.

Mar 12, 2019, 4:40pm

I want someone else to read The Raven Tower so we can talk about it. No spoilers, but I don't think I've ever read a fantasy novel with a twist ending!

Mar 12, 2019, 10:36pm

I'm going to buy that for Mrs Nancy. She loves a good fantasy novel. Me, never. I wish I could appreciate them because I trust y'alls taste.

Mar 12, 2019, 11:40pm

I started Raven Tower, about half way into it. Put it down due to lengthy philosophical disquisitions. I will pick it up again when I am not in so much pain, oh poor me.

Mar 13, 2019, 10:35am

I'm trying to read The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, and I am bitter about it. Someone in my book club picked it, and I'm so sick of the crappy books they pick. It was started by one of my friends to read "award-winning novels," and lately everyone picks some crappy horror or sci fi book, and I'm just sick of it. Has anyone read this? I'm mad I even wasted money on it, and I just don't know if I want to finish it. If someone says it's worth it, I'll try!

Mar 13, 2019, 1:20pm

Kat, I confess to skimming a bit on one of the particularly long conversations between the gods and I don't believe I missed anything crucial. At the risk of spoiling (and I'm spoiler tagging it just in case), I think one of the points of all the disquisition is a bit of a red herring, or at least a sort of sleight of hand. Things seem very lofty and abstract when perhaps they AREN'T.

Mar 13, 2019, 4:08pm

Ah, got it. Will restart after not woozy.

Mar 13, 2019, 4:18pm

I'm running late, but I had to pop in and share that it's finally happened! After almost a year-long reading drought, plagued by an inability to concentrate (or stay awake) and a bunch of books started and dropped, I'm back in the saddle again. I stayed up until 3 am because I couldn't put this down: The Wolf in the Whale. (Amazon link).

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.

Mar 13, 2019, 5:27pm

Congratulations, Pat. I know how painful reading droughts are.

Mar 13, 2019, 6:15pm

Pat I am thrilled for you! Now I need to get my hands on it to cure my slump! Can't wait

Editado: Mar 13, 2019, 6:59pm

Loved Circe which I read for my club but I must say it didn't seem to generate much of a discussion. Maybe everyone was just tired. I thought it was a fun and interesting romp.

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.

Mar 13, 2019, 7:39pm

Well, you got me on to Late in the Day, so extra duly noted.

Mar 13, 2019, 7:50pm

I've been alternating between reading from my years-old TBR list in an attempt to pare it down, and reading for work. Because they are both forms of reading from a sense of obligation, I'm not quite sure either is satisfying, even though there have been some good books. My current read is a YA book, Scythe, about a future where all diseases and aging are cured, allowing people to live forever, so they have to control their growing population by creating society-sanctioned killers. It won the ALA's high school level book award, and interests me more than I expected.

Mar 14, 2019, 3:52pm

Hi Lyddie!!!

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...………...

Mar 17, 2019, 3:42pm

Hi Lauren!
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.

Editado: Mar 18, 2019, 10:32am

My older daughter (and resident of Oklahoma City) gave me Boom Town for Christmas and I finally started reading it last night. It's kind of a little more, I dunno, macho than my usual read--the story is structured around the controversial acquisition of the city's NBA team from Seattle and the extremely high stakes drama of whether James Harden would stay with the team in 2012--but that's a good thing, right? I can always don my readerly velvet smoking jacket and monocle and organize my bibelots later.

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.

Mar 19, 2019, 10:58am

I started reading Tinkers and sheesh, where was I in 2009 because this shit is amazeballs!

Editado: Mar 19, 2019, 3:24pm

Lauren, that's good to hear. It won the Booker back then, and I bought it, but I never got around to reading more than a few pages. Guess I should pick it up again one of these days.

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.

Editado: Mar 19, 2019, 6:36pm

>80 JulieCarter: There should be a category of Angry Literature to read when you're in just that state of mind. Something where bad things happen to bad people and you can unashamedly root against them and delight in their downfall. I feel like there should be an essay in that: Horrible Books for Depressing Times. I'm remembering reading A.L. Kennedy's Paradise, which isn't about a bad person so much as a very sad person's alcoholic spiral--it was a dark, dark book leavened with a little grim humor--in the Animal Medical Center waiting room when my little dog Milo was so sick. It was like the only thing I could have possibly read, a sad story for a sad reader.

>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.

Editado: Mar 22, 2019, 9:37pm

Finished the Ida O'Keeffe book, which was on the dry side but interesting just by virtue of her existence. Anyone here want it? There are nice illustrations.

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.

Hi, Lyddie!

Mar 28, 2019, 10:15pm

The World Exists to Be Put on a Postcard: Artists' Postcards from 1960 to Now is a good book to read if you're interested in late 20th-century/early 21st-century contemporary artists. It's a bit more scholarly than playful, and is actually super comprehensive about situating the artists it features within the context of the period they worked in, their galleries and dealers and shows, and their collaborations. So if you're interested in this particular slice of modern art history, you're in luck. I'm a former early-'80s art student and followed a lot of these artists, plus I love postcard/mail art/arte povera, so it was really interesting to see how the format intersected with what they were doing. But also being a former early-'80s art student, the type was really damn tiny for my old eyes. Well, that's what we have reading glasses for—and I liked this little mini–art history class.

Abr 2, 2019, 9:24am

Started listening to My Oxford Year, which has the oh-so-likely premise that this Rhodes scholar at Oxford has also just been hired as the consultant for education for a US presidential candidate (who is of course going to win, because we all see how easy it is for women to get elected US president), and they don't mind that she'll be doing this job via phone and email while she's studying for her masters in literature at Oxford. Sure, seems legit.

Abr 2, 2019, 10:03am

Lisa P, that looks good.

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.

Editado: Abr 3, 2019, 7:05am

>85 laurenbufferd: Lemme know when you've replenished the fiction well—I have a biography that might interest you, if you're not totally sick of biographies.

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.

Editado: Abr 3, 2019, 4:58pm

Lisa, which biography? And many thanks - belatedly but that's how life is right now- for the poster which is up in my office. I do like woody's advice for living.

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.

Abr 3, 2019, 12:07pm

>87 laurenbufferd: Germaine: The Life of Germaine Greer by Elizabeth Kleinhenz. Though I just remembered you saying you were kinda played on bios, so feel free to say no thanks. I won't be offended. And oh good, glad you got the Woody G poster... I forgot I sent that.

That's The Electric Hotel, yeah? I have that one... it looked good, and loved The Last Painting. Lemme know what you think.

Abr 3, 2019, 4:59pm

Oh, I'd totally read the book about Germaine. thanks!! And it's early days with the Dominic Smith but I'm really enjoying it so far. It hits a lot of sweet spots for me.

Abr 3, 2019, 5:07pm

Is anyone else bemused by having lived long enough that biographies are being written about notables of one's own generation?

Abr 4, 2019, 9:45pm

About halfway through The Hunting Party and it's easily the most unsurprising thriller I've ever read, because I've read it as The Secret History and And Then There Were None and ten other books before. But I keep reading because I'm waiting to see if there's going to be a moment of originality in it; it's kind of fascinating that way. There's also something mean about the way the women are described, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

You won't read any of that in the blurbs! One of which is by bestselling author and grifter AJ Finn.

Editado: Abr 4, 2019, 9:49pm

Este mensaje fue borrado por su autor.

Abr 4, 2019, 11:13pm

Can't help but be intrigued by the author-deleted message.

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.

Editado: Abr 12, 2019, 4:50pm

I liked The Electric Hotel quite a bit. It gets a bit wooly in the last third and by golly, that writer has never met an adjective he didn't want to use. Twice over. But it has all the things - silent movies, New Jersey, Edison, organized crime, tuberculosis, Hollywood, WWI and a feel-good ending that drew a tear. So I'd recommend but also say you'll know in the first 30 pages if its your thing or not.

I'm reading Educated which is truly horrifying.

Abr 17, 2019, 3:39pm

Did anyone read Educated? I wouldn't say I enjoyed it but I did find it interesting.

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?

Abr 17, 2019, 5:14pm

I couldn't bring myself to read it. It sounded too much like The Glass Castle, which I loathed. It was SO popular and I disbelieved a lot of it.

