Archive for the ‘*William’s Posts’ Category

Saturday Evening Book Reviews

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Jeffrey Wasserstrom on Jung Chang’s Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China: “When Chang goes further – describing Cixi as a “revolutionary” with life-long progressive leanings, veering into the historical novelist’s terrain with claims about the ruler’s innermost thoughts – she moves on to shakier ground, overstating the significance of archival fragments and memoirs that support her interpretation, while dismissing those that contradict it. In the end, Chang’s most convincing arguments are her least novel, while her most novel assertions are least convincing.” (Financial Times)

Lydia Kiesling on Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch: “…full of class markers, comical names (Kitten), kinds of antiques, and names of schools, so that the reader occasionally has the sense of being bludgeoned with a sledgehammer from some very tony shop.” (The Rumpus)

Darren Franich on George R.R. Martin’s The Princess and the Queen: “…densely packed with warfare, politicking, bloody melodrama, and dragon-on-dragon assault. It reads like Martin’s outline for a Game of Thrones prequel that never was.” (EW.com)

Maria Puente on Deborah Soloman’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell: “As his new and apparently first serious biographer, Deborah Solomon, makes clear in this highly readable, illuminating book, Rockwell was more than an illustrator.” (USAToday)

Afternoon Viewing: Willis Barnstone

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

From Wayne Lindberg’s  YouTube description:

Willis Barnstone, prolific poet, translator, scholar, and memoirist has authored, edited, or contributed to countless volumes over six decades. In this conversation with Mariano Zaro, he talks about his development as a poet and the work of some poets he has translated and admires.

 

Friday Quote of the Night

Friday, November 29th, 2013

“When people ask me if it has been a hard or easy road, I always answer with the same quotation, the end is nothing, the road is all.”

? Willa Cather

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Friday Evening Book Reviews

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Gelareh Asayesh on Goli Taraghi’s The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons: “Her accessible prose straddles the boundary between memoir and fiction, documenting life in Iran and in exile and in the airports that mediate the two.” (Washington Post)

Connie ogle on Wally Lamb’s We Are Water: “…a mesmerizing novel about a family in crisis that pulls together many characters and diverse themes and sets the bulk of its action against our collective modern angst and ambivalence.” (Miami Herald)

Kevin Grauke on Russell Banks’ A Permanent Member of the Family: “All in all, these two stories are emblematic of the collection as a whole. Every story that challenges us with its subtle characterizations and moral ambiguities (“Snow Birds,” “The Outer Banks,” the title story) seems to have a counterpart that fails to reach such heights – heights that, over the decades, we have come to expect Russell Banks to attain regularly.” (philly.com)

Robert Weibezahl on Donna Leon’s My Venice and Other Essays: “Savoring these short and engaging pieces is akin to sharing a latte at a Venetian café with an entertaining, opinionated, intelligent friend.” (BookPage)

Afternoon Viewing: Evelyn Waugh

Friday, November 29th, 2013

From the YouTube description:

He was a novelist known for his quick and cruel wit, his wide-eyed opinions and his indifference about saying the shocking. So a BBC Home Service programme called Frankly Speaking in which Evelyn Waugh is quizzed by three abrasive questioners was never going to be a walk in the country. Today what was later described as the most ill-natured interview ever broadcast can be heard for the first time since 1953.

 

Wednesday Quote of the Night

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

“To be ill adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown.”

? Jeanette Winterson

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Wednesday Evening Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Damon Marbut on Robert Bly’s Stealing Sugar From The Castle: Selected Poems 1950-2013: ” It is rare that a faithful audience of this genre, this niche, can witness both evolution and steadiness in the hands of a writer who tells his own story, shares his own perception and humanity with an equal faithfulness.” (The Rumpus)

Peter Geye on Siân Griffiths’ Borrowed Horses: “Griffiths’ great accomplishment in dealing with the men in Joannie’s life is that she manages to be sympathetic to both Joannie’s physical desires (many of which are described in sensual detail) and her almost feminist nature.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Daniel Dyer on James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird: “A masterful example of the illuminative friction between fiction and history…” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Janet Maslin on Gigi Levangie’s Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale: “Her gift is for satire, not for moral instruction. Not for plotting. Not for reflection. And certainly not for taking herself seriously.” (NYTimes)

