Masters of Style: A List

Self is teaching a two-day class on travel writing this weekend.

The great thing about teaching is, it makes you ponder your own predilections.

Because unless you yourself are very clear about the kind of writing you favor, you will never, in self’s humble opinion, be able to communicate anything worthwhile to your students.

These are the writers whose books have stayed longest in self’s head and heart. Some have only written one book. Doesn’t matter. The point is, their names have become part of self’s font of inspiration.

Debra Ginsberg * Kyoko Mori * Chang-rae Lee * Annie Ernaux * Tim Parks * Ron Carlson * Alison Moore * Mo Yan * Thomas Lynch * V. S. Naipaul * Gish Jen * Deborah Digges * Paul Theroux * Kathryn Harrison * Jason Elliott * W. G. Sebald * Nina Berberova * Peter Hessler * Michael Herr * Ruth Reichl * Tony Horwitz * Elmore Leonard * Brian Hall * Nicholson Baker

(Aaargh, list is getting long! Perhaps she’ll do a Part 2 later)

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Reviewing the Reading List

So, last year self read nine books. Nine.

The only reason she knows this is, she decided to keep tallies by posting on Goodreads.

There was a time when she averaged reading 60 books a year.

That was as recent as five, six years ago.

The book she’s almost done reading (only about 20 pages to go!) Hakan Nesser’s Woman with Birthmark, is indeed very exciting, but she decided to look ahead, to the books she plans to read for the rest of the year, and none of them are light reading. In fact, some sound downright depressing. But depressing books do not depress self, go figure (though they may very well depress the readers of this blog, since she always blogs about what she is currently reading). Here are the books on her plate for 2015, after she’s done with Woman with Birthmark:

  • Silas Marner, by George Eliot (She took an advance peak: gulp. Though the Everyman Library edition only has a little over 200 pages, the text is so dense. Hardly a line of dialogue. It’s going to take her forever.)
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin (This is about Irish immigrants. Self expects her visit to Ireland last year will definitely come in handy)
  • 2066, by Roberto Bolaño (The last time she read Bolaño was in Bacolod. And did it ever unleash a flood of work from her. She thinks Bolaño and Murakami are her go-to authors for angst-y narrative)
  • Tree of Smoke, by Denis Johnson (Much about drinking and other macho high jinks)
  • Excursions to the Equator, by Mark Twain (Self is really looking forward to this one, as she loves Mark Twain. And loves travel books)
  • The Third Reich at War, by Richard Evans (Self has a definite weakness for World War II and Holocaust literature. She remembers forcing son to take an elective called Literature of Witness when he was in Sacred Heart, simply so that she could have access to the class reading list. This one’s a whopper of a book: the paperback is 656 pages. Which means it will probably take her the rest of the year to finish. And she’ll be trundling it all over the place, which will put undoubtable strain on her shoulders and forearms. But it’s been a long long time since her last World War II book. She feels a definite almost-nostalgia for the period)

P.S. Self was on her way to order take-out fish and chips from Patterson’s Pub, but she mentioned her destination to someone who said Trillium’s fish and chips were better. It’s only about a block away. Exciting!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Pile of Stuff: The New York Review of Books, 26 September 2013

Oh why oh why had self mis-laid this issue. Apparently it lay discarded in self’s clothes closet for over a year. And today is a busy busy Monday (Mondays always are), but she just can’t help perusing the issue. And it turns out, there are so many interesting reviews!

Without further ado, here are a couple of books reviewed in the 26 September 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books:

  • The Girl Who Loved Camellias: The Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis, by Julie Kavanagh (Knopf, $27.95)
  • The Lady of the Camellias, by Alexandre Dumas fils, translated from the French by Liesl Schillinger (Penguin, $16.00)
  • The Force of Things: A Marriage in War and Peace, by Alexander Stille (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28.00)
  • The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (Random House, $15.00)
  • Calcutta: Two Years in the City, by Amit Chaudhuri (Knopf, $25.95)
  • Subtle Bodies, by Norman Rush (Knopf, $26.95)
  • Mortals, by Norman Rush
  • Whites, by Norman Rush
  • The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced, by Stephanie Dalley (Oxford University Press, $34.95)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

NYTBR Holiday Books Issue (2013)

Did self ever mention how humongous her PILE OF STUFF is? LOL. Self has no clue how it got that big.

