Tuesday, September 19, 2023

McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh


I like this strange and violent book. I had disliked her MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION though I can't really remember why. But this was different.  Reminded me somewhat of THE NORTH WATER.

Lone Women by Victor Lavalle


Unusual new novel from Lavalle, whose work I've enjoyed before. Was perplexed but glad I stuck with it in the end: he somehow make a creepy supernatural thriller (with a dragon!) out of American frontier history, particularly the "lone women" land grants in Montana in the early 1900s. He takes on racism and  sexism at the same time. There's nobody else quite like him.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ni Ghriofa


Very strange novel or memoir or prose poem or all three, about a poet in modern Ireland searching for clues about a poetess from 17th Century Ireland whom history has all but erased. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. First half was more of the narrator/poet's struggle with motherhood and breastfeeding and post-partum isolation and mental struggles, while second half gets more into an imagined history of old Ireland.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub


Liked this a lot, but I'm a sucker for time-travel books that manipulate my emotions. See Time Traveler's Wife, etc. Even the upper West Side of Manhattan milieu -- usually one of my bugbears because of its usual cliched cast of privileged white people -- comes across well. At least it refers to NYC in the 1980s!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

The Seven Good Years by Edgar Keret


Cute but reductive. The real life Keret is much less funny and sharp and enraged than his fictional ego.

Only The Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby


Another solid story from Cosby. Race war simmering in a small town in southern Virginia, brought to a boil by discovery of a serial child-killer and torturer operating under religious delusions. Cosby's prose can get a little cliched, melodramatic, and predictable - and some of his character set pieces (dead mother, troubled brother, wise father, old girlfriend) are seemingly written by rote) - but he keeps his weather eye on the action and it never lets up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Only One Left by Riley Sager

Highly contrived series of coincidences and melodramatic prose style and sometimes so coincidental as to cause confusion.  

but not without its pleasures. 

The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 So at the price of a little immersion in the family drains I had what I wanted. [105]

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi


May he have an accident shaped like an umbrella. [p. 13]

Finally reading this after owning it for almost 40 years. Collection of short "fictions" - first one, "Argon," while fascinating, is a completely off-putting journey through the narrator's family tree, mined with Yiddish and Hebrew words and puns. Started it several times and drowned in it as the first story. It's now more appealing to me, since I understand the central metaphor of the book -- and that argon, as one of the "inert" (noble/rare) gases, completely stands in for his distant relatives of whom he knew very little, except in scattered anecdotes and memories and phrases. 

The rest of the stories are marvelous and much less obscure - each concerns a chemical element in a fictional/fairy tale/historical setting.

"Nitrogen" is a strong example - about a lipstick manufacturer who hires young women as workers and insists on kissing each one eight times each morning to "test" the lipstick.

The concluding story, "Carbon," magnificently pulls it all together.

Camino Island by John Grisham


Solid but not great. I turned the pages dutifully, but the plot and milieu -- F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts, small Southern seashore bookstores, the creative writing community --is a little nauseating.

Too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Somebody's Fool by Richard Russo

Scratching my head on this. I love Russo's work, but don't really remember the first two FOOL novels, so this one isn't snapping into place. There is a sameness to his ironic tone that I'm finding deadening -- every character seems to hear the same omniscient sarcastic voice. Not moving me.

If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi


Mesmerizing, intricate, heavy novel about a band of Jewish partisans in Russia and Poland during the waning days of WWII.

Unbelievably moving account of the war winding down.

On the contrary, I believe it doesn't make much sense to say that one man is worth more than another. One man can be stronger than another but less wise. Or more educated but not so brave. Or more generous but also more stupid. So his value depends on what you want from him; a man can be very good at his job, and worthless if you set him to do some other job. [110]

Do you recognize us? We're the sheep of the ghetto,
Shorn for a thousand years, resigned to outrage.
We are the tailors, the scribes and the cantors,
Withered in the shadow of the cross.
Now we have learned the paths of the forest,
We have learned to shoot, and we aim straight. 
        If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?
        If not this way, how? And if not now, when?
Our brothers have gone to heaven
Through the chimneys of Sobibor and Treblinka,
They have dug themselves a grave in the air.
Only we few have survived
For the honor of our submerged people,
For revenge and to bear witness.
        If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?
        If not this way, how? And if not now, when?
We are the sons of David, the hardheaded sons of Masada.
Each of us carries in his pocket the stone
That shattered the forehead of Goliath.
Brothers, away from this Europe of graves:
Let us climb together towards the land
Where we will be men among men.
        If I'm not for myself, who will be for me?
        If not this way, how? And if not now, when?

Written by me, Martin Fontasch, about to die. Saturday 13 June 1943. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. [168]



The Confession by John Grisham


Couldn't put it down. Grisham has the thing, that knack for the last paragraph of each (short ish) chapter - he puts some torque on the story and you have to turn the page.

Monday, July 31, 2023

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham


Another good one. I know a rogue lawyer. 

His philosophy: "Everyone’s awful, lawyers are the worst, cops are the second worst, criminals are kinda fun, I’m also the worst but also the greatest, so show me your tits."

They are entertaining and good company.

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