Awesome Book Titles: The NYTBR of 15 September 2013

The Pile of Stuff is humongous!  Actually humongous!

There are issues of The New York Times Book Review dating as far back as September!

But self cannot bring herself to end her subscription, which she’s kept up for over a decade.

Anyhoo, she is as usual very short on time, so she does a quick browse-through of aforementioned issue of the NYTBR, and is so excited to discover (from reading the “By the Book” interview with Richard Dawkins) that he recommends a book called Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, because self absolutely needs to have guidance in this area.  And Dawkins recommends another book that self thinks would really help her in her social interactions:  Avoid Boring People, by the eminent Nobel-Prizewinning molecular biologist James D. Watson.

Dawkins also mentions that he has not interest in reading Pride and Prejudice because “I can’t get excited about who is going to marry whom, and how rich they are.”  But self IS greatly interested in the topic, so she adds Pride and Prejudice to her reading list (She read it decades ago; it’s definitely time for a re-read!)

This issue of The NYTBR also has a funny story about Gary Kamiya, and it turns out he is a pack rat, just like self.  His new book has a fabulous title:  Cool Gray City of Love:  49 Views of San Francisco.

This issue’s Fabulous Author Photo (There’s always at least one, in every issue) belongs to Chinelo Okparanta.  Kudos for not only having a Fabulous Author Photo, but for actually being exotic, Ms. Okparanta!  She migrated to America from Nigeria at the age of 10, and the first part of her book, Happiness, Like Water: Stories — the “more powerful” part, according to reviewer Ligaya Mishan — is set in Nigeria.

There is also another fabulously titled book:  an essay collection called Sister Mother Husband Dog (Etc.) by one of the fabulous Ephrons (Nora passed away recently, but thank goodness she had writing offspring like Delia Ephron to perpetuate the legacy).

At the very back of the issue is a section called “The Shortlist,” and here are four International Thrillers, which includes The Kill List, Frederick Forsyth’s latest, and Masaryk Station, which sounds like it ought to be by Martin Cruz Smith but is actually written by David Downing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Currents: What Self Is Interested in Reading Now (19 October 2013)

  • a translation from the French by a writer whose name self encountered for the first time only a few hours ago:  Daniel Arsand.  The novel is Lovers.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (perhaps self’s favorite book of her childhood. Other than The Hobbit)
  • a book about the terrible things that happened in a New Orleans hospital during Hurricane Katrina:  Five Days at Memorial, by Katy Butler
  • a story collection by Tom Barbash:  Stay Up With Me
  • a memoir, by Amanda Lindhout, of what happened after she was kidnapped and held for ransom in Somalia:  A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
  • A Thousand Pardons, a new novel from Jonathan Dee (Malcolm Gladwell recommended it in the By the Book interview)
  • Janet Malcolm’s Psychoanalysis:  The Impossible Profession
  • James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice
  • James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity
  • Tim Parks’s 2011 memoir, Teach Us to Sit Still

(The list is made up of books reviewed in the September 8, 2013 and October 6, 2013 issues of The New York Times Book Review.)

Self is still on The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  Sometime in the near future, she’s going to switch gears.  She’s just added Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum, to her reading list.  Let’s just hope she doesn’t wind up reading them during the Christmas holidays: it might result in the blog developing a rather schizophrenic feel.  Especially if she starts interspersing images of holiday festivity with images of human cruelty.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Nicholson Baker on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog via NYTBR

Bottom of p. 4, The New York Times Book Review of Sunday, 25 August 2013:


I look on the Internet, and there’s a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t seem any different to me than it felt like when I used to go to a newsstand and there was Elle magazine and professional-wrestling magazines and highbrow magazines, men’s fashion, women’s fashion, comics, just that . . .  blast of everythingness that comes at you.  Well, that’s what comes out of the computer screen now.  It’s very similar in its . . .  texture to what the newsstand, let’s say, at Harvard Square felt like back in the day.

—  Nicholson Baker, on The New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog

Reflections, Prompted By Sunday, 11 August 2013 Issue of The New York Times Book Review

The review of Dossier K., Imre Kertesz’s latest book and his first nonfiction, is by Martin Riker, an English professor at Washington University in St. Louis.  His review begins:

Two of the great pessimistic proclamations of 20th-century literature —  Adorno’s “To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric” and Beckett’s “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” —  have at least one thing in common.  They both address the inadequacy of language to articulate reality.

At the end Read the rest of this entry »

Awesome Quote of The Last Tuesday of August 2013

It’s been a while since self has quoted anything from the grand, old New York Times Book Review.  These days, she tends to quote more from The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

But — hello?  Will wonders never cease?  Here she is, at the tail end of summer, ready to quote from The New York Times Book Review of Sunday, 11 August 2013.

The quote is from documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (He made The Thin Blue Line), and it comes to us courtesy of Tania James, in her review of Nikita Lalwani’s “powerful second novel,” The Village.

Morris, according to Ms. James, calls “the claims of cinéma vérité —  the style of documentary that privileges direct and unobtrusive observation — ‘spurious.’ “

She quotes Morris saying:  “Style does not guarantee truth.  The use of available light and a handheld camera does not mean that what you are doing is any more truthful than anything else.  Truth is a pursuit, it’s a quest.”

