Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Future Re-Reads

Books don't make it onto my Lifetime Favorites List (click on profile above if interested in said list) without holding up to a re-read, or two or three (the lone exception: Lonesome Dove, a book I constantly dip into but have yet to re-read from cover to cover for a second time). I'm currently on my seventh re-read of the year (Macbeth, with my son) and intend to bring in 2007 with a re-reading of Crime and Punishment.

As a blogger who knowingly provides her share of pooter posts (thanks go to Dorothy for finding The Diary of a Nobody) , I thought I'd share of list of books I haven't yet re-read, but fully intend to at some point. I think all of these, even if they do not eventually make their way onto the definitive lifetime list, will at least provide just as much pleasure as they did on the first go-round.

1. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas.

2. Rebecca West's The Judge.

3. Stephen Wright's The Amalgamation Polka.

4. Kate Atkinson's Case Histories and One Good Turn. I want to read them back to back so I can determine which I actually enjoy more.

5. Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding.

6. Richard Russo's Straight Man.

7. Steven Millhauser's Edwin Mullhouse.

8. Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red.

9. Haven Kimmel's The Solace of Leaving Early.

10. Robert Boswell's Century's Son.

11. Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives' Tale.

12. Franz Lidz's Unstrung Heroes.

13. A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden (and all its sequels save the last, which I didn't like at all).

The last nine books listed, ones I've read prior to the last year or so, are currently showcased in My Bookstore.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two things

1. For the past three days I have been taking pets to the vet: Ellie had shots and her yearly checkup on Monday; on Tuesday Nicholson had a cyst on the inside of an eyelid removed and sent off for biopsy and both she and Claudius had their teeth cleaned; and this afternoon Ezra had her uric acid levels checked--woo hoo! For the first time since April, the levels are in the normal range.

Taking pets to the vet means there will be no money for book purchases for quite awhile to come, so prepare for the return of Friday cat blogging!

2. I'm enjoying Richard Powers' The Echo Maker a great deal, but I simply cannot buy the marriage between the cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber and his wife Sylvie--it's simply off and it makes me cringe to read their conversations. Sylvie (as of page 144) has yet to use her husband's name--she calls him Man and Husband repeatedly and he calls her Woman. Perhaps there's a reason yet to be revealed why they must point out these obvious facts about themselves, but at this point it just seems wrongly imagined, as if Powers couldn't quite bring into focus a 30-plus-year marriage.

But Powers' reputation is wondrous and the rest of the book is excellent, so I'm prepared to eat crow if it turns out he knew what he was doing with this relationship.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Always offensive

Having trained him to think clearly, and not let himself settle for empty verbiage, he'd neglected to explain that, for someone not well respected, this habit is criminal, for in any case logical thinking is alway offensive.

--Stendhal, The Red and the Black

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Holiday from books

The only downside to having Thanksgiving with my husband's family is the lack of leftovers in our own refrigerator. To compensate for that, I started a tradition several years back of cooking a second Thanksgiving meal the weekend after for just the four of us. This year the meal was on Saturday instead of Sunday so my daughter could go back to school early to finish a project. And I invited my sister.

The downside to cooking a second Thanksgiving is that I wind up losing quite a bit of time that could have been spent reading to shopping for and preparing the meal. I thought that I would be able to finally settle in with a book late yesterday once the kitchen was cleaned and my sister--who'd showed up for lunch at 8:30 am and had talked nonstop for more than six hours-- had gone home, but I found that I did not have the mental wherewithal for print material by that point. My sister takes a lot out of me. I was in bed by 9.

The Time-Warner guy is supposed to come tomorrow morning to see if he can determine what is causing our internet problem. Since the entire month of December is to be devoted to the upstairs--painting, removing carpet and installing a hardwood floor in our bedroom, shuffling furniture and other items throughout the rest of the rooms in order to do the former--I resented having to expend the effort this late in the game to making it presentable to a stranger who may or may not need to inspect our modem and router; it certainly kept me from the books this afternoon.

