• 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 reading. it didn’t help to be in the midst of a 600-page book that at times doesn’t have a steady plot to pull itself along. maybe now my reading pace seems less horrifyingly fast than before.

    i’ve never read a collection of letters before, and this is a good collection to read because there is somewhat of a narrative — the evolution of Simone and Nelson’s relationship. she also just writes beautiful letters, and i especially love the way she writes about Paris. the situation between Simone and Nelson is heartbreaking,...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 it’s gratifying that she writes on these topics.

    after the essay on the dam projects, it’s sad this week reading about the three gorges dam in china and the various effects it is already having....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 and after the death of his mother, repeatedly references a photograph of her that is not printed in the book. a kind of frustrating work.more

  • Just as I Thought

    Grace Paley

    these are miscellaneous writings collected from throughout grace paley’s life, as a result, it doesn’t always retain a steady level of continuity. predictably the parts that were most interesting to me, in light of recent events, were about wars (mostly vietnam, but also an essay about the gulf war), as paley was very involved in those anti-war movements. the various prefaces to books are definitely worthwhile to be included in this random collection, but at times lacked a necessary context for me to get into them, most notably when they are about specific people i’ve never heard of before. it probably doesn’t help that i tend to read such “prefaces” after i’ve read the whole book, kind of to test...more