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so many books, so little time

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Anna Kavan
Wittgenstein's Nephew
David McLintock, Thomas Bernhard

The Complete Shade Gardener

The Complete Shade Gardener - George H. Schenk Schenk's knowledge of what does and doesn't work in shade is excellent. The photos may be a little dated and many more cultivars are available now, but this is an indispensable reference, especially for gardeners with the dreaded dry shade.

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector

Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector - Benjamin Moser Pedant warning: Moser is inordinately fond of the phrase "begs the question" which does not mean "to raise or pose the question" as he and his publisher (OUP?!) seem to think it does.

Be advised that if you like to approach a novel somewhat unspoiled, and haven't yet read Lispector's The Passion According to G.H. (where it could be argued a sense of surprise is part of that story's effect), it won't be enough to skip the chapter dealing with that book as he goes on to deliver one honking great spoiler repeatedly in many successive chapters.

I discovered Lispector's work earlier this year and had high hopes for this biography, but I kept feeling as if I had to peer around Moser to get at Lispector. I found his focus on the mystical, religious aspects of her writing to not quite do justice to other aspects of her writing such as the surrealism, and her work in context of time, place, gender and fellow writers.

He's on sturdier ground during the first half of the book describing her family background and her early life.

I'd give Lispector 5 stars as a writer, but only 3 for this bio as it's just not a very good appraisal of her work.


Swimmy - Leo Lionni My very favorite book from childhood and one I've remembered all my life. Just beautiful.

The War of Dreams

The War of Dreams - Angela Carter Ordinarily I like a bit of metaphysical wankery in novels, but this was a chore to get through. There's a great deal of sexual violence and I just wasn't feeling the -philias.

A Sorrow Beyond Dreams

A Sorrow Beyond Dreams - Peter Handke, Ralph Manheim, Jeffrey Eugenides ...disorder, cold, and silence drive me to distraction;...

And so seven weeks after his mother's suicide at the age of 51, Handke makes himself sit down to write an account of her life, trying to avoid what he terms the "transformations" that would turn his story into art or allow him to distance himself as writers usually do.

In telling the tale of his mother's ordinary, conscribed and hopeless little life, he breaks your heart for this woman, and for many women of similar times and places and towns who didn't count for very much in the eyes of the world. Most sadly, not counting for much in their own eyes.

This book seeped into me as if I was blotting paper. An unforgettable read.

King Solomon's Carpet

King Solomon's Carpet - Barbara Vine Vine's books are always more about the who and why rather than the how and this also has that emphasis on character. However, this story about an assortment of lonely and floundering souls sharing a house takes a very long time to get going. Jarvis, the owner of the house, is writing a book about the London Underground while his very young cousin Jasper is getting to know the system in very foolhardy ways. Their storylines end up being more interesting than that of the weird love triangle who drive the action in the last quarter of the book when the threads finally pull tight.

That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (New York Review Books Classics)

That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana (New York Review Books Classics) - Carlo Emilio Gadda Imagonnabe thinking about this one for a while. Gadda and this novel had a mention in Enrique Vilas-Matas' totally wonderful Bartleby & Co. as a book the writer couldn't/wouldn't finish.

That awful mess a crime novel without resolution--an armed robbery plus a murder that may or may not be connected. It's a cutting misanthropic/misogynist social satire of Rome circa 1927, in the early days of Mussolini's reign. It's an exercise in playing with language from puns and near obscenities to dialect, sentence fragments and serial abuse of the colon. And it's one of those rare books that make you revise your ideas of what writing is.

Gadda's style isn't so much stream of consciousness as puddles and drips and rivulets that splash all over the place. I don't mind dense writing but the scenes involving the carabinieri investigation in the second half of the book were something of a chore. Then too, the protagonist policeman Ingravallo and his secret emotional attachment to the murdered woman is what propels the story for me, not so much the carabinieri subplot. In the end it isn't only the crimes and connections that elude the philosophical Ingravallo, but himself.

An Alien Heat

An Alien Heat - Michael Moorcock 'Much can happen yet. After all there are at least a thousand years before the End of Time!'

The Victorian Chaise Longue

The Victorian Chaise Longue - Marghanita Laski Short and creepy novel that recalls the atmosphere of "The Yellow Wallpaper." A new mother recovering from TB finds herself yanked 90 years back to 1864 and a different identity, with seemingly only a piece of antique furniture to connect them. A sure cure for nostalgia.

Bartleby & Co.

Bartleby & Co. - Enrique Vila-Matas, Jonathan Dunne An incredibly fun read!

Red Shift

Red Shift - Alan Garner Thanks to some perceptive reviewers on goodreads I'm giving this one another look after it whooshed over my head the first time. I'm reading the 1973 hardback edition without Garner's introduction. This is one of those books that needs context for its three stories.

Updated: I got far more out of the stories' allusions this time round, as well as more appreciation of Garner's super laconic prose. However, in terms of retelling the Tamlin story, Jan/corn goddess girl/Margery are pale and passive substitutes for the tale's Janet.

Any Day Now: A Novel

Any Day Now: A Novel - Terry Bisson An alternate history of the sixties, most particularly 1968 as seen through the eyes of Clay and his friends living on nearby communes. Rather disappointing overall with the historical changes feeling very arbitrary and not always completely in character from what I remember of that time. The commune life as well as individual radicalization from that time has been done so many times and I needed a better why and how for the historical changes.

The Zero

The Zero - Jess Walter Memento meets the post 9/11 novel in a very very good way.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams Form effs up content. I likely would have been more amused by Adams' humor/humour had I not read this in the world's worst ebook edition, my first try at borrowing one through my public library. Public library--whatever you paid for 4 copies of this--Rosetta Books haz dun robbed you. The proverbial monkeys would have caught more typographical errors, though "spewed on payment" for "spewed on pavement" was slightly amusing. Then I had my choice between unreadable tiny font and the larger but still unreadable line br
eaks that did t
his over and over again

Maybe this is why Marvin the depressed robot struck such a chord with me. Since I'm still sulking, 3 stars.

Little Fuzzy

Little Fuzzy - H. Beam Piper Awwww. A fast, fun sci-fi read featuring a conflict between an eeevil corporation and a newly discovered race of friendly little mammals who may or may not be legally sapient, but who are absolutely adorable (and that's before they adopt a tiny kitten).

(Has the usual gender and race issues of its time.)

Foam of the Daze

Foam of the Daze - Boris Vian, Brian Harper I bought this at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris because independent booksellers rock, especially this one....