lisapeet 2020: Read 'em if you got 'em

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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lisapeet 2020: Read 'em if you got 'em

1lisapeet
tammikuu 1, 2020, 9:41am



Hi all, and Happy New Year!

I'm lisapeet, real name Lisa Peet—I know, very imaginative—and this is my third year on CR. I live at the very top of New York—the north Bronx—and work at the bottom of Manhattan. Not quite a born-and-bred New Yorker, but I've lived in various spots around the city since the ink on my high school diploma was dry, and I'm in my mid-50s now.

I'm married, have a grown son who's in the middle of his second year in medical school at St. George's in Grenada, and have a motley crüe of pets: one dog, age 14-1/2, and four cats—16, 12, 2 or 3, and almost a year and a half. We lost two dear cats in 2019 and gained one, and I'd like our population to just stay stable for a while (famous last words).

I'm an editor and journalist, covering news about libraries—public, academic, and special (but not K-12). It's as cool a job as it sounds, also super immersive and it often owns my life (the hour-plus commute each way doesn't help when it comes to a major lack of free time, but it's good for reading). I'm also a site proprietor at Bloom, a website that focuses on writers (and others) who first published after age 40, or who radically changed genres. I'm always interested in hearing about authors who fit that bill, so if you've read anyone whom you think I should know about, please drop me a line. I also write book reviews here and there around the web and a fair amount for Library Journal, and would like to get back into longer-form reviewing again at some point, but again—that time thing.

I read widely and randomly—literary fiction (including short fiction and work in translation), nonfiction of most kinds (esp. science, history, nature, culture), good historical fiction, some poetry, memoir and biography, essays, literary criticism, graphic novels and collections. I don't read much in the way of genre but do like to go outside my zone and enjoy well-written mysteries, thrillers, etc. YA rarely, but not ruled out.

Not sure I really have enough time for hobbies these days, but I do like to bake, write physical letters, sketch, and do fun NY stuff when I remember that that's why I'm here. I drive an old car, my politics are left of center, and I like cheese a lot. My 2019 thread is here.

I have a few low-key reading goals for 2020, outlined here. I don't read to hit numbers, which strikes me as similar to making notches on a bedpost—for me it ain't the meat, it's the motion. I read all the time, but I'm not a fast reader, and I only read stuff that interests/engages me. Life's too short to finish a crappy book.

--

The image above is Betye Saar's Black Girl’s Window, 1969, which I just saw in an exhibit of her work centered on that particular piece at the Museum of Modern Art. She's a wonderful artist—political, exuberant, intelligent—and I recommend any show with her in it that you can catch (the one at MoMA is only up until this Saturday, but if you're in the NYC area, go!)

2Dilara86
tammikuu 1, 2020, 9:52am

Looking forward to reading your thread!

3BLBera
tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:08am

Happy New Year, Lisa. I wish you stellar reading for 2020.

4NanaCC
tammikuu 1, 2020, 10:35am

Happy New Year, Lisa. I’ll be following along.

5ELiz_M
tammikuu 1, 2020, 11:14am

Happy New Year! And I just saw that exhibit at MoMA yesterday. :)

6AlisonY
tammikuu 1, 2020, 12:29pm

Dropping off my star - Happy New Year!

7nancyewhite
tammikuu 1, 2020, 12:49pm

DAMN! I wish I was in NYC so I could go to MoMA right now.

Eager to follow along and excited about checking out Bloom

8tonikat
tammikuu 1, 2020, 2:01pm

happy new year, starred too - are you a LP fan? I like Betye Saar now.

9arubabookwoman
tammikuu 1, 2020, 3:25pm

Happy New Year! And my daughter just got a cat, so she’s in 7th heaven.

10lisapeet
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 8:12am

Thank you, everyone, and Happy New Year back! I'll be following your reading as well.

>8 tonikat: Trying to suss out which LP you mean... all I can think of is Lisa Peet, which would be too egotistical even for me. Or long-playing 33-1/3 records? Of which I have many many, so yes.

>9 arubabookwoman: Oh good, glad she found a cat! Let me know if she's ever in the market for a second—I'll probably have another stray by then.

11tonikat
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 1, 2020, 5:18pm

>10 lisapeet: it was your thread title, guess its just phrase - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDjeBNv6ip0 just made me think of it

12lisapeet
tammikuu 2, 2020, 8:04am

>11 tonikat: Oh, she's interesting. And what a hooky song—thanks for that link. But no, I just had the expression in my head. So many cultural references floating around in my brain after more than half a century of consumption... I don't know where half of it originates. But I looked it up, and the phrase dates back to WWII, when cigarettes were rationed and officers would tell soldiers to "Smoke 'em if you got 'em" when there was a break or—more in line with how I think of the meaning—when there was some kind of unavoidable delay or snafu. It's been almost 20 years since I smoked, so books will have to do the trick.

13mabith
tammikuu 2, 2020, 12:05pm

Nice to see a Betye Saar picture! I love her art so much.

Hope it's a good reading year!

14dchaikin
tammikuu 2, 2020, 1:33pm

>11 tonikat: and >12 lisapeet: a texas version https://youtu.be/yXCXBcVrbrM

Happy New year and thread, Lisa.

15Simone2
tammikuu 3, 2020, 11:45am

Happy new year! Dropping my star!

16lisapeet
tammikuu 3, 2020, 12:24pm

>14 dchaikin: Now that guy I know!

Happy New Year, everyone, and thanks for swinging by. I'm following you all as well—haven't had the time to stop by and say a formal hello on everyone's thread but you'll see me around.

17baswood
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 3, 2020, 12:50pm

"and thanks for swinging by."

'Swing on a star'

18kidzdoc
tammikuu 4, 2020, 10:56am

Happy New Year, Lisa! I'm a MoMA member, and I'll probably pay it a visit when I visit my parents next month, weather permitting.

19sallypursell
tammikuu 9, 2020, 8:15am

Hi, lisapeet, and Happy New Year. Here dropping off a star.

20lisapeet
tammikuu 10, 2020, 12:29pm

Not getting much reading done this week because... sigh. Copied from Facebook:

Our dear friend and companion Dorrie left us on Wednesday, after more than 14-1/2 happy years on the planet, most of them with us. Her departure from this plane was calm and peaceful, at home in her bed, with us and her little cat Iris at her side.

Dorrie had a beatific smile, a contagiously joyful attitude, and an enduring love for hikes, ear rubs, and cat food. She was gentle with small children and cats, loyal to her human and dog friends, and the best buddy we could ever hope for. Walks with her, even in the cold and the dark, were always a pleasure—when she would turn her sweet, serious face up to us in acknowledgment of her name, something interesting, or just a thought she had, it was a beautiful thing.

We found her on Petfinder in 2005, and agreed to adopt her without ever meeting her, on the strength of her lovely face alone. We were not disappointed. She was endlessly loving and made friends wherever she went, gave copious kisses, and she had the softest ears. Dorrie, you are so missed. We love you.



My mom died yesterday morning (also not unexpected), and Jeff's dad died last Thursday. This hasn't exactly been an auspicious start to the new year.

I miss Dorrie horribly. More than I can say.

21dchaikin
tammikuu 10, 2020, 12:36pm

I’m sorry, Lisa.

22RidgewayGirl
tammikuu 10, 2020, 12:58pm

I'm so sorry. That's a lot of loss in a short span of time. Dorrie had a wonderful life, full of love and security with her pack.

23tonikat
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 10, 2020, 1:44pm

I'm also very sorry to hear this Lisa. That is a lovely photo.

24AnnieMod
tammikuu 10, 2020, 1:34pm

I am so sorry, Lisa. Virtual hugs.

25japaul22
tammikuu 10, 2020, 1:47pm

I'm so sorry. That's a lot to deal with all at once.

26kidzdoc
tammikuu 10, 2020, 2:21pm

Wow. That is a lot to deal with in a short period of time. My thoughts and prayers go out to you, Lisa.

27sallypursell
tammikuu 10, 2020, 3:54pm

>20 lisapeet: Oh, Lisa. That's a devastating amount of loss. I had a year like that once, and it's terrible. Take comfort in the friends at home. Lie in bed and let them warm you. Do routine things and read charming and cheering books. How about some Discworld? or maybe Wodehouse?

28avaland
tammikuu 10, 2020, 4:31pm

Dropping my star (LT lingo?) and adding my sympathies for your losses.

29mabith
tammikuu 10, 2020, 4:58pm

I'm so sorry for your losses, Lisa. A single loss is overwhelming enough, but coming in a pack like that... I hope you can find some books that distract even if comfort is thin on the ground.

30lisapeet
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 11, 2020, 11:04am

Thank you all. Folks have been incredibly kind—flowers, soup, cheese, chocolate, biscotti, donations in both my mom's and Dorrie's name (alz.org and Petfinder, respectively), calls, cards, texts. My son and his girlfriend are here now, and though he’s back to school in Grenada on Tuesday for a few more months, it's really nice to have them here now.

I have a lot of catch-up work to do this weekend—I'm working on two print features that have hard deadlines and a piece for Bloom that goes up Tuesday. But I'm at least 2/3 through the most deadly print feature—a report on our Budgets & Funding survey—that I hacked away the hardest part of in tiny pieces over the last two days. The other two pieces should be easier, and hopefully a good distraction. It'll be weird to have my Sundays back, which I usually spent visiting my mom—and they were always nice times, so I'll miss those trips in equal measure to being glad to have a full weekend again for the first time in three years.

Dorrie leaves a huge hole in our household and lives in general. Just walking into the kitchen and not seeing her there still pierces. It'll get better over time, but wow, it's hard.

Haven't been getting a ton of reading done, just little bits, but I'm hoping once I get all this writing done I can settle down with a bunch of new (and old) books.

31markon
tammikuu 11, 2020, 7:48pm

Lisa, sorry for so much loss in a short time. I'm glad your friends & family are supportive. Hugs & prayers for comfort & peace.

32lisapeet
tammikuu 12, 2020, 10:50am

Thanks, everyone. Taking deep breaths here, day at a time, etc. I filed my LJ feature yesterday evening, and when I finally opened the author's answers to my questions for the Bloom Q&A I need to put together today, they were just fantastic—so that will be a light lift, and actually a pleasure.

Lest anyone think I'm only thinking of my lovely dog, here's a photo of my lovely mom:

Godspeed Rhoda Cohen, 1928-2020. Wonderful mom, lover of risqué jokes, beautiful lady.

33sallypursell
tammikuu 12, 2020, 11:51am

>32 lisapeet: What character in that face! She looks comforting. What did you like best about her?

34kidzdoc
tammikuu 12, 2020, 12:09pm

>32 lisapeet: That is a lovely photo of your mother, Lisa. I've started to take photos of my mother, who is experiencing progressive dementia, so that I can remember her while she is still "there".

35markon
tammikuu 12, 2020, 1:17pm

>34 kidzdoc: Great idea Darryl! When my mom died we realized she had often been the family photographer, and had to work to find a photo to put on her life board, as well as at my niece's wedding a few years later.

36lisapeet
tammikuu 12, 2020, 5:53pm

>33 sallypursell: My mom was intensely loving, never withholding, and always supportive. There were times when I felt smothered or over-parented (mostly in my teens and 20s, of course), but as I get older I realize that there's nothing to prepare you for life like enough love. She encouraged my inquisitiveness, my love of reading, and my love of art, and she told me I could do anything I wanted, and that all helped make me a confident, secure adult capable of good relationships and with a lot of love to give. She always went her own way, and encouraged me to do the same. I'm only realizing now what great ballast she provided me with.

>34 kidzdoc: I visited her in the nursing home almost every week for three years and took a photo pretty much every time, so I have a lovely record of her and how she changed over the years. I'm so glad I did.

37nohrt4me2
tammikuu 12, 2020, 5:58pm

>36 lisapeet: Great photo of your mom. I am glad you felt her as a positive force in your life. Hard when so much loss comes all at once. Work can be a blessing! Best in the hard days ahead.

38VivienneR
tammikuu 12, 2020, 5:59pm

I'm so sorry to hear of your losses. Beautiful photos of Dorrie and your mother. My thoughts are with you.

39lisapeet
tammikuu 12, 2020, 6:02pm

Thanks, everyone. Talk about a lesson in meeting grief head-on, huh? The wheel turns.

40dchaikin
tammikuu 12, 2020, 6:05pm

>36 lisapeet: this is really beautiful about your mom's influence on you.

41sallypursell
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 12, 2020, 6:25pm

>36 lisapeet: >40 dchaikin: Exactly, Dan. It might me think lovely thoughts of my mother, too.

42AlisonY
tammikuu 13, 2020, 3:37am

Late to your thread (and others these past few days), so I'm only just catching up on your awfully sad news now, Lisa. I'm really sorry you've had so much heartache landing all at once.

I loved your tributes to both your mum and your dog. Keep digging deep into that resilience.

43lisapeet
tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:30am



Finally finished a book this year: Susan Stinson's Spider in a Tree, an oddball little gem of a book about puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards in 18th-century Massachusetts, and his battles over orthodoxy in the church. I like books about faith, and people's struggles and glories with it, and this a great example of the genre. Stinson clearly drew a lot from Edwards's own writings and tight research, which sometimes makes itself obvious, but more often helps set the stage for a believable series of struggles on the part of her characters: Edwards and his large family, including his beloved and devout wife Sarah, their relatives and fellow Northampton townspeople, and a tight-knit circle of slaves.

I've heard of fire-and-brimstone preaching and the puritans, of course, but this brought the concept to life in a vivid and human way. Slow paced but lovely. Pair this one with a book I have sitting on my desk at work, The World Is Great, and I Am Small: A Bug's Prayer for Mindfulness.

Found via a Lithub feature, 26 Books From the Last Decade that More People Should Read, recommended by Elizabeth McCracken.

44dchaikin
tammikuu 13, 2020, 9:14am

Edwards is a curiosity. The book sounds terrific. And what a wonderful list in that link (Although The Bone Clocks does not belong). It might be fun to prompt CR for our own list like that.

45RidgewayGirl
tammikuu 13, 2020, 10:01am

>43 lisapeet: That is a wonderful list. I've added a few books to my wishlist.

46ELiz_M
tammikuu 13, 2020, 9:55pm

I'm even later in reading people's threads. I am so sorry you've had such a rough January, losing family members. It's good to hear that your son's presence has been a help and that you can distract yourself with work and some reading. Hoping the rest of your year is peaceful.

47BLBera
tammikuu 15, 2020, 8:31pm

Sorry for your losses, Lisa. Your year is not starting well.

48arubabookwoman
tammikuu 16, 2020, 6:57pm

I’m so sorry for your losses. Your mom sounds like she was a wonderful parent—how fortunate you were! And I’m sorry for the hole the loss of Dorrie is leaving in your life right now.

49lisapeet
tammikuu 17, 2020, 8:46am

Thank you, everyone. It's been a sad few weeks. Getting back to work has been good, both for the return to normalcy and the distraction. Such a cliché, but it's really nice to hear from people, either by email, text, phone, social media, physical letters and cards, and all the little food gifts. We have such good friends (and I have good coworkers), and feeling their presence at our backs has helped a lot. You all are part of that, so thanks.

50lisapeet
tammikuu 17, 2020, 8:55am



Lara Williams's Supper Club was a quick read, which is probably a good thing. There was some really nice writing here, and particularly about being an outsider. I liked the theme of women's friendships, younger women empowering themselves through their own rituals, and all the food writing. But the constant swerve back to misery porn kept me from liking this as much as I would have wished. I think if I'd been a couple of decades younger I'd have enjoyed it more, but the through-line of the ways that the narrator, Roberta, found to squash and deny herself were oppressive. To pull out one of the book's main themes: like seasoning a dish, trauma and anxiety in a novel can be really effective when used judiciously. I found the flavor here overpowering.

Now on to Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, recommended by a good friend out of a conversation about the way novelists write about faith (cf above Spider in a Tree) and the act itself of keeping house, which I was thinking about a lot for an interview I just did for Bloom with the novelist Jen Beagin. She was a great subject—thank goodness, because last week I couldn't have dealt with a reticent Q&A or any kind of essayistic heavy lifting. Instead, she cheered me up with her forthcoming, and often very funny answers. (I hit all my writing deadlines this horrible month... work really is a balm for me.)

