This will be interesting to follow in the next few weeks. The Booker is, IMHO, a particularly deadly bore as book prizes go, although it does go to women a fair amount. Here is this years longlist--although it has some "heavyweights" on it it just makes me want to snooze, for some reason ;)
So the question that arises now, is – can we do any better? Does the blogging crowd have more wisdom than the panel? Can we come up with a more interesting shortlist than the judges? Can we pick a better winner? Or will we, indeed, choose the same one? Let's find out.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
People are mocking it all over the interwebs, but I had to join in. Ha ha ha ha!
Monday, July 27, 2009
I've read 2/3 of the novel and seen it performed as a play in Belfast of all places... not sure how it will do in what clearly seems to be an amped up version onscreen, but it does have some good lookin' dudes in it.
h/t to the Period Drama blogosphere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you're comfortable dealing with the assumptions Edith Wharton makes about money and the classes who have it (basically the premise that the green stuff is worth writing about, thinking about, being torn up about, etc etc) then her often-painful observations are beyond brilliant. And what carries you through those observations is this exquisite sense of longing and desire that permeates each page. At the beginning it's more of a longing to escape, but in her later novels it's distinctly sexual and romantic--possibly related to the eye-opening affair she had in Paris.
As I've started delving deeper into her oeuvre, I've noticed a lot of things changed from the House of Mirth onward. Her sense that the social order will be victorious doesn't change, but becomes less fatalistic and more bitter. There's a hint of rebelliousness. Such is the case with "The Glimpses of the Moon" a simple, less plotted but very compelling romance between two characters who, as many have said, have a resemblance to Lily and Lawrence of the House of Mirth. Suzy is a fine person who has been dulled by having to charm and sneak her way through life, living on the kindness of richer friends. Nick is a detached observer who is nonetheless uninterested in directly challenging the social set he sponges off. Attracted to each other and chummy, they make a pact to get married and have a one-year period of paradise, drifting from big European house to big house, counting on the kindness given to honeymooners. If either comes across a more advantageous match, they agree to break things off amicably.
At first their plan works out beautifully, but then they each face a crisis of conscience as the cost of living off a system of lies becomes clear. Meanwhile, the kind of moneyed-matches that might rid them of their mooching habits forever begin to appear.
While the book is lighter in some ways than her other books, even the "happy ending" has a note of compromise and tragedy to it.
But it's a beautiful little book with some wonderful truisms about trying to live a somewhat moral life in the midst of a society that seeks to corrupt you at every turn. Wharton sweeps you along with her strong characterizations and sense of dread and desire even with very few twists and turns. A great read for those who like drawing-room stories or novels of manners.
View all my reviews >>
Mentioned in the post:
*Verlaine vs Rimbaud [EBC pick: Verlaine],
*Dostoevsky vs Turvenev v Tolstoy [EBC pick: Tolstoy],
*Melville vs Hawthorne [toss-up]
*Kerouac vs Ginsberg [EBC pick: Ginsberg all the way] and more.
To which I add:
*C. Bronte vs. Austen (although it's one sided, with Charlotte B. dissing Jane A while the later was posthumous) [toss-up, obvs],
*Wordsworth vs. Coleridge [EBC pick: Coleridge of course],
and perhaps my favorite,
*Henry Fielding vs. Samuel Richardson. I can't pick a side here, but I just find it so amazing and hilarious that the libertine HF wrote TWO full-length novels, "Shamela" and "Joseph Andrews" just to mock poor puritan SR.
Any feuds I'm forgetting? I'm sure Alexander Pope must have been pissed at someone.
July 26, 2009
Cover: male author, female critic
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Saturday, July 25, 2009
It may be incongruous with my penchant for Victorian novels, feminism, and hippie music, but golden age musicals are my not-so-secret passion. Along with Gypsy and South Pacific, my faves are Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Peter Pan, Show Boat, She Loves Me, Oliver! The Most Happy Fella, Kiss Me, Kate, and the other Rogers & Hammerstein gems.
