NYTBR 14 March 2010: A Not So Short List

Well, this issue of The New York Times Book Review was full of interesting reviews. Perhaps the old fuddy-duddy is changing with the times, after all! Without further ado, these are the books self is interested in reading, after perusing the 14 March 2010 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1.    After reading Joshua Hammer’s (absolutely riveting) review of Jim Frederick’s Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death:

  • Jim Frederick’s Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death

2.   After reading Leah Hager Cohen’s review of Lionel Shriver’s latest novel, So Much for That:

  • Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That

3.    After reading Jim Holt’s review of Stephen S. Hall’s Wisdom:  From Philosophy to Neuroscience:

  • An earlier book by Stephen S. Hall:  Size Matters

4.    After reading Terrence Rafferty’s review of Chang-rae Lee’s new novel, The Surrendered:

  • Chang-rae Lee’s new novel, The Surrendered

5.    After reading Eric Ormsby’s review of Jonathan Phillips’ Holy Warriors:  A Modern History of the Crusades:

  • Jonathan Phillips’  Holy Warriors:  A Modern History of the Crusades

6.    After reading Marilyn Stasio’s “Crime” column, the following mysteries:

  • Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo’s first novel to be translated into English, The Redbreast
  • Cara Black’s 10th Aimée Leduc mystery, Murder in the Palais Royal

7.    After reading Jennifer Schuessler’s end-paper essay, “Take This Job and Write It,” the following work-centered novels:

  • John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy
  • Morris Dickstein, Dancing in the Dark
  • Sloan Wilson’s Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
  • Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road
  • Ed Parks’ Personal Days
  • an anthology “of fiction about work” edited by David Gates, Labor Days

(Am very startled to discover, after reading Ms. Schuessler’s essay all the way to the end, that there are apparently no “work-related” novels written by women.  Or, at least, none worthy of being cited.  By a female essayist/scholar.  Does The Devil Wears Prada qualify?)

THE END!

NYTBR 7 March 2010: The Shortest List Ever

What is happening to The NYTBR?  Self began noticing, a few months ago, that interesting reviews were becoming few and far between.  For, you see, dear blog reader, self puts as much emphasis on a review as on the artifact —  er, book —  under review.  And lately, those have been so dull.  Self can say all this because she has never, ever had a book reviewed by The NYTBR, and probably never will, so she doesn’t give a hoot what they think (and they, obviously, don’t give a hoot about self, either!)

Here are the two books self is interested in reading after perusing NYTBR of 7 March 2010:

1.     After reading Joseph O’Neill’s review of Christopher de Bellaigue’s Rebel Land:  Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town (What a fabulous name for a writer!  In fact, self thinks it would be a crime for anyone born with a name like that not to be a writer!)

  • Christopher de Bellaigue’s Rebel Land:  Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town

2.     After reading Alexander McCall Smith’s (hysterical) review of Helen Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, in which the author assembles “a cast of utterly stock characters” and lets “them loose in a rural England that is now very different from the one imagined by earlier practitioners” of a genre he calls the “English village novel” :

  • Helen Simonson’s first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Antonya Nelson Reviews Robert Stone for The NYTBR

Self was going to go to the Post Office but then son called with an urgent request and then self decided that the only way to fulfill the request was to go painstakingly through her “pile of stuff” (which is huge and probably contains six months worth of back correspondence) and then the weather started to change and turn cloudy, and the day was not so nice, so self decided to give herself a break and eat the cheesecake she was going to surprise hubby with tonight …

Suffice it to say that it seems unlikely self will get to the post office today. Instead, she’s reading The New York Times Book Review of 31 January 2010 (which, come to think of it, was just yesterday) and there is a review by Read the rest of this entry »

Lo and Behold! A “99 Best Modern Novels” List circa 1984, from NYTBR

(Self, what is with you and all these lists?  Patience, dear blog readers.  Self is still getting back her sea legs after these hectic holiday doings.  Besides which, she is a little down in the dumps with son’s recent departure for the fabulous SLO, hence her resorting to the NYTBR archives!  Self promises, she’ll be right as rain in a jiffy!)