Anyway, this is much more up my alley and also just what I need to read right now—gorgeous, immersive prose. I'm finding myself rereading sentences just to savor them.

51dchaikin
tammikuu 17, 2020, 10:13am

I like Robinson, but haven’t read Housekeeping. I view her a writer trying to carefully resolve an impossible conflict, and working within that mindset. She’ll certainly have a better sense of how to flavor her work.

52rocketjk
tammikuu 17, 2020, 1:40pm

Hi Lisa, I just found your thread. I'm sorry for all your losses. My mom died a couple of years back and it took a while to get used to not being able to call her up. Also, my wife and I lost our dog, Yossarian, at the end of October, so I know exactly how hard that loss was for you, as well. Glad you've finally been able to get back into the reading routine. Cheers from northern California.

53mabith
tammikuu 17, 2020, 4:11pm

I really liked Housekeeping, more than her Gilead, though that's a minority opinion.

54markon
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 17, 2020, 5:04pm

>50 lisapeet: >51 dchaikin: >53 mabith: I haven't read Housekeeping but did enjoy Home and Lila (though I'm with mabith on Gilead, which I tried twice and couldn't get through.)

55AlisonY
tammikuu 18, 2020, 9:58am

Looking forward to your Housekeeping review, which was my first Robinson. I enjoyed it more than Home.

56rhian_of_oz
tammikuu 19, 2020, 1:27am

I'm quite behind on people's threads so this feels very late, but I'm so sorry for your multiple losses and thank you for sharing some of their stories.

57lisapeet
tammikuu 21, 2020, 9:23pm



Thank you, friends, for all the nice words. They really do help, more than I'd anticipated.

I found Housekeeping beautiful, and perfect for me this dark month. So much death in my life right now, I couldn't help be moved by this tale of watery transubstantiation, need, loss, and love where love finds itself. A library book, but I think something I'll end up buying just to dip in and out when the spirit moves me.

I'm a bit surprised I didn't encounter this book when it first came out 40 years ago, and glad I didn't. I wouldn't have been a good reader for it, either literarily or experientially. It's a good mid/late life book, I think, when your edges have been worn off a bit. Definitely will be a favorite for the year.

58dchaikin
tammikuu 22, 2020, 12:44pm

Glad you enjoyed and encouraged by your review. A book I would really like to read.

59lisapeet
tammikuu 22, 2020, 11:02pm



Read, but didn't love, A Short Philosophy of Birds. It had some interesting facts about birds, but the philosophy side was overly simplistic, along the lines of nature = good / man = bad (or out of touch, or overthinking things... you get the idea). I wonder if it didn't lose a little in translation, as well, because the tone was less philosophical than vaguely scolding. Beautiful illustrations, though, and true to its title it was short.

Now, because I want distracting (and because my library hold came in), it's time for a thriller: Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House.

60AlisonY
tammikuu 25, 2020, 3:49pm

>57 lisapeet: I read Housekeeping last year, and although I found it to be a quiet book at the time, it stayed with me throughout the year. One of my best of 2019 in the end. It somehow crept under the skin long after I'd finished it.

61lisapeet
tammikuu 28, 2020, 5:17pm



I finished Leigh Bardugo's thriller Ninth House, and was completely engrossed in it while it lasted, though it sagged a bit under its own weight in the last quarter or so. There’s a lot of violence and other dark stuff that other reviewers have rightly pointed out are triggering, none of which bothered me—I'm pretty callous unless animals are involved—and I enjoyed all the wacky magick.

What did annoy me, though, was that this turns out to be the first of a series, and the book ended on a complete cliffhanger of a note. I’m not a huge fan of series in general (Dorothy Dunnett notwithstanding) and would have appreciated an actual resolution to the story, with the next book optional. But this is a bit outside my usual genre so maybe I should be have expected it, or at least be a better sport about it. I did appreciate all Bardugo’s good research—the Yale/New Haven setting was a lot of fun. Some of it was just plain over the top, but mostly it was a good ride. And as browned off as I am about the “to be continued” aspect, I’d pick up the next one. Sucker.

About to start Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland on my commute home. Feeling no little trepidation that the library hold will expire before I've finished—it's a longish book and I have nine days—but we'll see. I've been dying to read this for a while now, especially since I heard him talking about his reporting and writing process on the Longform podcast.

62nohrt4me2
tammikuu 28, 2020, 6:11pm

>61 lisapeet: Look forward to your take on Say Nothing. Dancing around that title myself.

63BLBera
tammikuu 30, 2020, 4:00pm

>61 lisapeet: I loved Say Nothing. I suspect you'll find it hard to put down.

64lisapeet
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 5, 2020, 10:01pm



I finished Say Nothing with about 36 hours to go on my hold—not a stretch after all, since it was riveting. Really terrific narrative nonfiction—well written, thoroughly researched but not dry because the pacing and focus are so nicely calibrated. The Troubles were ongoing for much of my adult life, but I only really had a sketchy picture of who the players were and what was going on. This is a close-up look at the power dynamics at both a personal and macro level that not only explains a lot but makes it all very vivid and immediate. Fine stuff, and highly recommend to anyone interested in well-done long form journalism.

Now reading Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, because the times seem to call for some doubling down on being better.

65nohrt4me2
helmikuu 6, 2020, 9:46am

>64 lisapeet: Thanks for the rev on Say Nothing.

Just having another chat with some other group in how we try to deal with our own impotent rage and look for constructive ways to lessen the slings and arrows of of our current Outrageous Fortune.

66lisapeet
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 11, 2020, 7:26am



I took a short break from How to Be an Antiracist to read Laura Van den Berg's newest (upcoming) short story collection, I Hold a Wolf By the Ears for an LJ review that I'd like to actually file on time for once. It was a terrific collection that mines the overlap between loss, grief, and horror... which, when you think about it, is a pretty broad swath. The stories are deceptively dense, packed with strata of their narrators' lives, and they both demand and reward careful reading. Some common themes emerge—Van den Berg's female narrators are often less functional younger sisters or daughters (there's a lot of mileage to be plumbed from that one—plus I still remember the feeling well—so I have no issue with her bringing the trope out a few times), the often unsettling or destabilizing effects of travel, natural disasters, death, and that thin membrane between the supernatural and the just weird. Great stories, very well written.

I really hate the cover, though.

Now back to the Kendi, which is surprisingly immersive for a polemic (not to give it short shrift by calling it that, either).

67rachbxl
helmikuu 11, 2020, 10:50am

Lisa, I’ve only just found your thread, somehow. I’m so sorry for your losses; what a difficult start to the year, all at once. The way you write about both your mom and Dorrie is beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. Sending you my very best wishes.

68RidgewayGirl
helmikuu 11, 2020, 10:54am

I'm looking forward to your comments about the Kendi book.

69kidzdoc
helmikuu 12, 2020, 6:23am

I also look forward to your thoughts about How to Be an Antiracist, Lisa. I own a copy of it, and I'll read it after I finish his earlier book, Stamped from the Beginning.

70lisapeet
helmikuu 13, 2020, 10:00pm

>67 rachbxl: Thanks, Rachel. It's been a rough few weeks, easing up a little but still sad. I loved them both so.

71lisapeet
helmikuu 13, 2020, 10:08pm



On a completely different note, I finished How to Be an Antiracist, which is a smart and definitely necessary book, and though I knew a lot of the basic premises around the antiracism and areas of intersectionality Kendi examines, I found it really useful to have those thoughts laid out point by point in organized fashion. He scaffolds each area with his own autobiography, outlining how he has grappled with his own racism, and is very, very careful with his words so there isn't any confusion as to what he's saying. While it slows down the progression some, I think that's ultimately for the better. There's a certain cadence to his writing that recalls a preacher's intonation, which—again—slows it down, but also serves its purpose. For me, it's a good set of definitions to have under my belt for the purposes of checking myself and weighing my words, as well as being an effective template to look at these times. Kendi's a good historian, which adds both substance and value to the book, and I'm glad I read it.

I'm also very glad that I work in a place where doing this work is important, and people care about it and really center it. I know that's not the norm at all, and I feel fortunate. Also that the work I do is at least somewhat on that continuum—libraries may be a small corner of the big world, but I'm able to write as an ally, and that's a really good thought.

Now on to Curious Toys, which I put a hold on because someone somewhere recommended it.

72RidgewayGirl
helmikuu 14, 2020, 12:19pm

>71 lisapeet: Excellent review, thanks. I will add this to my reading list.

73BLBera
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 17, 2020, 3:01pm

>66 lisapeet: This one sounds good, Lisa.

>71 lisapeet: I am currently reading So You Want to Talk about Race, and will pick this one up as well. Every bit of education helps, right? Oluo also discusses intersectionality quite a lot in her collection.

Great comments, by the way.

74lisapeet
helmikuu 20, 2020, 7:23am



Curious Toys was fun but not particularly satisfying. What I loved was all in the setup: a 1915 Chicago amusement park, a teenage girl disguised as a boy, a creepy murder mystery, and Henry Darger as a character! That last might have sold me on pretty much anything. But the story was spread thin among too many characters, and you couldn't get inside any of them—even a red herring has to matter to the reader, or it's not effective—and somehow, even with a crazy child killer on the loose, there was almost no tension whatsoever. All propulsion came from a) short chapters and b) a lot of good period detail, the last being worth the price of admission.

Next up, The King at the Edge of the World, which rings a whole other bunch of my historical fiction bells.

75lisapeet
helmikuu 20, 2020, 7:40am

>73 BLBera: Thanks! Yeah, I'm glad to see so many books out about race and racism, and the fact that a lot of them are hitting best-seller lists.

76kidzdoc
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 7:15am

Nice review of How to Be an Antiracist, Lisa. I've barely started his previous book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, and I'll read his follow up book later this year.

It's an odd time to be a person of color in the United States, as overt racism is as high as it's been since I was a young child in the early 1960s, but there are more books and discussion about racism than ever before.

77lisapeet
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 7:25am

>76 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I can't really imagine what challenges this current time pose for POC, other than what friends say—and I know those are only the smallest tips of the iceberg. But I can at least try stay informed and I appreciate the lifting that folks like Kendi are doing.

78lisapeet
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 10:06pm



Had a lot of travel time this week so I got to really live head-down in Arthur Phillips's The King at the Edge of the World, which was great fun—the story of a Muslim physician from Constantinople stranded in late-16th-century England at the time of Elizabeth I's decline and the potential rise of Scotland's James VI, with the crucial question being whether or not he was a Catholic. The story involves much spying and counter-spying to that effect, and the fact that you know how it ends—that he becomes James I of England—doesn't take away from the thrill of the chase. And I say thrill with the caveat that it's not a particularly fast-paced book... but I didn't find it suffered for that, because the storytelling was good and it pulled me in. I think it helped that I like reading about that period, and Phillips's multiple close third person POV owes at least a little debt to Hilary Mantel, which is not a bad thing at all.

79lisapeet
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 10:08pm



I also read Heather Cristle's The Crying Book, which is a long, complexly braided essay (but a short book) about tears, crying, grief, despair, depression. Which sounds grim but is actually really interesting—it's a subject much on my mind lately, anyway. It's strong on poetry with a little science and history, in good proportions, and the footnotes alone are worth the price of admission because they reference so much good material. A thoughtful book, and far less sad than it sounds.

Now on to Optic Nerve, a book I regret not picking up the galley when I had the chance after all the good things I've been hearing about it, so thank you, NYPL.

80nohrt4me2
maaliskuu 3, 2020, 6:08pm

"King at the Edge of the World" sounds interesting. I like Arthur Phillips. "The Egyptologist" was fun. "The Tragedy of Arthur" was really wonderful.

81BLBera
maaliskuu 4, 2020, 2:58pm

I loved Optic Nerve, Lisa. I thought about it for a long time after I read it.

The King at the Edge of the World sounds like one I would enjoy. I love historical fiction that is well done.

Hmm. I've heard good things about Curious Toys and just checked it out of the library. I might give it a try...

82avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 6, 2020, 7:26pm

Just wanted to pop over here and respond to your post over on RidgewayGirl's thread about remembering Famolares and how 70s fashion ruined you... I hear ya. I have never stopped wearing bandanas (my adult children continue to make fun of me for it) and I still have a fondness for overalls (although now they are Duluth and nylon).

83AlisonY
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 4:34pm

>79 lisapeet: Noting The Crying Book. Sounds like it could be interesting.

84sallypursell
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 9:35pm

>82 avaland: and Lisa I never had Famolares, but I'm still wearing Earth Shoes with a negative heel.

85lisapeet
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 9:51pm

The 70s: Introducing Us to Orthopedic Shoes Before We Knew We'd Want Them. There's a slogan for ya.

>80 nohrt4me2: I've heard all sorts of mixed reactions to Phillips's books, but haven't read him before. This one was a definite happy click for me... sometimes I think so much of my reaction to books is about where I read them, and this was a perfect air travel book. i'd be interested in hearing other folks' take on it (and The Crying Book) when you read them.

86lisapeet
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 10:35pm



Yesterday I finished María Gainza's Optic Nerve, which I picked up based on a lot of good things I've heard around here. Good call—it was just sparklingly different from anything else I've read in a while. It's at least somewhat autofiction—the narrator, also named María, is an art critic in Buenos Aires, as is the author, and she's said in interviews that there are some overlaps with her life, but only some. Whatever the case, the book is a really well done set of very loosely linked chapters that take off from the idea of how looking at art, and thinking about it, intertwines with a person's life (and often changes it). She's a very good art critic to begin with, so her thoughts on the artists who are part of her stories—from Rothko and El Greco through more obscure and local painters—are really interesting, but also very accessible. There's also a very sub-subtext that caught my eye as a writer and researcher, which is where and how do you get to depart from the record and start building your own story? She's obviously researched these artists very closely, but there are also wonderful textural details about their lives that she could have totally woven in herself. Or not—I was toggling back and forth in Wikipedia and WikiArt to look at the pictures and artists Gainza was talking about, but at a certain point I (and probably most readers) will just sit back and take the narrative on faith, so those authorial nuances are always fascinating to me.

Anyway, if you like looking at art and thinking about it past the moment when you're standing in front of the canvas, this is a lot of fun. Very fresh, I thought. And the translation, by Thomas Bunstead, is excellent.

I'm super stoked because I got a copy of The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel's new one, at work—I saw it on the shelf and literally SQUEALED (and then ran around to all the reviews editors to make sure it wasn't put there by mistake, so I could trot home with my preciousssss with clean conscience). But now that I've gotten my sweaty little paws on this, which I've been lusting after for a good half year, I'm tempted to reread Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies first. They were so good, and I can only imagine the new one will be amplified by reacquainting myself with the first two. It's been more than a dozen years since I read the first, at least eight or nine since the second. That'll mean a few more weeks until I get to the last one, but maybe it's worth it.

First I'm reading my book club book, though, which is bell hooks's All About Love. I'm early in, but I'm thinking this is a good book to read right around now. By way of great synchronicity, I was having a cooking/baking day with my friend Sonya today—whom I've always thought would enjoy this book club—and she's reading exact the same book, so that was kind of literary kismet and I invited her along next weekend.

87lisapeet
maaliskuu 14, 2020, 6:24pm

I'm about halfway through All About Love and am not really feeling it... I'd hoped that because it was bell hooks it would be a little more, I don't know. Political? Feminist? But even though everything she says is spot on, it still feels a bit like a slightly dated self-help book. I'll probably keep on with it because who knows, maybe there's something in there for me to take note of. But the book club meeting today that I was reading it for was canceled, so I'm ditching it temporarily for more engaging reading.

As totally chuffed as I was to have a copy of The Mirror and the Light before its release date, I made the mistake/not really a mistake of (virtually) cracking open Wolf Hall to see if I remembered enough of it, and... oh damn, it is SO good. I'm three chapters in already, so I think I'm in it for the long haul. And then, I guess, Bring Up the Bodies—might as well be a completist.

