Monday, March 31, 2014

The Odd Testament by Randolph Bridgeman

by Wendy

If you think of poetry as relegated to either Valentine’s Day greeting cards or to literature class textbooks understandable only to literature professors, then you haven’t read a Bridgeman poem.  The Odd Testament is Randolph Bridgeman’s third collection of poetry, and here he continues to deliver poems that are neither sappy nor inaccessible. Bridgeman’s poems are for and about the everyman—around us and in us, whether we acknowledge that everyman or not.

He writes of the people from whom we turn away, superior in the knowledge that we are not like them: the child with OCD, the homeless man living in McDonald’s, the depressed man shooting his ex-lover’s Beanie Babies. And he writes of the people we sometimes become and probably don’t admit to being: the spectator watching one dog hump another, the teen driven to amoral behavior by lust, the  person who loses everything “because this was just one more/thing in a long list of stupid shit/that he’d done.”

Bridgeman’s portrayal of the characters in his poems is frank, and as stripped of pretension as his language. His poems aren’t lengthy; he uses simple, often profane, language; and he limits capitalization and punctuation. Actually, Bridgeman sums up a lot of his own poetry in his poem “poetry readings,” where the narrator states:

i want to hear poetry that comes
shooting out of you like the beer shits

i could give a rat’s ass about the
good ole boys in letterman sweaters
i want to hear about that boy you dragged
home from a single-parent home
in government subsidized housing
on the other side of town

Even the poems that are based on the Bible have that unique Bridgeman everyman bent. For example, in the poem “the odd testament,” he takes the stories of Adam, Abraham, Jonah, and Lazarus and gives us a decidedly mortal spin, comparing God to a single parent:

god was the first single parent but
certainly not the last to be out there
bustin’ ass to keep the lights and water on

and giving us the innermost thoughts of a surprised and pissed Lazarus who finds himself resurrected “after he’d confessed to/family he’d wronged/been forgiven his debts.” The treatment of the stories of Abraham and Jonah broaches the topic of the divide between father and son that surfaces in later poems such as “a brief conversation with my father about classic greek literature” that ends with “i can’t have an intelligent/conversation with you about/anything he says slamming/the door on his way out.”

Even though Bridgeman’s approach is one of simplicity, most of his poems demonstrate the poet’s command of language. For example, in “lessons,” Bridgeman compares a son who bucks his father’s mold to “that stripped screw he couldn’t back out/that bent nail that cracked his wood/that rounded nut he couldn’t tighten,” and describes the heat of a summer night as “summer’s air slides down/like a tight skirt” in “in the woods.” Not every poem is equally strong. A few are more clever than insightful, proselytize, merely eavesdrop, or simply report on some of the more grotesque attributes of people.

Some poems in the collection are tender, some are funny, some are un-PC, most invite us in and let us know that we are all Adams and Eves in our own way, but damn it, someone loves us anyway. A good many are written in first person. Whether they are confessional only the poet knows, but it doesn’t really matter, for one man’s confession may very well be our own. Which, I think, is the point.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reading for fun is not really an economic activity. When you sit down with a book, you are not producing anything or buying or selling anything. You aren’t performing a service for anyone other than yourself. You aren’t hiring, supervising, soliciting bids or trading securities. You aren’t harvesting or polishing or packing or drafting or breaking ground or any of the other things people do when they’re participating in economic life. And that’s part of what makes reading so beautiful.

--Max Ehrenfreund, "One reason to look forward to getting older"

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The House of the Spirits: Threatening Letters, ACLU Rally, Final Vote to Determine Fate of Book in Watauga County Schools This Week

North Carolina has been such a bubbling lava bed of crazy lately, it's been easy to miss some of the individual bubbles.

Many of you are no doubt aware that Invisible Man was banned in a North Carolina county last September--physically removed from the library shelves of public schools--before worldwide ridicule led to an unbanning the following week, which happened to be Banned Books Week itself.

No lessons were learned, because a parent complained about Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits at the board of education meeting in Boone on Oct. 14. This led to Allende herself writing a letter to defend her book's inclusion in the classroom, and by the time I got wind of the controversy in December (When I thought of Watauga County last fall, it was only because of attempts to suppress the college vote by moving the campus precinct to an inconvenient location), the book had survived two appeals. I thought the matter was over. I read the copy of The House of the Spirits that Wendy had given me years earlier and talked about the book with my daughter, who'd read the book as part of her IB curriculum.