And it's been busy at the library this evening. Between patrons I've been attempting to follow the latest round in the blog vs. print cat fight (complete background at the Saloon), but I intend to get in an hour or so of reading before I go to bed tonight. Margaret Atwood's convinced me I ought not put off The Echo Maker a day longer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

On the day after Thanksgiving, I am most grateful to again have an internet connection, although I'm told the connection may well be dicey between now and Monday morning when the serviceman makes his appearance.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I'm usually alerted to the hawk's presence by three freaked-out parrots who fall off their perches, screaming and flapping wildly, whenever it dives steeply into our backyard for an unsuspecting dove. I've witnessed the hawk's shadow pass over their cages only once, normally skidding onto the scene moments after the hawk has risen with a dove in its talons, a drift of breast feathers settling onto the patio and grass, while the parrots continue to flail about until I soothe them down. I don't begrudge them their panic one bit.

This morning, though, the screams I heard were coming from a hawk back behind the trees across the road in the front of our house. I threw the newspaper on the table, grabbed the binoculars from the secretary, and went back out to determine what the commotion was all about.

There were three hawks, and best I could tell, the red-tailed one was being subjected to some tag-teamed bullying. Once he'd been led to the decision that he didn't really want to incorporate this area into his own territory, he flew east and the other two reconnoitered in a tree for awhile before lazily heading east themselves.

I'm assuming there may be some baby hawks hatched nearby in the spring.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Stew for Brains

Saturday I read this line of Proust:

Just as the Fathers of the Church, good as they were, first had to practice the sins of all men, through which they found their own sanctity, so great artists, immoral as they are, often derive from their own vices a definition of the moral rule that applies to us all.

and I'm absolutely thrilled by the synchronicity, because I know I've encountered a similiar line just recently in Stendhal, having to do with Julien Sorel's soured view of priests.

Or, I suppose I should say, I think I've encountered a similiar line just recently. Perhaps I imagined it, because I certainly can't find it now. I lost a lot of prime Proust reading time over the weekend looking for it, too. I even made a stab at looking for it in The Italian since Vivaldi and Ellena have been captured by Inquisitors by now and one of them could certainly could have had the reflection that I'm attributing to Julien.

My reading has turned to stew. I really ought to quit switching back and forth between so many books.

Instead, I started something new last night.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hee. A student came to the desk a little bit ago asking for an L2 file he said his instructor had placed on reserve for his class.

Do you think she meant an LP? I ask. I already know the answer; the record in question's been in constant demand all evening.

He maintains she said L2, although he admits he doesn't have a clue what it is.

I hand him the album and point him in the direction of the record player.

This is really old school, he says.

A few minutes later he comes back and asks me to show him how to find the movement he's supposed to listen to.

Two sides to a disk can really throw a modern guy. It's like a totally foreign concept.

The broad daylight of habitual memory

Habit weakens all things; but the things that are best at reminding us of a person are those which, because they were insignificant, we have forgotten, and which have therefore lost none of their power. Which is why the greater part of our memory exists outside us, in a dampish breeze, in the musty air of a bedroom or the smell of autumn's first fires, things through which we can retrieve any part of us that the reasoning mind, having no use for it, disdained, the last vestige of the past, the best of it, the part which, after all our tears sem to have dried, can make us weep again. Outside us? Inside us, more like, but stored away from our mind's eye, in that abeyance of memory which may last forever. It is only because we have forgotten that we can now and then return to the person we once were, envisage things as that person did, be hurt again, because we are not ourselves anymore, but someone else, who once loved something that we no longer care about. The broad daylight of habitual memory gradually fades our images of the past, wears them away until nothing is left of them and the past become irrecoverable. Or, rather, it would be irrecoverable, were it not that a few words (such as "chief undersecretary at the Postmaster General's") had been carefully put away and forgotten, much as a copy of a book is deposited in the Bibliotheque Nationale against the day when it may become unobtainable.

--Marcel Proust, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Several years ago I read Pamela Dean's Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary, and was captivated by its mix of literary allusions, quirky characters, and mundane yet fantastic plot. The ending made my head want to explode. I read it first in January, then again in February, and was so convinced my daughter would love it--its young characters' conversations reminded me of many I'd overheard as I drove the afternoon carpool home from school--if she got down off her high horse long enough to read it, that I resorted to bribery. Money exchanged hands and she agreed to fit the book into her busy schedule.

Needless to say, she hated it. It was a totally annoying book, her conversations were nothing like those in the book, and besides, nobody read Shakespeare in middle school the way these characters did.

Except her brother did, the very next year. It certainly wasn't geared to be the intellectual experience that Gentian had had (I stumbled across the silly board game he was required to make a few months back), but it was proof that middle schoolers read Shakespeare even though she'd not been required to do so in the I.B. program.