88lisapeet
maaliskuu 14, 2020, 6:35pm

How are folks doing in this deeply weird time? It's not so bad over here, though I'm particularly lucky in that both my husband and I have jobs that are easy to do remotely, and we've been working from home since the middle of last week. We're kind of food over-buyers on a regular basis, and I'm one of those people who needs to have two dozen rolls of toilet paper and four cases of cat food on hand at any given time, so we have plenty of supplies. I'm sure we're going to get pretty cabin-feverish before this is over, but I've been making a point of getting out of the house and walking or doing yard work every day... the real challenge is going to be not letting work extend its sneaky tentacles into every corner of my life since I don't have that home/office divide. Plus I'm reporting on libraries and COVID-19 mostly, so the news cycle is all in my face all the time. BUT I'm not a really anxiety-prone person, and have the great privilege of excellent health, so I'm feeling like there's not a whole lot more I can do than what I'm doing (staying home, eating well, sleeping enough, going outside at least once a day to do yard work or walk around or whatever).

And I have a LOT of good stuff to read, so no worries there. It's definitely a challenging time in the universe, though. My kid's school on the island of Grenada is sending all students home, so he's out of there tomorrow. I won't see him, though—he's renting a car from the airport and driving up to Binghamton, where his girlfriend lives, and I don't blame him. Also because the school is transitioning everyone to online and he isn't getting any kind of break in his work, so that's probably the least possible disruption. I'm glad he's getting out, though... a potential outbreak on a small island that's not well equipped to handle such things doesn't sound very good.

89ELiz_M
maaliskuu 15, 2020, 8:14am

90lisapeet
maaliskuu 15, 2020, 8:30am

>89 ELiz_M: Excellent, thank you!

91avaland
maaliskuu 15, 2020, 3:38pm

>85 lisapeet: ha ha!

>86 lisapeet: That books sounds intriguing....

92lisapeet
huhtikuu 5, 2020, 11:16pm



Last Sunday, a longtime book friend organized a loose reading of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the idea being that the story takes place in one day and we’d do it in real time, commenting on social media using the hashtag #SunDalloway. For most folks taking part it was a reread, but I had somehow never read it before, though I had a copy—an ancient Harbrace Modern Classics edition that was my mom’s in the 1940s or 1950s, given her first married name on the flyleaf. Which is probably why I didn’t finish it either—Woolf takes close, close attention, especially the first time with a book. Her sentences are so precisely, complexly structured, and if you miss or misread a word, the whole thing falls apart and you have to go back and piece it all together. But the rewards are large.

Anyway, I finished it this Sunday, with good timing—hitting the description of evening in London just as the light was starting to go here in New York. And wow, it was pretty wonderful. Calling something a tour de force sounds so pretentious, but Woolf was breaking new ground then and it still feels fresh and surprising with every sentence. I love how she accomplishes that POV that swoops and darts, alighting on first one person and place and time and then another, and making it all work narratively. It's both extremely cinematic and also just impossible to imagine as an actual film—I know it's been done, though I've never seen it. And that wonderful weight given to things, objects, without giving them agency—just existence and primacy. "Admirable butlers, tawny chow dogs, halls laid in black and white lozenges with white blinds blowing."

The setting resonates too, in these strange social distancing days—not London, but the fact that the characters have just emerged, somewhat shell-shocked, from a World War and a pandemic. They've changed from their ordeal, and at the same time the world has changed out from under them. They are working hard to preserve their respective status quos, yet under the surface they’re stunned, appreciative but disoriented, slightly breathless. And there but for the grace of 100 years go we, I think.

I'm kind of surprised I haven't read it before this, but maybe that's reasonable in context:
When one was young, said Peter, one was too much excited to know people. Now that one was old, fifty-two to be precise (Sally was fifty-five, in body, she said, but her heart was like a girl's of twenty); now that one was mature then, said Peter, one could watch, one could understand, and one did not lose the power of feeling, he said.

And now back to Wolf Hall.

93AlisonY
huhtikuu 6, 2020, 9:53am

I surprised myself by really not enjoying Mrs Dalloway, despite usually loving Woolf's writing. I couldn't get a connection with the characters in this one the way I normally do with her writing. I know I'm pretty much in a minority in that thinking - most people love this.

I read The Hours first (as well as watching that film), so perhaps that spoilt it for me a little as I adored The Hours.

94baswood
huhtikuu 6, 2020, 4:44pm

Enjoyed your description of an atmospheric reading of Mrs Dalloway

95lisapeet
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 12:37pm

>93 AlisonY: I saw the film The Hours many years ago, when it came out, and have to say I don't remember any of it. I thought I had a copy of the book around, but maybe not. Easy enough to get if I decide to check it out, though.

>94 baswood: Thanks, bas. It was definitely atmospheric—good descriptor.

96rachbxl
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 3:42pm

>92 lisapeet: What an evocative account of your reading of Mrs Dalloway. It brought a book I loved when I read it right back to life.

>93 AlisonY: I read it back-to-back with The Hours, which I also loved, but I can’t remember now in which order I read them. Mrs Dalloway has stayed with me over the years; The Hours hasn’t.

97RidgewayGirl
huhtikuu 7, 2020, 4:23pm

Really interesting comments about Optic Nerve, a book I liked far more in theory than in fact.

I scooped up a copy of The Mirror and the Light on my last visit to a bookstore. I was pretty sure I'd be finishing it in a few days, but it's still waiting for me to start it. This whole pandemic has me reading lighter stuff these days - I don't have the concentration for anything grand and wouldn't want to fail to fully enjoy it. It'll be there when my brain is ready for it, although it feels like this will be about the time it comes out in paperback. Rereading the other two is not a bad idea.

98lisapeet
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2020, 8:21am



Well, I finally finished my reread of Wolf Hall. I can’t remember the last time I spent this long on a single book, which I’ll chalk up to losing my two-hour-a-day commute, and also to the fact that about halfway through, I discovered the excellent online Wolf Hall book club over at the Washington Post, led by culture writers Alyssa Rosenberg and Eugene Robinson. I’ve been spending almost as much time with that discussion as I did with the book, and since it runs through May 11, I’ll be going back to it.

I have to say, this was a great read for me right now, though—I needed something that would absorb all my attention and take my head away from the world of 2020. And I just adore Thomas Cromwell as Mantel has written him. Maybe not something I should admit so readily, but I relate to him in a way—his ambition, his regard for social capital, the way he works to balance his pride in what he's made of himself and his strengths and his intelligence with the gentle parts of his nature. Obviously I'm not responsible for burning people at the stake, and hope my personal balance sheet comes out better than his did, but there's something about him that clicks with me. And the writing is absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

It’s been a bit weird, in a nice way, to see that what I think of as my own very personal choices are actually part of a larger social distancing zeitgeist. All those people reading Wolf Hall makes sense, I guess—like me, a lot of folks probably got their hands on the long-awaited third book of the trilogy and decided they wanted to start from the beginning. Finding out that my friends and I weren’t the only people reading Virginia Woolf was also kind of a neat surprise (“Why Anxious Readers Under Quarantine Turn to Mrs. Dalloway,” in the New Yorker)—and as post-pandemic Modernist literature that celebrates running errands, that adds up too. And now it seems that my stockpiling of pretty USPS stamps and letter-writing is also hip. So there you go—I guess I’m a lot more mainstream than I thought.

Now, for a little change of genre, I’m reading Sarah Pinsker’s novel A Song for a New Day, a dystopian post-pandemic rock’n’roll tale, where public concerts are illegal—and I placed my library hold on this one before sheltering in place was even mandated. Hmm, maybe I should start playing Powerball… do they still have Powerball?

99BLBera
huhtikuu 18, 2020, 9:58am

Hi Lisa - I've been enjoying your reading without commenting, but I especially enjoyed your comments on Optic Nerve; it was different from other novels I've read this year, and I loved the art bits. Like you, I started by looking at the paintings, but eventually stopped and enjoyed the narrative.

Mrs. Dalloway is one of my desert island books. I used to reread it every year. It just seems perfect to me.

I have Wolf Hall ready to read, probably next month. I think I might be the only person on LT who hasn't read it yet. I am tempted to start it just to be able to join in the WP book club.

Stay well and have a great weekend.

I was talking with my sister yesterday, and she is stir crazy; can't wait for the gyms to open. Our stay-home order ends on May 4, and I told her maybe in a couple of weeks she could go back, and she was surprised that we're in mid April. Time is certainly distorted when one is working from home.

100kidzdoc
huhtikuu 18, 2020, 3:22pm

Great comments about Wolf Hall, Lisa. I've read it and Bring Up the Bodies, which are two of my favorite novels of the 21st century, and I'm debating whether to dive right in to The Mirror and the Light (I preordered the UK edition, since I bought the previous two books in London, and received it last month), or go back to the first two books first. I'll likely have a lot more spare time on my hands this year, due to the current pandemic, so I could reread both books. I may give the last book a go sometime next month, and if I find that I'm getting lost in the story or cast of characters I'll certainly start the trilogy over again.

101lisapeet
huhtikuu 18, 2020, 4:31pm

Time has gotten weird, hasn't it? And I say this as someone whose life hasn't changed radically—I'm working from home but my job hasn't changed all that much, but somehow my perception of time is really funky. I was talking to someone for a story I was writing and mentioned something that had happened and said, "I know that was a month ago already" and she said, "No, only two weeks"—and I was genuinely shocked. Time has turned into a dwarf star.

I look forward to hearing both of your thoughts on Wolf Hall (and the others). It's such a dense book, with so many wonderful tiny details—and as a friend of mine who's reading it says, her sense of humor is so marvelously dry. I don't often reread, but this one was so worth it.

102ELiz_M
huhtikuu 21, 2020, 8:20am

This week is a particularity good one for watching opera:
https://www.metopera.org/user-information/nightly-met-opera-streams/week-6/

103lisapeet
huhtikuu 21, 2020, 10:45am

>102 ELiz_M: Oooh, thanks! Tosca tonight... I wonder if I'll have time.

104lisapeet
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2020, 9:26pm



A Song for a New Day was fun, but surprising in a few ways. First off, it felt a bit more YA than I had expected—not that there's anything wrong with that. The storyline was a good one—corporatized music as a symptom of post-pandemic ills, and those of an alienated, segmented society in general. But what captivated me most was how Pinsker, who wrote this well in advance of the onslaught of Covid-19 (it was expanded from a story in her 2019 collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, and was published in September 2019), got so many of the social isolation details scarily right. She spins that out into an exploration of what happens when public gatherings are banned, music is channeled into mega-retail VR channels, and live music is forced underground. It's a great premise, superimposing the rise of giant corporate entities with American fear, and how a desire to stay safe can become stifling legislation—very punk rock. But what may have felt more like an allegory when Pinsker wrote it is a sharp what-if right now. Things are going to be different post-Covid, and this outcome is a bit more plausible than it was six months ago. So that was an interesting overlay to an entertaining dystopian novel... creepy, for sure, but also uplifting in the end, which is certainly welcome.

Now I've started Jill Lepore's newest, If Then: How Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future—she's on a panel I'm moderating for LJ's virtual Day of Dialog at the end of May. I have a bunch of hefty current events books to read for that—Lepore's, Eula Biss's Having and Being Had (I was a big fan of her On Immunity, a book I've been thinking about a lot lately for obvious reasons), Becky Cooper's We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard, and Mychal Denzel Smith's Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream. That's gonna be a kickass panel, and a LOT of dense reading. Not complaining, though.

105lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 4, 2020, 10:25am



I stayed up late finishing If Then: How Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future—it was pretty compelling, for an account of a company that went belly-up more than 50 years ago. The book traces the rise and fall of Simulmatics Corp., a fascinating slice of political, sociological, and computational history that I had never heard of. Which is interesting because I know a few things about all three sectors, but this data science startup, launched in the 1950s and bankrupt by the end of the '60s, was a new piece of the puzzle for me. And it really is, literally a piece of a lot of bigger things—algorithms, advertising, the big elections of the 1960s, efforts to quantify the Vietnam War and race riots, and the genealogy of big data and Cambridge Analytica, among other aspects. Very, very interesting and engaging.

Now on to the second of my Day of Dialog books, Mychal Denzel Smith's Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream. It opens with him preparing to speak as part of Hillary Clinton's election night coverage in November 2016... sigh.

106lisapeet
toukokuu 4, 2020, 10:31am

I also watched/attended my first virtual reading last week, Christine Coulson on her book Metropolitan Stories, about the Metropolitan Museum. She was a writer there for something like 25 years, and won me over talking about how she formed such a personal relationship with the place as a whole from working there—I totally get it, having felt that way about the Museum of Natural History when I worked on the Darwin project. There's something about wandering the back halls and being there before the crowds that gives you a sense of ownership and love. Anyway, the talk was interesting and engaging, minus the energy of having a crowd there to respond, but it was a fun way to spend an evening hour.

I think I should do more of those in the next few weeks, both because it was fun and since I'll be doing that virtual Day of Dialog author panel for LJ at the end of the month, and I have a feeling there are things I should know that are different from sitting on a stage in an auditorium with four writers. For one thing, where previous Day of Dialogs have had maybe 150 people in the audience, because this one's online we have FOUR THOUSAND registrants. That's a lot of eyeballs.

107lisapeet
toukokuu 9, 2020, 1:25pm



I finished Mychal Denzel Smith's Stakes Is High, a short and very good call to arms and critique of the state of the nation. It's not pretty, but Smith's wide-lens view is smart and lays out the root of American problems succinctly, shining a hard light on endemic racism, toxic masculinity, capitalism, the justice system, politics, and the longstanding delusion labeled the American dream. There are no easy answers or binary rhetoric, which makes this a good book to read right now. How we got to this place—or the place we were at when Smith wrote the book, which is just short of this even harsher point in time—is not easily answerable, but it is understandable, and he does a good job of making the case for a broad and deep revolution.

Now reading the next Day of Dialog book on my pile, Eula Biss's Having and Being Had. I really liked her On Immunity—I though often about who gets sick and who doesn't long before this pandemic—and this one, on consumerism, should be up my alley as well.

108lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2020, 9:01am

Jeez, I can hear the crickets over here. But this is a good record of my own cultural consumption, so I guess that's OK.

Last week listened to a wonderful podcast on Ezra Klein's show with Madeline Miller—highly recommended for fans of Miller and mythology in general. She did a totally delightful spot—longish, but two 45-minute walks will take you all the way through, and it's definitely worth a listen through the end (low-level Communist party functionaries! Mystery cults! Achilles and his mommy!). She got me all fired up to dig out my Stephen Fry and Edith Hamilton, and to get a copy of that Emily Wilson Odyssey translation. Plus the conversation was just a lot of fun.

      

109BLBera
toukokuu 10, 2020, 9:49am

<108 Thanks Lisa. I just finished an audiobook and was wondering what to listen to next!

110RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 10, 2020, 1:10pm

>106 lisapeet: I guess that the bright side of bringing all these author events into the digital world is that many people who would not otherwise have access can be in the audience. I wonder if the hosts receive as many book orders as they would have had, had they been able to sell the book being discussed (and those mentioned) immediately on site.

I have signed up for a few events from the Hay Festival Digital, which I've never been able to attend. But I'll admit that my excitement isn't at all what it is for a live event and I'm pretty sure that if something comes up, I'll quickly abandon my plans to attend.

111wandering_star
toukokuu 11, 2020, 8:32pm

>108 lisapeet: - thanks - downloaded!

112lisapeet
toukokuu 11, 2020, 9:58pm

I'm kind of fascinated with this remote author reading thing. It's not anything I would have considered in the days before, yet I almost never went to live readings because live too far out in the boonies (of NYC) and don't have the energy for doing stuff that I used to. Funny how all that shifts around... now I'm incredibly grateful that I'm out in the boonies, with my big-enough house and yard and car, and I can actually attend all the readings I want, more or less. Strange days indeed.

I've RSVP'd to this tomorrow: On Lighthouses: Jazmina Barrera in conversation with Eula Biss, because a) I'm a fan of the publisher, Two Lines Press, which is a little outfit that does translations; b) Lighthouses! I think they're cool in general, and this period of isolation is a good time to be thinking about them, and I actually even have the book, though I doubt I'll read it in the next 24 hours... but this could get me all excited about the book and bump it up my virtual pile; and c) Eula Biss, the interviewer, is one of the authors on the panel I'm doing at the end of this month, so it will be fun to see her in action. I'm reading her book right now, in fact—hoping to get through this and the last one of the four in the next couple of weeks, which is why I'm not dropping it to read On Lighthouses. So there's every reason in the world to take an hour out of my evening and do this.

