Friday, October 31, 2008


Bookwise, I have to thumb all the way back to February 1998 in my reading journal to find a time when I did less reading than I managed this month. Back then, I encountered Steven Millhauser's superb Edwin Mullhouse at the same I was dealing with Anglo-American cataloging rules, and that was it for February. This month, after a distracted slog through Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I realized there was no point in bothering with a book until after November 4. I have been totally engrossed in the election. No doubt some of you will be grateful that I've spared you a running commentary on all of that.

But my birthday was this month and so the books kept stockpiling whether or not I was reading.

Adalbert Stifter's Rock Crystal. One of the latest NYRB titles. I have almost a complete shelf of NYRBs by now.

Drusilla Modjeska's The Orchard. I'd not heard of this book before it showed up as a potential read for The Slaves of Golconda; while Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry was ultimately chosen for our January discussion, this one (suggested by LitLove) looked too good to pass up.

Andrew Crumey's Sputnik Caledonia. I think I heard about this one via Readerville.

Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. My mother-in-law insisted I have this one.

Francine Prose's Goldengrove. Probably the most obvious book on the stack for me to have.

Charlotte Mosley's The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. Finally out in paperback. . .

Ron Rash's Serena. An Appalachian Macbeth? We'll see.

Nadeem Aslam's The Wasted Vigil. (Review copy)

Alan Cheuse's To Catch the Lightning. (Review copy)

See you on November 5 when I resort to my normal default settings. In the meantime, go vote for Obama.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Literature is inescapably political. . . . It is in the act of reading that we define our notions about the world, what we judge to be right or wrong, important or unimportant, acceptable or unacceptable; literature is the testing ground of the imagination, where we decide who we are and what sort of society we live in or should be living in. You tell me your favorite novelists and I'll tell you whom you vote for, or whether you vote at all.

-- Stephen Vizinczey

(I originally posted this quotation--my second on the blog--in October 2004)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Book Meme

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I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?

Took me 29 years, but I finally came across a hardback copy of Margaret Drabble's The Realms of Gold over the weekend. I found it in Crow Books in Burlington, Vermont, and I was so thrilled by the find that I also bought a store T-shirt.

Name a book you have read MORE than once

E. M. Forster's Howards End

Kate Atkinson's Human Croquet

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?

Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun

Joseph Campbell's Myths to Live By

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews

For all those reasons and several more. I swear sometimes it seems to happen by osmosis.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?


What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?

Character development.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)


Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?

Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Nadeem Aslam's The Wasted Vigil

Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason

Rebecca West's This Real Night

Sana Krasikov's One More Year

David Foster Wallace's Oblivion

Haven Kimmel's Iodine

Mecklenburg County Board of Elections's Precinct Management Manual

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?

Michael Greenberg's Hurry Down Sunshine. I read it on the plane going to Vermont.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?

Most recently: David Rabe's Dinosaurs on the Roof.

I appear to have given up on Les Miserables, but I will eventually get around to finishing it.

Booking Through Thursday

How can it be Thursday already?

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...