And this is all preface to say that when I suggested late yesterday afternoon that my son do Kate's meme for his own amusement, I thought he might put down Much Ado About Nothing as his first adult book. Instead he said it was Midsummer Night's Dream.

I reminded him that the script for his elementary school production of Midsummer Night's Dream was highly watered down and should not count. He said he knew that, and wasn't. His class had read the play in small groups in sixth grade.

Why had I never heard one word about this till now?

He said he didn't think it was any big deal.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Fifteen

Sharon had an interesting post yesterday under the guise of a Thursday Thirteen on the subject of authors she collects but has yet to read. She asks, "Are there any authors whose books you have more than 4 of that you haven't read but intend to?"

I have four unread Peter Ackroyds floating around, but I've read a couple by him as well so I can't count him. After I scroll through my to-be-read list (sorely in need of an update, I realize), I find that I don't have any authors on the list that I've stockpiled in great quantities without reading something by them first. I'm not much of a risk-taker when it comes to shelf-sitters, it seems; I simply don't have the space.

I did manage to put together a list of 15 fiction writers as yet unread with two books on my shelves:

Mikhail Bulgakov
Ethan Canin
Louis de Bernieres
Ivan Doig
Ford Madox Ford
Nadine Gordimer
David Markson
V.S. Naipaul
Lawrence Norfolk
Richard Powers
Thomas Pynchon
Susan Sontag
Graham Swift
David Toscana
Richard Yates

That's it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kate's Early Reading Meme

Kate has created a meme on early reading. Here are my responses:

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?

I was five, I think. My mother taught me using Dr. Seuss books. Green Eggs and Ham was the first that I managed on my own. I can remember feeling a real sense of accomplishment in mastering those tricky words would, should and could.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?

I don't remember the first, just that I was kept well supplied. A Little Golden Book of some sort or another may well have been the first. My mother was always willing to buy books for me, via through-the-mail book clubs or from the dime or grocery stores, and my first trips to the library took place while I was still a pre-schooler; it was a small one-room basement dwelling off Main Street at that time. I can remember checking out a hardcover copy of Clare Turlay Newberry's Marshmallow. We owned a set of The Book of Knowledge and it would have been my first exposure to any type of classic literature. I particularly loved the poetry contained within, especially "Little Orphan Annie": "and the goblins will get you, if you don't watch out!"

My elementary school library was a wonderful place and I probably spent almost as much time there as I did in the classroom since my teachers liked to get me out of their hair once I'd completed my work. All the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and many of the Marguerite Henrys came from the elementary school library.

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?

Probably Gone With the Wind, which I bought in Chapel Hill on the 8th grade trip to Raleigh/Chapel Hill, although it may very well have been a book on horses from a tack shop a year or so earlier.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?

I re-read horse books (the largest portion of my reading consisted of horse books), Lewis Carroll, and Old Yeller. I read the E.C. Spykman quartet and Harriet the Spy to the point of internalization.

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?

It may have been Gone With the Wind. I read it straight through over the course of a single weekend, starting on the bus back from Raleigh. Or it may have been some genre fare passed on my uncles or aunts: I read a lot of their Alistair MacLeans, Zane Greys, Emilie Lorings and Grace Livingston Hills at about the same time.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?

The Wind in the Willows. I always thought it looked boring, and never attempted to read it until I had kids of my own.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Housekeeping vs. the Dirt

See, a few years ago while Nick Hornby was having his head shaved, the barber taunted the young woman who worked next to him into admitting that the only writer she could name was Enid Blyton. Hornby disingenuously uses this anecdote and a study that found that more than 40 percent of all adults never read a book, let alone manage to cough up the name of a favorite author, to launch an attack on writers who clearly do not have these particular adults in mind as an audience when they write. Evidently bright people who happen to lack a literature degree are so stymied by writers writing about highly articulate people that Hornby feels the need to cry "Elitism!" and call for quotas. And anyway, it's cheating to write about smart people when you're smart, and the most gifted writers write about dumb people and are accordingly sought out by "infrequent book-buyers."

I know quite a few people took umbrage over Hornby's remarks a few months back, that people shouldn't attempt difficult novels if they weren't enjoying them, and maybe some of them were also upset with him over his call for literary writers to stop being so literary as well--I'd tuned out by then since I'd enjoyed The Polysyllabic Spree so much and fully intended to read the next collection.

