Monday, January 24, 2022

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart


Like the first half very much but was disappointed with the second which I found hasty, melodramatic, and mis-focused. 
Set squarely in the current moment, the novel follows five months in upstate New York where three old dear college friends and several others sequester to escape the virus.

But he had to think like a character in a Chekhov play, forever taunted by desires but trapped in a life much too small to accommodate the entirety of a human being. [120]

Monday, January 17, 2022

Rizzio by Denisa Mina

Good weird one from the accomplished Scottish police/procedural novelist. But just a long short story, really.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Ghetto by Mitchell Duneier


A very interesting sociological history of the American "ghetto," tracking its origins (at least eytmologically) to the Venetian ghettos of the 1500s, where Jews were sequestered. My old college chum analyzes a handful of scholars since the 1940s who have attempted to quantitize and reason out how the American ghetto began and how it might be corrected. Among other revelations to me, Duneier traces the origin of the concept of "white privilege" to Blauner in 1972.

This made it easier for the Nazis to take the genocide to the Jews than to take the Jews to the genocide. [218]

The Magician by Colm Tóibín


Excellent if a little muted. I feel ashamed to have never finished any of Thomas Mann's full-length novels, though I continue to return to them, so it was a guilty pleasure to read this novelistic treatment of Mann's life. 

Toibin was reportedly motivated by the release of Mann's private journals and letters, which demonstrated his erotic attraction to men. The novel is undercut with a running thread of Mann's conscious and subconscious sexual feelings for men and his apparent decision not to act on them.  At the same time, he had six children with his wife Katia in what the novel illustrates as a lively, loving marriage.

Mann was a celebrity author and his children and brother suffered from his fame. According to Toibin's novel, he lived mostly for his work, in his study, and left the emotional upbringing of his children to his wife.

Worthwhile but strange.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Crossorads by Jonathan Franzen


Mixed feelings. Definitely too long. First half sailed past me promisingly, but in second half I got bogged down. Another cast of increasingly unsympathetic characters. The faith stuff was good for awhile, but hard to believe that the parents, and son Clem and daughter Becky, would all think (and speak) so profoundly about their faith strengths and disappointments.

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