NYTBR, May 15 & May 22, 2011: Biographies, New Story Collections from Barnes, Packer

6:10 pm on the last Sunday in May, Redwood City, California:

Self is perusing back issues of The New York Times Book Review.  After reading the 15 May 2011 issue, she decides she will keep the following reviews for future reference:

  1. Andrea Wulf’s review of Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden:  An Artist (Begins Her Life Work) at 72.  The book is a biography of the flower painter Mary Delany.  Any book that focuses on an artist whose creative output began at 72 certainly deserves our attention!
  2. Eliza Griswold’s review of Janny Scott’s A Singular Woman:  The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother.  Because self has been fascinated with the President’s mother, ever since she started hearing about his life story.  Obama’s mother died at 52, of Stage 4 uterine cancer.  But oh, her legacy.  Self can hardly wait to read about this “driven, earnest, big-hearted, large-boned, messy, tolerant of everyone (but prigs and fools)” woman.

After reading the 22 May 2011 issue, self decides to hang on to the following reviews:

  1. Lydia Peele’s review of Ann Packer’s second story collection, Swim Back to Me.  Peele says of Packer:  “She captures suburban life with an archivist’s eye for detail . . .  But the stories in Swim Back to Me (corny title, though) are far from predictable tales of American domesticity.  Every plot is a potential time bomb . . . “
  2. Christopher Benfey’s review of Julian Barnes’ third story collection, Pulse.  “The ghost of John Updike, that master delineator of couples and how they talk, haunts many of these stories.  Barnes is both beneficiary and victim of Updike’s own double-edged gift:  a dazzling facility of phrase that sometimes feels like an end in itself.” (The comment about Updike is something with which self wholeheartedly agrees, though John Updike was one of Dear Departed Dad’s favorite writers:  He read all the “Rabbit” novels.)

Stay tuned.

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