Abr 17, 2019, 5:57pm

What Nancy said.

Abr 17, 2019, 8:40pm

>95 laurenbufferd: I read it, and found it fascinating—including the part where you wonder how reliable a narrator she is. I personally don't think she's pulling a James Frey. I'm guessing there's some elision when she gets to college—that chain of events feels like there are all sorts of gaps and potholes. But I was entertained enough not to care much about how much she stuck to events. It's a memoir that reads like a novel, and if she's taken novelistic liberties with her own story then she wouldn't be the first memoirist to do so, that's for sure.

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.

Abr 17, 2019, 8:55pm

How much does the book touch on his relationship with women, esp his wife and his mistress?

Abr 17, 2019, 9:41pm

>99 cindydavid4: A lot. Both wives, and his very different relationships with all of them. But he didn't conjecture, only using the primary source information available to him—which of course didn't detail anyone's sex life. So a few of his close relationships with the women in his life were left open to interpretation. But Blight has done a superb amount of research, and whether some of those relationships were consummated or not, you get a good picture of the closeness, intellectual companionship, and also scandalousness that accompanied them.

Abr 17, 2019, 9:44pm

Lisa, the post of Lauren's is about EDUCATED? (I have trouble understanding the links to other's posts.)

And didn't that Frederick Douglass book just win the Pulitzer?

Abr 17, 2019, 11:39pm

Yes, and yes. (If you click on the link in a post after the ">" it'll take you to the post it references.)

Abr 18, 2019, 10:29am

There was something I read in Educated that just didn't seem true - a little tiny fact like how long it would take to drive from Cambridge to Palmyra NY that she was actually correct about (I looked it up) but the potential inaccuracy just stuck in my head and I couldn't shake it. I think I was relating more to what I perceived as missing or exaggerated or skipped over.

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.

Editado: Abr 19, 2019, 12:42pm

This week I whizzed through Jen Beagin's Pretend I'm Dead—an oddball, prickly little book, but well done—it flirts with being what I call misery porn, but is saved by its utter unpredictability at every step.

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.

Editado: Abr 24, 2019, 7:21am

Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage was a lovely graphic history of an early period of Darwin's life. An unedited version of my LJ review:
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.”

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.
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.

Editado: Abr 25, 2019, 3:27pm

Nancy, I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier about the descriptions of the women in The Hunting Party -- I missed the comment. I actually think the fact that the author is a woman makes it worse, meaner somehow. The descriptions of the women are really specific and other than the vague "beautiful" or "a good cook" or whatever, none of them are complimentary. She's hard on the men too, but it's a book of shifting mostly women narrators so you notice it more.

Anyway! I'm now reading Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer and it's flat-out beautiful.

Abr 26, 2019, 12:12am

Oh I want to read that!

Abr 26, 2019, 10:41am

I liked The Electric Hotel and its a good book for the usual suspects here, esp if you are interested in early film. I wanted to like On Earth, We're Briefly Gorgeous but am slowly coming to terms with the fact that I thought it was a bit of a mess. This guy is a great poet - no argument. The novel is written as a letter from a young writer whose life closely parallels Vuong's to his non-literate mother. It is lyrical to the point of vagueness - for me - and the times when there is actually storytelling, it's great and you want more. And then it floats off again to quote Barthes or Fifty Cent. So I was both enthralled and exasperated and desired to get in there with a hatchet and carve out a different better book.

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.

Mayo 1, 2019, 12:06pm

Laughing out loud is 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?

Editado: Mayo 1, 2019, 2:15pm

>109 mkunruh: 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?"

Mayo 2, 2019, 12:41pm

I didn't want to go to work yesterday, so I read a couple of books instead. Yay! I finished The Mars Room, which of course I really liked. Put a story in a prison, and I'm generally down with it. Then I read a book of stories by Etgar Keret, Suddenly, a Knock on the Door. I don't normally read short stories, but Molly Ringwald mentioned this one in a thing in Entertainment Weekly, and once I'd read the Kindle sample, which of course cuts off in the middle of a good story, I just had to finish the whole thing while I laid in bed and didn't go to work. That's a good day!

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.

Editado: Mayo 2, 2019, 4:19pm

Mir, I enjoyed "Hild," too. I've like most of Niccola Griffith's books.

Mayo 2, 2019, 4:45pm

I love love love Etgar Keret, Julie. That's some good stuff.

I thought that Less was sweet and funny and thoughtful and written like a dream but I wasn't wild about the end. I think I am too curmudgeonly right now for happy endings.

About to start The Tenth Muse.

Mayo 4, 2019, 6:39pm

OK, I really need to read The Overstory. I've had it forever and ever, too.

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.

Mayo 6, 2019, 10:54pm

Lisa, do you have The Tenth Muse? If not, i'll bring it. It's fantastic!

Mayo 7, 2019, 6:23am

>115 laurenbufferd: I don't, and thanks! Which reminds me... I have a few things for you. I'll send 'em, though, so you're not stuck carrying them around.

Editado: Mayo 7, 2019, 11:26am

I haven't even written thank you notes for the last two things (two more items for the Really, I'm really not an asshole category) so NO HURRY. And I don't mind carrying, I'll have a car.

Mayo 15, 2019, 8:33am

Oh goodness, no thank-yous necessary. Although forgetful minds need to know: Did I send you the Germaine Greer book? Because if I didn't, someone lifted it off my desk, grrr.

Mayo 15, 2019, 12:51pm

Yes, darlin' ya did.

I am reading The Long Winter, A Walk Among the Tombstones because my kid is reading it and asked me to read it with - it is not terrible, and The Woman's Hour. What about you?

Mayo 15, 2019, 1:35pm

Hmm, that's a little disconcerting. I have zero memory of going to the post office with that one... though I guess that's not exactly a memorable event.

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.

Mayo 16, 2019, 10:06pm

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—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.

Mayo 17, 2019, 3:43pm

I loved The Tenth Muse and A Walk Among the tombstones wasn't half bad!

I'm about to read Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn and I really thought I had the new Elinor Lipman around here somewhere...……….

Mayo 22, 2019, 6:31am

Question: do Ali Smith’s seasonal books need to be read in order of publication or do they stand alone?

Also just finishing up Nell Freudenberger’s Lost and Wanted which I enjoyed quite a lot.

Mayo 22, 2019, 4:59pm

I seem to be missing the Ali Smith gene.

I read the new Elinor Lipman which was enjoyable but not memorable. I am a huge fan of Then She Found Me, I wish she could find that combination of humour and thoughtfulness again.

I am reading Red Clocks which I really like.

Mayo 22, 2019, 5:20pm

I’m with you on Lipman. But try her short story collection Into Love and Out Again. They have a bit more soul. She also put out a collection of essays that I remember liking quite a bit, though I remember little else about them.

Mayo 31, 2019, 11:14am

Red Clocks was amazing. I can't think of the last novel I stayed up past midnight so I could finish. It is absolutely about a woman's right to choose what to do with her own body and in a totally non-didactic way. A very special novel.

I am reading a biography of Billy Strayhorn Lush Life.

Jun 1, 2019, 9:40pm

Have recently read Adele by Leila Slimani. It's translated from French. A beautifully written story about a married Parisian woman obsessed with having sex with strangers. I loved it, but I gave it only 4 stars on Goodreads because I didn't want to be judged (my problem, I know). She has also written The Perfect Nanny, which looks on its cover to be one of those mommy books that I dislike (please don't judge me), but is actually far more complex and beautifully written than one would think. I have just started reading that.

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.

Editado: Jun 3, 2019, 1:21pm

I read Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another in time for my author panel on Wednesday. The book is agreeably testy, basically focusing on the anxiety-industrial complex aspects of network and cable news, and how their main business model is to keep viewers in a state of high distress in order to make a 24-hour news cycle viable. The left comes off no better than the right here—the cover features Sean Hannity side-by-side with Rachel Maddow, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. Smart commentary, a little rambly in places—it's pulled from his online Substack newsletter—but the premise is good. I agree with it, anyway... this administration is anxiety-producing enough without feeding the cocaine rat of "Now This."

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.

