Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiesen


The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns


Fascinating, dark, neglected novel from 1959. A violent, tormented English veterarian and his withdrawn, abused wife and their ignored, well-meaning 15 year old daughter. The daughter suffers through the death of her mother and her father's new rakish mistress, and beginnings experiencing acute psychological distress, including the (imagined?) ability to levitate. 

Monday, July 08, 2024

Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties by Ian MacDonald


Stunning, track-by-track dissection of the Beatles' recordings.

MacDonald's forewords to his several editions are piercing sociological essays on British (and American) culture.

He has strong negative opinions about many of the later Beatles' tracks, the ones where he feels (with good reasoning) that the drugs had taken over and the spontaneous and unplanned ideas almost completely took over the painstaking craftsmanship of the earlier songs.

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

The Hunter by Tana French


Liked this one, a "sequel" of sorts to her recent novel "The Hunter." 

But it's a slow burner, and her Irish idiomatic dialogue gets a little wearying. 

More secrets and betrays and bad parenting in a remote Irish town, centered on the transplanted American retired detective and the somewhat-abandoned, previously-feral 15 year old girl he cares for and attempts to instruct.

I do long for the earlier Dublin murder squad novels though.

Sheila arranges the shirt on a hanger and hooks it onto the back of a chair. She says, "I shoulda picked ye a better father."

"Then we wouldn't exist," Trey points out.

Sheila's mouth twists in amusement. "No woman believes that," she says. "No mother, anyhow. We don't say it to the men, so as not to hurt their feelings -- they're awful sensitive. But you'd be the same no matter who I got to sire you. Different hair, maybe, or different eyes, if I'd went with a dark fella. Wee little things like that. But you'd be the same same."

Sunday, June 23, 2024

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


Great luxurious read. Rather than being shot, a Russian nobleman is confined for the rest of his life to a tiny attic room, 10 feet square, in a grand hotel in the heart of Moscow across from the Kremlin. The novel covers the next thirty years of his life, as he struggles to maintain his outstanding character and morals through the birth of the modern Soviet Union.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light: 100 Art Writings 1988-2018 by Peter Schjeldal


It is becoming evident to me that I'd read read about something than experience it. Take painting for instance. I have little patience with an art gallery -- my legs grow as bored as my eyes walking room to room, dodging the poseurs and tourists -- I find it completely uncomfortable to stare at paintings on a wall for hours, all that standing, all that taking of little steps to move in closer and move from one side of a canvas to the other.

But I like very much to read great writers talking about paintings. And Schjeldahl is one of them (seems to be in the Ashbery school of art criticism, which I'm also a fan of.) Such close, imaginative, lively, informed thinking makes an artist and his work and his life a thousand times more interesting to me.

The show was conceived on the Planet of the Scholars, where every question is considered except "So what?" [178]

I began to imagine the artist's [Picasso's] pictures as a steamrolled sculpture. [190]

Cartier-Bresson: [Photography] is a marvelous profession while it remains a modest one. [320]

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

James by Percival Everett


Another classic from Everett, this time longer and "more conventional" than his other novels, a resonant and deeply felt re-telling of the brunt of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of Jim, who in this version is far from the ignorant version Mark Twain gives us.

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