August 2005

We spent the first part of this summer in a marvelous part of Maine, in the world's filthiest house. The place was crawling with bugs, so every novel I read ended up being splotched with the guts of a thousand mosquitos. And let's not even talk about the time I ended up brushing my teeth with a cockroach on my toothbrush. Anyway, I still managed to read some books I enjoyed, and others that I wondered what the big hoo hah was about. Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel There's no doubt that Ms. Mantel is an incredible writer, and for a long time I just loved this novel. Right near the end, though, I started dreading the arrival of those damned ghosts.

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan He may be one of my favorite contemporary novelists. And I'm just going to go and be trite and rave about that opening sequence. It's a marvel. Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman What's with all the novelists named Alice? Is it, like, a requirement that if you're named Alice you consider a literary career? Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick This book would have been astonishing if it had busted out a bit. It wanted to have a bigger canvas. I'm not quite sure why it ended up being stuck in a house. The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi Lord, these people's lives are miserable.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro I enjoyed this. I didn't expect to, but I really did. The Ornithologist's Guide to Life by Ann Hood The author's tragic loss of her daughter feels laced through these stories. I'm not sure if I'm imposing that on them myself or not, but I couldn't help but feel it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss Interesting. Ben Marcus has an entire collection of short stories called "The Age of Wire and String." I wonder if this book is an "homage?" Except that Ben doesn't appear in the acknowledgment page. Perhaps just a strange symmetry.

Inheritance by Lan Samantha Chang This is a good old-fashioned, page-turning family saga. A little too much time is crammed into the last 50 pages of the book, but that's typical for the genre. The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham A marvelous book full of loathsome characters. Some Hope: A Trilogy by Edward St. Aubyn The first of these novellas is so good, so incredible, that I thought I was reading the best book I'd ever read. Then it sort of degenerates into a drug book. You know; love of the heroin needle, blah blah blah. But it's worth reading for the sake of the first novella. The Master by Colm Toibin Toibin is a marvel, but the problem with writing a novel about a great novelist is that someone like James didn't do a whole lot of living. He did a whole lot of not living, if you know what I mean. He observed, but he didn't participate.

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld Cute.