I'm less into more contemporary musicals--hate Andrew Lloyd Webber and have more limited appreciation for Les Mis and Rent.
Do you like musical theater, readers, and if so, how does your taste in them compare to mine?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I am buried beneath two interesting but involved projects for two different news outlets right now, so I'm afraid posting will be light to nonexistent through the weekend. I'm bummed because my summer reading and writing projects are kind of stalled by said projects, but I'm hoping once the smoke clears on Friday they will be back on track... I may even get some time to plop in the sun with a book, hopefully The Glimpses of The Moon, a lesser, lighter, later Wharton novel which I'm absolutely entranced by.
Share your tales below.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
...with HLP's sister/ friend 'o'mine Molly.
WARNING: Major Harry Potter 6+7 Spoilers ahead:
Sarah's G-ghat away message:just wasted my morning re-reading key chapters of Deathly HallowsInvited
Molly: hahah i just wasted two days doing that!
me: even though they both have their share of resurrections, it can't stop the march of time2:42 PM Molly: hahaha
Critical roundup below via google reader:
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For those who love Lahiri's previous works, the first group of stories in this latest collection are up to par, full of the breathtaking tragedy of everyday life: aging, illness, the march of time. Her treatment of the immigrant experience and the separation of the generations is still there, but her themes have broadened Her characters are real, from new moms to elderly travelers to awkward grad students. Her prose is close to perfect, more noticeably stylized than in The Namesake but still fluid, rhythmic and accessible.
All that being said, [SPOILERS AHEAD] the book's final novella had the kind of weird tragic ending that made me feel like I'd been cheated or duped by the author. I felt it to be sort of a nihilistic cop-out that gave the whole novella a bit of a sour taste.
HIGHLIGHT THE TEXT BELOW IF YOU WANT MY THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING:
Basically, she sticks one of her characters on Phuket Beach during the Tsunami. I felt that this was a totally weird and unnecessary way to end a story that would have been plenty tragic and horrifying without such a gratuitious finale.
Still, no one's perfect, and despite this failing Lahiri may be as close as any writer gets in my mind....so still a collection worth reading.
View all my reviews >>
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Hi faithful readers. While cleaning out my apartment yesterday I found a trade paperback of Daphne DuMaurier's Jamaica Inn that I picked up as a beach read. Its extremely cheap price and quick, summery nature got me thinking that maybe some of you would like to read it too and then reconvene towards the end of the summer to discuss it, book-club style without the deepness. Nothing formal, just a fun way to read a good mystery and chat about it, compare it to Rebecca and talk about how creepy it was. I won't be able to start it until next week at the earliest which would give people time to purchase it.
If this interests you or you have a better book idea let me know. Otherwise I'll plunge into it on my own and review it as I always do, with no hard feelings ;)
Rilla of Ingleside, until now the final book in the series, was always one of my favorites* despite its darkness. I have a distinct memory of sitting in the back of my parents' car on the way to Maine reading it for the second or third time (yes, I used to read in the car all the time, I was a freak) and bawling. It was one of the first really sad books I ever read, along with Little Women, and even though it's jingoistic it really is a wonderfully vivid description of what the "home front" of a foreign war is like, the agonizing waiting and wondering and the patriotic one-upsmanship that sweeps communities. It's hard to see Anne as a sad grownup having lost a child, but just as my other favorite YA author Madeleine L'Engle does when she writes about Meg Murray's kids, Montgomery unflinchingly shows us the march of time in both its happiness and pain.
The Blythes Are Quoted was intended to be the ninth volume in Montgomery's series about her heroine Anne Shirley, she of the freckled face, green-grey eyes and the "two braids of very thick, decidedly red hair". Featuring 15 short stories about Anne as an adult and her family, it also includes a series of vignettes between the stories – poems "by" Anne and her son Walter, who dies during the first world war – and sketches of Anne and Gilbert Blythe discussing the poems.
