Good Reading for All

I seem to have little to say for myself right now. I blame the end of term for the mental clutter it creates (there’s physical clutter, too, of course, but that’s more easily dealt with). Luckily, there are lots of other people writing interesting things about books.

For instance, the December issue of Open Letters Monthly is up! As usual, its essays and reviews range widely in both subject and style, which means there’s something for everyone. For instance, if you are in the mood for something darkly disturbing, check out Colleen Shea’s review of Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris, which raises questions (in the context of the glut of press coverage of a horrifying recent murder trial) about aestheticizing violence against women. For the political junkies, there are pieces on both of the big “W”s:  Greg Waldmann casts a cold eye on George W. Bush’s Decision Points, while Steve Donoghue has a somewhat chilly response to Ron Chernow’s new biography of George Washington. Alice Brittan offers a compelling analysis of Nadine Gordimer’s collected short fiction, while Ingrid Norton completes her ‘Year with Short Novels’ with a look at Charles Portis’s True Grit. Andrew Flynn is not impressed with Charles Hill’s Grand Strategies, but Morten Hoi Jensen appreciates finding the human side of Saul Bellow in his collected letters. All this plus Stephen King, Halo, Stephen Sondheim, perfume, and more…

The book world is awash in year-end features (I guess nobody publishes anything worth reading in December?). The Millions is running its annual ‘Year in Reading’ series, with contributions so far from John Banville and Lionel Shriver, among others.  At The Little Professor, Miriam Burstein has her own unique take on the ‘Year in Books (including Brontes and vampires’:

Most appalling religious novel: Mme. Brendlah, Tales of a Jewess.

Best modern antidote to Tales of a Jewess: Lillian Nattel, The Singing Fire.

Religious novel above and beyond the call of duty: Martin Shee, Oldcourt.

Religious NOVEL most ADDICTED to CAPS for EMPHASIS: Robert Wood Kyle, The Martyr of Prusa, or the First and Last Prayer; A Tale of the Early Christians.

Has anyone seen the plot?: The Vicar of Iver: A Tale, which, despite the subtitle, had no storyline whatsoever. (read the whole list here!)

At Wuthering Expectations it has been just one interesting thing after another, as usual. Try these posts on Newman, for starters, and then these on Henry Esmond (no, AR, I don’t think it’s teachable–at least, I would never try! I read it for my PhD comps and then never again. “Conceptual purity” indeed!).

At Tales from the Reading Room, litlove recently offered a crime round-up, which may give some of us more ideas for our TBR lists (as if they needed to get any longer, right?).

At stevereads, there’s something for the intellectuals in the crowd as Steve continues his great series Penguins on Parade with Michael Psellus’s Fourteen Byzantine Rulers–but if you scroll down to the next post, you’ll find something a little less cerebral, too…

Stefanie at So Many Books has gone from May Sarton’s The Small Room to e. e. cummings’s The Enormous Room, which is quite a transition.

At The Second Pass, John Williams has “finally taken the plunge into Freedom“; his response to the first 187 pages is here, with, of course, more installments to follow.

That’s hardly all, but that’s all I have time to round up for now.

In other news, my copy of Skippy Dies has just arrived and has lured me away from the Lydia Davis translation of Madame Bovary. Eventually, I will be writing about these books and more–many more, once I get through the papers and exams and arrive in the free, clear air of my sabbatical next term.

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2 Responses to Good Reading for All

  1. Great round up! Any book list that goes for most appalling anything sounds good to me. I do hope you enjoy Davis’s translation. My dh and I both read it recently–our first readings of Madame Bovary–and were blown away.

  2. I knew it! Thanks for all the links, by the way.

    I just read that Darnton article you mention in the ol’ Twitter. It’s full of surprises, isn’t it?

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