Nevertheless, she is making inroads.

Today, she finally gets to the huge December 2013 issue of The New York Times Book Review.

It is, naturally, full of reviews of interesting books self wants to add to her reading list. And it has the annual “100 Notable Books List.” A couple of selections from that list:

Fiction

  1. Bleeding Edge, by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin, $28.95)
  2. The Color Master: Stories, by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $25.95)
  3. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, $26)
  4. Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III (Norton, $25.95)
  5. Duplex, by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf, $24)
  6. The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride (Riverhead, $27.95)
  7. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99)
  8. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (Little, Brown, $27)
  9. A Marker to Measure Drift, by Alexander Maksik (Knopf, $24.95)
  10. Submergence, by J. M. Ledgard (Coffee House, $15.95)
  11. Want Not, by Jonathan Miles (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
  12. Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel (Graywolf, $26)

Nonfiction

  1. The Barbarous Years, The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600 – 1675, by Bernard Bailyn (Knopf, $35)
  2. The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood, by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco/HarperCollins, $19.99)
  3. The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit (Viking, $25.95)
  4. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink (Crown, $27)
  5. A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout (Scribner, $27)
  6. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, by Katy Butler (Scribner, $25)
  7. Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, by Robert Kolker (Harper, $25.99)
  8. Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, by Mary Ruefle (Wave Books, $25)
  9. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan (Harper, $28.99)
  10. Thank You for Your Service, by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)
  11. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich (Blue Rider, $27.95)
  12. Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala (Knopf, $24)

There’s also:

  • The Most of Nora Ephron, a collection of her essays (Knopf, $35)
  • A Story Lately Told: Coming of Age in Ireland, London, and New York, by Anjelica Huston (Scribner, $25)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Adding to the Reading List

With any luck, self will get to the following books, eventually. Not in 2015, probably, since her reading pace is positively glacial. But hopefully, if she’s still alive and in full possession of her marbles in a couple of years — say, in 2017 — she may be able to give the following classics a shot (The only one she’s read before is Moby Dick. And she read that — all 900+ pages of it — when she was just starting in the Stanford Creative Writing Program. Why she felt it was important to understand Melville before she could take herself seriously as a writer is beyond her)

  • Jane Austen’s Emma
  • Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (Self is really looking forward to the Ron Howard adaptation because, after all, Chris Hemsworth!)
  • Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education
  • Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy
  • Herman Melville’s short fiction
  • Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal
  • Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

And here are the books of 2014 that rocked self’s world:

  • Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
  • Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Very Briefly: Some Books Reviewed in the April 24, 2014 Issue of The New York Review of Books

Pile of stuff, people.  Pile of stuff.

Self is thinking of adding the following books to her reading list (Publisher information, when available, will appear in parentheses)

  • The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms, by Charles Darwin
  • Jelly-Fish, Star-Fish, and Sea-Urchins: Being a Research on Primitive Nervous Systems, by George John Romanes
  • Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill (Knopf, $22.95)
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead (Crown, $25)

*     *     *     *

As for what self is reading currently, it’s Donna Leon’s About Face, which she is enjoying much more than the previous Donna Leon she read, Death and Judgment.

She’s decided to add Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 and Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke to her 2015 reading list, which currently includes these books:

Woman With Birthmark, by Hakan Nesser (a new Swedish mystery writer — that is, new in the sense that she’s only just discovered him)

Silas Marner, by George Eliot

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Monday Pile of Stuff: New York Review of Books, Dec. 13, 2013

The Pile of Stuff is mythic: it contains missives from — who knows — years back.

This morning, the first thing self pulls out of it is a New York Review of Books from Dec. 19, 2013.

Self adores poetry in translation, here’s one on NYRB p. 34, a Charles Simic translation of Radmila Lazic’s Psalm of Despair (Following is the opening verse):

PSALM OF DESPAIR

by Radmila Lazic

I dwell in a land of despair
In the city of despair
Among desperate people
Myself desperate
I embrace my desperate lover
With desperate hands
Whispering desperate words
Kissing him with desperate lips

And here are a few of the books reviewed in the issue:

Levels of Life, by Julian Barnes (Knopf, $22.95) — “It is, not surprisingly, a marvel of flickering Barnesian leitmotifs . . . ” (Reviewer Cathleen Schine)

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, by Deborah Solomon (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