In 1984, esteemed A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess listed for NYTBR the books he considered “the 99 Best” Modern Novels.  Why this number instead of a round 100 is a mystery.  Or maybe the NYTBR editors requested 100 but Burgess wanted to be idiosyncratic.  Anyhoo, self peruses the Burgess list and decides, just for fun, to post only the books written by women.  And here are novels and authors who made it in to Burgess’ select 99 (listed in order of publication, earliest to latest):

  1. The Heat of the Day, Elizabeth Bowen
  2. Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor
  3. The Groves of Academe, Mary McCarthy
  4. The Bell, Iris Murdoch
  5. The Balkan Trilogy, Olivia Manning
  6. The Mighty and Their Fall, Ivy Compton-Burnett
  7. An Error of Judgement, Pamela Hansford-Johnson
  8. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  9. The Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark
  10. The Mandelbaum Gate, Muriel Spark
  11. The Late Bourgeois World, Nadine Gordimer
  12. How to Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong

—  the hell???  Only 12 books by women made it to the Fabulous 99!  And, naturally, the list leaves out all the women who were published after 1984 —  that is, all of those who were published in the last 25 years.

Why couldn’t someone have asked a woman what her list of “Best Modern Novels” was —  even if just to balance the Burgess, that is!

Of the above-named books, self has only read two:  Wise Blood and The Golden Notebook.  And she very shamefacedly admits to never having heard of Olivia Manning and Pamela Hansford-Johnson before.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

NYTBR 13 Dec. 2009: The 10 Best Books of 2009 Issue

Books self is interested in reading after perusing the 13 December 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1.    After reading the list of “10 Best Books of 2009”, the following books:

2.    After reading Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s review of Woody Holton’s Abigail Adams :

  • Woody Holton’s Abigail Adams

3.    After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime column, the following mysteries:

  • Joseph Wambaugh’s The New Centurions (1971), Hollywood Station, and Hollywood Crows (2008)
  • the newest in Charles Finch’s “beguiling Victorian mysteries”, The Fleet Street Murders
  • P. D. James’ Talking About Detective Fiction

4.    After reading Ruth Scurr’s review of novelist Louis Begley’s “retelling the story of the Dreyfus Affair”, Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters:

  • Louis Begley’s Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters

Tuesday Before Thanksgiving (2009): NYTBR 15 November

“No matter how good they were, some memories deserve to be forgotten.”

    —  Gary Sinise (tonight’s episode of “CSI New York”)

Self doesn’t know how she can still find time to blog, when tomorrow is the day when she has to start brining that (damn) 16-lb. turkey, all so that son can tell his friends back in San Luis Obispo what a good cook his mom is! Bleaaah! Why did she ever etc etc etc

Anyhoo, tomorrow is tomorrow, and this evening is this evening, and here’s the short list of books self is interested in reading, after perusing the 15 November 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1. After reading Susan Cheever’s (rave) review of Mary Karr’s new memoir, Lit:

2. After reading Harold Bloom’s review of Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales:

  • Peter Ackroyd’s The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

3. After reading Michael Greenberg’s review of Kay Redfield Jamison’s Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir:

  • Kay Redfield Jamison’s 1995 memoir, An Unquiet Mind
  • Kay Redfield Jamison’s Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir

4. After reading Clancy Martin’s review of Paul Auster’s Invisible:

  • Paul Auster’s Invisible

5. After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime Column:

  • Phoenix Noir, a collection of “noir” short stories edited by Patrick Millikin
  • Dial H for Murder, Susan Kandel’s latest mystery featuring amateur West Hollywood sleuth Cece Caruso
  • Derek Nikitas’ The Long Division (“At one point, we’re following three different cars on three different roads, each a vehicular stage where frantic parents and their miserable children can act out their sad fantasies.”)

NYTBR 8 November 2009: The Queen Mum, A Memoir, and A New Life of Samuel Johnson

Self skipped over new novels by Stephen King and John Irving —  no fault of their authors, but self found herself rather less than enthused after reading the reviews.  Below is the list of books self is interested in reading after perusing the 8 November 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1.    After reading Joe Queenan’s review of William Shawcross’ The Queen Mother:  The Official Biography :

  • William Shawcross’ The Queen Mother:  The Official Biography (“The authorized biography of a woman who was born as the 20th century was beginning and died about a year after it ended, it is a linear, you-are-there chronicle of the events of her life.  Mostly this means lunches, balls, charity events, shooting parties.”  Self is there, she is soooo there!)