The book is divided into two sections, set before and after the first world war, and according to Penguin sees Montgomery "experimenting with storytelling methods in ways she had never attempted before" as she moves between prose, dialogue and poetry.
.....The book looks set to reveal a darker side to the author, with its publisher promising themes of "adultery, illegitimacy, misogyny, revenge, murder, despair, bitterness, hatred, and death – usually not the first terms associated with LM Montgomery".
I cannot wait for this book!
*I also love Anne of the Island cause of the romantic stuff.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Anyway, take a look at their post, and then come back here and let us know which books you'd clip from the universal "must read" list. Wish you could get back those hours you spent pushing through the dense prose of a vaunted classic? Get your revenge below.
Monday, July 06, 2009
As in many Christie novels, the murder(s) echo a nursery rhyme, but as to be expected in the hands of Dame Agatha there are a number of twists along the way that belie the rhyme's seeming simplicity and reveal the depths of human psychological murkiness, or something like that. You know why AC rocks.... I'm tired! It's been a long 4th of July weekend!
Summing it all up, it was an atmospherically-accurate adaptation of a good book that I'm pretty sure I read :)... Anyway anyone else watching "Six by Agatha?" And did you like this ep or were you too distracted by Arthur Clenham's facial hair?
It's inching closer to 50-50 gender parity in the NYTBR this week (July 5th), with the cover and fiction-chronicles endpaper slanting male but the in-between pages maybe leaning a bit female. Check it out/fact-check me--some good reviews in there too.
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Sunday, July 05, 2009
Is it To Kill A Mockingbird, Huck Finn, Invisible Man or Beloved for exploring race relations and the fallout from slavery, which is the ultimate American crime and eternal blot on our history?
The House of Mirth or The Great Gatsby for revealing the insider/outsider dynamic and the downside to American obsession with class mobility?
The Scarlet Letter or the Age of Innocence for plumbing the depths of Puritan prudery?
The Grapes of Wrath? The Sound and the Fury? My Antonia? Moby Dick?
If I had to vote I'd probably pick Beloved, Gatsby and the Scarlet Letter because I think they hit at three essential American themes and they're fairly accessible despite their genius, but I can totally see arguments for any of the above, plus a host of others. What do you think?
And which great American novels do you want to read, or which couldn't you care less about?
[Note: moved up from Friday]
Saturday, July 04, 2009
These Yet To Be United States
Tremors of your network
cause kings to disappear.
Your open mouth in anger
makes nations bow in fear.
Your bombs can change the seasons,
obliterate the spring.
What more do you long for ?
Why are you suffering ?
You control the human lives
in Rome and Timbuktu.
Lonely nomads wandering
owe Telstar to you.
Seas shift at your bidding,
your mushrooms fill the sky.
Why are you unhappy ?
Why do your children cry ?
They kneel alone in terror
with dread in every glance.
Their nights are threatened daily
by a grim inheritance.
You dwell in whitened castles
with deep and poisoned moats
and cannot hear the curses
which fill your children's throats.
Let America be America again.
America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.
America when will we end the human war?
Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my poem till I'm in my right mind.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?
America why are your libraries full of tears?
America when will you send your eggs to India?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.
You made me want to be a saint.
There must be some other way to settle this argument.
Burroughs is in Tangiers I don't think he'll come back it's sinister.
Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?
I'm trying to come to the point.
I refuse to give up my obsession.
America stop pushing I know what I'm doing.
America the plum blossoms are falling.
I haven't read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for
America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.
America I used to be a communist when I was a kid and I'm not sorry.
I smoke marijuana every chance I get.
I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.
When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.
My mind is made up there's going to be trouble.
You should have seen me reading Marx.
My psychoanalyst thinks I'm perfectly right.
I won't say the Lord's Prayer.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I still haven't told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over
I'm addressing you.
Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?
I'm obsessed by Time Magazine.
I read it every week.
Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.
I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.
It's always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie
producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me.
It occurs to me that I am America.
I am talking to myself again.
Asia is rising against me.
