Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Secret Place by Tana French

Another winner from powerhouse Tana French.  So much atmosphere, so little time! This time the setting is a posh girls school outside Dublin, and the murder on the grounds of a young man from a neighboring posh boys school.  About adolescence, about femininity, about friend, but of course also about murder.

Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath (foreword by Frieda Hughes)

 Expanded version of Plath's larger manuscript she was working on when she died.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Dead Hour by Denise Mina

Another winner by Mina.  Paddy Meehan, investigative reporter, comes of age.  The "wee hen" gives better than she gets, and gets the story, and gets something else, as we learn in the cliff-hanging last sentence.

It's a shame Mina gets marketed as crime fiction -- she's a wonderful, close observer of character and class, with a sharp eye and tongue, this time setting down in 1984 Glasgow, with an Irish-Catholic take on the decline of the Scottish city.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

Terrific predecessor to Boyne's 2017 stunner THE HEART'S INVISIBLE FURIES.  This one takes on the scandal and coverup of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, but through the eyes of an "innocent" priest and the narrative of his family's life. Boyne is remarkably sensitive in painting a family, inside and out. The plot of who-touched-whom and who's-to-blame is good and holds one's interest, but it's the characters in the end who are indelible.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Kafka: The Early Years by Reiner Stach

A dense, kaleidoscopic cultural history and biography of Franz Kafka, the final book in the three-volume series by Reiner Stach, but covering the early years, as legal hassling delayed Stach's work until a settlement was reached with Kafka (or Brod) estate on critical scholarly resources.

Kafka's surreal "otherworldly" style is seen hatching in turn of the century Prague, where, as a Jew, he struggled with linguistic, nationalistic and religious ghetto-ization as a native Czech.

I didn't know he was so fond of swimming, too.

Kafka's favorite painting on his first visit to Paris, a portrait of Voltaire still in his sleeping cap with his trousers only half-on.

Statue of Kafka in Prague

Kafka and his favorites sister, Ottla

Hurlyburly by David Rabe

 as astonishing as ever to re-read. bleak and hilarious.  word-storms.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman by Paul Mariani

The Final Voicemails and Letters from Max by Max Ritvo

The LETTERS volume was something else, although I could have done with a little less Ruhl. 

I 'm struggling with the VOICEMAILS poems, though struck with lines all over the place.  Also take it personally that he was adopted so avidly by Louise Gluck and Sarah Ruhl, as a tragic Keatsian figure who was dying throughout his short writing career.