Jun 3, 2019, 11:45am

Karine Jean-Pierre also isn't afraid to get between a neckbeard manbun dude and Kamala Harris, from what I saw this morning!

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!

Jun 3, 2019, 1:22pm

Congratulations on the resignation, Julie!! It's a stressful thing to do, but I think you did the right thing. You were not happy there.

Jun 3, 2019, 10:33pm

>129 JulieCarter: She is totally bad ass. I completely adore her.

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.

Jun 5, 2019, 11:20am

Finally, this retched school year is over; starting with a new director who decided to turn every thing that worked upside down, led to the closure of my school which had made great strides in educating young children with special needs, and basically being a mini Trump. Decided this was a good time to retire, so I did (and I wasn't alone; among our 25 staff, only 5 are staying with the district, the rest moving or retiring. In the larger dept, the district is bleeding the most experienced personnel. ) Not sure what retiring is going to look like yet, but now, for the first time in a long time, I am able to pick up a book relax, not think about anything and just read. So I started Polio for a history book group, and have the new Pico Iyer memoir, the invisible library, and the sympathizer on tap. My reading has been abysmal the last half year, hoping to get back on track soon! My sis is getting me a much needed massage to celebrate my retirement, and then I should be as good as new!!!!

Jun 5, 2019, 1:05pm

Yay for Julie and Cindy. I hope you both find that next. great.thing.

I am reading the new Obreht Inland.

Editado: Jun 5, 2019, 1:24pm

I just got Inland. It looks cool. She was at the Day of Dialog event that I did on another panel and she talked it up really well. She also had on a fantastic long jacket with huge flowers that would have looked like upholstery on someone who couldn't pull it off, but she totally worked it.

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).

Jun 8, 2019, 8:43am

I'm jealous of Cindy, because I still have to go back to work (probably for the rest of my life, because I have almost no retirement savings)! But can't wait to do a whole lot of loafing around for a few weeks or months! After I finish Beartown (meeting is tomorrow, so I'll have to finish it tomorrow), the biggest decision I have is what book to read first! It's amazing when I just sit on my bed and look around at all the books I have and they all look incredible. There are like 50 that I want to read RIGHT NOW.

Editado: Jun 10, 2019, 3:14pm

Finished Polio; for those who enjoy well written historica/scientific book, this is among the best I have ever read He covers so much, and I could not put the book down! Will hav to look for a few of his othr books (Kat, I assume you know this one? Any comments?)

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!)

Editado: Jun 13, 2019, 7:19am

I just read Ted Chiang's Exhalation, which I liked. He walks down the aisle between sf and philosophy and pulls in both sides for each story—so "What's Expected of Us" looks at the conundrum of free will through a sf/tech lens, and "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" is a take on AI and tech obsolescence that turns it into a philosophical/moral issue, bringing in not just the expected Uncanny Valley musings but also thoughts about agency, animal rights, parenthood, and consent. The collection reminded me of reading sf as an early teen, when the good thoughtful stuff (hello, Dangerous Visions) was new and sparked all sorts of deep thoughts... none of Chang's plots is particularly radical, but he approaches them in novel ways and writes well.

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!)

Jun 13, 2019, 10:51am

Ok so since January I have finished 10 books, about half my usual. Now in the last week finished two, and just started Overstory which I am happily very much into. The dam has finally broken and I think I can now start reading normally again, Wheeeee! Now just have to decide what I will bring to the beach with me.....

Editado: Jun 14, 2019, 7:55am

I've had a good little run: Trust Exercise, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, and Loudermilk: Or, The Real Poet; Or, The Origin of the World. The first is the most surprising book of the season, the second is a reliable visit with a favorite, the third is indescribable and just tremendous fun.

Jun 14, 2019, 4:46pm

Did you love Trust Exercise? I did. It's just a wicked novel that upends anything you think about fiction. I know it didn't work for a lot of people but I am in awe of her. I shrieked when I got to Part II

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.

Jun 16, 2019, 11:32am

Lauren, I did -- it really was quite a surprising book. I actually think it's a little tough to recommend -- well, to like regular people -- because it's hard to talk about BEFORE people read it.

Jun 18, 2019, 12:03am

Well, gave up on Overstory. Loved the premise, thought the writing in the first two sections was second to none, related and cared about the multiple characters, then there comes a moment when all the hammering over the head was giving me a headache, the characters started sounding alike, and the whole thing was just so depressing. I'll be interested in what others think.

Editado: Jun 19, 2019, 6:39am

Thanks to Lauren's recommendation and handoff, I read Leni Zumas's Red Clocks. I'd stayed away from it when it first came out because it seemed like a bit of a Social Issue Flavor of the Week novel, but I'm so glad it was literally put in my hands because it was great. Really lively, solid writing, without the heavy-handed message I was dreading. That sounds like faint praise, and I don't mean it that way—rather that the story was interesting and nuanced and moral-free (other than the obvious thought that no one should legislate what women do with their bodies), and in fact a lot of fun to read.

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.

Jun 19, 2019, 10:41am

>142 cindydavid4: Unlike you, I never thought the characters all started to sound alike, although I did think some characters got more attention than others. But one of the most appealing things to me about the book -- aside from the obvious one that there is this great "other" life, the life of trees, happening in a slow thrum all around us while we race through our own lives with all the awareness of particularly destructive mayflies and how each character, in turn, begins to hear that thrum -- aside from that, as if it weren't enough of a theme to hang a book on, there is the more general conceit of "how did these particular people end up in this specific place at this specific point in time." It's a plot structure that has fascinated me since I first picked up The Bridge of San Luis Rey in high school, and for some reason, I am a complete sucker for it, wherever I find it.

Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 12:03am

I'm about halfway through "Red Clocks" and not yet feeling the love, rather mildly entertained. Msybe the latter half will perk me up.

Editado: Jun 20, 2019, 5:04pm

I admit it took me two tries with Red Clocks and I really thought I knew where it was going so when it didn't, I was thrilled. And I did find all those names - The Healer, The Biographer a bit heavy handed. BUT. I still thought it was a great.

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.

Editado: Jun 24, 2019, 7:37pm

I finished The Wolf and the Watchman, tempted by a few recommendations elsewhere, which was an extremely gruesome but very well crafted thriller. The late 18th-century Stockholm setting was terrific—dirty, drunken, mean, and politically fraught—and that's what hooked me in. The crime it hinges on, and some of the plot details, are pretty horrific—mutilation, torture, and more than your garden variety of fecal matter. Almost enough to put me off, and I've got a strong stomach, but in the end it was a twisty, well-written, and dark police procedural (with some medium-necessary flourishes that make me think a few of the characters are going to turn up in a future book), and that kept me reading. And the last sentence is worth the price of admission. This is most definitely not for the faint of heart, though.

Next up, The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019 100th Anniversary Edition, which I think I'm reviewing for LJ.

Jun 24, 2019, 8:18pm

Hmmm, I have a strong stomach but likely not in the mood to test it just now.

Jun 25, 2019, 1:00pm

Fame Gold Citrus lost me about midway through. I really thought the premise was clever and I liked her writing but the plot just got so....plotty and when it took a turn toward abusive cult leaders and underground caverns, I just kinda lost interest.

Reading Florida the short stories by Lauren Groff.

Editado: Jul 3, 2019, 4:12pm

Gawd I love the writing of Collette! Just finished (in translation) La Vagabonde, orig. published 1910. The reading experience one has with her is like being seduced, enchanted, and transfixed. She completely inhabits the reader's mind such that one feels that one inhabits the heroine's own. Talk about spell-weaving.

What a fabulous literary trick to have in one's bag!

Jul 4, 2019, 4:11pm

>150 Limelite: plate of shrimp, I saw a bunch of her books in a bookstore while on vacation. Almost bought them but I tried reading a few and it was just too juvenile for my taste. Think I probably need to read her later work (absolutely loved the movie that came out last year. Interesting to compare it to the more modern The Good Wife which also came out the same time)

Jul 4, 2019, 5:22pm

>151 cindydavid4:

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?

Editado: Jul 4, 2019, 6:32pm

I gotta say my jaw dropped when I got to "juvenile," Cindy -- I think Colette is the very opposite of that! Knowing, sophisticated and devastatingly cruel and funny at times...I am grasping for even a hint of juvenile in any of it!