I haven't got a chinaman's chance.
I'd better consider my national resources.
My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals
an unpublishable private literature that goes 1400 miles and hour and
twentyfivethousand mental institutions.
I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underpriviliged who live in
my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.
I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.
My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I'm a Catholic.
America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his
automobiles more so they're all different sexes
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe
America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they
sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the
speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the
workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party
was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother
Bloor made me cry I once saw Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have
been a spy.
America you don're really want to go to war.
America it's them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.
The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia's power mad. She wants to take
our cars from out our garages.
Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader's Digest. her wants our
auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.
That no good. Ugh. Him makes Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers.
Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
America is this correct?
I'd better get right down to the job.
It's true I don't want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts
factories, I'm nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.
America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
Long, Too Long America
Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn'd from joys and
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing,
grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children
en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your children en-masse
by: Walt Whitman
Friday, July 03, 2009
This is a hard one to sum up... but I will try to scatter my disparate thoughts in hopes that there's a kernel of wisdom in there.
Moby Dick is notoriously lofty even though it's about a very dirty, corporeal thing--whaling--and indeed, a lot of it was dry and had to be muscled through, particularly the parts that get down into the nitty-gritty of whales, whaling, ships and all the traditions therein. Ishmael/Melville were big on refuting stereotypes and rumors, which must have abounded at the time.
However, the underlying story and Melville's use of language was as incredible and out there as I'd been told, ranging from Shakespearean to Bilblical with an authentic American touch. I adored the first third, in which we follow Ishmael (and his new BFF Queequeg) from New Bedford to Nantucket and out to sea. There were some incredibly memorable scenes, including one in a chowder house (Cod or Clam!) and of course, the sea-metaphor-laced sermon in the New England church. This first part was certainly awesome to read in Nantucket.
Then of course the final, gripping few chapters that bring the voyage of the Pequod to its fated end were devastatingly tragic and wonderful, with some incredible sentences that linger, melodically in the brain.
But what was most surprising about the book was the wit, humor, puns, philosophical musings and sly references tucked in everywhere by Melville, the former so much so that they made me chuckle. This was a pleasant gift hidden within the book's thick pages that makes me doubly glad I've finally tackled this beast of a novel!
Thursday, July 02, 2009
@fellowette P&P with 20th century dances at the ball - SO fun. Hard to look at Darcy the same now. http://trunc.it/nqh5 starting at 2:10
The video starts around 2:10 and goes for less than a minute, but the attention to detail is very funny. The brits take their Pride and Prejudice references seriously.
rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up the first Sookie Stackhouse novel in the middle of Moby Dick to give myself a beach-read break (no one should go on a beach vacation without paging through a single beach read, even if the major novel you are otherwise reading is about The Sea).
Anyway, although it started off slow, I got into Dead Until Dark quickly : it's funny, sassy, sexy, well-paced and mysterious. Like the show it's the basis for, True Blood, it's all very absurd, particularly the fact that the townspeople in Bon Temps aren't all locked up in psych wards with extreme PTSD, but I digress...with a much stronger, funnier, more self-realized heroine than Twilight but the same "I'm protecting YOu" no "I'm protecting You" dynamic as those teen novels (and lots of very explicit sex), it's got all the heat of the Edward-Bella relationship without the ick factor. Sookie, southern waitress in short-shorts who loves beauty products through she is, actually considers the gendered implications of her relationship with Bill and values her independence. And then she has hot vampire sex with him and gets bitten. WORD.
So if you're looking for a breezy summer read that doesn't kill brain cells, I say don't be afraid to give Sookie a spin ;)
Thanks to Molly for lending me the book!