And then Thursday night I RSVP'd for Lydia Millet in conversation about A Children's Bible with Jenny Offill, sponsored by a local independent bookstore, because also... how bad can that be? And I don't have to get on a subway for an hour to get home.

I'll report back. Or: join me!

113rachbxl
toukokuu 12, 2020, 12:42am

>98 lisapeet: Wolf Hall: I loved reading your thoughts on your re-read. Wolf Hall is one of my big unresolved book issues. I feel it's a book I should love (so many people whose reading tastes I often coincide with, both here and in real life, have raved about it), but I've tried it twice and couldn't get into it. I've been putting my hands over my ears to avoid hearing about the third volume, so as not to have to think about whether I shouldn't give Wolf Hall one last try, but you've made me think I should.

Thanks for the link to the Madeline Miller podcast - sounds really good. And I love the idea of joining you for Lydia Millet (I'm on a library waiting list for A Children's Bible), but I fear that it would be past my European bedtime!

114wandering_star
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 2020, 1:14am

>112 lisapeet: - I will join you! It's 7am my time so I will listen over breakfast.

I was just thinking this morning about Stargazing which is an excellent lighthouse book. There is a great description of the way that lighthousekeepers dream of the sea.

115RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 12, 2020, 10:06am

Would you be willing to send me the details of the Millet/Offill talk? I'd love to see that.

116lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 2020, 10:23am

>115 RidgewayGirl: Sure! You can register here.

117lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 2020, 12:52pm

>113 rachbxl: Well I think Wolf Hall, and maybe Mantel in general, aren't for everyone. And it's not a matter of not being any one kind of reader or another—she's got a very definite style, and you have to put up with a degree of uncertainty in terms of her dialogue to be OK with it. But I also think it's a book that you can try revisiting at different times to see if it works, as opposed to some that either will or won't no matter when you pick them up.

>114 wandering_star: Stargazing sounds neat, and I didn't know it—thanks for the heads up.

118RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 12, 2020, 12:14pm

Thanks!

119dchaikin
toukokuu 12, 2020, 4:42pm

>108 lisapeet: apologizing for the crickets. I love your thread, but checked out of here with covid and missed all March and much of April and I’m just now catching back up with your thread (for the moment). Also, I wonder if I’d like Stephen Frye.

>86 lisapeet: you put Optic Nerve on in my 2020 ideas list. Although I recently overruled it with with The Dutch House (which is terrific so far)

>92 lisapeet: loved your Dalloway post

>98 lisapeet: I like what you say about Wolf Hall in >117 lisapeet: It’s an oddly written book that demands some attention and some openness for uncertainty. She’s a great writer. I’ll have to reread this and then make my way through the series. Down the road (says my optimist)

>105 lisapeet: this, If Then, would have been my next audio if it had been available. Another on my ideas list.

Anyway, waving hello, Lisa. Glad you’re doing ok and doing lots interesting stuff.

120lisapeet
toukokuu 14, 2020, 7:28am

>119 dchaikin: Hah, don't mind me—I'm just being whiny. I guess that's a sign that I'm getting comfortable enough here to let my inner diva out. But hi, Dan! Good to see you here.

I haven't cracked the Stephen Fry books yet. A friend gave me Mythos for my birthday last year, so I should probably open it before my birthday this year, though I may not get to it with my other required readings—my panel is at the end of this month, as is my birthday. And I downloaded a galley of his Heroes a while back. But listening to Miller talk about the Greek (and other) myths makes me think that this might be some good foundational reading for me as a writer.

I'm not big on reading plans, but three threads I'd like to follow over the rest of the year:

- The last two books of Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell series—Bring Up the Bodies is a reread for me, and then the much awaited The Mirror and the Light
- At least start the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan Quartet, since so many people I know love it. I have My Brilliant Friend, and I'm pretty sure the library has copies of the others if I like it enough to keep going.
- The mythology books I listed above. Of those, I've only read Circe and parts of the Edith Hamilton long ago. I'm thinking they would be great palate cleansers in between other reading, and maybe I'll spring for the Emily Wilson Odyssey

But I have so much good reading material on my piles—physical and virtual—I can't go wrong.

121lisapeet
Muokkaaja: toukokuu 16, 2020, 9:16am



Last night I finished Eula Biss's Having and Being Had, which is a very interesting and engaging exploration of her relationship to capitalism and its many incarnations: money, possessions, class, leisure, value, art, investment, and work. It cycles, in short chapters, from personal reflections to broader inquiries through other writings and literature. It's a neat approach, and while her experience might not be yours—though it's very much like mine in a lot of ways, which made the book particularly relevant for me—there's enough of a wide-angle take that stays rooted in lived life, pop culture, and what it is to be an adult in a world where you're expected to know the worth of things, but need to figure out how to assess that as you go. Good stuff. Not published yet, but keep an eye out.

Now I've started Becky Cooper's We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence, which is the last of the books I'm reading for my panel. I may have to do some skimming with this one, since I need to come up with questions by the end of next week, but I'll see if I can get in some some big chunks of reading time this weekend. The only barriers to that being that it's sunny, warm but not hot, and perfect weather for working outside.

122lisapeet
toukokuu 22, 2020, 7:06am



We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence was a very meta true crime/memoir—the crime being the 50-year-old murder of a young Harvard archeology student, and the meta part the author's nuanced interrogation of her own motives, assumptions, and context for pursuing the case. As Cooper digs deeper into the murdered girl's story she turns up any number of loose ends, dead ends, and a large cast of tangential characters whose stories become intertwined with hers. I'm dancing around the story itself because it is, at bottom, a crime story that has a resolution... or does it? And I wouldn't want to spoil that for anyone. But it's the many ripples and reverberations set off by the murder that make up the substance of Cooper's story, and keep it weird and slightly off-kilter. This is a bit of an unclassifiable book, which is something I liked very much.

Though not all the galleys I read feel like they have a lot of editing before they hit bookstores, I think this might—at 460+ pages it's a bit shaggy. But maybe the shagginess is what makes it—you certainly get a strong sense of all the threads Cooper had to chase down for years. I'll be interested to hear what regular readers of crime lit think of it, and how it wound up.

That's the last of the four books I'm reading for my panel next week, right on schedule—I have to come up with my list of questions for the authors today (including who talks in which order, since the virtual format can't deal with anyone talking over anyone else). This should be an interesting event to do, and hopefully for the thousands (!) of people watching.

Now I'm reading Madeleine St. John's The Women in Black, which I put on hold at the library ages ago because of someone liking it. And also the Hilary Mantel blurb, where she says this is the book she gives people as gifts... my deep dark secret is that I'm always a sucker for a blurb, not necessarily what they say as who provides them.

123dchaikin
toukokuu 22, 2020, 9:40am

Intrigued by your comments, as otherwise I probably wouldn’t have been interested based on the topic. Also, it’s tricky sometimes to review without spoilers.

124BLBera
toukokuu 26, 2020, 6:06pm

>117 lisapeet: Great observations about Wolf Hall, Lisa. I loved the style, but I can see that it wouldn't appeal to everyone.

125lisapeet
toukokuu 26, 2020, 10:20pm

>124 BLBera: Yeah, I have friends who are perfectly attentive and serious readers who just could not get with Mantel's style on this one, and I respect that. But I loooooved it.

126lisapeet
toukokuu 26, 2020, 10:21pm

>123 dchaikin: I'll be interested to see how that one does out in the world. Also interested to talk with the author, though I'm looking forward to talking with all of them (Thursday, yikes).

127lisapeet
toukokuu 26, 2020, 10:22pm



I finished The Women in Black, a quick read that I ended up really liking. I went in thinking this was going to be a bunch of women being catty to each other, and/or a funny-but-mournful study of how oppressive women's lives were—kind of a mid-century Aussie Dawn Powell. But it was actually none of that. Rather, it was sweet and funny and quite charming, lightweight but not dumb. And just the thing to read after four fairly serious nonfiction books in a row. This was unexpected (I can't even remember where I got the recommendation) and fun.

Now rereading Iris Murdoch's Under the Net for a little impromptu book club action.

128RidgewayGirl
toukokuu 27, 2020, 11:46am

>127 lisapeet: I've run across that book and wondered about it. I'll nab a copy the next time I see it.

129lisapeet
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 11, 2020, 11:36pm



Reread Iris Murdoch's first novel, Under the Net, for an impromptu virtual book club christened the Iris Murdoch Fan Girls, which met via Zoom last night. I enjoyed it so much more the second time around. And I use the word enjoyed, rather than liked, on purpose—it was a thoroughly fun read and I did like it, but I'm also fascinated by Murdoch's talents for: plotting (especially set pieces), description, evoking characters (I won't say character development because most of them don't develop anywhere, but she certainly can set them up), and one of the best dog/human relationships I've read in a while. You could say that's actually the central love story, since Murdoch's human affairs aren't particularly touching—think Shakespeare's characters all running around in the woods hooking up with the wrong people (thanks, Iris Murdoch Fan Girls Book Club, for that image). And the nominal sex is awful. But everything else is pretty wonderful, and it's interesting to see how Murdoch pieces all together. The ending is more uplifting than I remembered, too, and sweeter in general.

Though speaking of pacing, one thing that I get a kick out of is the way she interjects these little philosophical treatises into the narrative. It reminds me, if Ms. Murdoch will beg my pardon, of the way middling erotica is set up: you have the story line, and then the doorbell rings and it's the plumber, which sets the scene so everyone can have sex, and then they're done and the rest of the story goes ahead until there's another bit set up for the express purpose of more sex—or in Murdoch's case, more philosophical discussion—etc. It's quite charming.

And now for something completely different, my hold of N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became came in, so that's what I'm reading next.

130dchaikin
kesäkuu 10, 2020, 1:22pm

There’s an image for philosophizing. I would really like to read Murdoch. You’re review makes me want to start with this one.

131wandering_star
kesäkuu 11, 2020, 9:03pm

>129 lisapeet: That's a take on Iris Murdoch I haven't seen elsewhere! I think Under the Net will be my next attempt at her books. (I have only read The Sea, The Sea so far and my feelings were... mixed).

132BLBera
kesäkuu 11, 2020, 10:44pm

Hi Lisa - I think Under the Net was the first Murdoch I ever read, and I remember liking it a lot. I am due for a reread; it sounds like one that holds up well. I do like the philosophical discussions - I'm reading The Overstory now and getting a lot of that.

133lisapeet
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 12:03pm

I read The Sea, The Sea years ago and can't quite remember it. I was thinking that I didn't have a great recall of Under the Net, which was a more recent read, maybe because it was so episodic? Or a picaresque, as one of my book club gals said, which is probably the better word. The second time around I was reading with an eye toward plot and themes and all that, so it's all lodged in my head now.

For our next book we're reading The Bell, which I've actually ordered a print copy of because that way I won't have to fuss with timing a library hold close to when we decide to meet next, plus I just like having print. Also to help support my local-ish bookstore, The Lit. Bar—I also ordered copies of John M. Barry's The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History and Ellen Bryant's Kyrie: Poems. One of my goals this weekend is to box up some books to go away, either to the Friends of the Tarrytown Library book sale (whenever they start holding them again) or to my own friends (whenever I start going to the post office regularly again, which is not on the top of my list of places I miss visiting right now).

>132 BLBera: I've had an e-galley of The Overstory forever, and so many folks I like really enjoyed it. I need to bump it up the list a bit.

I'm a couple of chapters into The City We Became and not loving it. It sounds like something I'd really enjoy, but the total lack of character development and any kind of subplot besides the action is a bit alienating. I'll give it another chapter or two and then bail if I don't like it any better. 464 pages is too many to feel this lukewarm about a book... though I will say the all-action pacing makes it a speedy read.

134RidgewayGirl
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 5:37pm

>133 lisapeet: The consensus among those discussing The City We Became for the ToB Summer Reading Camp was that this isn't a good example of Jemisin's work. I was excited at the beginning but less excited as the book went on. Not sure I'll pick up another of hers, not because of the writing, but because that genre isn't one I enjoy.

135AlisonY
kesäkuu 13, 2020, 7:09pm

>133 lisapeet: The Sea, The Sea is the only Murdoch I've read. It was dark and melancholy but totally enthralling. Must be time I tried another Murdoch, so looking out for your review.

136lisapeet
kesäkuu 14, 2020, 11:37am

>134 RidgewayGirl: Yeah, I bailed on it. By all accounts this should have been up my alley—NYC-centric, a vaguely punk vibe, good vs. evil—but the lack of character development and nonstop manic pacing just didn't work for me. Very cool idea, though.

>135 AlisonY: This is making me think that even though I bet most of our Iris Murdoch book group has read this, it would be good for a reread. I only remember bits and pieces of it.

Not sure what I'm going to read next. Just catching up on New Yorkers right now.

137wandering_star
kesäkuu 14, 2020, 8:19pm

What would be a good place to start with NK Jemison? One of my friends is reading The City We Became and recommending it, but I've heard much more mixed stuff. I also started but abandoned The Broken Kingdoms, although I can't remember why I couldn't get into it.

138lisapeet
kesäkuu 15, 2020, 8:42am

>137 wandering_star: This was my first of hers so I can't answer that, but I know she has some fans around here.

139lisapeet
kesäkuu 20, 2020, 6:55pm



Just finished up Bryan Washington's Lot, a 100% random pick—it was one of the books I had read 3/4 of when I was judging LJ's Best Books last year, and I saw it sitting on the shelf the other day and remembered that it had been really good, so why not finish it. And then when I started reading I decided I might as well start over from the beginning, since I didn't remember the part I'd read all that well—the downside of having to read books for a deadline is that you have to pound them.

I'm glad I did because it's a great collection, just what I was in the mood for, a vivid and affecting window onto a place and population I wasn't well acquainted with before. While I read fiction for many reasons, one of them is to visit lives unlike my own—when it's done well it's like traveling, eye-opening and engaging. Washington's writing swings from rough to smooth, bluff to sweet (but never maudlin, no matter how harsh a picture he's painting), with a great dose of compassion floating beneath the surface at all times. Very good work—unpredictable, satisfying, kind.

My real life book club has decided to go ahead with a Zoom meeting in a couple of weeks, so I guess I'll go back to the bell hooks (All About Love) that we had planned to talk about when Covid hit—though I wasn't super feeling it when I started it back in March. That might be a result of my expectations, but it feels heavy handed to me… maybe I'll have a fresh take on it now. I think I'm about halfway through.

140lisapeet
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 24, 2020, 8:27am

My friend Barbara over at LJ put together this kickass list of books by Black authors that have come out or are upcoming in 2020. I need to go through the list in more detail, but it's a great selection, and a lot of things that I hadn't seen before. I know for a fact that she put a ton of work into this, and it shows.

141dchaikin
kesäkuu 24, 2020, 2:11pm

Terrific article! I appreciate the summaries of each book, or the context of each.

142BLBera
kesäkuu 26, 2020, 1:47pm

>140 lisapeet: Thanks for the list, Lisa.

Great comments on Lot - sounds like a good collection. (And I agree with your comments about reading fiction).

143rhian_of_oz
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 11:38am

>137 wandering_star: All three of her Broken Earth trilogy won a Hugo so I'd recommend The Fifth Season.

144lisapeet
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 1:34pm

>143 rhian_of_oz: Thanks—I do want to give Jemisin another try at some point, since I've heard such good things.

>141 dchaikin: >142 BLBera: She really went to town on that list, eh? I think originally it was supposed to have 25 entries or something, and once she got going she couldn't stop.

