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.

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Nice start and pretty gripping finish -- but a boggy huge middle sinks the newest from one of my favorite crime writers.

A novel that buries its crime and detection strengths in an over-embroidered family saga.  Plus, a strange echo of Forster's HOWARD'S END.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Birds by Tarjei Vesaas

Hypnotically simple, subtle story of a 37-year old man with mental issues who lives with his spinster older sister on the edge of a lake in Norway.  She knits sweaters to earn their keep and he does nothing, at first.  The novel's point of view is entirely his, Mattis', and though he is intellectually challenged, the moral acuity of his emotional intelligence is breath-taking.  He ends up becoming a "ferryman" as much in his own imagination as in the real world -- his one ferrying job brings a lumberjack to the isolated cabin Mattis lives in with his sister Hege, and Hege and the lumberjack become lovers, creating an insoluble difficulty in Mattis' deceptively simple existence.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

started weakly but I grew to like it.  much more somber book from him.  a lot of talk about expensive watches.

from Dwight Garner's NYT review:  [GS] is is light, stinging, insolent and melancholy, to borrow the words the critic Kenneth Tynan kept on his writing desk to remind himself how to sound.