February 2003

Sorry it has been so long since my last update. I've been desperately trying both to finish Murder Plays House, and to get a good start on my next literary novel, The Bloom Girls, before March 31. Why, you ask? Because Abraham Wolf Waldman Chabon is due to make his appearance on that date via scheduled c-section. Think of me at 7:30 AM, California time.This month I did a lot of preparatory reading for The Bloom Girls which is set in Montreal in the 1920s. Thus, my recommendations might seem a bit strange to some of you. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler Not my favorite of his novels, but nonetheless an entertaining read. The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan This novel was wonderful, but it's of a very particular kind. It's a tale of business -- the garment business to be exact. Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordecai Richler This is my favorite Richler novel. It's delightfully crazy, wonderfully written. Fun and frightening and an altogether great read.

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell Maxwell is a fine writer, one of the best I've read. So confident, so assured. Of an entirely different world than contemporary novelists, many of whom, even if they write beautifully, seem to suffer from a kind of tentativeness. This novel is particularly compelling. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell This is a masterpiece. Truly. It should be read by everyone. Time Will Darken it by William Maxwell Probably the slowest of the three, but still lovely.

A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul Okay, I'll be honest. I'd never read Naipaul before he won the Nobel. If all his work is like this book Øm searing and at the same time full of a remarkable empathy - then those Swedes certainly knew what they were doing.

A Death In The Family by James Agee This had me weeping. Lovely, beautiful period novel.

Blood of Victory by Alan Furst Another terrific read by the absolute master of the rueful spy novel. The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri This book was both painful and enchanting. One of my favorite of the many many novels by Anglo-Indians I've read in the past couple of years.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt There is no doubt that this writer is the real thing. Her evocations of the old women -- the aunties -- in this novel were tremendous. But it's quite clear that one day, in the middle of writing the book, she got up, went to work, and suddenly decided to just type the words, "The End," at the bottom of the page. The Bones In The Attic by Robert Barnard I read this because he's supposed to be a master of plot. Enough said. My Father Dancing by Bliss Broyard This writer has clearly inherited her father's talent.

The Main by Trevanian This is commercial fiction??? Every serious novelist should strive for this kind of layered and nuanced detail. I can't believe I've never read him before. Stories From a Montreal Childhood by Shulamis Yellin This book was terrifically useful for my research, and the prologue is a hoot and a half. Note to self, never refer to own work as "a classic." The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman This woman can clearly write, but mystery plotting is not her strong suit. Montreal of Yesterday by Israel Medres Another terrific research tool, and another note to self. Never let your own daughter be your translator.

Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s by Frederick Lewis Allen This is a history of the 1920s, written in the early 1930s! It's a great read, and a wonderful tool for my research.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow I reread this, my favorite of his novels, to give myself an example of historical fiction at its best. The Street by Mordecai Richler This little book of essays brings Jewish Montreal of the 1930s to life.