But no. The parent made a final appeal to the Watauga Board of Education in January, which will determine its fate Thursday night. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina will rally with members of the community tomorrow afternoon before the meeting in support of the book. North Carolina poet laureate Joseph Bathanti will be on hand as well. The rally be held at Appalachian State University, in the Table Rock Room in the Plemmons Student Union at 4 p.m.

In the meantime, police are having to investigate threatening letters that Watauga High School teachers received on Feb. 17 concerning the teaching of The House of the Spirits. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if it turns out to be one of Franklin Graham's minions who issued the anonymous threats, but I'm cynical that way.

Last month, attempts by a Brunswick county commissioner to have A Color Purple banned were defeated 3-2 by the school board there.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro

by Wendy

There’s a lot to like about Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. For one, its structure is simple. The book is broken into three sections: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, with each section comprised of short (usually one to two pages) musings on writing, the writing life, and strands of autobiography/memoir. Each piece is titled, which makes it easy for readers to put the book down and pick it up several days later, or to simply bounce around from one section or essay to another, without losing the feel and flow. Like most other books on writing, Shapiro covers the positive influence that reading has on writing, the need to develop and stick to a practice or habit of daily writing, and dealing with procrastination, our inner censors, and writer’s block. Although none of these topics is unique, they are so integral to writing that they bear repeating.

It’s also nice to hear a familiar refrain recast in new language. For sometimes it’s not the message that we’re missing, but the way the message is framed that doesn’t resonate. Writers certainly know the importance of diligence, but diligence is tedious. Shapiro’s take on diligence? “I sit down every day at around the same time and put myself in the path of inspiration . . .” If we don’t show up, we miss the inspiration, right? Isn’t this more dynamic and beckoning than reading that we need to write X number of words per day, or sit for X number of hours? She also shares helpful tips, such as how she overcomes the enormity of writing something BIG by starting with something small--just one word, just one sentence, just one detail. Or using the five senses to inhabit a character, asking: At any given moment, what is she wearing? Feeling? Hearing? Seeing?

Shapiro is most successful when she invites us in as her equal, and says you and I are not really that different. It’s reassuring to know that a professional writer describes a typical day much like any other writer would, as a combination of productivity and well, inertia and distractions. For example, Shapiro writes of days where she will “sit, then stand, sit again, decide that I needed more coffee, go downstairs and make the coffee, come back up, sit again, get up, comb my hair, sit again, stare at the screen, check e-mail, stand up, pet the dog, sit again. . . .”

Unfortunately, Shapiro fails at maintaining this sense of community three times in the book. One, in the final section of the book she states: “If beginnings are leaps of faith, and middles are vexing, absorbing, full of trap doors and wrong turns and dead ends, sensing an ending is your reward. It’s better than selling your book.” Really? I think that statement falls in the category of “easy for you to say.” I’m sure there are many unpublished writers who would feel plenty rewarded by a sale!

Two, in “Risk,” she talks about the financial risk of living a life of a writer, but then goes on to relate her trip to Paris to celebrate how well her first memoir was doing on the best seller list. Again, really? I can see celebrating with a fancy meal out, but how much of a risky life are you living when you can celebrate success by going to Paris?

Finally, in “Smith Corona,” she paints a portrait of her mother, a failed writer, who wrote regularly—she had her practice, her habit. So why was she a failure? Although Shapiro points out that her mother didn’t finish anything, she also mentions that her mother sent out scripts. Weren’t they finished? I think a critical essay is missing here: one that focuses on what divides failed writers from successful ones. Diminishing her mother’s desire to become a famous writer as a “romantic daydream” insults the reader. We ask ourselves if we are also romantic daydreamers. We ask ourselves if our dedication will prove pointless.

Apparently, her mother frequently leveled “How dare you?” quite a bit to her daughter. (Surprisingly, Shapiro seems not to know why her mother slung this question at her. In the book, she relates that she never asks her mother: “What was it that I dared? What was so terrible that I had dared to become?” But we can answer on her mother’s behalf: Why, a successful writer, Dani. And one who published a memoir apparently not terribly flattering to her mother—while her mother was still living.) Struggling writers may very well ask the same: How dare you alienate us? We thought we had a bond, a common calling to write, a common struggle to face a blank page and create? Will we feel the same frustration as your mother?