145wandering_star
kesäkuu 29, 2020, 9:23pm

146lisapeet
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2020, 6:04pm



I finally finished bell hooks's All About Love: New Visions for a long-delayed book club meeting, which we ended up doing via Zoom. I was pretty much the only person out of all of us who didn't care much for it, which makes me think I'm probably the wrong audience. I don't care for self help literature much (OK, at all), and I was hoping for something a bit more political. Some of her statements, especially around greed, rang really false, though of course I can't speak to her interpretation of her own experience and I realize she was looking at this through a relationship lens rather than a socioeconomic one. But the places where she separated out greed from poverty really tossed me out of the mix. I did like the chapter on loss and grieving, where she talked about how mourning long and hard is an appropriate reflection of the love you felt for someone:
Love knows no shame. To be loving is to be open to grief, to be touched by sorrow, even sorrow that is unending. The way we grieve is informed by whether we know love. Since loving lets us let go of so much fear, it also guides our grief. When we lose someone we love, we can grieve without shame.

That's something I think about a lot of the time these days—I'm still very much immersed in sadness for all my loved ones I lost in the past year, and I don't really feel like I should be "getting over it." It actually feels appropriate and right that I'm this sad (and to be clear, I'm not depressed—feeling this way isn't keeping me from being productive and involved in life, or at least as involved as I can be in a lockdown). So I feel clear on that, but it's always reassuring to hear the sentiment from someone else. She had some interesting stuff to say about love and power, also, but again—wrong book for me just now. I just wasn't in the mood.

So now I'm reading John M. Barry's The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, for which I'm very much in the mood. He does the panoramic deep history thing, which I like a lot, so I'm learning something about the history of medical education in the 18th and 19th centuries, how viruses work, and the clamped-down communications system in the U.S. around the first World War. Interesting stuff.

My library hold of The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison just came in, but I might let that go for one more hold cycle—it's 1,000 words, and between my current book and Iris Murdoch's The Bell, which should be showing up in my mailbox any day and I'll be reading for my other book club, that might be plenty to have lined up. Also Penguin Random House is doing a two-month read-along of Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, and I do have the book—and 15 pages at a shot sounds like a reasonable way to do it. (My husband and I finally saw Hamilton last night, the streamed version of it. That was fun, and it was good to see that it actually lived up to all the hype. I can see why people want to see it a few times, too—there's SO much there, between the songs and the choreography and the sets. We split a set of earbuds to hear the lyrics better, which I think really helped.)

147lisapeet
heinäkuu 5, 2020, 10:22am

Also one jarring thing, no fault of hooks or her writing, was that in the ebook version I read, Chapter 6—"Values: Living by a Love Ethic" was mislabeled "Living by a Love Ethnic." So that was 18 pages of WTF, William Morrow proofreaders?

148AlisonY
heinäkuu 7, 2020, 3:25am

The book on the Great Influenza sounds really interesting - will be interested in your review on that one.

149lisapeet
heinäkuu 8, 2020, 10:28am

>148 AlisonY: It's very good.

I did let the hold on the Ralph Ellison letters roll over, and very thankful to NYPL for offering that option. Right now I'm mostly reading The Bell, since my book club meets next Tuesday. The weekend might be rainy, so that works. So far it feels more accessible than Under the Net, and more accessible than A.S. Byatt's introduction, which is awfully erudite and I wonder if it hasn't scared some readers off. Also reading little chunks of Alexander Hamilton, which is an easy read but might get sidetracked this week so I can finish up the Murdoch.

My current trifling dilemma is whether to resubscribe to New York Review of Books. I love it but am eternally behind on my issues—I think I have a pile of unreads dating back to the winter from my last subscription. I can't even keep current on my New Yorkers. On the other hand, they're offering a ten issues for $10 deal, as well as a separate offer of one year of NYRB plus one year of the Paris Review—this one for $99. And yes, I do get the irony of considering a much more expensive sub to TWO periodicals to have trouble keeping up with. But I love them both, so much. And I like having access to the online archives for both.

I realize this isn't an actual problem in the greater scheme of things.

150AnnieMod
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 8, 2020, 10:41am

>149 lisapeet: My current trifling dilemma is whether to resubscribe to New York Review of Books.

Check your library website. Mine gives me access to both RBDigital (Zinio) (which has NYRB (as a magazine, not in the newspaper section) - and they come in a pretty good format if you have a tablet (or a laptop) - they have their own app/reader) and Overdrive magazines (no idea what they have).

I subscribe now and then (I would rather support them) but when I cannot or they start piling up, the library access helps.

151janemarieprice
heinäkuu 8, 2020, 5:09pm

>149 lisapeet: I gave up all my subscriptions some time ago because I could not keep up. I'd like to support these organizations but it just became overwhelming.

152wandering_star
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 11:03am

There are several periodicals where I wish they would offer the option of a partial subscription - you could get every third or fourth issue.

153RidgewayGirl
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 9, 2020, 11:18am

>147 lisapeet: Proofreading is the lost profession. It's an easy job to cut since most people believe that "anyone who can read can proofread." This is not actually true, although as I was once a proofreader, I am either biased or have an informed opinion depending on your point of view.

>152 wandering_star: I think that's what you get when you go into a bookstore and pick out a few magazines, you know, back when that was a thing we all did without giving it even the slightest thought.

154dchaikin
heinäkuu 9, 2020, 1:53pm

A love ethnic... well, entertaining anyway. Glad you enjoyed Hamilton. I watched it last weekend and still have the songs stuck in my head now. Enjoy Chernow’s book. I thought it terrific, but slow and the introduction was - well, I found it somehow discouraging.

155ELiz_M
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 9, 2020, 1:55pm

>149 lisapeet: >152 wandering_star: I'm a fan of the "digital-only" subscription to the New Yorker. I have a couple of their newsletters delivered to my email. I read the stories that pique my interest and have no guilt about piles of back-issues that I will never get to. Plus there is access to, I think, the entire archive so I can read any article linked on the internet/social media and also have access to, for example, a novel excerpt published in the August 19, 1950 issue.

Perhaps there is something similar for NYRB and other periodicals you wish to support, but not read every article/issue?

156auntmarge64
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 9, 2020, 4:53pm

Just catching up, since I'm woefully behind on most of the CR threads this year. I had just seen the picture of Dorrie and thought that dog has a great smile when I read that she'd died. So sorry about both her and your mom, Lisa.

>43 lisapeet: >44 dchaikin: re: Spider in a Tree, I had to laugh at Dan's comment that Edwards is a curiosity. My sister talks about him frequently - she's a big fan and often turns to his works for guidance. You can imagine what talking with her about politics, religion, or just about anything else is like. Love her to death, but I think the topics we can safely discuss can be counted on one hand. And then, one of the nieces called me to ask if I knew there was an ARK in the U.S.?!?
(Haha, yes, I did.) She was amazed and horrified that it has dinosaurs. Life IS interesting.

>71 lisapeet: I worry constantly that something I say or do will be perceived as racist and hurt someone, however unintentionally, because we don't read each others' minds well, especially minds raised in different cultures, even within our own country. I've read a lot of black-perspective political essays, both historical and modern, and hopefully I have a decent outsider's understanding of what's being discussed. Still, I've been wondering if a book such as How to Be an Antiracist might be of use, and your review nudged me to borrow it. I recently read a disheartening opinion from a protester about how well-meaning whites are pathetic and useless (that's my phrasing of what I "heard"), and I'm still trying to work through what might be done differently. I mean, we have to do the best we can from where we are, right? Anyway, I was glad for the recommendation.

>78 lisapeet: I love Arthur Phillips' work but couldn't finish The King at the Edge of the World once I realized it was going to be a really sad ending. Don't know why, just too stressed out, I think. Have you read The Egyptologist? God, I loved that.

>92 lisapeet: If you enjoy ballet, the Royal Opera House has recently made available online a full-length ballet entitled "Woolf Works", which re-creates the emotions, themes and fluid style of three of Woolf’s novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves. It stars Alessandra Ferri, a fifty-something retired principal of the ballet for whom two main parts were choreographed, along with principals Federico Bonelli, Edward Watson (my favorite!), Francesca Hayward, Sarah Lamb, and Akane Takada. Ferri's age adds something undefinable to the production, and she's glorious. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC9ujn8pKl0.

157lisapeet
heinäkuu 10, 2020, 8:18am

>150 AnnieMod: >151 janemarieprice: >155 ELiz_M: Both periodicals have great digital interfaces, and a lot of content available there. Part of what I like about subscriptions is having it all available, not partially paywalled. But I still like having the print versions available—for one thing, I just need to get off my computer at the end of the day, since my entire workday is spent in front of a screen. The iPad is better—the angle and scale, I think—but it feels good to rest my eyes with print. And I like having paper to hold in my hand—I'm a paper/ephemera lover in general.

Also? I love getting mail, and periodicals count. My hourly get-up-and-stretch activity often involves a trip to the mailbox to see if there's anything for me (and the reduced mail schedule these days is really frustrating, especially because I've been writing so many letters... which reminds me, if anyone's interested in a pen pal thing, hit me up in a DM).

Also, yeah, good to support magazines and periodicals right now—it's a great justification to spend money on anything cultural in this particular time, if you ask me. It's for the greater good!

>152 wandering_star: That's a good idea, but it would probably deeply annoy the completist part of me... I may be six issues behind, but I want them all where I can see them. I know, it's not logical.

>153 RidgewayGirl: As someone who does a lot of proofreading for work, I agree completely with your informed opinion. It's turning into a lost art. And yes, remember the big wall of magazine racks in the big box bookstores? Be still my heart.

>154 dchaikin: The intro to Alexander Hamilton sent up some hagiographic red flags for sure, though so far it's pretty digestible. I had to put it aside because the book club I'm reading The Bell for meets next Tuesday, so I'm just sticking with that for the moment (and it's delicious).

>156 auntmarge64: Hmm, I'm not sure I'v ever met a real life Jonathan Edwards fan. I can imagine that makes for some interesting conversations... but I'm always glad to hear about people managing their political/religious/etc differences within the family unit. And hey, I didn't know there was an ark in the U.S., with or without dinosaurs. Where is it?
- As far as the antiracist conversation, I feel like as a white woman there's always something I'll do to offend someone—hopefully not my immediate friends and colleagues, who understand that I'm always trying to be an ally and learn. I get the most mileage out of just listening and reading—I don't think that particular conversation is the best place for my two cents. Then again, social media can get really toxic around any issue, and race/inequity especially. It's what it is, and what that is can often be a real petri dish no matter how good the original thinking. I do think folks have a right to be really angry right now, and if I'm standing in the path of that it's OK (though I'm talking virtually, not physically—and I hope if friends have a problem with anything I say they'll call me on it).
- I haven't read The Egyptologist—I'll keep an eye out.
- Thank you for the "Woolf Works" recommendation! I do love dance, and the idea of that particular crossover is really cool. I'll check it out.

Nice to see everyone here!

158BLBera
heinäkuu 10, 2020, 9:47am

>147 lisapeet: Do proofreaders even exist anymore? After finding so many typos in new books, I am starting to doubt it. As Kay says, it's a skill that is downplayed by people who have never done it.

I have given up subscriptions to the New Yorker and NYRB for the reasons you mention, piles of unread issues. But, like you, I prefer paper over online versions. Even though I teach mostly face to face, or at least I did, I still seemed to spend a lot of time on the computer. It is nice to hold something to read.

You are inspiring me to pick up Murdoch.

159lisapeet
heinäkuu 10, 2020, 10:33am

Oh, I just went ahead and pulled the trigger on the subs. That's like two weeks of mediocre Financial District lunches that I'm not buying anymore... and yes my book and journal acquisitions involve a lot of magical/aspirational thinking about how much time I have and how fast I read. On the other hand, I don't have many bad habits, and the ones I do have aren't very expensive (hi, ice cream!). So a year from now when I throw up my hands in disgust at the pile of unread periodicals on my unread periodical end table, I'll just have to own it.

160lisapeet
heinäkuu 10, 2020, 10:48am

>156 auntmarge64: Also wanted to add, thanks for the kind words. They're both very missed. And yes, Dorrie had a wonderful smile—she was a really expressive, happy, good dog.

161wandering_star
heinäkuu 11, 2020, 9:51am

>159 lisapeet: I like everything about this post

162lisapeet
heinäkuu 15, 2020, 7:12am

>161 wandering_star: Thank you! Always good to have my reading greed upheld and cheered.

163lisapeet
heinäkuu 15, 2020, 7:18am



I finished The Bell just ahead of last night's Iris Murdoch Fan Girls Book Club, and enjoyed both the book and meeting very much. The book was such a good balance of plot and detail, with some non-trite ruminations on character, religion, sexuality, and power imbalances (I was going to just say relationships, but let's call 'em as Murdoch saw 'em). Does anyone write books like Murdoch's any more? They're very particularly English, in a way, but that's not what I'm talking about... more that sort of plotty setup that makes you think it's going to be a murder mystery (manor house, nuns, people sneaking around at night, a planned great ceremonial unveiling with counter-plotting behind it, etc.). The whole effect was very propulsive, and the setting kept me Googling photos of English country houses, which is never a bad thing. Good fun without being silly at all.

Still reading both The Great Influenza and Alexander Hamilton (which I'm far behind the weekly reading on, and can catch up now), but I've also started The Baddest Bitch in the Room, since I'm interviewing Sophia Chang for Bloom next week. That one's a little out of my usual orbit, only because while I love all sorts of popular music, hip-hop is not a genre I've listened to much. Nothing against it, just out of my musical network a bit. But since she's a major hip-hop impresario—so the jacket copy says, at least—I'm going to try and up my hip-hop 101 listening a bit. Any suggestions are welcome.

164BLBera
heinäkuu 15, 2020, 10:34am

Can't help you with the hip hop suggestions, Lisa. Enjoy and fill us in with good choices.

I'm adding The Bell to my Irish Murdoch list; I was looking at my shelves and I have several of hers, unread, so I will pick one up sooner.

165thorold
heinäkuu 15, 2020, 3:41pm

>163 lisapeet: Does anyone write books like Murdoch's any more?

Interesting question! Probably not: if you look at the LT recommendations, people who read Iris Murdoch also seem to read ... Iris Murdoch. And Iris Murdoch. Or Elizabeth Bowen, L P Hartley, Muriel Spark, Angus Wilson. Not exactly 21st century.

There are lots of people still writing British literary fiction, some of that is philosophical and/or religious in nature, a lot is set in closed groups of people, almost all of those writers studied Iris Murdoch novels at university and are either trying to imitate her or not to imitate her...

166lisapeet
heinäkuu 22, 2020, 7:26am

>165 thorold: She really does seem sui generis. Hard to pin down what about her, exactly. Our next book club selection is A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which looks interesting.

167lisapeet
heinäkuu 22, 2020, 7:30am



I finished Sophia Chang's The Baddest Bitch in the Room, which ended up being less about the hidden corners of the music industry and more of a woman-coming-into-her-own memoir. But the setting and players were fun—Chang managed members of the Wu-Tang clan and other hip-hop stars, and was very immersed in that world as well as being partnered for many years with a Buddhist monk, who's the father of her two kids—and I liked her candor about sex, money, friendship, and professional power. I'm interviewing her for Bloom on Friday, so now I'm thinking about some non-obvious questions.

Back to The Great Influenza now.

168LolaWalser
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 22, 2020, 10:04am

>166 lisapeet:

You may be aware of this group, but if not... I found the discussions very interesting when recently I read a few of Murdoch's novels.

https://www.librarything.com/groups/irismurdochreaders

I hasten to add that I wouldn't call myself a fan exactly, only intrigued for the reason you mention: "there is something about her..."--but what? I feel compelled to make up my mind about her but her work seems so odd to me I honestly can't tell if it's even worth it. Is it simply... outdated?

169BLBera
heinäkuu 22, 2020, 9:41am

I've added the Chang book to my list, Lisa. It sounds interesting. Good luck with the interview.

170lisapeet
heinäkuu 27, 2020, 7:22am

>168 LolaWalser: Cool, and thanks for this! I'll have to take a look at the discussions for the two we've talked about in our book group and see what they have to add to the discussion. I agree that her subject matter is often outdated (though the last one, The Bell, felt a little more evergreen. I guess that's the appeal of religious lay communities—they're never in style so they can't really go out of style? But there's something about her writing and plotting that feels very ageless and the way she makes the puzzle pieces work is fascinating. Next up we're reading A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which has a woman wearing a miniskirt and go-go boots and a guy with bad droopy facial hair on the cover of my edition, so that oughta be interesting.

