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cynesthesia

so many books, so little time

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Ice
Anna Kavan
Wittgenstein's Nephew
David McLintock, Thomas Bernhard
SPOILER ALERT!
A God in Ruins - Kate Atkinson

Hours and hours after I finished this, incendiaries were dropping in my mind, showing up how beautifully this novel is constructed, and what an emotional pull there is to a book that I read far more slowly than its complement and predecessor Life After Life and thought I might be less engaged in. Nope. Kate Atkinson redeemed a nasty character and brought me to tears with only two sentence fragments.

 

[Oh, Viola. At last. (hide spoiler)]

And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie The "locked island" classic. One of Christie's best, maybe because it's harder to completely unravel than many of her mysteries.

S is for Silence

S is for Silence - Sue Grafton My fun book for a trip to Seattle, reading while the twilight went on forever outside the hotel window.

Solid writing and characterization, as well as a convincing look at the enmeshment of small town life. It's been ages since I read Grafton, and had forgotten how good she is.

The Sound of his Horn

The Sound of his Horn - Sarban, John William Wall, Kingsley Amis Adequate alternate if-the-Nazis-had won history. A little too long to be an effective story and a little too thin for novel-length, but the theme of being hunted works well enough.

The Bat: The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original)

The Bat: The First Inspector Harry Hole Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Original) - Jo Nesbo This is my 4th Nesbø book and I'm so glad it wasn't the first I read because the later Harry Hole (not Holy, but Hoo-leh) books are much much better in terms of characterization, plotting, tension, etc.

(The Snowmanwas my first and it was terrific and Headhunters is a great stand alone.)

There were times the middle section of The Bat promised to develop into something compelling, but the last stretch was as unsatisfying as the first part.

One star off for how Birgitta ends up a victim of some unbelievable plot machinations.

The Passion According to G.H.

The Passion According to G.H. - Clarice Lispector, Idra Novey, Benjamin Moser The whooshing sound was many passages in this book soaring over my head. Still, this is key to Lispector's own sort of mysticism and her prose is as ecstatic as it can be paradoxical and philosophical.

The Book of Skulls

The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg Brilliant technically and in its conception but what a steaming pile of hot young male privilege this is. I kept having the feeling that I wasn't so much reading about 4 stock college characters as Four Aspects of Robert Silverberg in a Novel About a Quest for Enlightenment™.

Published in 1973, this may be the most inadvertent damning I've ever seen of a decade known for excesses. He can be a great writer, but gold can tarnish over the years.

The Widower

The Widower - Georges Simenon, Robert Baldick This isn't really a crime novel, unlike Simenon's other romans durs I've read. But it is the same fleet, finely tuned writing that says so much more about isolation and alienation than what appears on the page.

Jeantet's carefully constructed life begins to crack when he arrives home to find his wife missing. The book's title answers whether or not she will be coming back.

Throughout the story he often tells himself that now he is a widower. For him that word becomes a process, as little by little it's revealed to him what exactly has been lost.

Given that in real life GS could be a jerk toward women, his portrait of Madame Jeantet is sensitive, respectful.

Not Simenon's best perhaps, but his near misses are still damn good.

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You - Ella Berthoud, Susan Elderkin Ah, fiction booklists, books with fiction booklists, and now a book about the therapeutic uses of fiction for various malaises.

The Novel Cure probably is best dipped into over time, not read in one gulp because it has to go back to the library. Some of the flaws show more at that pace, such as silly 10 books lists (what to read while someone is snoring), rather glib book suggestions for serious stuff (physical scars, illness), and some summaries for books I've read that seem somewhat to miss the point of the novel in question (hint: Doctor Faustus is about more than just one guy losing his soul). Also, there's too much information for those who don't like spoilers (the whole fricking plot of Wuthering Heights!?).

However there are times Berthoud and Eldurkin get things absolutely right in talking with a lot of wit, perception and empathy about terrific books such as The Sisters Brothers (wrong career) and Life: a user's manual (pointlessness). There's a nice balance between English-language writers and writers in translation. Likewise between lighter and serious fiction.

Overall, I find the concept interesting and worthwhile, to make somewhat deliberate reading choices based on what's going on in the reader's emotional life.

Most booklovers have had the serendipitous experience of reading the right book at the very right time. Books have lanced boils on my soul, lightened my heart, helped me connect ideas and often inspired my artwork.

Overall, worthwhile checking out for the concept and simply to get fresh reading ideas. Real bibliotherapy would have to be highly specific and go deeper into how someone reacts to a book.

Personally I may have a reading addiction problem--dishes in the sink, losing track of time, fidgets when I haven't read for a few hours....

On Such a Full Sea

On Such a Full Sea - Chang-rae Lee What hasty preparations we make for our future. Think of it: it seems almost tragic, the things we're sure we ought to bring along. We pack too heavy with what we hope we'll use, and too light of what we must. We thus go forth misled, ill equipped for the dawn.

How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance

How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance - Marilyn Yalom Because Valentine's Day!

Offshore

Offshore - Penelope Fitzgerald Short and wonderfully written novel about a small group of misfits living on barges along the Thames in London. Fitzgerald manages to be sharp, funny, and compassionate toward her characters and the terrific writing about the big tidal river is informed by her own time spent living on a boat in London. Two precocious sisters get all the best lines:

"It's his own fault if he's kind. It's not the kind who inherit the earth, it's the poor, the humble, and the meek."
"What do you think happens to the kind, then?"
"They get kicked in the teeth."

The Empathy Exams: Essays

The Empathy Exams: Essays - Leslie Jamison I'm only a few pages into the first essay where Jamison recounts her experiences as a medical actor playing patient roles for med students. Already, this is very thoughtful and illuminating writing.

Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must really be hard—it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to.

The Book of Disquiet

The Book of Disquiet - Richard Zenith, Fernando Pessoa, Richard Zenith, Fernando Pessoa Still in progress: I've been reading this off and on for over a year. Filled with paradoxes, synesthesia, and threads of thought that are sometimes gossamer, I take back what I said earlier. This is one of the densest books I've ever read.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn I finally managed to get around to this before being completely spoiled for either it or the movie, although even the tv trailers were spoilery. I'm still conflicted about some of the underlying stereotypes packed in here, but as far as a well-constructed page-turning thriller goes, it succeeds.

All My Puny Sorrows

All My Puny Sorrows - Miriam Toews I've spent the last week wondering if this book really was as good as I thought it was.

Can a book about suicidality and the co-existence of great pain and great gifts in one person also be healing in some way? Can moments of great humor in the storytelling escape being in some way manipulative and trite? Are there still things left to say about being sisters? Was this one of the best contemporary novels I read this year? Yes, all across the board.