Sunday, July 25, 2021

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Loved this. First of Lippman I've read, will seek out others. 1960s Baltimore, a 36 year old Jewish woman leaves her husband and seeks a career as a crime reporter, stumbling over clues to an  African-American woman's crucial unsolved murder.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Invisible Live of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab


Interesting concept but her exhaustiing prose is super-stuffed with melodrama. And I LIKE melodrama, but not to drown in it. At the critical juncture of page 60, but may not continue.

Bullet Park by John Cheever


JC has said of Bullet Park, "I'd like to write a gothic novel without being caught in the act."

I loved this one, even though the final 10 pages or so are ridiculously fast-paced, after a completely langorous setup.

Some reactions: 

Granted, Bullet Park is a strange performance, and it was a bad sign that even reviewers who were nothing but well disposed to Cheever seemed a little puzzled. A few months before her review appeared in the Washington Post Book World, Joyce Carol Oates had been quoted as saying that she was Updike's and Cheever's “ideal reader” (“whatever they write I read immediately, and I read it again two or three times”), so it made sense perhaps that she and Updike were en rapport in regard to Bullet Park: neither thought the book amounted to a novel, properly speaking, but rather that it worked (as Updike wrote in the London Times) “as a slowly revolving mobile of marvellously poeticized moments,” or, as Oates put it, “a series of eerie, sometimes beautiful, sometimes
overwrought vignettes.” Oates knew better than to worry whether the plot was “convincing” or not, pointing out that Cheever was if anything bent on making his plot as outlandish as possible; and yet, for all the novel's seeming absurdity, said Oates, it conveyed a sense of “terror … as deadly, more deadly, than any promised in the glib new genre of ‘black comedy’ Cheever has been writing such comedy for decades.” John Leonard, whose review appeared in the daily New York Times, also realized that conventional narrative was beside the point, and praised the novel as Cheever's “deepest, most challenging book.” And finally a synthesis of sorts was found in Anatole
Broyard's New Republic review, which suggested that the book was a little too fraught with oddities, that Cheever had apparently gotten carried away by his own virtuosity: “He is determined to be surprising or original, even at the cost of incredulity.” [p. 209, Bailey, CHEEVER: A LIFE]

John Gardner wrote a long vindication of the novel for the Times Book Review, declaring that its detractors had been “dead wrong”: “Bullet Park is a novel to pore over, move around in, live with. The image repetitions, the stark and subtle correspondences that create the book's ambiguous meaning, its uneasy courage and compassion, sink in and in, like a curative spell.” [p. 212, Bailey, CHEEVER: A LIFE]

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Home Before Dark by Susan Cheever


Interesting companion book along with John Cheever's own fiction in journals. SC is a bit of a poseur, but she quotes eloquently from her father's writing and from what others wrote about him.

"He was a man who made his own world in relative isolation from most of his kind,"  my brother Fred wrote when I asked him to put down what he remembered about our father. "As a result he had to live with his own impulses and perceptions in ways that most of us can avoid. No one, absolutely no one shared his life with him. There was no one from whom he could get honest advice. Of course this state of affairs was very much his own doing, but it must have been hard sometimes." (p. 154-155)

'My incantation has changed,'' he wrote in 1969 after ''Bullet Park'' had been panned by the critics and his alcoholism was worse and most of the money was spent. ''I am no longer sitting under an apple tree in clean chinos reading. I am sitting naked in the yellow chair in the dining room. In my hand there is a large crystal glass filled to the brim with honey colored whiskey. There are two ice cubes in the whiskey. I am smoking six or seven cigarettes and thinking contentedly about my interesting travels in Egypt and Russia. When the glass is empty I fill it again with ice and whiskey and light another cigarette although there are several burning in the ashtray. I am sitting naked in a yellow chair drinking whiskey and smoking six or seven cigarettes.'' (p. 155)

If He Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes

Brutal brief book. Four days in the life of a blue-collar black man in LA during WWII. Angry, intelligent, heart-rending.

But the words kept on in my mind. I got a hard, grinding nonchalance. To hell with everybody, I thought. To hell with the world; if there were any more little worlds, to hell with them too.

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