• Kafka was the Rage

    Anatole Broyard

    this claims to be a “Greenwich Village memoir,” but it didn’t give me much of a sense of greenwich village directly after WWII, perhaps because this book was never finished. the stories and perspectives are interesting, but it feels more like a series of sketches than a cohesive work.more

  • Forbidden Colors

    Yukio Mishima

    i stuck with this book even though i never really liked any of the characters. at the end i just felt ambivalent about the story in general. it always seems wrong to not care about the protagonist, but it’s worse to not care about anyone in the story or anything that happened at all.

    an aging misanthropic writer follows a...more

  • Fear of Dreaming

    Jim Carroll

    i picked this up randomly, though i should have learned by now that picking up poetry in that manner isn’t the best approach for me. Jim Carroll also wrote The Basketball Diaries, an autobiographical...more

  • Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

    Lorrie Moore

    kind of a fictional memoir of a middle-aged woman as she reminisces to herself about her best friend at fifteen. the familiar tone enriches the story, and the recounting of returning to her hometown after a long absence rang especially true. though the frog theme stuck into my subconscious in a bizarre way.

    ...more
  • A Fine Balance

    Rohinton Mistry

    i kept noticing people reading this on the train and then laura was reading it when i visited her in montreal. it turns out it’s an Oprah book, which is probably why so many people were reading it.

    i like epics lately — this one takes place...more

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    Stephen Chbosky

    i tend to like books written as letters or diaries, as i tend to have a harder time reminding myself it’s not real. the concept of anonymous letters from a freshman in high school written to a mysterious older person he doesn’t actually know somehow emphasizes that, even with the few awkward parts that struggle to maintain the weird...more

  • Rapture

    Susan Minot

    i think i got books mixed up. i remember looking at a book in a store recently and thinking it sounded good. i also saw this book and remembered how i read Minot’s book of poems several months ago. somehow this became the book i wanted to read, but i can’t recall the other book at all. i glanced at...more

  • Beloved Chicago Man: Letters to Nelson Algren 1947‑64

    Simone de Beauvoir

    Published as A Transatlantic Love Affair in the US

    it was bound to happen, and it was likely to be during the summer, that i would find many distractions from...more

  • The Beauty of the Husband

    Anne Carson

    all the Anne Carson books i’d like to take out at the library are always missing from the shelf — i finally took this one out so i could stop frowning at it. as i thought, i’m not so into the story here: it’s “the story of a marriage” and throughout the characters are called “the wife” and “the husband” but other...more

  • The River of Lost Voices

    Mark Brazaitis

    written by one of sandi’s professors at wvu, these stories are all set in guatemala. it’s a little weird reading stories about guatemala from the perspective of a white american, but he seems to bring light to the tense and...more

  • Power Politics

    Arundhati Roy

    we saw arundhati roy speak last month, with her cleverly titled Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free). i expected nothing less than these eloquent essays about globalization and privatization of public assets in india. her writing is so engaging and accessible that...more

  • Ship Fever

    Andrea Barrett

    the back of the book claims these are “set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century.” i don’t want to nitpick or anything, but several are mostly set in the twentieth century and two are set in the eighteenth century.

    the stories all hinge on the sciences — from genetics to zoology to public health to several other...more

  • New Addresses

    Kenneth Koch

    another recommendation from elissa, poems addressed to various things like “life” and “yes” and “the italian language” and “wars,” etc. a nice study in anthropomorphism with prying reflection.more

  • The Stories of John Cheever

    John Cheever

    i only read about a third of this, since 700 pages of short stories seemed like a bit much all at once. even if i have been reading so many short story collections lately. these are set mostly in nyc, various times between the 1930s and 1950s with a range of class focuses. Cheever has exciting insights into his characters. i loved the slightly...more

  • Camera Lucida

    Roland Barthes

    theories on photography by someone who is not a photographer. knowing little of the technical aspects of photography, Barthes attaches his own kind of technicality by applying his own terminologies to the observation of photos. the first section is much heavier, laying out his basic theory; though the second part, written at a later date...more

  • Close Range

    Annie Proulx

    sometimes i don’t know if it’s that the stories get better as they come or if it just takes a few to get into the general feel. having been in wyoming last year, it’s nice to have a sense of how attuned the descriptions of scenery and atmosphere are in this collection. the longer stories are easy favorites: “Pair of Spurs”...more

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

    Betty Smith

    i’m surprised i never read this when i was younger, and reading it now, i wish i had read it then. it’s a coming-of-age story set in williamsburg (long before it was hip and fucked up) at the turn of the century. there are so many wonderful things about...more

  • Circling the Drain

    Amanda Davis

    it’s kind of morbid that i sought this book out after reading Davis’s obituary in march. she also published a novel entitled...more

  • Across the Bridge

    Mavis Gallant

    the april 2003 issue of Harper’s had a review of the two new collections of Gallan’s stories—being published by The New York Review of Books (...more

  • Atomic Field

    Nicholas Christopher

    i picked this up last summer when i was temping at a publishing company, and i started to read it but never finished. the book is comprised of two extended poems, one, one dated 1962 and one 1974, each made up of 45 smaller poems. the two series of images and memories and dreamlike scenarios don’t seem like solid pieces in...more

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