>169 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! The interview actually went way better than I had hoped. She has a bit of an in-your-face thing going on in her book and I thought she might be more abrasive, but she was actually really cool—she said, essentially, If this is how I get people's attention about how a middle-aged Asian woman can be in the world, I'm fine with it. Her thing right now is mentoring young women of color in business, and I am all for that, and she was just super smart and assertive, but also quite sweet—it'll be a good Q&A for Bloom, I think, and we left off with book recommendations and a promise to get together for coffee when things calm down a bit.

171AlisonY
heinäkuu 28, 2020, 6:52pm

The Bell sounds great. No idea why I haven't read another Murdoch novel. I must sort that out...

172BLBera
heinäkuu 29, 2020, 1:56pm

>170 lisapeet: Very cool, Lisa. I envy you your job.

173lisapeet
heinäkuu 29, 2020, 2:27pm

>172 BLBera: The stuff I do for Bloom isn't actually connected to my job—it's 100% extracurricular. That would be too good to be true! Though my job is pretty cool too.

174BLBera
heinäkuu 31, 2020, 1:29pm

Both sound like fun. And Chang sounds like an interesting person.

I am enjoying Valentine; each chapter has a different point of view, which is working so far. Vivid sense of setting.

175thorold
Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 31, 2020, 4:28pm

>170 lisapeet: ... A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which has a woman wearing a miniskirt and go-go boots and a guy with bad droopy facial hair on the cover of my edition

Funny, in the light of the discussion about sensational paperback covers last week: I have the 1970 hardback with a John Sergeant dustjacket design featuring a naked woman on the front cover and a (naked) male Egyptian statue on the back cover. All the paperbacks, especially the Penguin Classics, are eminently respectable by comparison.

It’s one of her lighter books — practically a rollicking comedy by the standards of The bell, but plenty of darker accents.

176lisapeet
Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 2020, 9:26am

>175 thorold: You have to wonder what some of those '70s book designers were thinking. A few of them are real classics, but so many are just... I don't know. I blame the fact that you had to paste things down with rubber cement.

Once again I've put The Great Influenza to the side for a bit because my library hold of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration came in. I really am on a nonfiction kick lately. But I've wanted to read this one for ages, and since Wilkerson's got a new one out (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents), I figured no time like the present. Mostly I've just got an itchy trigger finger, and that one has been getting some backlist love.

177avaland
elokuu 3, 2020, 12:32pm

>43 lisapeet:, >156 auntmarge64: I should get back to Spider in a Tree, really.

178lisapeet
elokuu 13, 2020, 7:43am

Well, as I feared, my library checkout of The Warmth of Other Suns expired before I finished, and I'm not sure I want to shell out for a copy just for the last 50 pages. I put another hold on it, but I'm currently looking at at least a couple of months. Fortunately those last few chapters probably won't suffer terribly from a little hiatus—I'm at the point where Wilkerson is wrapping up the stories of the three people she tracks throughout the book—but who knows, I may break down.

At any rate, my Iris Murdoch book club meets in six days so now I've just started A Fairly Honourable Defeat, which should ease the pain a bit. Except this is a print book and the damn type is too small.

BUT! It’s back to school time and even though I’m not going back to school I bought myself a neat pen case and stickers. I am so ready for anything now.



179BLBera
elokuu 13, 2020, 10:09am

I love your pen case, Lisa. I'm a sucker for back-to-school stuff as well. I recently got some cool fountain pens.

180lisapeet
elokuu 13, 2020, 10:11am

Oh, I love those! Do they come with colored inks? I'm a big fountain pen geek.

181BLBera
elokuu 13, 2020, 7:05pm

Yes, the ink is the color of the pens. You can find them at ooly.com.

182Simone2
elokuu 15, 2020, 12:45am

I love all the Murdoch talk and agree with you that no ons seems to write like that anymore. I have both The Bell and Under the Net unread on my shelves so your reviews are very encouraging. My personal favorite so far is The Black Prince, followed closely by The Sea, the Sea.

183lisapeet
elokuu 16, 2020, 8:34am

>181 BLBera: Those are fun! And I like that you can get cartridges—what a great starter set that would be for a kid. How do they write? (Sorry, I'm about one idle day away from starting up on those fountain pen forums.)

>182 Simone2: Interested to hear what you think when you do read them—for such breezy reads, there's a lot to discuss in Murdoch's work, I'm finding. I'm having a good time with A Fairly Honourable Defeat, though I've been slammed by work all week and definitely won't have it read in time for book club... I'm about to do the "come clean about this on the chat and see if everyone else chimes in that they won't be finished either and then we can move the date" thing. But even if everyone else had read it, it'll be a fun one to talk about. Very high-end comedy of errors at this point in the book—we'll see where it goes.

I'm having an all-work weekend, punctuated by a little reading and letter writing but otherwise not much to... I was going to say "write home about" but that's exactly what I do, write letters about my not very remarkable life. I like to read collections of correspondence and now I see why all those nice white authors in the 40s and 50s went on about their roses—when you don't have much to talk about, gardening is a perfect topic because everything changes by small increments, just enough to be fodder for the next letter. They were the mid-20th-century version of cat pictures, I think. All my correspondents know exactly how my tomatoes (and yes, my roses) are doing.

184BLBera
elokuu 16, 2020, 11:40am

They write really well, Lisa. I am really enjoying them. I've been using them to write postcards. This stay-at-home stuff has us doing interesting things.

185RidgewayGirl
elokuu 16, 2020, 1:59pm

I was going to write a review today, but somehow I was forced to use my free time looking at the ooly site.

186BLBera
elokuu 17, 2020, 8:52am

>185 RidgewayGirl: So, do you have some new pens coming to you soon, Kay?

Hi Lisa.

187rachbxl
elokuu 17, 2020, 10:18am

>185 RidgewayGirl:, >186 BLBera: at least my drooling over Ooly cost me nothing, as they don’t ship to Europe!

188lisapeet
elokuu 17, 2020, 11:23am

Heh... I'm such a sucker for stationery and pen sites these days. Stickers too, since I'm secretly a 10-year-old girl. I use everything I buy, but I've been a bit self-indulgent during lockdown.

Right now I'm trying to talk myself out of a really good (and fairly expensive) drawing pen, since my cheapie Pilot Metropolitan has been serving me well for my doodles. But I want to get more of a sketchbook practice going, and if I had the fancy pen... well, we all know that story. (There's also water-resistant ink that I'd have to get so I could do watercolor washes on top of my expensive pen doodles. Of course.) Whatever you do, don't go to the Goulet Pen Company website. Don't do it.

189RidgewayGirl
elokuu 17, 2020, 11:31am

>186 BLBera: No, but I have my eye on a few things including your set of fountain pens.

>188 lisapeet: Welp, there's more time gone! While internet browsing doesn't match the fun of wandering around a really good stationers or art supply store, it's a fair substitute.

190BLBera
elokuu 17, 2020, 5:56pm

>188 lisapeet: Lisa, that link is just evil.

191AlisonY
elokuu 17, 2020, 6:25pm

>188 lisapeet: Buy it, buy it!

192wandering_star
elokuu 18, 2020, 10:33am

>188 lisapeet: oh my. That page joins https://www.galenleather.com/ on the list of pages I must not look at when self-control is low :-p

193lisapeet
elokuu 18, 2020, 11:27am

Wow, you all are such enablers. I'm going to need one of those big leather pen cases at this rate...

194sallypursell
elokuu 21, 2020, 3:14pm

>188 lisapeet: >190 BLBera: My eyes! I went to Goulet!

195lisapeet
elokuu 27, 2020, 7:59am



Finished (finally—if felt like I was reading it for a while, though no fault of the book) A Fairly Honourable Defeat. This is my third Iris Murdoch of the summer—one of her later books, and one that feels like it's synthesized a lot of her themes. There's a large cast of characters, including a Hilda and Rupert, a bourgeois, slightly smug middle-aged couple; their spoiled Oxford dropout son Peter; the husband's sweet and insecure younger brother Simon and his slightly aloof partner Axel; Morgan, Hilda's extremely neurotic sister just back from the States and her completely hapless ex-husband Tallis; Tallis's bitter, nasty elderly father; Leonard and Julius, a manipulative, vaguely evil-but-charismatic academic who toys with everyone. Literally—he refers to himself often as a "puppet master," and the whole book centers around his attempts to break up the couples and manipulate everyone's lives, with varying degrees of success. There's a lot of philosophy, as with all Murdoch's work, but in this case it serves as more of an underpinning to the storyline and less of a series of thinky interludes—there's a satan and a Christ character, lots of Shakespearean machinations and crossed signals and some intensely evocative (and very deliberately doled out) settings.

I wouldn't exactly call it a feel-good novel, since bad things happen to decent people and the worst characters emerge to go on with their lives, but there's a tiny (two or three sentences, blink and you've missed it) reveal toward the end that completely changes the reader's understanding of one of the central characters. It's also notable for her portrayal of the central gay couple as the most sympathetic and stable (and, in a way, decent) of the lot, coming only three years after the decriminalization of homosexual relations in Britain. Maybe not notable for Murdoch, but I imagine it was a breath of good air for a lot of folks reading it in 1970. Anyway, this was a super entertaining, if often dark, read—a lot of intrigue, some twisty explorations of good and evil, and and as a side note, an interesting testimony to the ephemerality of words on paper.

196lisapeet
elokuu 29, 2020, 8:28am

>192 wandering_star: Oh that Galen Leather site is lovely. If I hadn't just bought a pen case...

And OK, if I hadn't just ordered that expensive pen, after much internal drama. First there was the announcement from Goulet that the price would be going up by $30 on September 1, and then when I was just about ready to click, I saw that it was sold out! (Insert audio of Lisa going "AAAARGH!" here.) I emailed them to see if they'd have it back in stock by 9/1 and the response was probably not, which catapulted me instantly from thinking maybe I might buy it to a deep burning desire to have one... funny how that works, eh? Talk about supply and demand. JetPens was also sold out, and I won't buy a fountain pen from Amazon's third party dealers because it's too much of a crapshoot—there are counterfeits out there, plus I really like to put my money where my mouth is and not give it to Amazon when possible (all those $1.99 ebooks aside—guilty as charged on that count).

So some late night Googling found me the Pen Boutique, a small, well-rated store in Columbia, MD, that had the pens in stock for the same price as everyone else. So: click on the pen, and then to assuage my disappointment at not being able to patronize Goulet I bought the ink I wanted through them, archival waterproof ink so I can put watercolor over it if I want. Seriously, I think I spent less time shopping for my home refinance than I did for this pen and ink.

Looks like both of them will arrive on Monday. I'm looking at it like this: No, a fancy expensive pen won't magically turn me into a prolific sketcher, and it's not an automatic obligation to draw every day. But it will be really nice to have a super-good tool to use when I do want to. And this might be the last period when I can splurge a bit, depending on what happens with the economy and my job, so what the hell.

197RidgewayGirl
elokuu 29, 2020, 8:39am

>196 lisapeet: Beautiful tools are such a pleasure to use and to just have available.

198BLBera
elokuu 29, 2020, 2:54pm

Good for you, buying the pen, Lisa. I hope you will share some drawings, when you finish some.

199AlisonY
elokuu 30, 2020, 12:30pm

Yay! Glad you gave into your inner shopping demon and went for it :)

200wandering_star
syyskuu 3, 2020, 3:11pm

the response was probably not, which catapulted me instantly from thinking maybe I might buy it to a deep burning desire to have one...

Yep - I've been there!

201lisapeet
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 3, 2020, 5:48pm

But of course both pen retailers got them back in stock on the last day of August, which really makes me wonder... Ah well, I have mine in hand now and it's verrry nice! The body actually looks a bit cheap—and people mention that in the comments all the time (yes I read the pen comments)—but it's a great nib for drawing, not calligraphy-soft but responds to a little gentle pressure in a low-key way. I used to draw with a rapidograph a lot and this has oceans more soul.

This is a doodle I did last night of one of my cats (until she moved), and I don't know if you can see the quality of the line, but it's really nice. I'm very rusty but it's fun to play around. Im drawing in a spiral-bound book of art paper samples so as not to have the intimidating Start A New Sketchbook thing going on yet—and it's fun working on all this good paper. I think it'll take watercolor nicely, too.

202BLBera
syyskuu 3, 2020, 7:49pm

>201 lisapeet: Very nice, Lisa. I wish I could draw. I keep thinking I will take a class when I retire.

203lisapeet
syyskuu 4, 2020, 7:59am

Thanks, Beth! My hand-eye connection has definitely seen better days, but I love the responsiveness of the pen and it feels good to pick it up every night and play around. I spend so much time online for work, I've really been craving analog distractions (besides reading).

204AlisonY
syyskuu 4, 2020, 8:53am

Excellent - I knew you needed that pen! I'm always envious of artistic folks' cool handwriting - yours is no exception.

205lisapeet
syyskuu 15, 2020, 7:52am



I (finally) finished The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History after many stops and starts. My slow reading was about library holds that showed up and book club books up for discussion, and no detriment to this very interesting panoramic picture of the pandemic that encompassed the history of immunology, virology, and medical education, as well as wartime politics and some great portraits of the scientists and doctors involved. Barry's style was a bit much—he never met a rhetorical repetition he didn't like—but it was worth putting up with for the story and info. And honestly it's not the worst thing to hear a historian's voice underneath the facts, as long as he's accurate—and I get the feeling Barry's research was very thorough.

His afterword, which he wrote in I think 2018, is downright chilling—he essentially says that the biggest challenge to the next great pandemic will be governmental cooperation and the honest dissemination of accurate information. Granted, Trump was president when he wrote that so he may have had a better idea of possible scenarios than he would have in, say, 2015. But I imagine if he saw it coming with that kind of accuracy, so did a lot of medical folks, scientists, and policy people. And THAT is scary.

Now on to reading a bunch of short story collections for LJ's Best Books 2020 judging. I've read half of Susan Minot's Why I Don't Write: And Other Stories, and while some of the middle stories are very evocative it starts out soft, so it's definitely not a contender. Plus an overabundance of smart women succumbing to the powers of charismatic men, which is fun to read but maybe not all the way through a collection. I may go back and finish this one, because it's short and the pieces I liked were interesting enough that I'd like to see if there are more, but right now I need to move on. Next up, Jen Fawkes's Mannequin and Wife: Stories (no touchstone for that).

206BLBera
syyskuu 18, 2020, 11:53am

The Great Influenza does sound fascinating, Lisa. I read one about the flu that I really liked as well. It was Pale Rider by Laura Spinney.

Good luck with your ss collections. I love short stories but might not want to read a bunch of collections at once. I love Minot's title, but it sounds like it's not a must-read.

Have a great weekend. Any getaway plans?

207lisapeet
syyskuu 19, 2020, 4:16pm

>206 BLBera: I don't know Pale Rider, but it looks good, Beth, and I see it's getting a lot of traction lately (WHY WHY WHY won't LT put a publication date on books' main pages). I wonder what the overlap with Barry's very thoroughly researched book would be.

No getaway plans, unfortunately—I have the next week off but my husband, who does tech/infrastructure for the NY Times, can't take any time between now and the election because they're anticipating ridiculous traffic. That's OK, though. I have a lot of house projects I'm happy to get to, and just not having the relentlessness of work pressing down on me for a week will be a welcome break, and hopefully a recharging one. I really just want to read, write, draw, move some furniture around, and take walks and naps.

And feel sad about RBG. I think I hadn't quite allowed myself to believe she was mortal. One saving grace of yesterday was that on my morning walk I listened to most of an On Being podcast talking to Mary Oliver, and then finished it up in the evening before bed, after I'd heard the news. I always felt Oliver was a force of nature for the good and the thoughtful, so it was a comfort to hear her voice, especially musing on mortality and the stuff of life. Recommended for her intelligent, kind voice in these strange days.

