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cynesthesia

so many books, so little time

Currently reading

Ice
Anna Kavan
Wittgenstein's Nephew
David McLintock, Thomas Bernhard

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern - Stephen Greenblatt I suppose "On the Nature of Things: One of the Ways the World Became Modern" doesn't have quite the same ring as a title. That aside, this is a wonderfully written and stimulating look at the rediscovery of an ancient text that rhymed beautifully with the humanist currents of the Renaissance and later. In also telling the story of Poggio who rediscovered the work in the fifteenth century, it's a fascinating look at the intrigues and corruption of the papal courts of that time.

But why oh why are there no markers in the text for the extensive endnotes in the back matter?

The Color of Magic

The Color of Magic  - Terry Pratchett A good start to Discworld including a taste of the Watch, the Unseen University and YOU KNOW WHO. The later novels are funnier and more assured, but this adventure with the expelled wizard Rincewind and a hapless tourist is a nice send up of the usual fantasy tropes.

Creating Art at the Speed of Life: 30 Days of Mixed-Media Exploration

Creating Art at the Speed of Life: 30 Days of Mixed-Media Exploration - Pam Carriker Useful tips and prompts.

Death Sentence

Death Sentence - Maurice Blanchot, Lydia Davis Very challenging. Blanchot has someone say of a dying woman that her pulse "scattered like sand" and so that seems to happen with the words and impressions of this short and strange novel. It may take more than a second reading to begin to feel my way through this one.

A Wreath of Roses (Virago Modern Classics Ser. )

A Wreath of Roses (Virago Modern Classics Ser. ) - Elizabeth Taylor Sharply realized characterizations in this Taylor novel from 1949 with a darker undercurrent than I've found in her other books.

Some of the very best passages deal with the now elderly painter and former governess Frances, at whose cottage two younger women have come for their accustomed summer holiday.
Alone, with the door locked, she felt safe to paint and to be herself. To her, work was a loosening of will, a throwing down of defences. Sitting back, utterly malleable, her personality discarded like a snake's skin, she became receptive and, so, creative.


The tension between who we really are and who we say we are, or who others expect us to be runs throughout the novel. A wonderful psychological read. There's almost the hint of an English Highsmith in the suitor who may not be quite what he seems.

Selected Stories

Selected Stories - Robert Walser, Susan Sontag, Christopher Middleton Oscar Wilde is not the only writer to have made the paradox into a kind of art form. Walser walks a line in these very short stories between looking inward and outward, happiness and sadness, connection and loneliness. In a sketch called "Nervous" a sentence that begins "I am not old, not in the least..." leads to the next one where he reflects "Quite definitely I am a little old and used up."

Walser's touch is always light enough that this endless negotiation inside the self doesn't become navel-gazing, but a search for balance and awareness in an uncertain world that's nonetheless often beautiful. Despite the mental suffering in his life, spending his last 23 years in a mental institution, Walser managed wit, charm, a sense for the absurd and often humor in his writing.

I could have marked passages on every other page, but it's a library book. I seldom buy copies of books I've read after the fact. This one I will.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb

The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Jane Rogers I think Dorothy Parker best describes my reaction to this novel:
This is not a book to be put aside lightly. It should be thrown across the room with great force.

And that's only at the halfway mark.

Circles of Deceit

Circles of Deceit - Nina Bawden Rather slight novel to have made the Booker shortlist. The first person narrator, a copier of paintings, is more than a little pompous and self-regarding, especially when it comes to the women in his life. I would have wished for more about Tim, the schizophrenic son.

The Flamethrowers

The Flamethrowers - Rachel Kushner Rating deleted. I can't in good conscience keep ratings for books by any of the 204 writers who signed the letter protesting the award for courage PEN gave to Charlie Hebdo. Such willful obtuseness by writers, of all people, toward freedom of expression is very troubling and sad.

The Collected Stories

The Collected Stories - Elizabeth Bowen My paperback copy from the 80s has disintegrated along with the glue, and long before I got to all the stories. The handful of supernatural stories such as "The Demon Lover" are really wonderful. I'm too stubborn and completist to give up on the mess so I'm working through this a chunk of pages at a time.

Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Really good writing can reach the universal through the telling of the specific. Adichie's excellent and painful book does just that.

Quilting with a Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilt Community

Quilting with a Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilt Community - Rachel May Some great eye candy from a variety of modern quilters and bloggers.

The Gormenghast Novels

The Gormenghast Novels - Quentin Crisp, Anthony Burgess, Mervyn Peake How peculiar. A few days ago I typed a couple lines about getting close to finishing the trilogy and the BBC series. Um, where did it go? Has the Goodreads blue pencil swooped down from The Cloud and erased my insufficiently review-y review? /metaphor mixing

What.The.Fuschia?

Les choses

Les choses - Georges Perec Read the Helen R. Lane translation to English, published in hardcover by Grove Press, 1967.

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses - Mary M. Innes, Ovid This edition is the Innes prose translation.

Magister Ludi

Magister Ludi - Hermann Hesse This will be a re-read at some point. All I can really recall from my dim youth, when Hesse was very very popular, was the characters playing something that was like eleventy dimensional chess only with glass beads.