Category Archives: Books

Fall Reading

Book club:

My own:

 

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Proust’s family

Proust's family

We’re reading Swann’s Way, in celebration of Proust’s 100 anniversary. Here’s a link to video and more information from France’s Bibliotheque Nationale

A Short History of Detective Fiction

An interesting site, replete with fascinating tidbits on literary history.

Interesting Literature

An introduction to the history of the detective story

Since this is a short history of the detective story, it will, inevitably, make some pretty glaring omissions. We’d love to hear from detective fiction aficionados in the comments section below, for any other interesting takes on mystery and detective tales.

The first detective story is a hard thing to call. ‘The Three Apples’ in Arabian Nights is sometimes given the honour, but whether this is a detective story even in the loosest sense is questionable, since the protagonist fails to make any effort to solve the crime and find the murderer of the woman. Many say the mantle should go to another tale with a title beginning ‘The Three …’, namely ‘The Three Princes of Serendip’, a medieval Persian fairy tale set on Sri Lanka (Serendip being a Persian name for the island) – the princes are the…

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The Way We Live Now

An insightful comparison between Trollope’s London in The Way We Live Now and America’s New Gilded Age, from George Packer in the New Yorker.

Greed is eternal, but when the money flows as plentifully upward as in London circa 1873 or New York circa 2013, and is as unequally distributed, it becomes a moral toxin, saturates the world of culture, makes relationships more competitive, turns desire into the pursuit of status, replaces solid things with mirages.

We read this in our book club a few years ago. It seems to be even more relevant today.

A Brief Encounter

Next up for the book club is Bonsia by Alejandro Zambra.

Winner of the Chilean Critics’ Award for the Best Novel of the Year in 2006

Round House

I’ve been remiss and not posted in a long time. So here are a few updates.

The reading group

Currently reading –  The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Recent reads

 Book blogs and web sites recently discovered

Writing

  • The new Zoe Szabo mystery should be done by summer
  • An e-book of short stories about women artists. I’ll put up a link when it is available.

Fame and Endurance

Interesting post from the New Yorker on literature that lasts.

Memories of Empire

Amherst is great. A couple of weeks ago Paul & I saw John Sayles introduce his film Amigo at Amherst Cinema and answer questions after viewing.  It took him a long time to find the funding. He had to focus on a village to encapsulate a very large experience, which he wrote about in a sprawling 900-page novel A Moment in the Sun . He eventually found a portion that told a story he could fit into a space small and intimate enough to make a low budget film.

Here is Sayles on modern parallels with Amigo at Amherst Cinema.

And here is a link to his own blog post on the trip to Amherst.

Post-Colonialism, Post-Soviet Style

Post this under “recently read.”  The book club read Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan–set in post-Soviet Azerbaijan–a few months ago, and then, after finding the book incredibly sexist, decided to read a female take on the changes in Eastern Europe since the fall of communism. For that Tea Obrecht’s The Tiger’s Wife–set in the former Yugoslavia–by fit the bill perfectly.

A propos of Absurdistan is the featured book on the Leonard Lopate show book club on WNYC-FM. Shteyngart will be on to discuss his novel on January 10, 2012.

On the Lopate Book Club page, you can find interviews with Salman Rushdie on Midnight’s Children (also one of our book club post-colonial-themed reads).

On Absurdistan, I found it interesting that Halliburton and the oil industry have replaced the Soviets as a colonizing force. One of our members felt the main character had some of the characteristics in the “holy fool” tradition in Russian literature. Others disliked the book–either because the satire didn’t ring true, they were offended by the profoundly negative and sexualized depiction of women. That all the female characters were prostitutes or near-prostitutes bothered me as well. It seemed to me to be a cheap path for an author to take, although I did find the humor and the critique of post-Soviet globalization sharp and incisive.

Great Read

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

I loved this book. Takes one from Proust’s Paris to contemporary Japan, via Vienna and the Holocaust. A history of Jews and anti-Semitism by following a tiny netsuke hare down the rabbit hole. Told by a ceramist with an eye for craft, kitsch, and beauty.