View all my reviews.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Everyone's been talking about Olive Kitteridge since it's been racking up the awards this year so I decided to see what the fuss was all about. "A novel in stories," OK consists of 13 interlocked tales that all involve--in one degree or another--acerbic, judgmental, funny yet profoundly sad New Englander Olive Kitteridge. Each story has its origin in her small Maine town, so the woods, small shops and restaurants, and even the sea of all play a background yet quietly forceful role . Sometimes Olive is the main character or a secondary character, and we get to see her in all her mistrustful, snappish (but occasionally thoughtful) glory, and other times she's mentioned in passing or comes into a room briefly. But most of the stories that don't revolve around her are as poignant as the ones that show the progression of her life, not a happy one but with small redemptions.
I have to say that although "small Maine town" sounds quaint, like Richard Russo, Strout is focused more on the cold granite side of New England life than the bucolic side :). The stories are about mortality, distance and separation and the imperfections of daily life. The narration is not at all obtrusive while being quite well-written-- and most of the tales really tug at the heartstrings. I definitely recommend it for a sober summer read that will stick with you long after you turn the last page.
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was so busy catching up on all my vacation books that I totally forgot to blog my final thoughts on this 18th century behemoth.
What to say about a book that treats virginity as the most important quality a woman has but is weirdly feminist in the agency and resistance it gives its perky heroine? A book that demonizes a tyrannical master as a would-be rapist and jailer and then turns him into a romantic hero? A book that embraces a cross-class marriage while avowing to preserve the distinction of rank? Only that the contradictory experience of reading it is exactly like the contradictions embedded within. It's remarkably funny, sly and clever in parts and ridiculously didactic and sentimental in others, incredibly quick and engaging in parts (particularly the beginning) and deadly dull in others, the characters are wild caricatures in some moments and sympathetic, fully-realized people in others.
In other words, it's the novel in the early stages of evolution, and it's fascinating. The reason one would read Pamela, as I did, was to see how clearly Richardson's influence is present in British literature of the century thereafter--and oh how evident it is in both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte as well as many other of my faves. Pamela foreshadows the way class would be a dominant theme in the books that followed, the obsession with the condition of woman for the British novelist, and the country manor house as a vital setting for so much of literature that has ensued.
But what makes it stand out on its own, away from the importance of its legacy, is the strength Pamela Andrews' (later Mrs. B) voice throughout--funny, playful, earnest, and utterly unique, full of desires, petulance, and awareness of her audience. Goody-goody though she is, the girl has spunk, and you've got to love Richardson for creating her.
View all my reviews.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Again, presented w/o comment, except for this link.
Cover: male author, male reviewer
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Anna breaks it down here.
I'm going to start printing a poem a week again. If you (my readers) have poems to recommend for this feature, let me know by sending me a line or dropping a comment. Which poets, eras, or genres have I neglected thus far?
Yours in verse,
Catching up on my reading, part 1
Count me as a huge fan of Anne Tyler. Everything I've read by her--Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Amateur Marriage, The Accidental Tourist and A Patchwork Planet--has been totally breathtaking. So I thought this one, the book that finally netted Tyler her Pulitzer, would be the cream of the crop. While it was still masterful, I found it to actually be the least enjoyable of her books that I've read, mainly because her portrayal of two characters--husband and wife who absolutely cannot stop themselves from compulsively living their quirks and fucking up-- was too real and consequently painful.
The novel takes place over a single day, as Maggie and Ira Moran hit the road for a funeral of an old friend's husband, and make some unexpected stops along the way, including to drop in on their estranged daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Maggie is an extrovert--she strikes up intimate conversations with strangers all the time and can't help herself from telling little white lies and interfering where she shouldn't. Ira is quiet and no-nonsense, but can also be incredibly blunt in the name of honesty. Together they manage to make a mess of things. Tyler includes flashbacks that drift in and out of their marriage's past. It's an incredibly real, compelling, and honest portrait of a "good" marriage, in that although the couple is loyal and devoted, they have their own communication problems and bad patterns that the outside world sees better than they do. But they are both fundamentally decent people, so when Tyler ends the sad little story of their day with a hint of hope, it feels genuine. It comes from Maggie's boundless spirit of optimism.
Tyler's dedication to the truth of the average person's experience--pain, quirks, and all--is stunning, if sometimes hard to read.