Editado: Jul 5, 2019, 12:08am

sorry.....maybe that wasn't the right word. I know i was blown away by the movie;; I'd never heard about her, and so wanted to read her work. perhaps I needed to stick with it more. But I do want to read her; I'll try Cheri; what else do you recommend? 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.

Jul 5, 2019, 8:34am

My most-worn Colette is The Complete Colette, which sounds like a cheat as a recommendation, but it isn't! I think that volume is out of print now, but I'd go for The Collected Stories of Colette first. There are also the famous Claudine novels and Cheri, among others -- I quite like The Vagabond.

But you're probably more familiar with her than you think -- Gigi is based on a Colette story.

Editado: Jul 5, 2019, 12:13pm

Love love love love love love love Colette.

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.

Jul 5, 2019, 4:20pm

I'm still trudging through The Mueller Report. It's slow going mostly because it's so dry. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about the 2016 election/transition/obstruction of justice, but it's truly mind-boggling, frightening, and infuriating.

If you haven't watched the documentary about The Voter Suppression Playbook narrated by Jeffrey Wright, Rigged, you really should.

Jul 5, 2019, 6:17pm

>156 laurenbufferd: It reminds me of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn except its less coming of age and more slice of life

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.

Jul 5, 2019, 8:46pm

>156 laurenbufferd: Hmm, don’t know that one at all. Library doesn’t have it, but sometimes my radar juju summons books to the booksellers in my orbit so we’ll see.

Jul 5, 2019, 10:28pm

Wasn't posting here when I recently finished a new-ish novel by Canadian writer, Patrick deWitt who you may know as the author of the incomparable cowboy noir novel, The Sisters Brothers. The new novel is nothing like. It displays the wide ranging talents of the author because it's excellent in an entirely different way, being poignant, warm, and deeply understanding and tender of its characters.

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!

Jul 6, 2019, 7:56am

Lots of Patrick deWitt fans here, and many folks (myself included) liked French Exit. I don't usually love books that aim for quirky, but I thought deWitt pulled it off with real affection for his characters, and more depth than is apparent on first glance. And Little Frank is one of the best cat characters ever.

Jul 6, 2019, 9:33am

French Exit came in first on the 2918 round up of Book Balloon's favorite books that Julie does. That list again:

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

Jul 6, 2019, 9:34am

>162 DG_Strong: The back to the future best of list!

Jul 6, 2019, 1:37pm

>161 lisapeet:

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!

>162 DG_Strong:

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.

Editado: Jul 7, 2019, 9:19am

Oh I am an enormous fan of The Story of a Marriage! I think it's his best book and it has an absolutely ingenious structure with a Quite Significant plot revelation that somehow doesn't feel like a gimmick or a gotcha. While I was very excited that Less won the Pulitzer -- mainly because comic novels NEVER win and I'd argue that they're harder to pull off in the first place -- I do think Story of a Marriage is the much better book.

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.

Jul 7, 2019, 12:33pm

Story of a Marriage was excellent but my fave of his is The Confessions of Max Tivoli . So much better than Benjamin Button and should have been made into a movie. Think I may need to reread that

>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.

Jul 7, 2019, 12:39pm

>164 Limelite: Celine and her first book Song of Achilles are really good! I have read lots of Ursula Le Guin but never read Lavina. Thanks for the heads up (I am a huge fan of fractured fairytales and myths turned upside down. Great fun!)

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.

Jul 8, 2019, 7:21pm

>165 DG_Strong: >166 cindydavid4:

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!

Jul 9, 2019, 10:23pm

I survived both the Fourth of July bad neighborly week of all-night fireworks and my sweet little black cat's dying and a high-maintenance house guest (not all at the same time, thank goodness). And... life goes on. Reading does, anyway. I finished The O. Henry Prize Stories#100th Anniversary Edition, which was fun—uneven in parts but never boring. I usually enjoy the O. Henry Prize Stories series. At least in the awards' current form, the work chosen is much less concerned with setting standards for a theoretical short story canon than showcasing a range of up-to-the-minute fiction and offering a snapshot of what interests contemporary writers at a given time. In this batch, the majority of the 20 featured stories build on how identity—social, racial, cultural, familial, sexual, and otherwise—forms and shifts... maybe that's all short stories, but the combination of varied cultures, eras, and experiences throws that area of exploration into slightly sharper relief. Standouts for me: Tessa Hadley's "Funny Little Snake," Sarah Hall's "Goodnight Nobody," Weike Wang's "Omakase," Caolinn Hughes's "Prime," Souvankham Thammavongsa's "Slingshot."

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.

Editado: Jul 10, 2019, 1:58am

Peace to you, Lisa. That’s a whole lot of grief and aggravation. Sending love to your black kitty.

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.”

Jul 10, 2019, 12:38pm

I am dying to read that Ninth St Women!!!

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.

Jul 13, 2019, 10:37pm

So DG will be happy to know that I came across Earthly Paradise: Colette Autobiography from the Writings of a Lifetime which i am enjoying. and plate of shrimp I also got in the mail Patrick Leigh Fermoor a Life in Letters.

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.

Jul 14, 2019, 11:26am


Jul 14, 2019, 12:38pm

>172 cindydavid4:

I am jealous.

Jul 14, 2019, 12:51pm

Sometimes I think it really matters where you start with a writer. I think you will enjoy Earthly Paradise, cindy.

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.

Editado: Jul 14, 2019, 4:49pm

The first section of Earthly Paradise, of her childhood is filled with vivid passages of her mothers love for life, and for her child; and how much love Colette had for her. Just lovely. Need to put my mothers house and sido on my list.

Jul 18, 2019, 7:25pm

I knocked out The Falls of the Wyona over last night and this morning. It's very beautifully written -- its cover tricks you into thinking it might be a YA novel; it's not, but there's nothing in it that could keep it from it, other than some language and a few dick things. There are some anachronisms that drove me bats, though -- it's set just after WW2 and there's a specific "Atlanta Braves baseball cap" reference, and someone is called a "spaz," both of which are a couple of decades early. There are a few society/behavioral things riiiight on the edge of believability, especially since it's set in an isolated Appalachian town where electricity is still relatively recent and there's a whole big scene about the first TV in town. It's got a lot of good writing in it, though, and I'll look for his next book.

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.

Editado: Jul 20, 2019, 4:02pm

Hi guys. Finished and liked Pursuit by Joyce Carol Oates Kat I can send it to you if you want (it’s an ARC.)

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.

Jul 20, 2019, 3:56pm

None of my links worked - I’ll try to edit.

Editado: Jul 21, 2019, 8:09am

Lynn! So good to see you (and looks like you fixed all your links). Hope things are well with you. I had been eyeing A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (of course I was), and NYPL has the ebook, so I'll put it on my list—thanks!

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.

Jul 21, 2019, 10:56am

lisa, I think Brown Girl Dreaming and Another Brooklyn really worth reading. I didn't love this most recent but YMMV. And I knew that kitten book would be good for something!

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.

Jul 21, 2019, 2:34pm

Finished PLF: A Life and Letters; once I got passed a certain point, the name dropping didn't bother me and I was hooked. I esp loved the letters that dealt with the actual writing of his books. Very well edited. At first I wished for more letters from his travels then realized that his books do that for me. Now rereading broken road, the final book in his series that was posthumously published, using what he had already written as well as with lettrs. Liked it before; now tho with more background how it was put together, liking it even more

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

Jul 21, 2019, 2:41pm

lynn how great to see you again! Hope all is well. I have lost track of Kaye the last few years so missed that one; Ill pick it up, thanks for the heads up

Jul 21, 2019, 3:30pm

cindy, I love thinking that you are well on your way to being Colette's #1 fan!

Hi Lynn!

Jul 22, 2019, 6:21pm

Thanks, Lynn. Good clicking there for me.

