Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The Little Drummer Girl by John Le Carre


Mind numbingly long and complicated acting-within-acting-within-terror-cells. May or may not finish it. Awesome early 1970s Greece slutty hippies, which is something.

Friday, February 18, 2022


Tedious John Lennon "book," apparently finished in 1980 but not published until 1986. Some semi-interesting autobiographical stuff about the Beatles, but mostly tedious Joycean punning and Monty-Python-life nonsense. Some good illustrations though.

Nobody's Family is Going to Change by Louise Fitzhugh


Drab, pulseless final "YA" novel from the noted Louise Fitzhugh.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LIE: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy By Leslie Brody


Interesting if thin biography of Fitzhugh. There was an earlier one from 1991 by Virginia Wolf that is apparently more scholarly. This one is decidedly not. Brody does a lot of speculation about what Harriet might have done, whom she might have, how she might have felt. She does talk to secondary sources, and has some access to correspondence. Her lifelong correspondence with James Merrill and Peter Taylor would be interesting to see. But the photo section is  paltry and it seems like an entire book could be made of Fitzhugh's paintings, drawings, and illustrations. Each published book is plot summarized at length. There's a lengthy afterword explaining the tight control over her unpublished work exercised by her estate (which I would have preferred as a preface). And Fitzhugh's final years are covered in snap - she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in 1974 at the age of 46. And the decline must have been sad.

She drank too much and seemed to suffer from manic depression/bipolar. There is a real sadness behind it all that is intermittently touched upon.

Fitzhugh was a monumental figure in both her revolutionizing of children's literature, and the strong unapologetic presentation of her sexuality.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

The Promise by Damon Galgut


Really like this unusual book. I don't know if it's "the most important book of the last ten years," as Edmund White blurbs, but Galgut's style and voice are unique. Time progresses back and forth, past, present and future, and side by side as well, leap-frogging the point of view from a major character, to a minor character, to a slightly more prominent minor character, then back to a main character - and time has passed in the shuttle of lives.

The Lord's creation is amplified when you use heightened language to describe it. [71]

Perhaps she doesn't pray in these words, or in any words at all, many prayers are uttered without language and they rise like all the rest. Or perhaps she prays for other things, because prayers are secret in the end, and not all to the same god. [83]

Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier


Another fascinating urban ethnographic fieldwork study by my old college chum Mitchell Duneier. He spends several years among the sidewalk magazine vendors on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, NY, delving deeply into the culture, commerce and psychology of the mostly "unhoused" African American men who created a micro economic ecosystem in order to maintain their own self-respect.

To be sure, there are some "broken windows" on these blocks. But mostly there are windows that look broken to people who are just passing by. Because Americans ruthlessly use race and class categories as they nagivate through life, many citizens generalize from the actual broken windows to all the windows that look like them-- and assume that a person who looks broken must be shattered, when in fact he is trying to fix himself as best he can. Only by understanding the rich social organization of the sidewalk, in all its complexitiy, might citizens and politicians appreciate how much is lost when we accept the idea that the presence of a few broken windows justifies tearing down the whole informal structure. [315]

That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry


Great collection of short stories by the noted Irish novelist. I was drawn in by the final story, ROETHKE IN THE BUGHOUSE, about American poet Theodore Roethke's brief pungent nervous breakdown while visiting the West of Ireland. But all the stories are good.

You know they say it warms your three times, wood. When you cut it down, when you carry it, when you burn it. [35]

...proud as a hawk and poor as a wren... [73]

Love, we are reminded, yet again, is not about staring into each other's eyes; love is about staring out together in the same direction, even if the gaze has menace or badness underneath. [96]

"Marry the shop girl," she said. "Marry the factory line. Marry the barmaid. MARRY THE WHORE. But never, never marry the actress, Tony."

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