208lisapeet
syyskuu 19, 2020, 4:25pm



I finished up Jen Fawkes's Mannequin and Wife: Stories, which was a fairly quick read. Very good debut collection—dark and offbeat, skewing heavily toward contemporary explorations of myths, fairy tales, and sideshows, and their real-life counterparts: parental abuse, neglect, and estrangement; illness; violence. But for all that, this doesn't feel oppressive—Fawkes's characters all have a weird hopeful streak, whether a happy ending is theirs for the taking or, more commonly, not. There's an impulse toward the quirky that sometimes intrudes on otherwise solid yarn-spinning, but still it's an interesting and worthwhile collection overall.

Next up, If I Had Two Wings, by Randall Kenan, who just died a few weeks ago. It's a National Book Award finalist—one of two in my short story pile.

209BLBera
syyskuu 19, 2020, 6:38pm

Enjoy your time off, Lisa. I am a bit tired of being at home, but obviously during the school year, I can't take time off.

RIP RBG - I've been avoiding news because I can only imagine. I wish they would take time to celebrate her before they start fighting...

The Fawkes' collection sounds good. I'll check to see if my library has a copy. I am reading Girl, Woman, Other, which is pretty fantastic.

210lisapeet
syyskuu 22, 2020, 4:59pm

Well, I'm not sure if I'm enjoying my time off yet—we got flu shots on Sunday and I've had a miserable reaction to mine, first time ever (though this is only my fourth flu shot or so). I'm one of those people who never get sick, and I'm convinced that I've lost all my immunities now that I don't spend two hours a day on public transportation. I had to go back to the doc-in-a-box this morning because I had an outer ear infection—cellulitis, and I look a bit like Dumbo on one side—so now I'm taking antibiotics, on top of just feeling crappy and feverish for the past two days. Fortunately I also got a COVID test while I was there and it's already come back negative. so I don't have to worry about that. But man, this wasn't how I intended to spend my week.

On the other hand, at least I had the time off mapped out already so I'm not trying to stay caught up with work on top of this—I'm mostly just sleeping and reading. My plan had been to clean out the basement, so y'know... it's not like I'm missing out on anything THAT fun. But I do love those puttery projects where you can actually see progress.

>209 BLBera: I still have to check out Girl, Woman, Other. Most folks I know have really liked it.

211lisapeet
syyskuu 22, 2020, 5:02pm



I finished up Randall Kenan's If I Had Two Wings in a couple of days, which I liked if not loved. Kenan cheerfully inflicts a variety of visitations on his characters, from rock stars to Howard Hughes, the ability to perform miracles, old flames, and the ghosts of escaped slaves and boar hogs. His characters are bemused by these happenings but never quite lose their equanimity—a byproduct of faith, maybe, or a grounding in home, both of which most of them have to some extent or another, and the story titles echo spirituals and folk songs. Kenan's fictional town of Tims Creek, NC, reminds me of Edward P. Jones's familiarity with Washington, DC, though without Jones's grit or urgency. This is an agreeable, kindly collection with a little otherworldliness dogging it; the writing and dialogue are lovely and go down easy. I was very sorry to hear he died in September—he's someone I would have gladly read more of as he kept writing, and I'll probably go back and check out his earlier work.

Now I'm reading Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Likes, which is delightful so far. I'm a big fan of her other two books, Madeleine Is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles.

212RidgewayGirl
syyskuu 22, 2020, 5:09pm

>210 lisapeet: We all had reactions to last year's flu shot and thanks for reminding me to get it in my left arm this time. Hope you're back to normal quickly!

213lisapeet
syyskuu 24, 2020, 8:53am

>212 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay. I'm just starting to feel a little more normal today, which is a good thing because my cat Iris has a vet visit (weepy tear duct, nothing major—though there was a new person answering the phones and when she was taking down my info she said, carefully, "So your cat's name is... Virus?") and at the moment I have an enormous pile of LP's stacked in the garage that I need to move if I'm going to get my car out—on Sunday I finally decided to get rid of a lifetime collection of albums that I never play and that are frankly in kind of crappy shape (I kept a few of the special ones), so we put them out on the sidewalk in front of the house with a FREE RECORDS sign. But when we went to drag them into the garage at the end of the day (because the sanitation ticket writers have a total hard-on for us and will write us a ticket for anything) the biggest box broke, so now they're all stacked in front of my car. I think I have enough smaller boxes to put them in to get them out of the way, but... what to do with them? I can put them out every day for weeks and probably not many will get taken. I'm thinking bag them up in contractors bags for the trash collectors in batches small enough that they won't break through and end up all over the sidewalk.

Sorry, that was both run-on and probably really boring.

214lisapeet
syyskuu 24, 2020, 8:57am



I wasn't disappointed in Sarah Shun-lien's Likes—these are lovely, well plotted and well told human-scale stories, all of them with little kernels of hard truths at their centers to be discovered. Pacing varies, but not a true dud in the bunch.

Reading Tom Bissell's Creative Types: And Other Stories now.

215EdwardMcLean
syyskuu 24, 2020, 9:01am

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216BLBera
syyskuu 25, 2020, 12:04pm

I hope you're feeling better, Lisa. I'm getting my flu shot on Tuesday. Fingers crossed that I don't get a reaction. Like you, I never get sick, and as I'm typing that I realize that I have cursed myself.

I have bothMadeleine Is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles on my shelves. I should pull them out. I've added a couple of short story collections to my WL as well. :)

217lisapeet
syyskuu 25, 2020, 9:38pm

>216 BLBera: I am feeling better, thanks. But wow, cellulitis don't mess around—I can't remember the last time I was that sick. I'm glad it was only a few days. I did a telehealth visit with my primary care doc and when I sent her photos of my Elephant Man ear I got a "Wow" out of her.

I'm also happy because someone took ALL the LPs! Dragging falling-apart cardboard boxes full of records in and out of the garage was getting to be a drag.

218lisapeet
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 26, 2020, 9:47pm



Creative Types was kinda grim. I don't mean to penalize the book for doing what it was trying to do, which was—in my eyes, at least—exploring different varieties of discomfort. There are 100 names for love, or whatever, so why shouldn't a collection of stories look at all the ways you can want to leave the room, look away, yank someone out of a spiraling situation, or just flinch? From aggressively provocative new spouses to now-grown high school bullies to an awkward threesome to literal torture, Bissell knows how to set a scene to make a reader uncomfortable. And I was, throughout. The writing is good, the scenarios are imaginative, and often the stories' payoffs are interesting—I didn't put the book down, which speaks to all of the above. But man, I definitely thought about it a few times—this is not a collection that cuts the reader any slack.

Now reading Emma Cline's collection Daddy. Her novel The Girls was a total page turner, so let's see how she does short stories.

219auntmarge64
syyskuu 25, 2020, 10:56pm

Glad you've recovered from your vacation ailments. The cellulitis ear sounds, well, unique among my acquaintances. I'm trying to get the flu shot but first they didn't want to give it to me because they said mid-Sept was the recommended time for the best coverage, and now they're out of the senior version. That started last year: a stronger version, wouldn't you know. Last year they had trouble keeping it in stock too, and I tried to convince them to give me the regular shot plus a half, but, uh, no. So I wait, again.

220lisapeet
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 26, 2020, 9:54pm

>219 auntmarge64: Unique is right... adding insult to injury was constantly having to explain the whole thing in detail because it was so weird. No elevator-pitch maladies for me. Particularly because it probably originated in an accident a few weeks back involving a cat scratching post—a big heavy thing with a broad base, which when I was moving it and went to set it down snapped upright out of my hands, and the corner of the square wooden cap on the top hit me right under the ear and behind my jaw... that extra sensitive little spot that you can hurt blowing a balloon up wrong? That one. Possibly the worst pain I've encountered since childbirth. This required major explication to all doctors I spoke to, since the most common way to get injured in that spot is by getting punched, and I wanted to make it very clear that I wasn't a victim of domestic violence (or bar fights, but there aren't any bars to fight in right now so that's kind of a moot point).

Anyway, I hope your flu shot goes better than mine when you do get it.

221lisapeet
syyskuu 26, 2020, 9:55pm



I finally had my second library hold come through on Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns so I could finish the last 50 pages, and I'm glad I held out. This is a really remarkable piece of journalism and writing. Aside from the enormous breadth of the story Wilkerson is telling—about the deep injustices of the Jim Crow South, this enormous migration of people north and west, the circumstances they had to adjust to once they got where they were going, and the steady but slow progress of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, all playing out together—she humanizes these big histories by telling the detailed stories of three individuals who migrated from the South in different decades. The fact that she pulled off such a multilayered account so well, with a pitch-perfect rhythm swinging between micro and macro—and that she communicated the horror of the situations folks were escaping without being melodramatic—impressed the hell out of this writer. It's a balancing act of journalism and it feels seamless. And I learned a lot about a sweeping piece of American history.

I turned my attentions away from Daddy, which I own, to a few short story collections borrowed from the library that I need to read before they disappear. Right now reading Souvankham Thammavongsa's How to Pronounce Knife, which is so far very good.

222lisapeet
syyskuu 29, 2020, 10:11pm



How to Pronounce Knife was a quick read. These are all tales of Laotian immigrants in the U.S., spare and sad without being bleak—they're little elegies for what is given up, and the stories we tell ourselves and each other, in order to get along. Thammavongsa's use of language is quite lovely (she is a poet) and she doesn't have to hammer home the sense of her character's otherness and alienation, which makes this a gentle—if not forceful—read.

Now reading A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth by Daniel Mason, whom I may have a little crush on.

223lisapeet
lokakuu 4, 2020, 5:46pm



I just loved A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth—it had a very cabinet-of-curiosities feel, and the author's curiosity was palpable. The stories were mostly set in the 19th century, with a couple before and after, and one contemporary piece that had enough echoes of the past not to feel out of place—all of them about some aspect of science, medicine, psychology. I'm sad to see it didn't get more attention, though maybe the subject matter is especially offbeat these days, when close first-person contemporary short stories really dominate the market. It reminded me a bit of Karen Russell's Orange World, where you could see a trail of breadcrumbs in each story to her "what if?" idea, and her enthusiasm for it. Fans of Andrea Barrett, I think you'd like this.

224lisapeet
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 5, 2020, 4:11pm



Also read Benjamin Nugent's Fraternity, short stories revolving around—you got it—a set of fraternity brothers (and some sorority sisters) at UMass. It wasn't as one-note as that sounds, and there's some good offbeat POVs and more than a few surprises, but people's enjoyment of this one will probably have a lot to do with how much they can tolerate the setting/milieu. I liked it well enough, but it didn't knock me out.

Those were all my library checkouts, so now I'm back to Emma Cline's Daddy.

225markon
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 5, 2020, 3:47pm

>223 lisapeet: I was thinking, hmm, A registry of my passage upon the earth looks interesting, and then you said fans of Andrea Barrett and I was hooked. Even though I have too many books checked out i put it on hold at the library. Maybe it will take a while to get through cataloging?

226lisapeet
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 8, 2020, 2:47pm



Finished Emma Cline's Daddy, which is a good collection if you're in the mood for that sort of thing—stories of people misbehaving, testing boundaries, and making poor choices, with (predictably) bad results. For all that it takes on some engagingly uncomfortable stories, it feels pretty conventional—but very well done, and it goes down like a box of guilty bon-bons.

Now I'm reading Danielle Evans's The Office of Historical Corrections.

227lisapeet
lokakuu 10, 2020, 8:44am

The sad part of reading a bunch of books for a deadline is at some point you have to stop reading straight through if you have a pretty good idea of how you feel about something. Case in point: The Office of Historical Corrections, which is terrific: multilayered and subtle stories of mostly young women navigating a racialized world, smart and un-clichéd, with great writing. But unless she had a stroke halfway through putting this collection together, or the final novella is tedious (I will go back and check, or see if my fellow judge read it), this one is a definite yes—so I had to put it down and go on to the next. This one I will definitely circle back to and finish, though.

On to Nicole Krauss's To Be a Man.

228BLBera
lokakuu 10, 2020, 9:48am

Hi Lisa - How many collections of short stories are you reading? At some point, do you get short-storied out? How to Pronounce Knife sounds good. I'll search that one out, and I am a fan of Barrett. So, the Mason collection sounds great as well. Although I guess I could also read some of the Barrett books I have on my shelves...

>227 lisapeet: Another one that sounds great...Too many books.

How many go on your short list?

229lisapeet
lokakuu 15, 2020, 3:34pm

>228 BLBera: I don't get burnt out on short stories, per se—they're so different from each other the collections generally don't feel repetitive. But the pace can get tiring, knowing there's a deadline, and having to do the aforementioned catch and release especially when I really like something. We put anywhere from 5-10 on our list (it's both short- and longlist, since we feature multiple titles). Some years there are more to choose from than others, or a better selection. This year there was a smallish field, but some very good books.

I left off To Be a Man about halfway to keep up my judging pace, but I also really liked it. They're low-key contemporary stories about the balance of power and affection between men and women, mothers and sons, daughters and fathers, with a lot of them touching on Judaism in some way. Very thinky but good overall.

Also got partway through Jasmon Drain's Stateway's Garden and left it for the opposite reason—these are very spot-on, affecting linked stories about a young boy/man growing up in a Chicago project, but the writing, though fresh, is not beautiful, and the stories don't feel well constructed. I'll come back to it also, though, because there's definitely something there.

Now I'm halfway through Francesca Marciano's Animal Spirit. I did NOT buy the first story, but I liked the others. It's I think the only work I've read so far in translation, so it's got a bit of that arms'-length feeling. Also very Italian. But good... I may be on the fence about this one. I'm going to finish the story I'm reading now and then move on to the next collection, since we're judging next week—Deesha Philyaw's The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

230BLBera
lokakuu 21, 2020, 4:18pm

Hey Lisa - you've piqued my interest with these descriptions, or as my students say "peaked." I've been reading a lot of student essays...

I saw a description of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies and have it reserved at my library.

231lisapeet
lokakuu 23, 2020, 12:22am

>230 BLBera: Well I'm glad you're borrowing that one and not buying, since I felt it was a little underbaked. The book itself was interesting and very different, and I got a strong sense of being privy to intimate talk among Black women, but it as far as the writing itself is concerned I felt like her craft needs to keep on evolving a bit. That said, I will definitely go back and finish it (I'm about halfway through), and would pick up anything else of hers. I'm a little surprised at its being a NBA finalist, but I do think the voices are beguiling.

After that I read half of Ron Rash's In the Valley: Stories and a Novella Based on SERENA, which was kind of the opposite—technically very well done, but none of the stories moved me any which way. But also worth a read, since he's good at what he does.

And last of the contenders was/is Asako Serizawa's Inheritors, which I'm still reading and will finish (since judging is over and I'm not on a reading deadline anymore). It's a series of linked stories about the Japanese experience of WWII and its aftermath, and really a knockout so far. The stories range from 1913 to 15 years from now, exploring the reverberations of the war on one family, and wow—really ambitious, and she does a great job with it. She humanizes the horrors of war effectively, and some of the stories are just wrenching, but very much worth reading.

232lisapeet
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 24, 2020, 3:29pm



Inheritors was really interesting all the way to the end. A few bits that were a little rough around the edges—one that interrogated a Borges story as a big plot component that bogged down a bit in its thought-exercise-ness, but still fascinating overall, and I'm glad she aimed high with this one. It's 100% different from anything else I read this year, and if you're up for some challenging, but rewarding, historical (and some speculative!) fiction, this might be for you.

233BLBera
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 24, 2020, 5:15pm

This one sounds great. I will definitely search for this one. And I see my library has a copy and it is available!

234lisapeet
lokakuu 25, 2020, 6:28pm



The Office of Historical Corrections is a WONDERFUL collection. Evans writes about loss and race and women who take no shit—sometimes all in the same piece—with a terrifically subtle touch. Which is not to say that she soft-pedals anything, because these are stories that will hit you where you live, but there's not a word here that doesn't ring true. Definitely one of my favorites of the year.

235avaland
lokakuu 26, 2020, 8:55pm

I don't know how I got so behind on your thread, but I've had a proper catch-up on your reading (it amazes me—though by now it shouldn't—that we all can read such different books.

Sorry to hear about the problem with the flu shot and the ear!

236wandering_star
lokakuu 27, 2020, 4:39am

>234 lisapeet: This isn't coming out in the UK until late spring next year, although for some reason the audiobook is available from early Nov. I might go for that option...