In the introduction, Shapiro states: “It is my hope that—whether you’re a writer or not—this book will help you to discover or rediscover the qualities necessary for a creative life.” Well, it’s one thing to have a creative life and quite another to make a living from it. Surely Shapiro and the publisher weren’t so naïve to think that aspiring writers who read this book are content to have a creative life versus a financially successful creative life. (And aren’t aspiring writers the target market? Surely, published authors don’t need to read this book.) By not answering the question of why one writer makes it and another doesn’t, the book is more of a documentation of one writer’s journey and beliefs about her art as opposed to one successful writer reaching out to mentor other writers, which makes me wonder just what this book is. Is it a guide for aspiring writers? (And, despite the caveat "whether you're a writer or not," the book is addressed to writers.) Is it a reflection on Shapiro's life as a writer? With its anecdotes about her family, especially ones about her mother, is it memoir? Or is it a hybrid of all three?

Note to publisher: There is an error in subject/verb agreement on page 32, with the sentence beginning “We doesn’t ask why." Of course, "doesn't" should be “don’t."

Saturday, February 01, 2014


There will be, if I’m spared, a companion novel called 'God in Ruins' (a wonderful quote from Emerson--'Man is a god in ruins') in which I can explore more fully those characters who get rather short-changed in Life After Life. Ostensibly it will be Teddy's story but I think it might spread its net far and wide.

--Kate Atkinson, Book of the Month--Life After Life

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

by Wendy

When poet Lucille Clifton taught at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, I took several of her classes. As my fellow students and I sat around a conference table to critique each other’s poetry, Clifton would direct us to first state what we loved about the poems. After finishing The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt’s novel about Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old boy whose life takes a tragic, criminal trajectory after surviving an explosion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which results in the death of his beloved mother and his theft of a masterpiece, I asked myself: What do I love about this novel? Well, anything that brings attention to art is certainly something to love, right? And Tartt does so by making Carel Fabritius’ painting “The Goldfinch” the hub of her story. That she was successful in attracting attention to his piece is evidenced by headlines like “’The Goldfinch painting drawing big crowds since Donna Tartt book release” on and elsewhere. (Note: “The Goldfinch” is on display at The Frick Collection in New York until January 19.) She certainly writes well, giving us vivid characters and settings and a plot that keeps us turning pages. And in this day and age of sound bite attention spans and vapid voyeurism, what’s not to love about a book, any book, that’s receiving good reviews, selling well, and attracting readers?

Except I did feel like a voyeur. You know, not in a loose sense, but in that Merriam-Webster dictionary definition sense of “seeking the sordid or scandalous.” Reading The Goldfinch left me feeling like I had just watched a reality TV show and wondering, as Peggy Lee famously sang, “Is that all there is?” I didn’t know anything about Tartt prior to reading this book, but had I known, I would have expected characters who not only live in the moment, but who live narcissistic lives of indulgence (drugs, alcohol, greed); who lack moral centers (deceit, theft, forgery, murder); and who, ultimately, do not redeem themselves. Now I’m not a prude, nor do I think that all novels should be a story of good vs. evil, where good always wins, but we live in a world where not only can we watch such tales unfold on the Internet and in reality TV programs, but also in our very neighborhoods--so I guess I’m feeling saturated. I’d rather see a talent like Tartt give us a respite from this seemingly nightmarish world by providing hope for mankind in the halls of literature.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox! On to some elements that rang hollow: One, the point-of-view is first person in the form of Theo Decker at age twenty-seven, recounting in great detail the previous fourteen years. However, he sounds considerably older, for he has an impressive vocabulary, using words such as “cicatriced;” references people such as Carole Lombard, Dick Powell, and Bela Lugosi; and is comfortably knowledgeable about art. Not that men in their twenties can’t have impressive vocabularies and be knowledgeable of 1930s film stars and art, but Theo neither receives a stellar secondary education nor a degree in art and spends most of the book stoned or drunk. Is Tartt telling us that doctors and scientists are wrong, that drugs don’t kill brain cells?  The novel’s voice is more in line with the character of Andy, Theo’s nerdy friend, with whom he lives until being sent to live with his father, an alcoholic gambler, and girlfriend in Las Vegas. Yes, Theo spends time grieving and watching Turner Classic Movies, yes he goes to college, but these events still do not seem to be enough of a background for the level of diction and arcane associations.  