2.    After reading Kate Christensen’s review of Rhoda Janzen’s memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress:  A Memoir of Going Home:

  • Rhoda Janzen’s Mennonite in a Little Black Dress:  A Memoir of Going Home

3.    After reading Harold Bloom’s review of a new biography of Samuel Johnson, David Nokes’ Samuel Johnson:  A Life :

  • David Nokes’ Samuel Johnson:  A Life
  • Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets
  • James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson

4.    After reading Joseph Salvatore’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle, the following novels:

  • A first novel by H. M. Naqvi, Home Boy
  • Sam Savage’s second novel, The Cry of the Sloth:  The Mostly Tragic Story of Andrew Whittaker, Being His Collected, Final, and Absolutely Complete Writings
  • Sam Savage’s first novel, Firmin

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Thursday Before Halloween (2009)

Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, which means the weekend will be very fun.  Fun, fun, fun, fun.

It is chilly in the house.  In the interests of conserving energy, we keep the thermostat down.  Self walks around all the time in sweats, scarf, and furry socks.

Son took his GRE yesterday: apparently, now you can see how you scored, immediately after, and he got 1400.  Happy happy joy joy!  Self has no idea where son plans to apply to grad school, hubby hopes Stanford but self thinks it isn’t the school for him.  She hopes University of Washington, as Seattle is a very cool city.

Story of the day is from One Story, lit mag which self realized (in a flash of insight, earlier this month) would never publish her.  The story is called “Stag.”  Once again it is set in some lonely Midwestern locale, where men are all like Cormac McCarthy protagonists.  Setting very bleak, very rife with anomie, and that unique American angst.

Though it is cold outside, self will walk the li’l crits.  In addition, she will see if she can find the following two books in the local Barnes & Noble:

  • Helen Oyeyemi’s first novel, The Icarus Girl:  According to the New York Times Book Review, this is about “the troubled daughter of a Nigerian mother and an English father . . .  who develops a malevolent imaginary friend.” (Yes!)
  • Chieh Chieng’s first novel, A Long Stay in a Distant Land which is described by NYTBR as “a generous family saga about an unlucky Cantonese-American clan from Orange County, Calif.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

NYTBR 11 October 2009: A Very Very Very Short List

The NYTBR of 11 October 2009 holds a few surprises, foremost among which is: a review of Dan Brown’s latest novel is the cover. And self actually finds herself wanting to read it (which is not to say the review is good. On the contrary, mon cheri, the reviewer goes after Mr. Brown with the greatest gusto self has witnessed since she watched the chainsaw-wielding murderer in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” But, what can one do? Self is incorrigibly entertained, or thinks she will be entertained, by reading Brown’s book. In fact, self has just made up her mind to finally read The Da Vinci Code!)

Without further ado, books self is interested in reading after perusing aforementioned issue:

1. After reading Maureen Dowd’s aggressively nasty review of Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol:

2. After reading Megan McArdle’s review of Lauren Weber’s “manifesto for extreme frugality,” In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue:

  • Lauren Weber’s In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue

3. After reading Joshua Hammer’s review of Francine Prose’s Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife:

  • Francine Prose’s Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife

The End!

NYTBR 27 September 2009: The Short List

Books self is interested in reading after perusing the September 27, 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1. After reading Susann Cokal’s review of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel, Her Fearful Symmetry:

2. After reading Edmund White’s review of Michael Greenberg’s Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life:

  • Michael Greenberg’s Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life

3. After reading Geoff Nicholson’s review of Bycicle Diaries, David Byrne’s account of riding his bike around in cities like London, Berlin, Buenos Aires and Manila:

  • David Byrne’s Bycicle Diaries

4. After reading Josh Bazell’s review of Tom Gilling’s new mystery, Seven Mile Beach:

  • Two earlier novels (“brilliant if occasionally precious”) by Tom Gilling: The Sooterkin and The Adventures of Miles and Isabel
  • Tom Gilling’s latest, Seven Mile Beach

5.    After reading Alison McCulloch’s review of Kate Grenville’s new novel, The Lieutenant:

  • Kate Grenville’s earlier novel (winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), The Secret River

6.    After reading Maria Russo’s short reviews in the Fiction Chronicle:

  • Jill McCorkle’s story collection, Going Away Shoes
  • Michelle Huneven’s novel about “a boozy college professor who wakes up one day in jail, having run down a mother and daughter with her car during an alcohol-induced blackout,” Blame

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