Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt


Revisiting this after 27 years. Still pretty great. The first-person voice now seems a little tedious. I remember well how shocking and powerful I found it in 1996.

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry


Amazing Barry streak continues. This is in America, mid 19th century. Two gay soldiers raise a Native American girl they orphaned.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane


The 1974 busing crisis in Boston is the backdrop for racial tensions in Southie. Familiar Lehane territory - and satisfying as usual. The working-class mother on mission of vengeance against the Irish mob and everything she grew up in is marvelous.

Friday, May 05, 2023

A Girl's Story bu Annie Ernaux

This one is ringing more finely than the previous Ernaux books I have read. Don't know why: have I matured in my reading of her, or is this a better book? Familiar pattern of female obsession with the lover. But in this case it's a 17 year old camp counselor losing her viriginity to a callous older guy (21? 24?).

But what is the point of writing if not to unearth things, or even just one thing that cannot be reduced to any kind of psychological or sociological explanation and is not the result of a preconceived idea or demonstration but a narrative: something that emerges from the creases when a story is unfolded, and can help us understand--endure--events that occur and the things that we do? [98]

I am not a culture hound, the only thing that matters to me is to seize life and time, understand, and take pleasure. [149]

It is the absence of meaning in what one lives, at the moment one lives it, which multiplies the possibility of wring...
Explore the gulf between the stupefying reality of things that happen, at the moment they happen, and, years later, the strange unreality in which the things that happened are enveloped. [final page]

Monday, May 01, 2023

Old God's Time by Sebastian Barry

Strange, disorienting, but still beautiful. A Dublin detective in his late 60s retires to a seaside castle flat to dwell on his past, as his mind goes but his will for redemption grows stronger.

Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry


Another powerhouse. Madness, murder, mayhem in the Irish 20th century. The tragic life of Roseanne Clear McNulty, daughter of a Presbyterian graveskeeper in Sligo, and her awful manhandling by Catholics, and others. Told from her viewpoint in the present time, turning 100 years old, in her flashbacks over the century, and in the voice of a concerned doctor in the present time who uncovers at least two versions of her sad story.

There are pits of grief obviously that only the grieving know. It is a voyage to the center of the earth, a huge heavy machine boring down into the crust of the earth. And a little man growing wild at the controls. Terrified, terrified, and no turning back. [165]

Morality has its own civil wars, with its own victims in their own time and place.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett


Thursday, April 20, 2023

No One Left to Come Looking for You by Sam Lipsyte


Nice to read Lipsyte again. And I liked this novel, by the end. Was a little underwhelmed in first half though: prose about punk music almost always leaves me a little underwhelmed. Although Lipsyte is as surprising and wizardly as ever with his sentences. Echoes of Lester Bangs on meth.

I liked his cross-hatching of real-life music references with fictional music references, when they worked - but sometimes I didn't understand at all what style he was pointing toward.

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