Editado: Jul 25, 2019, 10:08am

Reading and really really enjoying Crudo

Jul 25, 2019, 8:51pm

Casting around for a way to break up the 900-plus page Ninth Street Women to get a little fiction into my brain, I had the idea to finish up some of the short story collections I read part but not all of for last year's LJ Best Books. First on my list was my favorite of the unfinished, Mark Slouka's All That Is Left Is All That Matters. And the last few stories didn't disappoint. It's a very elegiac collection, often melancholy but never sentimental, even as the characters contend with losses both small and enormous. Slouka is strong on the form, with a deft control of language and, in particular, plotting—each of his people, even the youngest, meets some form of great change head-on and has to shift their own inner map, either subtly or on a grand scale, and it's to his credit that all are different and seismic in their own ways. A recurring young protagonist, the son of Czech immigrants (as is the author), is particularly engaging as he grapples with his emerging awareness of family dynamics during late-1960s lakeside summers.

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.

Editado: Jul 26, 2019, 1:31pm

“A Boy and His Dog st the End of the World” was a very good read for me.

Jul 28, 2019, 12:39pm

Lisa, did you read Crudo. I loved it. I was predisposed not to like it - I read the review and it sounded pretentious and stupid and for me, the jury is out on autofiction or whatever that's called when you are writing about yourself but as a novel. And I really wasn't sure about the Kathy Acker part. But I was pulled in immediately and fascinated, it's the closest I've come to reading about what it feels like to be alive right now - the distractions of social media, the fragmentary nature oftime, the difference between being alone and lonely, selfishness and empathy, what it means to be married, the feeling of low level depressive sledge that so many of us find themselves in since the Trump election, the rise of the new right. I just thought it was an EXTRAORDINARY piece of fiction and I'm eagerly wanting to read everything by her right now.

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.

Jul 28, 2019, 5:11pm

>189 laurenbufferd: I didn't, for the exact reasons you almost didn't—the blurb made it sound really unappealing to me. I mean, how are you supposed to improve on Kathy Acker? But you know I'll take your word on it, and the library's got it, so I'm in.

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.

Jul 29, 2019, 9:08pm

The rollicking adventures of genetics professor, Don Tillman, whose autistic compulsive self is hillariously flummoxed by his relationship with Rosie whose genius is affected by her own quirky personality as they struggle to move forward in a normal world full of normal people. Book two of three, The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion.

Ago 2, 2019, 11:52am

I figured I'd do the same as I did with the last short story collection, and pick up Lydia Millet's Fight No More where I left off last fall. But as soon as I started reading I a) remembered how much I had liked it and b) realized I didn't remember enough of the nuance of what I'd already read to do justice to it, so I started from the beginning. And I'm glad I did, because the linked short story format is really done justice here. While the stories center around the same general area of white, upper-middle-class (with some exceptions) Los Angeles, and are loosely gathered around the theme of home and family—the central character is a realtor—it's up to the reader to find deeper connections than what's apparent on the surface. Real estate/home is a bulwark against loss, and family is what you're born into but also what you build—also to shore against loss, not to mention against that family you're born into. Sometimes the characters can be a bit cut and dried—you pretty much know who you should root for and who are the bad guys from the beginning—but Millet's enormous compassion for the good ones buoys the book. The writing and dialogue are both terrific, and Millet does the hard-won release of dark humor very well. I'll be seeking out more of her work.

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.

Ago 3, 2019, 10:51am

Lisa, did you read Heads of the Colored People? A very strong collection of stories from a new writer - identity, blackness, academia, what it's like to be the only black body in a white space - like a yoga class, for example. I found a few of them too glib or with the kind of twist ending I don't care much for - I think she is still working out the right way to inject humour into her stories - but I thought some of them astoundingly good.

Ago 3, 2019, 10:58am

>193 laurenbufferd: That's one of the collections that I read part of for LJ last fall. It didn't make Best Books because of that unevenness, but it's one I definitely want to pick up again and see the full measure of. Did you ever read Fight No More?

Ago 3, 2019, 3:28pm

Is that the Nez Perce book? If so, nope.

Ago 3, 2019, 3:34pm

No, it’s Lydia Millet linked short stories—my little review above.

Editado: Ago 9, 2019, 12:36pm

Still nope. But I would. :)

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.

Ago 9, 2019, 1:21pm

Lauren, I'm so happy to hear that! I love a book-gifting victory!

Ago 9, 2019, 6:05pm

>197 laurenbufferd: Wait, Peggy Seeger was Kirsty MacColl's stepmother? I had no idea... wow. I miss Kirsty. Book gifting victories are the best!

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.

Ago 9, 2019, 6:17pm

Abosolutely loving Sharp by Michelle Dean

Ago 9, 2019, 7:42pm

So my ridiculously high-falutin' quest to read all 20 volumes of Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle is 1/20th over; The Fortune of the Rougons is a whopper of a first volume. I mean! It ends with

"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.

Ago 10, 2019, 8:18pm

Hey Deeg I was thinking of you today; was at my local used and saw two shelves filled with about a hundred penuin classics. Covvers were in pretty good shape, but the insides of most were filled with underlines and marks. (suspect this was some students collections he needded to purge) Too bad I would have bought some ($5 each)Anyway thought you were a collector of this so I thought of you

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

Old Baggage

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

Reincarnation Blues

Good thing I am retired!!!

Ago 11, 2019, 1:46pm

>201 DG_Strong:

I think your bullet found its mark. What an ending! Makes it sound like this might have been originally serialized in some Paris newspaper.

Ago 11, 2019, 2:19pm

Reading has not been easy for me of late, too many interruptions and distractions, but I enjoyed the hell out of A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World.

Ago 12, 2019, 9:49pm

I just read an essay in the NYT entited The Surfer's Secret to Happiness, how the author learns to, if not quite accept, perhaps discovers part of herself as she reflects on her illness and disability. Really beautifully written, apparentlly she died of cancer in February. Made me so sad that this wonderful voice is no more. Her name is Ellis Avery, and I just found out she has two novels , a book of poetry and a memoir. I plan to pick one up, just curious if anyone has read her before.

Editado: Ago 13, 2019, 11:18am

I loved Old Baggage Cindy.

I am a state of delight over First Time ever and much less so with a British novel Sight that's up for the James Tait award. It's just a misery.

sending you some love, Kat.

Ago 13, 2019, 3:56pm

Downloaded from Net Galley, arc of When We Were Vikings, by new Canadian author, Andrew David MacDonald.

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.

Ago 13, 2019, 4:36pm

Limelite, another in that genre:

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Editado: Ago 13, 2019, 7:52pm

>208 Kat.Warren:

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.

Ago 13, 2019, 11:31pm

That's an interesting idea, Limelite. I'd love to know what books come to mind for people.

Ago 14, 2019, 12:33am

>208 Kat.Warren: >207 Limelite: Loved Speed of Dark! Ive used it in teacher trainings before, always leads to great discussion. Flowers for Algernon is in a similar vein (read it in HS but not really YA)

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

Ago 14, 2019, 12:56am

>209 Limelite: I would expand to include books and movies with disabled characters in general, Is the character a complex part of the plot, or is his disabilty simply a vehicle for another characters arc . Another topic - disabled actors playing characters with disabilities. Peter Dinklage is amazing as Tyrion, for example, in Games of Thrones. One of the shows I loved as a kid was Ironsides. He is a detective who is shot, and paralized. His need for a wheelchair did not keep him from doing his job. Anyway, lots of different ways you ca n go with it.

Editado: Ago 14, 2019, 6:36am

Although I'd use "differently abled" rather than "disabled." I don't think Peter Dinklage would put himself in the latter category. And instead of "mental disability," call it "neuro-atypical." Don't forget there are many more people reading this than are participating, and it's a good thing to avoid being hurtful.

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.

Ago 14, 2019, 7:50am

IMHO, if there's going to be a new thread, I think it should be about books only. Movies and TV shows have separate threads already.

Ago 14, 2019, 9:58am

DG I've wanted to read the Zola series in chronological order for a long time! I've read a few of his book randomly and I really enjoyed them, although they are hugely depressing. One is about
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......

Ago 14, 2019, 10:49am

>213 lisapeet: No, you are right; I was tired when I wrote that, Words matter. If only more people understood, And right about Peter Dinklage; love him in interviews he describes it all so well, why he chose to play the part and what he wants to bring to it.

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

Editado: Ago 15, 2019, 6:33am

>206 laurenbufferd: That Sight has the most godawful cover.