Monday Quote of the Night

Monday, November 25th, 2013

“A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

― Dylan Thomas

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Monday Evening Book Reviews

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Patricia Craig on Jennifer Johnston’s A Sixpenny Song: “As ever, Johnston marshals her material with deftness, charm and aplomb, makes an enticing tale of it, and keeps her narrative concise.” (The Independent)

ManofLaBook.com on Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis’ Death of a Nightingale: “While I found the novel a bit convoluted at times, I did enjoy it and thought the Ukrainian chapters were fascinating and terrifying.” (Blogcritics)

Adam Markovitz on Dana Goodyear’s Anything That Moves: “The mix of mini-profiles, memoirish passages, and research reports doesn’t always blend seamlessly. But the overall effect is of sharing a story-packed meal with Goodyear, an experience any real gourmand would savor — as long as you can occasionally opt not to have what she’s having.” (EW.com)

Hector Tobar on César Aira’s Shantytown: “…with Aira the melodrama quickly falls away. There are no easy truths here, no pat judgments about good and evil. Instead, with a few final acts of narrative sleight of hand (and some odd soliloquies) the reader is left at once dazzled and unsettled.” (LATimes)

Sunday Quote of the Night

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

“There is no way of writing well and also of writing easily.”

? Anthony Trollope

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Sunday Evening Book Reviews

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Wendy Lesser on Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage: “Patchett’s own self-criticism would suggest that as a writer she sometimes “errs frankly on the side of sweetness.” Yet there is little sign of that gentle failing in the essays…” (NYTimes)

Antonia Clark on Lynn Levin’s Miss Plastique: “The poems in this collection display Levin’s studied attention to craft and a delightful versatility. She is equally at home with received forms (sonnet, villanelle, sestina, aphorism) and free verse.” (The Rumpus)

Randy Boyagoda on J Michael Lennon’s Norman Mailer: A Double Life: “The subtitle “A Double Life” serves as Lennon’s governing premise for exploring how Mailer’s personal life mattered to his writing life and vice versa, but he does far more than merely affirm this abundantly obvious, abundantly volatile relationship.” (Financial Times)

Ursula Le Guin on Delphine de Vigan’s Nothing Holds Back the Night: “I don’t think it is a novel, but I respect the author’s honesty in not calling it a memoir. The first part of it, the portrait and history of a family, combines apparently factual accounts drawn from interviews and other sources, with long passages of fiction: inventions by the author-character – descriptions of scenes she did not witness, thoughts she imagines in the minds of people alive before she was born.” (The Guardian)

Afternoon Viewing: Kiran Nagarkar

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

From the Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest YouTube description:

“A great book is a very rare event,” says the vibrant bilingual novelist and playwright Kiran Nagarkar. His novels include Saat Sakkam Trechalis, which is considered a landmark in Marathi literature and according to some critics, it reinvented Marathi. His other novels are all in English: Ravan and Eddie, Cuckold, God’s Little Soldier and The Extras.

Thursday Quote of the Night

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

“Any authentic work of art must start an argument between the artist and his audience.”

? Rebecca West

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Thursday Evening Book Reviews

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Graham Oliver on George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia: “The book remains unique among firsthand wartime accounts for several reasons. One, it contains an in-depth description of the wartime atrocities of lice. Two, it was published almost a year before the end of the war, which means Orwell could not alter his perceptions based on resolutions that happened after he left combat.” (The Rumpus)

Marc Snetiker on Sam Wasson’s Fosse: ” You don’t need to be a Broadway expert to enjoy this portrait of a man whose rise to power was famously fueled by insecurity.” (EW.com)

Dwight Garner on Geordie Greig’s Breakfast With Lucian: “Until we have a proper biography, we have this book, written by the editor of The Mail on Sunday, whom Freud admitted into his circle in the final years of his life, or at least far enough that they had breakfast together more than a handful of times.” (NYTimes)

Ben Tarnoff on Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: “If you surrender yourself to the sound of his voice, the pleasure of Twain’s company proves pretty hard to resist. His narrative may be loose, but at least it never loses sight of its subject.” (The New Yorker)

Wednesday Quote of the Night

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

“Ah yes, the head is full of books. The hard part is to force them down through the bloodstream and out through the fingers.”

