I remembered reading Louise Glück before but I didn’t go back and refresh my memory on what I said about The Seven Ages until after I read this book. I think I have to deduce that I’m not that into her poetry as I could almost say the exact thing this time around.
The title refers to the lake in...more
There are many interesting takes on “modern” life in this collection of poems. From the kind of anachronistically futurist Robo-Boy placed in a banal contemporary setting to the militarily apocalyptic series that maps words found between future and terror in the dictionary. The two semi-abecedarian series ascend the alphabet in one and descend in the other but maintain the...more
For some reason I always assumed this novel was ﬁrst of all science ﬁction and secondly a sequel, and it deﬁnitely is neither. Not sure where I got confused — maybe I was thinking of Eraserhead?
Set between the wars in upper-class England, it is instead an über-nostalgic story of middle-class Charles Ryder’s relationship with the more upper-crust Flyte family and...more
It’s a little ridiculous how long I’ve been reading this book, considering it’s less than 100 pages long. It doesn’t even feel so dense but running at such a blistering pace that it’s a diﬃcult to continually put it down and pick it back up again, as it becomes necessary to constantly backtrack to get back up to speed. I...more
Like The Botany of Desire, this book looks at four representative categories, this time diﬀerent food chains: industrial, organic, local, and personal. The trail of corn...more
It’s been many years since I last re-read The Master and Margarita… [I believe this link is for the Michael Glenny translation — there’s some debate as to the best one… I own the Burgin/Tiernan O’Connor, but I’ve heard some people like the Mirra Ginsberg even though that is a translation of the censored version of the book.]...more
An intriguing concept, pairing a memoir about living through the Iranian Revolution and the resulting totalitarian regime with literary criticism of Western literature as an attempt to put it all into perspective. Unfortunately Naﬁsi’s eﬀort fell ﬂat to me, mostly because the writing feels too weak for the task.
The structure of the book itself is confusing, as she shifts around...more
I managed to get through all my schooling without ever reading The Grapes of Wrath (or any other Steinbeck novel), and since all sorts of people keep saying how “timely” it is, my curiosity got the best of me. Initially it felt like slogging through required reading until a certain point where I was amazed at “how timely!” it is....more
Years ago I read Jane Eyre for the sole purpose of reading Rhys’s retelling of it from the perspective of the woman locked in the attic. Luckily the book stands solidly on its own so my now hazy memories of Jane Eyre didn’t get in the way.
I love how this book describes a meandering journey that somehow always seems to stay in the same place as it progresses. Really, it’s two meandering journeys: in one, an old man and a young boy, refugees from Mozambique’s long civil war, seek refuge in a crashed and charred bus. While the duo never venture far from the bus, the...more
I have to admit I felt bored with the ﬁrst part of this short story collection. Not really because the stories themselves were boring to me — Lahiri has a consistently elegant storytelling approach that I enjoy — but because the consistency itself pulls it down as a collection. It’s almost like each story arcs in such a similar fashion that they seem to...more
After seeing the movie version recently, I heard that the book is apparently excellent as well — in that “so bad, it’s good” sort of way, of course. I’d been struggling to get into Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives and felt like I could use something a little trashier for crowded commutes on the N train. For that, it was...more
Jorge Luis Borges
I’ve wanted to read something by Borges for a while but I always felt intimidated by his reputation of “superhuman erudition.” Most of this book is pretty cerebral with stories that are really academic-sounding fake histories; yet as the book progresses, the stories edge into the accessible range.
I took too long to type this up and don’t have the patience...more
“Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacriﬁce” is probably the best story in this book. Largely autobiographical, a writer in the Iowa Writer’s Workshop follows the drunken suggestion of a colleague to mine his father’s experience in Vietnam because “Ethnic literature’s hot.” His father conveniently arrives for a visit, and he feeds a new page into...more
In the strongest sense, letterforms do not age but become ﬁxed to a period of time primarily in their application. Longevity is often precluded by blatant design approaches that are banal, modish, and consequently ephemeral. Many products and graphics are designed to seize the moment and cash in on a popular idea.
When I ﬁrst browsed through this book, I...more
It was a little funny to read this slim little book directly after Play it as it Lays, as they are both wrapped so much in hot weather and it’s been colder and colder lately.
There’s something soap-operatic about this terse novel detailing a vaguely successful Hollywood actress’s nervous breakdown. Avoiding histrionics, the story details all the gossipy founders of Maria Wyeth with glances to her similarly challenged friends. Despite the concise nature of Didion’s prose, she manages to paint nuanced settings, from the freeways Maria drives all day for a while just to ﬁll...more
A few years ago I abandoned my vegetarianism and started adding ﬁsh to my diet. Mostly I felt like I needed variety in my protein sources, but also there are a lot of nutritional beneﬁts to eating ﬁsh. I’ve looked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Guide many times, but have always found it diﬃcult to consistently remember...more
An attractive tight-back bound book with edge-stained pages, Make it Bigger is at its heart a survey of Scher’s work from the 70s through the 90s. Yet it feels more like a memoir or a study of process than just a portfolio of her work. I loved her discussion of discovering how to “sell down” designs at CBS Records...more
Reading this book on the subway was probably not the best approach, but I managed to struggle through it. Auster’s earlier poems have some overwrought tendencies, but in a way all of his poems ﬁt together as a larger work, making this collected volume very useful. He’s attached to images of stones and whiteness and snow among other things, and...more