Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia Laing

As we make our hell we certainly should like it.  (Hemingway)

It's everything I've forgotten – all the complicated dark mixture of my youth and infancy that made me a fiction writer instead of a fireman or a soldier… Why I chose this God-awful metier of sedentary days and sleepless nights and endless dissatisfaction.  Why I would choose it again. (Fitzgerald)

I showed him [the blue devil] that I could endure him and I made him respect my endurance… Endurance is something that spooks and blue devils respect. [Hannah in T. Williams Night of the Iguana]

Here's the dilemma, let's face it.  I can't recover any nervous stability until I'm able to work again freely, and I can't work again freely until I recover a nervous stability.  (Tennessee Williams)

You know, paralysis in a character can be just as significant and just as dramatic as progress, and is also less shop-worn.  How about Chekhov? (TW)

Such pithiness and soul in all the quoted material from the authors Laing profiles, and she's interesting in charting the intersections of their lives and their shared alcoholic pathologies.  But alas, her own travelogue grows wearying and shapeless, there’s no direction or essential narrator’s voice beneath all her lengthy, “well-written” description.  By the time she get to plumbing the depths of her own childhood awfulness, the drunk aunt or whatever, it’s even more insignificant in relief, against the problems, travails, delusions and triumphs -- the words! -- of the writers she’s talking about.

Of Kennedys & Kings by Harris Wofford

Great history of the civil rights movement and the Kennedy White House, and the post-JFK civil rights struggle.

In the Wolf's Mouth by Adam Foulds

First novel I've read in a month, by the author of the scintillating "The Quickening Maze."

Gulp by Mary Roach

Supremely interesting science writer on lots of disgusting subjects.  "Anal violin" was a new concept to me.

A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren


Love her politics, but her prose is less lovely.  Super dull.  Agree with everything she says, but very little color or like-like deal.  She acknowledges her husband for being a "great kisser," which is kind of hot.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

Stunning debut novel about Chechneya.  Sort of The English Patient meets 100 years of Solitude.