Now I understand the irritation. Last night, given the opportunity, I would have gladly slapped Hornby in the face--and I do hope that action would have been lowbrow and inarticulate enough to suit him. I'll probably eventually finish this one since it's short, but for now, it's going back on the shelf. I'm not in the mood for Hornby's kind of cute.

Monday, November 13, 2006

If you're a fan of the Beats and you managed to miss Bill Morgan's talk in Chapel Hill last week, you might be interested in The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice, a collection of Allen Ginsberg's first journals and poems, just published this month.

The original typewritten draft of Ginsberg's journals, my daughter informed me over the weekend, happens to be on her desk in Rare Books at Wilson Library. I didn't know that when I accepted an advanced reading copy of the journals from the publisher last month; R. hadn't mentioned the Beats since her stint as a guardian of the Kerouac scrolls last fall and I'd just assumed the collection would be one I could pass on to her once I'd finished with it. Since she's already very familar with it, knowing exactly where to look for his "Mooselini" reference, I certainly won't need to rush.

But even though it may take awhile before I get around to more than a dip in here or there, I have perused most of Ginsberg's reading lists. It seemed odd to find Story of Dr. Dolittle nestled between D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, and my daughter didn't have any inside information on why Hugh Lofting would be the only children's author Ginsberg appeared to read as an adult; maybe I'll have a better idea once I actually read the journals.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Toxic relationships

She took the urn inside with her and placed it on the kitchen draining board. She unscrewed the lid and poured some of the contents into a saucer and examined them, poking them around with a knife like a forensic technician. It was gritty, more like clinker than ash, and Louise half-expected to see a bit of tooth, a recognizable bone. Toxic waste. Perhaps if she added water to the saucer, her mother would be resurrected, the clay re-formed from the dust. Her moth-wing lungs might reinflate and she would rise like a genie from the urn and sit opposite Louise at the too-small kitchen table in the too-small kitchen and tell Louise how sorry she was for all the bad things she'd done. And Louise would say, "Too fucking late, get back in your urn."

--Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn

Friday, November 10, 2006

Put it on your Christmas list

Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles has been selected as the next group read for the Slaves of Golconda. Discussion will take place in late January, so anyone interested in discussing the book might want to request it as a Christmas present next month.

The Street of Crocodiles is a novella by a Polish writer who was killed by the Nazis during WWII. If you're a fan of Calvino or Garcia Marquez, if you like your stories Kafkaesque, if you're in the mood for something poetic and odd, then this one should appeal. I've wanted to read it since Nicole Krauss referenced it in The History of Love last year.

First paragraph:

In July my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Dizzy with light, we dipped into that enormous book of holidays, its pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Hurray for checks and balances!

Yesterday was such a lovely celebratory day.

I was at the polls on Tuesday for 15 hours. Turnout approached that of a national election, with long lines till mid-morning and from 4 in the afternoon until closing.

I was responsible for transfers and provisional voting for the first time. I'd been asked to take the position five years ago, but there was a conflict between my surgery and their training schedule and I'd had to decline. The position opened back up this fall and I decided the number of new books I'd be able to afford would offset the reason why the person who'd had the job decided she'd rather stay home with her grandchildren from now on.

But The Reason Why was on her best behavior for once, and in fact walked over to tell me near the end of the afternoon, after she'd managed to keep her temper with a voter who'd annoyed her, that God had told her to be nice. I did not feel the least compulsion to fire back that she ought to listen to him more often, the way I would have normally, since she'd actually been pleasant all day. No doubt she's hoping to land the chief judge position--it's only a matter of time--and she may revert to form once that occurs, but I sure appreciated her attitude on Tuesday.

There was not near as much time as I'd expected to read, but I managed the last little bit of Letters from Yellowstone and made a start in One Good Turn. I struck up a conversation with a woman reading in line and it turns out she's a homeschooler who lives just down the street. She belongs to a bookclub, and it's probably just as well I work evenings and can't attend, since she says its very hard to get the members to read anything outside their safety zone.

This week My Bookstore is stocked with Southern fiction.

Monday, November 06, 2006

At the moment I'm fighting the urge to come up with a definitive list of books to read for The From the Stacks Reading Challenge since a) I'm hoping to read many more than five anyway and b) I'm focusing more on the don't-acquire- new-books part of the challenge, but I'm sure enjoying seeing the lists of participants and books at Overdue Books.