You’re so right, Errol!  She’ll be using your quote in her future creative writing classes, for sure!

Stay tuned.

To Read (Five Summers From Now, Probably)

Here are self’s selections from the big, fat New York Times Book Review Summer Reading issue.  It’s sad, really, but self only came up with a handful of books.  She decided that, given the snail’s pace at which she’s been reading lately, from now on she has to exercise maximum discretion in adding books to her reading list:

two by Patricia Highsmith:  People Who Knock on the Door and Deep Water (recommended by Alexander McCall Smith)

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe (Self finds the title exceedingly corny, but this one was recommended by Joy Williams)

Lady at the O. K. Corral:  The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp, by Ann Kirschner (reviewed by Sara Wheeler, who says the book “deftly conjures the thrill and squalor of frontier boomtowns and mining camps.”  Sold!)

two new mysteries:  The Square of Revenge, by Belgian author Pieter Aspe, and The Body in the Piazza, by Katherine Hall Page (reviewed by Marilyn Stasio)

three classic travel books:  Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands are Blue, by Paul Bowles; Falconry in the Valley of the Indus, by Richard Burton; and The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles (mentioned by Chris Wallace in the end-paper essay, “Literary Excursions,” about “the adventure-memoirists of earlier generations.”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

John Updike By Way of NYTBR 12 May 2013

“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.”  —  John Updike

Self pondered this.  She felt like adding, Yeah, spoken like a man with money.  Spoken like a man with a job.

But then she remembered:  This is America!  You don’t need money!  You just need a credit card!  And if you go broke, you can just declare bankruptcy, and then rise, Phoenix-like, from the flames!

She had uncles and aunts who did this all the time.  Repossessed Jaguars and Mercedes Benzes were all over their credit records.  But that never seemed to stop them from getting loans for new Jaguars, new Benzes.

She’ll never forget the saleswoman in the glass store in The Venetian (Las Vegas).  Browsing, self saw the most fabulous amber-colored drop earrings.  She didn’t have enough cash, so she asked the saleswoman, “Do you take Discover?”

“Honey,” the woman said.  “This is Las Vegas.  We take American Express, Mastercard, Visa, Discover, Diner’s Club, check, post-dated check, you name it!”


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Books Mentioned in The New York Times Book Review, 30 September 2012

Isn’t it wonderful how self keeps finding NYTBR issues from last year?

Here’s one that isn’t too long ago:  it’s from September 2012.

In this issue, the “By the Book” interview is With Michael Chabon, who just happens to be reading Moonraker, by Ian Fleming (written 1955).  He also mentions Cloud Atlas, and Ben Marcus (author of The Flame Alphabet) and three of what he thinks are classics of “genre fiction”:  The Turn of the Screw, Heart of Darkness, and Blood Meridian.  Next on his reading list:  Beyond Black, by Hilary Mantel, and Diamonds are Forever.

There is a review of Love Bomb, a novel by Lisa Zeidner, that refers to a previous novel by Ayelet Waldman, Red Hook Road (which self will try and read).

Finally, there is a review by Christian Bauman (who served with the United States Army in Somalia and Haiti) of Fobbit, by David Abrams, a novel whose hero is assigned to a public affairs team in a “Forward Operating Base,” or FOB, in Iraq. (“Dead soldiers,” according to Abrams’ hero, “were now little more than objects to be loaded onto the back of C-130s somewhere and delivered like pizzas to the United States.”)


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Fiona Maazel’s End Paper Essay in the NYTBR (31 March 2013)

Too tired to do much except quote, this evening.  Bella The Ancient One seems uncommonly hungry.

The excerpt below is from Fiona Maazel’s very interesting essay, “A Crack in the Darkness,” in the NYTBR of 31 March 2013:

That old dictum, write what you know?  I’ve always thought that was terrible advice.  Most of us don’t know much.  And what we do know can feel shopworn in the retelling.  Shopworn or just divested of emotional content.  Sometimes, the things we’re closest to —  in our lives, for instance —  are the very things we least want to examine with rigor.

So I prefer:  Write what you can learn about.  Alternately:  write what interests you.  Because it interests you for a reason, and that reason probably has to do with the rough stuff of your inner life.  Put differently, writing about things you don’t know seems a useful, albeit sneaky, gateway to material you cannot access otherwise.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tra-La, Tra-La, a New NYTBR Post (from Issue 3 March 2013)

The “By the Book” interview is with Garry Wills.  In keeping with his stature as a heavyweight intellectual, his recommended tomes are mostly tremendously serious books, for example:  Through the Eye of a Needle, by Peter Brown; David Balfour, by Robert Louis Stevenson; and The Acts and Monuments, about the upheavals of Reformation England, by John Foxe.

The Fun Parts, a collection of short stories by Sam Lipsyte, endorsed by Currently Famous Short Story Writer Ben Fountain

Schroder, a novel by Amity Gaige (Self realizes she’s already read a chapter of this novel; it was in One Story)

A couple of novels by chick-lit writer Lucinda Rosenfeld, including the just-published The Pretty One:  A Novel About Sisters.  According to reviewer Emily Cooke, “None of the women have the lives they once envisioned, and they won’t let one another forget it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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