Ago 15, 2019, 3:26am

Another Zola fan here. Yes, read in order. I read them all in Penguin paperbacks, a feat my eyes no longer can do.

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.

Ago 15, 2019, 6:52am

>218 Kat.Warren: Yes, that's true about mental illness. Since the conversation above is about folks on the autism spectrum, though, "neuro-atypical" would be the descriptor. I guess you could lump everything together, so as not to have too many new threads, under a "Alternate POV" header or something.

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.

Ago 15, 2019, 1:23pm

OK! I've done it. New thread on literature and books about and by the differently abled is here:

Ago 15, 2019, 2:39pm

Lisa: 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.

Big yes to this, Lisa

Ago 15, 2019, 5:06pm

It is smugly, isn't it, Lisa. I'm not sure what to make of it. The writing is gorgeous, I mean DROP DEAD. But it's so miserable - about a woman deciding whether or not to start a family. Almost 200 pages of such. And she is just so immobilized by this - I don't know whether this is a really a novel about depression or what all,

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.

So, that.

Ago 16, 2019, 1:17pm

Half done with utterly enjoyable When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald. Zelda, Gert, AK47, and Marxy battle dragons on their way to creating their own legends.

Editado: Ago 16, 2019, 10:39pm

Now reading Electric Hotel and enjoying the heck out of it; Love the silent film era and am always seeking out books like this. His book about the Luminer Brothers The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerrea few years ago was also very good.

Editado: Ago 17, 2019, 9:23am

I finished Best American Essays 2019, which is a good snapshot of what writers—and a lot of us—are thinking about at the end of this very weird decade. Very good, complex work in this one. I would have liked to have seen a few more non-American voices included (the essays have to be published in North America in English, but that shouldn't exclude foreign-born folks), but on the other hand I was glad to see good Indigenous representation. And, of course—Rebecca Solnit is the guest editor—an abundance of women's voices. At least two of the essays, by J. Drew Lanham and Terese Marie Mailhot, impressed me enough that now I want to read their books (The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature and Heart Berries: A Memoir, respectively. A good collection, worth reading. Working on a review of this for LJ now.

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.

Ago 17, 2019, 9:16am

Isn't it fun? I really enjoyed it and reviewed it here.

I also liked his earlier book The Last Painting of Sarah De Vos very very much.

Ago 17, 2019, 12:50pm

I'll have to look for it, thanks!

>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.

Editado: Ago 17, 2019, 1:25pm

>226 laurenbufferd: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos was excellent. I forgot that was the same author, so looking forward to the new one even more.

>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.

Ago 17, 2019, 6:12pm

>226 laurenbufferd: and >228 lisapeet:

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.

Ago 19, 2019, 1:45pm

Twenty pages from the end of Eleanor Oliphant is having a good day, and I can't remember when I last
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.

Ago 19, 2019, 3:45pm

see, life is too short for me to do that. I used to give books 50 pages (tho would often check amazon to see if it might be worth going forward) but now, if there isn't something that catches me in the first few pages, I am libel to move on.

Ago 19, 2019, 8:35pm

>230 alans: But what did you really think of the book, alan? Heh... I'm not sure it would be my cuppa tea either.

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.

Ago 20, 2019, 10:54am

That's so cute! And you've got a choose-your-own adventure-kitten book under your belt too so you are doubly qualified.

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.

Ago 20, 2019, 11:38am

>233 laurenbufferd: That choose your own adventure kitten book cracks me up. Apparently the life of a kitten is extremely perilous!

Glad you liked the new Zadie Smith, because I’ve got that up next.

Ago 22, 2019, 9:55pm

The book I just finished, Electric Hotel is about the history of cinema, then continues with photography during WWII. I found the history fascinatiing (long been a fan of silents) and loved how the author explained how movies were done without being a research hole Could have done without the modern characters , and felt that the characters seemed to lose steam in the second half.

.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.

Ago 25, 2019, 2:16pm

Loved loved loved News of the World and cannot wait till the movie with Tom Hanks comes out (I admit that the plot sounds somewhat like paper moon,but there is enough different that its not)

Ago 26, 2019, 2:18pm

What have I been reading...well, just finished The Left Hand of Darkness. Some other things I've read while at home: I'll Be Gone in the Dark, Good Omens, Evvie Drake Starts Over, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Luckiest Girl Alive, The Marriage of Opposites, City of Girls, Leviathan Wakes, NOrmal People, Norse Mythology, The Leftovers. Along with several audiobooks and some other less interesting stuff (lots of magazines, true crime, thrillers). See, it IS stupid work that was keeping me from reading! Jobs are dumb. We should all just be rich.

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!)

Ago 26, 2019, 11:00pm

I'm halfway through reading Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention by Carol Freitas. I've been lately (in years) reading lots of this stuff. Awkwardly put, but I'm blown away by the writing of so many women who've found a language to convey things that were not previously possible to convey. Does that make sense? It's fascinating and emotional and exactly right most of the time. This little book isn't art or journalism, but it's spot-on especially in the way that it drags and tortures the reader and nothing's happening but everything is happening. If you know what I mean, you'll love this memoir.

Ago 27, 2019, 3:23am

Living in the U.S. means we sometimes miss spectacular writers from the U.K. Herewith my wee effort to amend that loss with this Quintet of English Writers:

Jane Gardam (1928 - )
The “Old Filth” Trilogy starting with “Old Filth”
“Queen of the Tambourine”

Nina Bawden (1925 - 2012)
“Family Money”
“Afternoon of a Good Woman”
“Walking Naked”

Elizabeth Taylor (1912 - 1975)
“Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont”

Mary Wesley (1912 - 2002)
“Harnessing Peacocks”
“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”

Editado: Ago 27, 2019, 8:43am

>236 cindydavid4: I loved News of the World too. I didn't know it was getting a film treatment and honestly I have no desire to see that.

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.

Ago 27, 2019, 10:08am

You had me at 'four young girls growing up in Boston'

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.

Ago 27, 2019, 11:38am

lisa, I do understand; Ive been disappointed with Tom Hanks movies before (Im looking at you Gump!) but think it has possibilities

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

Ago 27, 2019, 2:20pm

Lisa you're my go to person for new short fiction releases. I've looked it up in the library but it's too early
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'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.

Ago 27, 2019, 2:42pm

>239 Kat.Warren:

"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

Editado: Ago 27, 2019, 11:15pm

Not to mention Katharine Weber’s Still Life with Monkey which is brilliant.

Ago 28, 2019, 4:34pm

Oh, Alan, that's a good rant! Though I would read the cat/Esperanto one for sure.

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!

Ago 28, 2019, 9:49pm

Zola fan here.

Sep 1, 2019, 8:35am

There's a lot of Zola discussion going on in the Club Read 2019 group.

>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.

Sep 2, 2019, 12:29am

Lisa did you see the total rave for Edwidge Danticats new collection on the NPR site? They pretty much thought it was perfect.

Sep 2, 2019, 7:27am

>249 alans: I only saw her NPR interview transcription—I haven't actually read any reviews of it. I'm always interested to read anything of hers if it crosses my path, but I don't have a copy of it yet.

Sep 2, 2019, 3:15pm

Finished A Thousand Beginnings and Endings interesting takes on Asian tales; some worked better than others, Now reading Inland and absolutely loving it! ( wrong touchstone: author is Tea Obreht)

Sep 2, 2019, 3:17pm

Finished A Thousand Beginnings and Endings interesting takes on Asian tales; some worked better than others, Now reading Inland a novel Tea Obreht and absolutely loving it!

Sep 2, 2019, 3:38pm

Finishing up John le Carré's The Looking-Glass War. When I'm approaching "the end" in books I love, my pace slows down to put off the inevitable as long as possible. I've slowed down this Cold War espionage novel for that reason. But for another reason, too -- I'm afraid of the ending.

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.