Secondly, it seems rather unbelievable that Theo could deceive, steal from (to the tune of 16K), and sully the reputation of a key character, James Hobart (who befriends Theo and provides both moral guidance and employment), and yet, at the end of the book, the two still enjoy a friendship and business relationship. Really?!  There are also some places where the book drags on and Tartt comes across as snooty (What Americans call apartments “flats,” toilets “loos,” or ping pong “table tennis”?), which are minor complaints compared to the didactic final pages where Tartt, in Theo’s voice, tells us Why These Characters Are Who They Are and What This Book Means.

I do admire Tartt’s talent, but it saddens me that society’s wicked underbellies are not only being documented, but almost celebrated, in her work.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Stats and 2013 Favorites

I can't say I'm sorry to see the end of 2013. There were lots of health issues affecting various members in both our families this year and it was near impossible to keep the stress created by all this at bay. I'm hoping for a calmer, healthier 2014 for all of us.

I didn't make it through as many books as I'd hoped to, particularly not as many classics, I didn't use 2013 as a catch-up reading year as I'd planned, I basically became a little sheep and read the same new books everyone else was reading instead of charting my own path, but that's okay. I enjoyed what I read. The older books are still there. Last night I finished Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits--Wendy gave it to me probably a decade back and I couldn't be bothered to read it before now, but it didn't become any less wonderful in the interim.

My reading stats for the last nine years (this year's in bold):

Books Total 74 / 100 / 82 / 101 / 101 / 78 / 81 / 74 / 77
Nonfiction 13 / 5 / 12 / 16 / 15 / 13 / 8 / 14 / 13
Novels 57 / 80 / 66 / 78 / 79 / 62 / 62 / 50 / 47
Short Story Collections 3 / 4 / 2 / 7 / 7 / 3 / 4 / 1 / 8
Library Books 36 / 29 / 39 /26 / 48 / 27 / 14 / 31
Newly Acquired/Read 14 / 21 / 12 / 23 / 32 / 32 / 31 / 24
Newly Acquired/Stockpiled 58 / 78 / 120+ / 113 / 140 / 88 / 141+ / 75+
E-texts Read 12 / 20 / 12 / 17 / 10 / 12
Free E-texts Read 4 / 10 / 6 / 9 / 5 / 7
Just-published books 35 / 30 / 21 / 36 / 55 / 41 / 34 / 33
Classics 7 / 22 / 23 / 21 / 10 / 8 / 23 / 12
Pre-20th Century 1 / 8 / 10 / 9 / 7 / 4 / 12 / 11
Written by women 49 / 38 / 46 / 55 / 42 / 33 / 28

6 authors with multiple books read: Margaret Atwood (3); E.L. Doctorow (2); Jennifer Egan (2); Karen Joy Fowler (2); Doris Lessing (2); Iris Murdoch (2)

8 rereads (in order read): Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut); The Judge (Rebecca West); Ragtime (E.L. Doctorow); The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes); Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood); In the Woods (Tana French); Life After Life (Kate Atkinson); We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Karen Joy Fowler).

My favorites for the year, which you might can guess, since I've already reread them, are:

Life After Life. Kate Atkinson
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. Karen Joy Fowler.

Other books I'm very happy I read, in no particular order:
The Pure Gold Baby. Margaret Drabble (just a matter of time before I read it again)
A Suitable Boy. Vikram Seth. (at 1474 pages, this is the longest book I've ever read. While I cannot image reading it again from cover to cover, I am most anxious to read the sequel.)
The Interestings. Meg Wolitzer
The Woman Upstairs. Claire Messud
The Diaries of Jane Somers. Doris Lessing
Tumbledown. Robert Boswell.
The House of the Spirits. Isabel Allende
May We Be Forgiven. A.M. Homes.
The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout
& Sons. David Gilbert

Monday, December 30, 2013

Read Scotland 2014 Challenge

Visiting Scotland in May was one of the highlights of 2013, so I was delighted to learn of the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge.  Peggy has also set up a Read Scotland discussion board for the challenge at Goodreads.