- Edward Abbey

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Wednesday Evening Book Reviews

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Rhonda Dickey on Robert Stone’s Death of a Black-Haired Girl: ” Robert Stone, one of America’s greatest living writers, takes the disquiet and forms it into a story that rejects easy answers and presses its characters to do better, to be more.” (philly.com)

J. Hoberman on Louise Steinman’s The Crooked Mirror: “As noted by Louise Steinman in “The Crooked Mirror,” her firsthand report on what remains of Jewish life in contemporary Poland, four out of five American Jews are of Polish-Jewish descent — a diaspora within the diaspora.” (LATimes)

Alex Sheremet on Jessica Schneider’s Quick With Flies: “…a mature novel, on a mature theme: a coming-of-age tale set in the Great Depression, told from the perspective of a young black man named Howard.” (Blogcritics)

Billie B. Little on Valerie Hobbs’ Wolf: “This dramatic sequel to Hobbs’ popular novel, Sheep, alternates between Jack’s and the wolf’s points of view. In an unsettling voice, the wolf counts his journey in moons and his narrow gaze sees the world as rock-strewn hills, grassy slopes and woods for hunting.” (BookPage)

Monday Quote of the Night

Monday, November 18th, 2013

“The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to have other eyes.”

- Marcel Proust

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Monday Evening Book Reviews

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Cindy Wolfe Boynton on Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett’s A House in the Sky: “Its examination of evil and goodness asks readers to not just consider the contents of others’ hearts but, perhaps more important, the contents of their own.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Evelyn Theiss on Henry Bushkin’s Johnny Carson: “What Bushkin captures is something many of us have known while in the orbit of a charming, larger-than-life persona – a pervading sense of dread that we too will eventually be dropped, which we try to tamp down with the belief that it won’t happen to us. Then, just like that, it does.” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

Scott Onak on Fiona McFarlane’s The Night Guest: ” a confident and engaging debut that poignantly depicts the final act of a life, the memories and loves that can (and can’t) be regained, and the mysterious visitor that we all become, eventually, to ourselves.” (The Rumpus)

Simon Callow on Michael Blakemore’s Stage Blood: “A most unusual book indeed; one whose scope goes far beyond the theatre, though it is a landmark in writing about the life of the stage.” (The Guardian)

Sunday Quote of the Night

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

- Doris Lessing (RIP)

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Sunday Evening Book Reviews

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Marilynne Robinson on Flannery O’Connor’s Prayer Journal: “It is the religious sensibility reflected in this journal that makes it as eloquent on the subject of creativity as it is on the subject of prayer. O’Connor’s awareness of her gifts gives her a special kind of interest in them. Having concluded one early entry by asking the Lord to help her “with this life that seems so treacherous, so disappointing,” she begins the next entry: “Dear God, tonight it is not disappointing because you have given me a story. Don’t let me ever think, dear God, that I was anything but the instrument for Your story — just like the typewriter was mine.”” (NYTimes)

Wendy Smith on Graham Robb’s Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts: “Many eye-glazing pages of maps, astronomical data, and mathematical calculations follow to support Robb’s carefully elaborated theory: The Celts, led by their Druid priests and teachers, organized their territories — and expanded into new regions — based on scientific long-distance surveying methods, and this organization reflected their belief that “our world is a Middle Earth whose sacred sites correspond to places in the upper and lower worlds.”" (LATimes)

Kirsty Gunn on Margaret Drabble’s The Pure Gold Baby: “Drabble’s latest novel, The Pure Gold Baby, so quiet and reserved it could be no more than a murmur coming through the open window of a north London terrace, is the opposite of an action-packed drama. It reads more like a series of drafts that the reader needs to gather together than the usual fictional package.” (Financial Times)

Melissa Maerz on Angelica Huston’s A Story Lately Told: “Anjelica Huston played a Royal Tenenbaum on screen, and she was one in real life, too. Like Wes Anderson’s film, her story is filled with quirky, precocious siblings and inappropriate parent-child relationships, all of which makes for a fascinating memoir.” (EW.com)