Editado: Sep 7, 2019, 9:53am

I finished the new Zadie Smith collection, Grand Union: Stories, and have mixed feelings about it. As I said above, she's so smart—and I think her work is best when she's showing off her brilliance as a creative writer and dialoguist (I'm sure there's an actual word for that but it escapes me at the moment), channeling other voices to weave strange and wonderful realities or provide a sharp, skewed commentary on the contemporary day. When the voice and characters are closer to her own I like the work less—there's an odd blurring of short story, memoir, and essay going on in a few of the pieces that didn't work for me, as much as I enjoy seeing the gears in her excellent brain turn. I have to review for LJ and that's going to be an interesting job... these are actual consumer reviews, not just "I liked it/I didn't" but "should you buy it for your library?" With some books, like the last one I reviewed for them (Driving in Cars with Homeless Men), there was very little distinction between the two. This will be more of a challenge because it's interesting and challenging and will appeal to Smith's fans (Lauren, what did you end up thinking?), and just because I didn't love it doesn't mean I want to push people away from it.

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).

Sep 7, 2019, 10:26am

Lisa, I felt it was uneven but the good stories (Lazy River, Two Men Arrive in a Village, Kelso Deconstructed) are so good, they make up for the ones that are slightly amplified sketches or experiments that don't quite work. For me, I think she's an important enough voice TO include in a library collection and because the short story form seems relatively new to her, well, that's another strike in her favor. I think you'll have people who will want to read her because they loved White Teeth and On Beauty and younger folks who might stumble across it and feel like she's talking about a world that they know well. I agree- her ability with dialogue is just sparkling and she can effortlessly move from pop culture references to academia to gossip in a way that always leaves me a bit breathless. And she's political.

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.

Editado: Sep 7, 2019, 5:49pm

I can't seem to find where we put long quotations that caught our eye, so here it will go. Zola. Sorry to be boring everyone with Zola, but there are eighteen more of these books to go, SO GET USED TO IT. It's rather astonishing what he gets away with -- this is from The Kill (La Curée), which is ostensibly about real estate speculation but then you run across this rather astonishing description of the main female character's bedroom and dressing chambers, and at some point during it, you realize that you are no longer quiiiiite reading about her, uh, bedchambers.


"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.

Sep 7, 2019, 6:02pm

Sheesh. I need a cigarette.

Sep 7, 2019, 6:24pm

>256 DG_Strong:

Was it good for you too?

Editado: Sep 8, 2019, 5:58pm

I am loving this:
A Summer with Montaigne by Antoine Compagnon
Plus, French flaps!

Sep 9, 2019, 10:01pm

Heh. I was going to post what I'm reading, but it seems so banal after that excerpt. I'll post tomorrow.

Sep 9, 2019, 11:38pm

Pish tush, Mir.

Sep 10, 2019, 7:39am

>256 DG_Strong: Wow. I would say that was one of the most marvelous bits of literary sublimation I've ever read but it's not even sublimation, really. That pushed Zola up a few more notches in my need-to-read canon.

Sep 10, 2019, 2:05pm

lol Kat.

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.

Sep 10, 2019, 3:02pm

I am reading the new Michael Crummy and its pretty amazing. Its about a brother and sister living on the coast of Labrador and are orphaned by their parents very young. Their only other interaction with people is when a boat comes to pick up the cod that they trade for other supplies.It's kind of hard to describe because their relationship becomes very intense in all the ways you'd imagine but he's such a good craftsman that what would be icky in a less accomplished writer is very sensitively handled. Still, I am very relieved that some adults have shown up and proving to be very helpful.

Sep 10, 2019, 3:37pm

It's a relief when the adults are helpful rather than making a situation worse.

And thanks for the mid-read review. I'll definitely read it sooner than later.

Editado: Sep 10, 2019, 8:48pm

>264 laurenbufferd: Not sure if this has any bearing on the new book, but Crummey's Galore had one of the sweetest, sexiest but least prurient sex scenes I've ever read. So he's obviously good at handling the delicacies of human relations, whatever this book has going on.

Editado: Sep 10, 2019, 9:03pm

I have another book to recommend. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Did I mention that yet? It’s stunning. I got it because I thought it had the most beautiful title. It’s my pick to click for a major award this year.

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)

Editado: Sep 12, 2019, 6:04pm

Lisa, the one consistent thing through three of them so far that has been the most surprising is how readable they are. I don't know why that surprised me, but you really do just turn the pages.

Sep 13, 2019, 1:07am

That Zola quote was quite the treat. Which translation is that, DG?


Sheesh. I'd forgotten how expensive it can be catching up here (and I know that's a terrible sentence).

Sep 13, 2019, 11:52am

Pat, I had the same thought! I realized that my urge to buy books goes up hugely when I read this thread. So I chant to myself, "library books are free(ish)", and go there instead.

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.

Sep 13, 2019, 12:03pm

Lynn, I wish if loved the Voung more. I thought the middle section about the relationship with the neighboring kid was incredible - crystal clear, emotional, earned - every thing else was a bit too precious bordering on tedium for me - what is a country but a life sentence . blergh. But I'd read another novel by him in a heartbeat because that middle section was THAT good.

Editado: Sep 17, 2019, 6:43am

I read Rion Amilcar Scott's The World Doesn't Require You on a recent work trip that logged a good half as much travel time as time spent on the ground. It's a collection of short stories and one novella, set in Scott's invented town of Cross River, MD, site of the only successful slave uprising. The stories here are all deeply concerned with race and racism, and Scott pulls from an unusual toolbox to tell them—sf/fantasy, folklore, and some very dark social satire—to also take on religion, music hierarchies, sexism (particularly the idea of women's erasure by men), blackface/minstrelsy, and academia, which gets a whopping big twist of the knife. These are really smart, dark, and definitely challenging. They shift shape even within a single story—the novella is a bricolage of changing first-person narrative, email, essay drafts, and a syllabus—and while reading, they sometimes felt overly diffused. But there's no denying their power, and they've stuck in my head since I finished. This isn't an easy or outright entertaining book (though it certainly serves that purpose), but it's fascinating and worth reading and—though I hate making this distinction—probably important

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.

Sep 17, 2019, 9:35am

I am a total fangirl of any read that meshes genre... well. That Amilcar Scott is right up my alley. Thanks, Lisa.

Sep 17, 2019, 2:44pm

Is it like Friday Black?

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.

The Innocents

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.

Sep 17, 2019, 3:04pm

I’m fairly panting for that Crummey.

Sep 18, 2019, 1:51pm

Kat, send me your address and I'll send you a copy.

Editado: Sep 18, 2019, 4:25pm

"That Zola quote was quite the treat. Which translation is that, DG?"

Pat, it's Brian Nelson, the Oxford World Classics editions. Though they don't all have the same translators.

Sep 18, 2019, 2:42pm

Okay. Thanks.

Sep 18, 2019, 3:02pm

Mir, that’s a lovely offer. I didn’t realize it already is out in Canada. Just ordered it, should be here in two weeks.

Sep 19, 2019, 6:36am

>274 laurenbufferd: The World Doesn't Require You is and isn't like Friday Black. It uses a variety of unexpected lenses to look at the lived experience of race and racism, but it's blunter and a bit more narrowly focused. I don't feel like the writing was quite as finessed as Adjei-Brenyah's, and I liked it a bit less for that—and because they're semi-linked (recurring characters, and all set in Scott's fictional town) not all the stories feel like they have full arcs by themselves. Still, I think it's worth reading just to see what he's up to. I can send you my copy once Best Books is over.

Sep 19, 2019, 3:19pm

Started Book of Salt really interested in it but having trouble with narrators voice; will just hav to get used to it

Also reading The Great Believers I well remember that time period, but I am learning much here i did not know. Stunning writing.

Sep 20, 2019, 3:24pm

I finished Middlemarch, which was fascinating. I can see why I used it to talk about Foucault's History of Sexuality eons ago. Dorothea is an important character, but it's Rosamund and Lydgate who really sit at the core of the book, I think. The final scene between Dorothea and Rosamund gave me lots to think about. No easy answers in this book.

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.

Sep 20, 2019, 5:02pm

Wow. Middlemarch. As we say in Boston, "Yous all ahh wicked smaht."

Sep 20, 2019, 5:39pm

>282 mkunruh: I started Middlemarch a few years ago and lost track of it somehow. I'd really like to read it, though—so many people whose taste I share have loved it.

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.