I'm hoping to reach at least the Highlander level (five to eight books) reading primarily from the following pool:

Letters from Skye. Jessica Brockmole
The January Flower. Orla Broderick
Mobius Dick. Andrew Crumey
The Secret Knowledge. Andrew Crumey
Lanark. Alasdair Gray
The Lewis Man. Peter May
The Heart Broke In. James Meek
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent. James Meek
Night Waking. Sarah Moss
Skye. Norman Newton
The Doctor's Family. Mrs.Oliphant
The Mystery of Mrs. Blencarrow. Mrs.Oliphant
And the Land Lay Still. James Robertson
Girl Meets Boy. Ali Smith
The First Person. Ali Smith
The Whole Story and other stories. Ali Smith
Robinson. Muriel Spark
The Horses. Elaine Walker

Monday, December 16, 2013

I still bear the scars of Middlemarch

'Do you believe in the virtue of compression?' asked a determined academic lady.

'Well, yes,' said Amit warily. The lady was rather fat.

'Why, then, is it rumoured that your forthcoming novel - to be set, I understand, in Bengal is to be so long? More than a thousand pages!' she exclaimed reproachfully, as if he were personally responsible for the nervous exhaustion of some future dissertationist.

'Oh, I don't know how it grew to be so long,' said Amit. 'I'm very undisciplined. But I too hate long books: the better, the worse. If they're bad, they merely make me pant with the effort of holding them up for a few minutes. But if they're good, I turn into a social moron for days, refusing to go out of my room, scowling and growling at interruptions, ignoring weddings and funerals, and making enemies out of friends. I still bear the scars of Middlemarch."

'How about Proust?" asked a distracted-looking lady, who had begun knitting the moment the poems stopped.

Amit was surprised that anyone read Proust in Brahmpur. He had begun to feel rather happy, as if he had breathed in too much oxygen.

'I'm sure I'd love Proust,' he replied, 'if my mind was more like the Sundarbans: meandering, all-absorptive, endlessly, er, sub-reticulated. But as it is, Proust makes me weep, weep, weep with boredom. Weep,' he added. He paused and sighed. 'Weep, weep, weep,' he continued emphatically. 'I weep when I read Proust, and I read very little of him."

There was a shocked silence: why should anyone feel so strongly about anything? It was broken by Professor Mishra.

'Needless to say, many of the most lasting monuments of literature are rather, well, bulky.' He smiled at Amit. 'Shakespeare is not merely great but grand, as it were.'

'But only as it were,' said Amit. 'He only looks big in bulk. And I have my own way of reducing that bulk,' he confided. "you may have noticed that in a typical Collected Shakespeare all the plays start on the right-hand side. Sometimes, the editors bung a picture in on the left to force them to do so. Well, what I do is to take my pen-knife and slit the whole book up into forty or so fascicles. That way I can roll up Hamlet or Timon - and slip them into my pocket. And when I'm wandering around - in a cemetery, say - I can take them out and read them. It's easy on the mind and on the wrists. I recommend it to everyone. I read Cymbeline in just that way on the train here; and I never would have otherwise.'

Kabir smiled, Lata burst out laughing, Pran was appalled, Mr Makhijani gaped and Mr Nowrojee looked as if he were about to faint dead away.

--Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Time // 6:20 pm.

Place // My messy, messy upstairs study. I ordered new bedroom furniture and a rug in August, which necessitated the removal of a popcorn ceiling, refinishing a hardwood floor, painting, and, oh yeah, moving tons of stuff that had been allowed to accumulate over the years in the bedroom. Lots of it is still in the study, although the bedroom is mostly finished. Must do something about the excess very soon. 

Consuming // Ginger ale and Imitrex. It's the beginning of migraine week.

Reading // This past week I finished Christopher Priest's The Adjacent and reread Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves for book club.This was my pick, and I'd worried that the Fowler would not go over well with some of the readers in this group, but like it they did, and many seemed to have actually followed my advice and not read reviews and flap copy beforehand, and were surprised when Fern's identity was revealed. I've started Nancy Milford's Zelda: A Biography and James McBride's The Good Lord Bird.

Blogging // As you might can tell, I am trying to kick-start myself into blogging again. Last night I posted the same photo of the Prague astronomical clock that I used nine years ago when the blog was a mere week old. I wonder if there are any old-timers still reading?