237lisapeet
lokakuu 28, 2020, 8:14am

>233 BLBera: Beth, I think you might like it. One of those cases where "ambitious" is definitely not pejorative—in places she may have bitten off a bit more than she could handle but it's in the service of a really interesting literary undertaking, so I give her points for that.

>235 avaland: Thanks, Lois. It's all over with now, but it was definitely unsettling. I almost never get sick, so to have it be such a strange and sudden thing was very weird.

>236 wandering_star: It's not even out until next month here. But worth the wait!

Now I'm reading Riva Lehrer's Golem Girl, a memoir by an artist born with spina bifida and what it was like growing up in the '60s and beyond.

238lisapeet
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 8, 2020, 8:19pm



Just finshed Riva Lehrer's Golem Girl, which was ooooh whee just a terrific memoir. Lehrer is a visual artist who was born in the 1950s with spina bifida, in a decidedly pre–disability rights era, and she weaves both of those—her life as a disabled (queer, opinionated, brilliant) woman and her art-making—deftly and intriguingly. She includes a lot of her art, links to the folks she collaborated with, and resources. Highly recommended.

Not sure what I'm going to read next. I have a lot of library holds that are about to come up, so maybe I'll finish up some of those short story collections so I don't get caught in the middle of something else.

239RidgewayGirl
marraskuu 8, 2020, 8:13pm

>234 lisapeet: Ok, this looks great, but I have her previous collection sitting on my shelf, waiting for me. I've got to read that first.

240lisapeet
marraskuu 8, 2020, 11:18pm

>239 RidgewayGirl: I'm definitely going to get a hold of her first book.

So yeah, the election... big, big exhale. What a freaking week, huh? I was driving down to Brooklyn yesterday to have lunch in a friend's back yard, and had just made one of those funky little turns getting off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway when the cars behind me started honking at me. And of course I'm one of those New York drivers quick to take offense at other New York drivers who honk their horns endlessly, and was reeeeally close to flipping them the bird out my window... but then I continued down the main drag and everyone was honking their horns, and just as it dawned on me what that might mean people started coming out on the sidewalk banging on pots and pans and yelling and whooping, and I super quick checked the front page of the NYT and wow, that was a nice moment. I rolled down my windows and banged on the top of my car and cheered all the way to my friend's house, found a parking spot right across the street just like in the movies, and ran inside and we all jumped up and down and yelled.

And now, I think, will come some ugliness for the next couple of months—I don't doubt that bloated psychopath will do his best to leave a scorched earth's worth of executive orders (possibly literally). But executive orders can be undone. And I'm so, so glad he'll be out of there. This was an evil four years, politically and personally, and I will be fiercely glad to see the last of 2020.

241AlisonY
marraskuu 9, 2020, 3:34am

>240 lisapeet: Love that little insight! It's not often you get an opportunity to whoop much in live as the decades go on, so I delight in your whooping opportunity. An ugly end to an ugly 4 years - I think much of the world will look forward to the compass of decency turning in the right direction again.

(I'm still trying to work out a little how Biden got the reins as a man of near 80, however. But his orange Oompa Loompa opposing number is only a few years behind I guess.)

242RidgewayGirl
marraskuu 9, 2020, 10:05am

>240 lisapeet: A truly joyous moment. It's like breathing is suddenly easier.

243dchaikin
marraskuu 9, 2020, 12:53pm

>240 lisapeet: ❤️

Much more sedated in my red neighborhood. A neighborhood saw us Saturday and said what a good day it’s been. That’s how she told us she was for Biden. And we agreed our first emotion was relief. But wow, what a positive outlook can do to life.

Congrats on your short story run. I do hope you’ll post the link here to LJ. Seems The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans was your favorite (>234 lisapeet:) At least your comments on it stand out. Noting!

244BLBera
marraskuu 11, 2020, 7:18pm

>240 lisapeet: That is such a cool story, Lisa. Sigh of relief, I guess.

245lisapeet
marraskuu 12, 2020, 9:07am

BIG sigh of relief. I mean, nothing's over yet, and it'll be years before we see just how the Trump administration devastated this country... and the deep-seated racism that made it possible isn't going to go away in my lifetime, if ever. But I'll take the small and not-so-small victories.

>243 dchaikin: I think The Office of Historical Corrections was probably my favorite of the bunch, but there were quite a few really good ones. Best Books goes up 11/23, so I'll link to it as soon as it does. And we can all have fun trying to figure out which annotations I wrote!

246lisapeet
marraskuu 12, 2020, 9:09am



Nicole Krauss's To Be a Man is a smart, empathetic collection about people in relationship with and orbiting each other, life and death (well, I guess that's most stories, but those themes form a real core to the collection). The stories here are unexpected but never gimmicky—sometimes a bit too wispy to pack a punch (the title story was not my favorite) but more often solid and astute. Standouts for me were "Switzerland," "I Am Asleep but My Heart Is Awake," "The Husband," but the entire collection is very worthwhile.

Now my library hold of Diane Cook's The New Wilderness has come in, so that's next.

247dchaikin
marraskuu 12, 2020, 12:49pm

>246 lisapeet: i’m listening to The New Wilderness now. Curious and a little fun so far. Interesting about Krauss’s latest.

248lisapeet
marraskuu 22, 2020, 11:12am



So Diane Cook's The New Wilderness was immersive but at the same time left me a bit flat—so much telling vs. showing, so many people talking about what they were feeling. The premise was good and pulled me in at the start, but ultimately I'm not sure I bought the setup of the doomed City, the preserved Wilderness, and the human settlers who were more guinea pigs than anything else. Still, it was entertaining and had some food for thought. Though—very minor quibble—I wish we hadn't been given Agnes's middle/last name in the last quarter of the book. That weird little bit of symbolism kept floating into my mind for the rest of the time I was reading.

Now I'm reading The Best American Comics 2019, because I need a little more graphics in my reading life.

249dchaikin
marraskuu 22, 2020, 11:10pm

>248 lisapeet: interesting. I thought it had a neat set up. But I’m kind of feel like I’m still waiting for Cooke to do something interesting with it. I have a lot left to listen to.

250lisapeet
marraskuu 23, 2020, 8:21am

>249 dchaikin: Yeah, I kind of felt that way through most of it. I didn't dislike it, but it felt slightly underbaked.

251lisapeet
marraskuu 24, 2020, 4:19pm

My interview with the marvelous Riva Lehrer, about her memoir Golem Girl and a bunch of other stuff, is up at Bloom: Riva Lehrer on Disability, Making Art, and Getting Rid of the Explainy Voice.

This is a book that I'm really sorry to see get short shrift because of COVID—it's a wonderful account of art and activism, with very compelling, non-didactic insight into disability politics, queer advocacy, radical body acceptance. I don't usually stump for other folks' books, but if you know anyone for whom any of those topics might resonate, or just someone who likes a great, off-the-beaten-track memoir, this would make an excellent gift.

252dchaikin
marraskuu 25, 2020, 9:09am

Terrific article, Lisa!

253lisapeet
marraskuu 25, 2020, 10:56am

Thank you! I really liked both her and the book.

254lisapeet
marraskuu 25, 2020, 11:03am



Finished The Best American Comics 2019, and mostly enjoyed it. Were the pieces selected the best of what was published all year? I have no idea, not being that immersed in the comics world. A few left me flat, a few were good but not amazing, and a few knocked me out and were added to the list of full-length works that I want to check out when I can: Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault's Louis Undercover, Joe Sacco's "Bitumen or Bust" (mostly for the drawing, which my crosshatching self loves) in Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life, Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared, Nick Drnaso's Sabrina, Connor Willumsen's Anti-Gone, and Eleanor Davis's "Hurt or Fuck" in Now #1—she's someone I really want to see more of; I love her handling of bodies and the way they occupy space. Also really liked Lauren Weinstein's "Being an Artist and a Mother," which I remember from the New Yorker. This was a good introduction for me to work that's being done right now—I fell off the comics map (or I guess it fell off of my map) years ago, but have been wanting to pick up more graphic narrative stuff lately. This is a good push in the right direction... I wish my library had more editions of this series in ebook format, but I guess you can't have everything.

Now reading my next cascading library hold, The Eighth Detective, from someone's recommendation here (sorry I can't remember... speak up!).

255BLBera
marraskuu 25, 2020, 8:57pm

Great interview, Lisa. I loved her comments on her reading. I will definitely look for this memoir. I did like The Eighth Detective. I thought it was very clever.

I'm finishing Inheritors now, an excellent collection of linked stories that I think you recommended.

256kidzdoc
joulukuu 11, 2020, 10:49am

Great interview, Lisa! I'll add Golem Girl to my Christmas wish list.

257lisapeet
joulukuu 12, 2020, 3:37pm

>256 kidzdoc: I hope you like it, Darryl. I thought it was just a great piece of writing about being an artist and a disabled person, where the two things intersect and where they don't.

>255 BLBera: I think The Inheritors was most likely my rec. I think you liked it, right?

258lisapeet
joulukuu 12, 2020, 3:37pm



I was a little disappointed in The Eighth Detective—good premise, with a series of fiddly mysteries leading up to an interesting denouement, but ultimately disappointing. There were some promising setups and I liked the twist at the end, but the characters were all pretty un-engaging, and the writing a bit odd, with strange similes scattered throughout like cranberries in vanilla ice cream (see what I did there). Maybe it would appeal more to folks who read more detective fiction and appreciate the way Pavesi is (I'm assuming) playing with the tropes. But it was entertaining, at any rate.

Now I'm about to start Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin. Sounds cheerful, eh? But also maybe interesting—I saw it reviewed somewhere at some point and put a library hold on it, and here we are.

259BLBera
joulukuu 12, 2020, 9:22pm

I did like The Inheritors. I think I liked The Eighth Detective better than you did; I thought it was very clever, and it just hit me at the right time, I think.

260lisapeet
joulukuu 27, 2020, 10:58am



I spent a couple of weeks plowing through Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin. The concept was interesting—how the South Bronx in the 1970s and '80s became this overarching symbol for urban devastation and ruin, and how that was interpreted/misinterpreted by artists and in popular culture. It hit a lot of notes for me personally: urban studies and the Bronx in particular (I live in the North Bronx, an area that never fell into disrepair), high/low art, inclusivity—but fell short in a few ways. Most notably, although the book discusses how the reality of life in the S. Bronx of the time was othered or omitted from the examples L'Official featured, from really problematic pop culture like Fort Apache, the Bronx or Bonfire of the Vanities to more open-ended art world treatments like Gordon Matta-Clark's deconstructions taken from demolished Bronx buildings or the half-ironic gallery Fashion Moda, which had a storefront in the S. Bronx for a while, he gives hardly any space to actual S. Bronx voices, other than novelist Abraham Rodriguez.

I get that he feels hip-hop and graffiti and all their associated offshoots, have already gotten a lot of exposure as the voices of the Bronx, and I realize that that story wasn't the book he set out to write. But it still feels slightly inconclusive framed that way—I get a strong sense of a series of individual articles strung together. The book is also on the academic side, a bit too rooted in cultural studies artspeak formalism to be a joy—I felt like I was back in art school in 1985—and it was a slow read for me. What I did really enjoy was the overlay of 2020 tech, plugging the addresses L'Official offered as typical rubble-strewn lots of the time and seeing how they've been rebuilt now—a lot of polite, well-kept townhouses and typically anonymous low-slung brick retail stores that look pretty much the way they did then, but cleaned up. And it did give me some things to think about, not just in regards to the Bronx but the narrative of urban spaces and New York in particular, and my own (very white, very young, very hungry for sensation) experience of NYC downtown in those same years. I'm glad I was there and lived through that, but it's good to consider centered in the wider world—which I most decidedly did not do, then.

Next up, and I guess my last of the year, my library hold of The Best American Short Stories 2020 just came in. Maybe that's a good way to wind up this rotten year, with something positive that has "2020" in the title.

261avaland
joulukuu 27, 2020, 11:53am

>258 lisapeet: Too bad about the crime novel. But you read it through which is more than I can say for my 2020 habit of just abandoning them if they are not working.

>260 lisapeet: Probably not a book I'd actually read, but I really enjoyed your assessment of it!

262RidgewayGirl
joulukuu 27, 2020, 8:40pm

>260 lisapeet: Thanks for that fascinating review.

263kidzdoc
joulukuu 28, 2020, 7:06am

Great review of Urban Legends: The South Bronx in Representation and Ruin, Lisa. My beloved maternal grandparents spent their remaining years in a cozy home in a quiet neighborhood in the North Bronx, on E 222nd St between Bronxwood Ave and Laconia Ave, and I spent many enjoyable days there from the early 1960s until they died in the early 1970s. My exposure to the South Bronx was limited to what I could see from the Bronx River Parkway on drives to and from Jersey City in my father's car, on a 2 or 5 elevated train from Manhattan on subway trips with my mother when Dad was working, or the occasional school or church trip to old Yankee Stadium. I'd like to learn more about that much maligned part of NYC, but this book doesn't seem to be one I would enjoy or appreciate.

264AlisonY
joulukuu 28, 2020, 12:12pm

>260 lisapeet: Is the Best American Short Stories a bit of a brick? I have one on the shelf (can't remember which year, but I think Updike was the curator) and it's massive. I will get to it one day....

265lisapeet
joulukuu 28, 2020, 12:32pm

>263 kidzdoc: And see, that's why I stuck with the book, because he makes a lot of interesting connections in spite of its scattershot nature—there's a section where L'Official talks about how the South Bronx was viewed by most people solely from the vantage point of highways or overpasses—the Bronx River Parkway, Cross-Bronx Expressway, Major Deegan—or largely elevated train lines—and how that view from afar influenced how people think of the area in terms of architecture and reputation vs. the day-to-day lives of its people. There were a lot of very interesting points in the book that kept me reading, even if I didn't love it.

I feel like the South Bronx is undergoing a bit of an exploration renaissance in essays and criticism lately. There's a poetry book, Thresholes, that came out in May—the Coffee House Press copy says
THRESHOLES is both a doorway and an absence, a road map and a remembering. In this almanac of place and memory, Lara Mimosa Montes explores the passage of time, returning to the Bronx of the ’70s and ’80s and the artistry that flourished there. What is the threshold between now and then, and how can the poet be the bridge between the two? Just as artists of that time highlighted what was missing in the Bronx, this collection examines what is left open in the wake of trauma and loss.

("Thresholes" was the name of one of Gordon Matta-Clark's deconstruction exhibitions).

This coming year marks 40 years since I moved to the East Village as a scruffy newly-minted high school graduate who'd dreamed of coming to New York and becoming an artist for most of my conscious life. I don't know if it's the anniversary, or the fact that this year has been such a strange one for NYC, throwing so many of its inequities into sharp focus, or just because I'm getting old and ruminative, but I've been thinking about that time a lot.

266lisapeet
joulukuu 28, 2020, 12:35pm

>264 AlisonY: This is just the 2020 edition of BASS—I think Updike edited Best American Short Stories of the Century, which I remember as definitely being a doorstopper (just checked and yes, it's 864 pages). This one clocks in at 400, which is reasonable—there's always a ton of back matter listing the honorable mentions—plus I have it in ebook, which doesn't weigh any more than my iPad...

267lisapeet
joulukuu 28, 2020, 12:36pm

>261 avaland: >262 RidgewayGirl: Thanks—I enjoyed the book in a way, but not so much the reading experience. Glad to share what I got out of it, though.

268BLBera
joulukuu 28, 2020, 3:13pm

I also enjoyed your comments on Urban Legends: The South Bronx, Lisa, but it seems to me a book that would be more enjoyable if one is familiar with the place.

I think the story collections work well as e-books.

269lisapeet
tammikuu 1, 10:05am

Bye bye 2020! I leave you with this fabulous video ad from, of all places, Match.com. My new thread is here.

A Match Made in Hell

270wandering_star
tammikuu 1, 6:28pm

>269 lisapeet: That's brilliant!

271lisapeet
tammikuu 1, 9:07pm

>270 wandering_star: Isn't it? Whatever the advertising version of the Oscars is, that one deserves a prize.

272dchaikin
tammikuu 1, 10:05pm

>269 lisapeet: thanks for that. : )