Undisputed Truth, by Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman (Blue Rider, $30)

My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, edited and with an introduction by Peter Biskind (Metropolitan, $28)

Orson Welles in Italy, by Alberto Anile, translated from the Italian by Marcus Perryman (Indiana University Press, $35)

This is Orson Welles: Conversations between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

NYTBR 24 November 2013

The Pile of Stuff is incredible, simply incredible. She probably hasn’t looked at it for over six months. This morning, she went through a New York Times Book Review from about a year ago. Here are the books that most piqued her interest:

Recommended by crime writer Patricia Cornwell in the By the Book section:  Chris Kyle’s American Sniper, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and “anything by Marcella Hazan.”

Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper, $27.99)

Autobiography of a Corpse, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated by Joanne Turnbull (New York Review of Books, $15.95)

The Isle of Youth: Stories, by Laura van den Berg (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14)

In the Memorial Room, by Janet Frame (Counterpoint, $24)

The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2: 1923 – 1925, edited by Sandra Spanier, Albert J. DeFazio III and Robert W. Trogdon (Cambridge University Press, $40)

The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, by Graham Robb (W. W. Norton, $28.95)

 

“Jesters”: Disjointedness

This piece came out January 2012 in Used Furniture Review.

Self enjoys writing things that are disjointed.

She started “Jesters” in VCCA (the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts). The house she describes in the piece is the main house there. The books listed in the piece are books self found on the shelves in the main house. Here’s an excerpt:

There is so much weight here: the house, the barn, the chestnut horses in the field, the Chinese elms, the white porch, the brick path, the flowering oregano bushes, the Steinway grand, the porcelain vases, the shelves and shelves of books: Culture & Anarchy, Multilingual Lexicon of Linguistics and Philology, Cassell’s Italian Dictionary, The World and The Text. You run your hands over the dusty spines. You finger the books. You feel yourself melting, slowly.

You know what else self found on the shelves in the main house? A copy of the literary magazine Story, which was the first American magazine to ever publish her. The story was “Ginseng.” Actually, self didn’t find the magazine; another writer did, and showed it to her. Wow! Amazing!

Stay tuned.

The Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books Issue (Weekend, Nov. 22 – 23, 2014)

The following list is made up of the books self felt most interested in reading after perusing the Wall Street Journal’s Holiday Books (2014) issue:

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, by Hermione Lee (Knopf, 488 pages, $35)

Offshore, Penelope Fitzgerald’s Booker-Prizewinning novel of 1979

Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History, by Rhonda K. Garelick (Random House, 570 pages, $35)

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr (Norton, 765 pages, $39.95)

Updike, by Adam Begley (Harper, 558 pages, $29.99)

The Novel: A Biography, by Michael Schmidt (Harvard University Press, 1,172 pages, $39.95)

The Age of the Vikings, by Anders Winroth (Princeton University Press, 320 pages, $29.95)

Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts (Viking, 926 pages, $45)

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf, 528 pages, $60)

The Mantle of Command:  FDR at War 1941 – 1942, by Nigel Hamilton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 514 pages, $30)

George Marshall: A Biography, by Debi and Irwin Unger (Harper, 352 pages, $35)

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (Viking, 564 pages, $36)

Rendezvous with Art, conversations between the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Philippe de Montebello and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, 248 pages, $35)

Frans Hals, by Seymour Silve (Phaidon, 400 pages, $125)

My Favorite Things, by Maira Kalman, a catalogue of 40 items in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Harper Design, 160 pages, $35)

The Only Way to Cross, by John Maxtone-Graham

SS United States, by John Maxtone-Graham (Norton, 245 pages, $75)

Surf Craft, by Richard Kenvin (MIT University Press, 192 pages, $29.95)

The Art of Things, an anthology of essays on good design, edited by Dominique Forest (Abbeville, 592 pages, $150)

Globes: 400 Years of Exploration, Navigation and Power, by Sylvia Sumira (University of Chicago Press, 224 pages, $45)

Me, Myself, and Us, by Brian R. Little (Public Affairs, 288 pages, $26.99)

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (Simon & Schuster, 565 pages, $30)

The Beatles Lyrics, edited by Hunter Davies (Little, Brown, 376 pages, $35)

The John Lennon Letters, edited by Hunter Davies

Mephisto, by Klaus Mann

 

 

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