Watching // We've been rewatching Breaking Bad. I think "Fly" is the last episode we've seen.

Listening // We went to an Eileen Jewell show last month and I've been listening to a lot of her cds ever since. Plus, someone put a Monkees cd in the car and while I like it, I think that someone should switch it out for something else really really soon.

Loving //  That we now have a bed that it's not only comfortable to read in, but it's possible to read in. I broke our old bed years back trying to shift it around to clean under it and it would collapse if you put any pressure at all on the headboard.

Hating // That we're still waiting on bedside tables and a dresser. I want to stack books on them all!

Making // Last minute phone calls to my crew for tomorrow evening's set up at the precinct. There's an election Tuesday!

Anticipating // My trip to Maryland next Sunday to visit Wendy. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Breaking Bad is like a sprawling Russian novel come to your flat screen, or an epic film allowed to unfold at its own pace rather than edited down to three hours so the theatre can cram in an extra showing every day. By saving its best for last, Breaking Bad is quietly pushing the boundaries of this evolving genre.

We can watch “Ozymandias” in a way that generally wasn’t possible in 2008 when Breaking Bad’s “Pilot” first aired. We have virtually instantaneous access to the new episode on demand and on-line. The days of waiting for a re-run are history. We can, if we so choose, watch Breaking Bad like a giant film. Or have random access to any page just as we would in a novel.

 --Allen St. John, "Why Breaking Bad is the Best Show Ever and Why That Matters"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scotland, here I come!

Back in a week. Taking a very much needed vacation..

And hoping to become a more frequent blogger on my return.

What I"ll be reading on the plane: Iris Murdoch's The Book and the Brotherhood. I'm midway through and it fits in my purse and it seems a shame to set it aside for the larger and heavier The Interestings, which is what I'd been intending to take. But I've got two hours before I leave for the airport. Maybe I'll decide to take both.

And both Kindles.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities.

--Claire Messud, talking about anger, the books she loves, and oh, yeah, her latest, The Woman Upstairs.

My copy arrived this afternoon. Can't wait to start.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Paltry reading

This is sad. The entire first quarter was sad and the sluggish reading pace continues. Unless things change I'll probably finish out 2013 having completed fewer books than at any time since 1994.

I think I'm going to have to rethink all social reading commitments until I get a handle on the other obligations that have to take precedent--I'm still back at the Jean Rhys section in Stet and I never even started Doctor Glas for the Slaves back in January. And I think I'm going to need to restrict my reading to books that wholly engage my attention or else I won't get through them at all.


The last few weeks' meager few finishes:

Give Me Everything You Have: On Being Stalked. James Lasdun. I had a one-night stand on the Double Dog Dare with this one and I do not feel guilty; if I'd known about it beforehand, I would have caveated it in, for reasons I won't go into. I take issue with Lasdun's insistence that Nasreen must be sane so that he can have a "morally engaging antagonist" for "interesting," "literary purposes," but otherwise, I have great sympathy for him for what she's put him through.

The Waterworks. E.L. Doctorow. I read somewhere that this was a tribute to Poe. I enjoyed it more for the period details and was perplexed by the narrator's overuse of ellipses. I don't believe this was a newspaper convention of the time and C. assures me that Poe wasn't overly fond of ellipses either, so I don't know what effect Doctorow was going for here. Read this if you want something literary for Carl's RIP Challenge.

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life. Ann Patchett. This was a Kindle single, really more of an essay than a book.

Good-bye to All That. Robert Graves. Dare I attempt The White Goddess now? Er, not anytime soon.

The Imperfectionists. Tom Rachman. For book club. I was the only one who truly enjoyed it, I'm sorry to say. Crazy sad newspaper people amuse me.

The Burgess Boys. Elizabeth Strout.Although I can find where Anne Tyler has recommended Elizabeth Strout, I cannot find confirmation that Strout has ever mentioned reading Tyler. Nevertheless, to me The Burgess Boys reads as if Strout has internalized all the Anne Tyler novels over the years. Spotting these influences, or intentional nods, as I went through this made me deliriously happy. I realize this book isn't working as well for the very people who originally turned me on to Strout back when Amy and Isabelle first came out (i.e., the old Readerville crowd), but I really loved this book.