Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Reading out loud

May 18, 2015

In yesterday’s NYT Book Review, a set of reviews of audiobooks, including one by by Kathryn Harrison of Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow as read by Patti Smith. Harrison sees a mismatch between the novel’s protagonist Olav as she understands him and Olav in Smith’s speech style (which Harrison refers to as diction).

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Two books

May 16, 2015

From the NYT Book Review of last Sunday (May 10th), bits from two reviews that caught my eye: Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts reviewed by Jennifer Szalai; and Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino (a memoir combined with analysis of the same-sex marriage case) reviewed by Lincoln Caplan. I haven’t read either book (though I’ve read and posted about other things by Yoshino). But I was intrigued by the reviewers’ comments.

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Morning Olives

May 13, 2015

This morning’s name was Olive Schreiner — puzzling, until I realized that I had probably gotten to Schreiner via Olive Higgins Prouty (through the name Olive), and Prouty probably bubbled up in my subconscious because I’d recently seen references to Stella Dallas in Zippy cartoons. A long and winding road.

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Shirley Jackson

May 13, 2015

In the NYT Book Review on Sunday (the 10th), for Mothers Day, a fascinating essay by Ruth Franklin, “Shirley Jackson’s ‘Life Among the Savages’ and ‘Raising Demons’ Reissued”:

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Confessions of a Comma Queen

May 11, 2015

Back on April 4th, I posted about two language-related pieces in the New Yorker, the first a reminiscence by Mary Norris about jobs she had held, tracing her route to the copydesk at that magazine and her career as a “comma queen”. About that time the expansion of this essay into a book appeared: Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (W. W. Norton). And now some reviews, including one by Patricia O’Conner in the NYT Book Review on April 19th, beginning:

Copy editors are a peculiar species (I’ve been one myself, and at the very publication you are now reading). But those at The New Yorker are something else entirely, a species nova that mutated into existence in 1925 and would hurl itself off a cliff rather than forsake the dieresis in “coöperate.”

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More on Oliver Sacks

May 7, 2015

A posting yesterday, “Oliver Sacks and Sexuality”, about Jerome Groopman’s NYRB review of Sacks’s On the Move: A Life, with considerable discussion of Sacks’s homosexuality — and the stunning cover of the book, with a 1961 photo of a hunky Sacks on his motorcycle. Now, two more reviews, one with another hunk photo, the other with personal recollections from a friend.

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Briefly: Oliver Sacks and sexuality

May 6, 2015

In the May 21st New York Review of Books, a touching review (“The Victory of Oliver Sacks”) by Jerome Groopman of the neurologist’s autobiography, On the Move: A Life. A complex, restless, passionate life, full of accomplishment — and now soon to come to an end, as Sacks revealed in a clear-eyed essay (“My Own Life”) in the New York Times in February.

One thread (of many) in this life is Sack’s sexuality. When his beloved mother learned that he was gay, he reports in his book, she thundered, “You are an abomination. I wish you had never been born” and then never spoke of the matter again. Sacks writes now:

her words haunted me for much of my life and played a major role in inhibiting and injecting with guilt what should have been a free and joyous expression of sexuality.

That was in the England of the 1950s, when, as Sacks emphasizes, homosexuality was treated not only as a perversion but as a criminal offense. Many years later, at the age of 77, he found love with a male partner.

We think of Sacks these days as a genial graybeard (which he certainly is):

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But here he is in Greenwich Village in 1961, a rebellious hunk in his leathers, in a photo chosen for the cover of his autobiography:

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A sense of place

April 28, 2015

As Baltimore rages, I’m moved to polish up a piece that’s been sitting on my computer for some months, about how the city has been represented over the years, in print, in film, and on television. The city about which F. Scott Fitzgerald (who lived there for five years in the 1930s) said, “I belong here, where everything is civilized and gay and rotted and polite.”

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Unconventional lives

April 28, 2015

Following up on my posting on Elsa Lanchester, some remarks on her unconventional family and her relationship with Charles Laughton. And then notes on the spectacularly unconventional lives of Lord Berners and Robert Heber-Percy.

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A playful poetic footnote

April 26, 2015

In my “More detection” posting, we came across writer E. C. Bentley, with fame in two areas. From Wikipedia:

E. C. Bentley (full name Edmund Clerihew Bentley; 10 July 1875 – 30 March 1956) was a popular English novelist and humorist of the early twentieth century, and the inventor of the clerihew, an irregular form of humorous verse on biographical topics.

… His detective novel, Trent’s Last Case (1913), was much praised, numbering Dorothy L. Sayers among its admirers, and with its labyrinthine and mystifying plotting can be seen as the first truly modern mystery. It was adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952. The success of the work inspired him, after 23 years, to write a sequel, Trent’s Own Case (1936). There was also a book of Trent short stories, Trent Intervenes.

… From 1936 until 1949 Bentley was president of the Detection Club.

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