Sep 20, 2019, 9:09pm

>282 mkunruh: >284 lisapeet: a friend of mine is reading Game of Kings for a book club and I thought oh, I should revisit that, it's been years. Big mistake. I don't know what it is about those books but once started I cannot stop reading them. I binge on Dunnett like other people binge on tv shows. Or Fritos. Dunnett is literary crack cocaine.

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.

Sep 20, 2019, 9:50pm

Mir, have you ever read any Sharon Kay Penman? I always recommend beginning with her (IMO) masterpiece The Sunne in Splendour, before moving on to the Welsh Princes trilogy. She has a new one coming out in 2020 that I can't wait to read. The Land Beyond the Sea is about King Baldwin IV. He's the Jerusalem king with leprosy in that terrific Ridley Scott movie "Kingdom of Heaven."

Sep 21, 2019, 8:10am

Pat, I did, mainly because of you, and then I made my husband and mother read it as well! Niccolo is Rising is set around the same time, but in Bruges (mainly) and she touches on what is happening in England so Sunne was in my head, quite a bit yesterday. When I'm done my Dunnet run, because I'm going to finish this series, I think. I'll dig up the Welsh Prince series.

Niki, "crack" is a good description. She's just what I need right now -- engrossing, compulsive, and not pap.

Editado: Sep 21, 2019, 6:50pm

>285 southernbooklady: I know there are big fat Dorothy Dunnett companion books, but not sure how exhaustive they are. One thing I really liked about reading Lymond in ebook form was the ability to highlight something and Google it on the spot, whether it was an archaic phrase or word or flower or place. I love how the reading of her books sort of clicks as you go, and it starts to make this overall sense even if you don't get every reference. She's so good.

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.

Editado: Sep 22, 2019, 1:48pm

I am re-reading Villette. Accordng to a note in teh book, I read it in 1986 and loved it. Then, tried again a few years ago and I just couldn't get through it. I blame my phone. I am now turning off phone and then taking book into another room in the house and have thus read 100 pages. Y'all, it is really really weird but so good. Talk about an unreliable narrator though. Who are you Lucy Snow and why are you adrift? Why don'
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.

Sep 24, 2019, 12:34pm

I'm onto the fourth in the Rougon Macquart cycle, The Conquest of Plassans.

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.

Editado: Sep 27, 2019, 1:35am

So, according to Katharine Duckett, Prospero didn't give up his magical ways (actually, they got darker and darker). With Ariel's help, and after 12 yrs. on the island, Prospero and Miranda returned to Milan. Antonio's growing mad chained up in the tunnels under the palace. Ferdinand and Alonso returned to Naples to prepare for the wedding. Beatrice's sister, Miranda's spinster Aunt Agata, ran the palace housekeeping duties during their absences and is anything but welcoming. Miranda's forbidden outside of the royal boudoir without monitoring, and for some mysterious reason, without facial veiling. There's been no communication from Ferdinand. No one will answer her questions about her mother (the beautiful but long-dead Beatrice), and all the servants treat Miranda like a pariah. Except for the slave Dorothea, a feisty Moroccan witch. Miranda and Dorothea become BFF's and are determined to get to the bottom of all the palace intrigue. Meanwhile, Prospero spends more and more time down in the tunnels with his magic.

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.

Editado: Sep 27, 2019, 12:20pm

The Great Believers will be on my top 10 list of reads for this year; well written, great characters, and kept me turning the pages. I was in college in those days; thought I knew, but really didn't.

Sep 30, 2019, 6:34am

>289 laurenbufferd: Oh no worries, I was just thinking it would be fun to dish the book a little. And I'm a week late with the review (with permission because we're all slammed at work) but I've been thinking about it a lot, and I agree with you about "Two Men Arrive in a Village" and am conflicted about "The Lazy River," which doesn't feel like one of the strongest to me but I think also bears rereading (and that in itself might be in its favor). From a total craft POV I'd also give props to "Just Right," "Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets," and "Meet the President!" But my main quibble is that only about half the stories in the collection are really solid, and the others are kind of hipster/current vibe/solipsistic.

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.

Editado: Sep 30, 2019, 11:25pm

Becoming Dr Seuss - Im always a bit uneasy with biographies: too often they are either hagiographies or mud slinging, or taking events and making wild speculation about how the subject thought or felt. Or going on and on about one theme that just gets boring to read about. So far anyway, this appears to be a well written interesting account of one of my favorite childrens' authors. Hopefully it continues!

Editado: Oct 1, 2019, 8:28pm

All right, lovers of uncomfortable writing. Rag was really dark, visceral, often gruesome—all about the pull of blood and violence and how hard it can be to connect to another human being—but also kind of thrilling and very effectively written, without bells and whistles. I read straight through without blinking. Not for the faint of heart, but weirdly wonderful.

Oct 4, 2019, 10:19pm

The Secrets We Kept. I was all set for a fun book—the CIA, underestimated women spies, Dr Zhivago, the gulag; all pretty much exactly my sort of thing—but honestly, it seemed way undercooked. I get the sense that there was some MAJOR plot/structure surgery. A big chunk of story just isn’t there, almost like some of the pages are missing. There’s also a groaner of a scene that was obviously someone’s darling that maybe should have gotten itself killed.

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.

Oct 4, 2019, 10:21pm

>296 SPRankin: Oh that's too bad about The Secretes We Kept... I had high hopes for that one with all the praise it was getting. I may try it anyway if I find myself in the mood for that kind of book.

Oct 4, 2019, 10:30pm

Oh, you should read it. There are a lot of fun things—the chapters that are in the collective voice of the CIA secretaries are good, and my favorite part.

Oct 4, 2019, 10:47pm

OK, then. It does sound like a good snack.

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.

Oct 5, 2019, 8:42am

OK, well all of my Zola talk does not SEEM to have inspired a Zola revival (your loss!) so I'm just going to keep hollering about him into the abyss.

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!

Oct 5, 2019, 8:56am

I can’t decide whether that should come before or after The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

Editado: Oct 5, 2019, 9:29pm

Took a break from Seuss to take up Pico Iyer's latest Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells I loved that this book is a sequel of sorts to Lady and the Monk; this one deals with loss and aging, but also about a marriage of two compassionate people who comfort and support each other. "Iyer offers us a singular view of Japan, in the season that reminds us to take nothing for granted"-

Oct 5, 2019, 11:03pm

The Secrets We Kept has the most enticing cover.

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!

Editado: Oct 5, 2019, 11:10pm

I am having the time of my life with The Wife. It’s been so long since I’ve read such an engaging and moving novel that is so womanist. I feel like I’m reading Marilyn French all over again who terrified me in my early twenties. Wolitzers caustic wit and more power to women is just blowing me away. I’ve never read her before,never considered her before,haven’t seen the movie but this is such a great read. Anyone else have thoughts on her? I’m afraid her other books may be repeats of this one .

Oct 5, 2019, 11:24pm

The book is one of my favs, Ive not read her others, but curious, if you liked this, why wouldn't you want the other books to be repeats of this one? Anyway, . Movie is not a bad adaptation; Also very interesting that the movie Colette came out around the same time; rather similar synopsis in real life.

Oct 6, 2019, 8:56am

Yes. Lisa's a treasure, Alan. Nice to see SP posting more.

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.

Oct 6, 2019, 9:43am

I guess,Cindy if she repeats herself it would be too much of a good thing. But Isaac Bashevis Singer once said,even the greatest writers have only one story to tell.

Editado: Oct 8, 2019, 3:27pm

edited because I was in a mood.....

Oct 6, 2019, 12:14pm

>307 alans: yes that does make sense

Oct 6, 2019, 4:53pm

Lisa:have you cracked open the latest BASS yet?

Oct 6, 2019, 4:55pm

There is a line in the just kills me,when the goyish mother finds out her golden princess has married a Jew. The narrator remarks, My mother probably thought my husband had a penis the size of a challah! That is hysterical!

Oct 7, 2019, 5:27am

No, no, Cindy. I just found the juxtaposition funny. No judgment from me on Dr. Seuss. When my son was a toddler, I'd have gone a little mad were it not for the Sleep Book.

Oct 8, 2019, 3:28pm

No worries, Pat, you were right it was funny, and I was being silly. Carry on (and I get you about the sleep book!)

Este tema fue continuado por The Eternal Question: What Are You Reading? 6.