I have to be at the polls at 6 tomorrow morning. I'll be taking Stendhal's The Red and the Black, Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn, and Diane Smith's Letters from Yellowstone with me. I expect to have plenty of time to read between voters.
Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt

Everyone planning on voting tomorrow?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Anagrams and adverbs

So I'm merrily reading along in Lorrie Moore's "Paper Losses," having a fine old time since Lorrie Moore is a both a genius and a god who does no wrong, and I get to this paragraph:

Whom she tried not to look at but could smell in all his smoky aromas—tobacco, incense, cannabis—swirling their way around him. A wiry old American pothead gone to grim seed. His name was Daniel Handler, according to the business card he wore safety-pinned to his shirt like a badge. He did not speak. He placed hot stones up and down her back and left them there. Did she think her belotioned flesh too private and precious to be touched by the likes of him? Are you crazy? The mad joy in her face was held over the floor by the massage-table headpiece, and at his touch her eyes filled with bittersweet tears, which then dripped out of her nose, which she realized was positioned perfectly by God as a little drainpipe for crying. The sad massage-hut carpet beneath her grew a spot. A heart could break, but perhaps you could move on to the next one, and the next, like a worm with its several hearts. Daniel left the hot stones on her until they went cold. As each one lost its heat, she could no longer feel it there on her back, and then its removal was like a discovery that it had been there all along: how strange to forget and then feel something only then, at the end. Though this wasn’t the same thing as the frog in the pot whose water slowly heats and boils, still it had meaning, she felt, the way metaphors of a thermal nature tended to. Then he took all the stones off and pressed the hard edges of them deep into her back, between the bones, in a way that felt mean but more likely had no intention at all.

and I go, Daniel Handler! What's he doing in a Lorrie Moore story? Am I not picking up on some blatantly obvious Lemony Snicket reference (I have not read Lemony Snicket). Are Handler and Moore buddies, beaux? Surely this means something or the Mr. Handler in the story would be merely an Anton or possibly a Randy.

So I go out on the internets to the google and I find that Anagrams is one of Handler's favorite novels and that he admits to shameless borrowing from Moore, and that Handler's novel Adverbs was "stolen completely from Anagrams."

And now I'm going to have to read Adverbs to detect all the bits stolen from Anagrams.

And maybe, find a character named Lorrie Moore hidden within its pages.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

We're selecting the next group read this week at the Slaves of Golconda. If you'd like to participate, come over and let us know the book you'd like to discuss with us in late January.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A new challenge

Michelle at Overdue Books has proposed a reading challenge that will run through the end of January: the From the Stacks Winter Challenge.

If you are anything like me your stack of purchased to-be-read books is teetering over. So for this challenge we would be reading 5 books that we have already purchased, have been meaning to get to, have been sitting on the nightstand and haven't read before. No going out and buying new books. No getting sidetracked by the lure of the holiday bookstore displays.

Three months of reading what's already at hand. That's an awfully long time, isn't it?

I need a challenge like this. I hope I can do it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen random things about my current reading life:

1. C. placed "a definite must read" on my desk for me today. I scooped it up with a couple of books I'd brought from home when it was time to leave the library, forgetting to desensitize it. It is embarrassing to set off the gate alarm with a book called Old Filth.

2. I am very behind in my Proust reading--haven't picked up In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower since late September. I'm hoping to make a good deal of progress in it this weekend.

3. I read Katherine Mansfield's story "At the Bay" last night and am looking forward to its discussion at A Curious Singularity.

4. I read chapter four (paragraphs) in Reading Like a Writer tonight.

5. An Amazon package was thrown on my front porch today! In it was Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native (can't believe I've never read this one) and C.S. Forester's Beat to Quarters.

6. Claire Tomalin's bio of Thomas Hardy is being published in the U.S. in January. I have a coupon already earmarked for it.

7. I found it difficult not to continue reading The Red and the Black once I'd finished the first batch of chapters for discussion next week.

8. I've read the first two or three letters in Diane Smith's Letters from Yellowstone and think it will be a good choice to take to the polls with me on Tuesday.

9. I'll probably also take Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn.

10. Three hundred pages to go in The Italian!

11. A new story by Lorrie Moore is always a thrill. I'm forcing myself to wait until the weekend to read it.

12. Litlove's post on Indiana proves that yes, I am a philistine.

13. Even so, I am really looking forward to reading lots of classics next year.
This week My Bookstore features books I hope to have read by the end of the year.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

RIP Challenge

Carl's RIP Challenge ended yesterday and although I'd intended to write lengthy separate posts on all the books I'd read for the challenge, here I am a day late and a dollar short with no more than a few brief words on books I happened to enjoy.

I'm such a bad blogger.

I read James Meek's The People's Act of Love back in September and it will definitely be found on my year's best list no matter how badly I short-shrift it here. The setting is an isolated village in Siberia near the end of the Russian revolution. A small band of Czech soldiers stationed there would like to return home, but their captain's gone insane and prefers to stay. Most of the villagers are religious castrates; their leader, however, had been married before his conversion, and his beautiful, angry "widow" and their son have now taken up residency in the town. Into the mix comes Samarin, an escaped political prisoner from a remote camp, telling of a fellow excapee who'd intended to cannibalize him and is fast on his heels.

'I don't care about that!' shouted Anna. "I don't care, do you understand? I don't care about heavens and hells and gods and demons and tsars and empires and communists and the people this and the people that. Don't tell me any more. I want something for my son's wound and whatever kind of forest witchery comes with it doesn't matter, d'you see?'

If the thought of Dostoyevsky makes you happy, then this is a book you'll want to read.

And if you're still mourning the cancellation of Deadwood, then Oakley Hall's Warlock will be a great comfort. When the mining town of Warlock is terrorized by rustlers who've run off the deputy and killed a nervous barber, the citizens committee, frustrated by the county's refusal to provide protection to the town, takes matters into their own hands. They bring in gunman Clay Blaisdell, the owner of a pair of gold-handled pistols and a lofty reputation, to civilize the town. After a gun battle based loosely on the shootout at the OK Corrall occurs, public opinion, once solidly in Blaisdell's favor, begins to waver. His friendship with nasty saloon owner Tom Morgan, who has an agenda that conflicts with Blaisdell's own, as well as that of Blaidell's new girlfriend, is a cause of concern.

Warlock must also deal with a mining strike and come to terms with its new deputy John Gannon, whose former association with the rustlers towns people find hard to forget. A general gone crazy and the threat of an Indian attack also cause havoc in the town before a final showdown and its aftermath lead to conflagration.

Now the fuse was lit; he vaulted the tie rail, and his boots sank into the soft dust of the street. The sun sat on the peaks, blood-red, like the yolk of a bad egg. He shivered a little in the wind as he turned his back on the sun. He laughed to see the men scampering along the boardwalks as he swaggered out into the street. He had seen towns shot up before. The best he had ever seen at it was Ben Nicholson, but he could beat that. He spat out his cigar, raised Dawson's Colt, and pulled the trigger again. With the blast rocking in his ears he began to howl like a coyote, an Apache, and a rebel all rolled into one.

"Yah--hoo!" he yelled. "I am the worst man in the West! I am the Black Rattlesnake of Warlock! My mother was a timber wolf and my daddy a mountain lion, and I strangled them both the day I was born!"

A great vacation read.

And with Cormac McCarthy's The Road, we're now back to cannibalism. I gulped this one in one setting, the first day back after vacation. It's stylistically very different from Suttree, which I read and loved earlier in the year, more Hemingway than Faulkner this time, but just as worthy of a second more contemplative read. Everyone's reviewing and blogging about this one this month, so I'll just say this is the bleakest post-apocalyptic novel I've read and the best, and leave it at that.

His dreams brightened. The vanished world returned. Kin long dead washed up and cast fey sidewise looks upon him. None spoke. He thought of his life. So long ago. A gray day in a foreign city where he stood in a window and watched the street below. Behind him on a wooden table a small lamp burned. On the table books and papers. It had begun to rain and a cat at the corner turned and crossed the sidewalk and sat beneath the cafe awning. There was a woman at a table there with her head in her hands. Years later he'd stood in the charred ruins of a library where blackened books lay in pools of water. Shelves tipped over. Some rage at the lies arranged in their thousands row on row. He picked up one of the books and thumbed through the heavy bloated pages. He'd not have thought the value of the smallest thing predicated on a world to come. It surprised him. That the space which these things occupied was itself an expectation. He let the book fall and took a last look around and made his way out into the cold gray light.

The Italian, Ann Radcliffe's Gothic tale, is still in progress.

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...