February 2005

I'm having to recreate things a bit here, because I finally hired a cleaning service. They are amazing -- in truth, I think they have OCD, which is a fine, fine thing in a cleaning service -- but when they organized my bookshelves, they put away the pile of books I read these past couple of months. As their organizing principle was a little unorthodox, I've had to remember what I read instead of just looking at the handy-dandy pile. What, you ask, was this principle of theirs? Height. They organized the books by height. Did you know that the paperbacks of Nick Hornby's About a Boy and Wallace Stegner's Spectator Bird are the same size? You do now. The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle Boyle is an amazing writer and this book is mesmerizing in many ways. Subject and author seem a perfect match. Whole lotta sex in this book. Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee If you're ever wondering what to do with all those old speeches once you're tired of giving them... Best American Essays 2004 edited by Louis Menand I love essays. They are fun to read, often weird, and usually can be relied on to make me cry.

Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig This memoir is very funny, often pee-in-your-pants funny. And then it sometimes strikes too close to home. Like when I was reading it and glanced up to see two-year-old Abraham laboriously lining up his trucks in neat little rows. And then he washes his hands, over and over again. No, I'm only kidding about that, but he does hold them up when they're dirty and say, "Hand!" with this little stricken look on his face, like he's horrified by the filth. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst I loved this book. It's just the kind of novel I enjoy, sprawling and kind of formless, with a plot that creeps up on you. And the writing is terrific.

The Best American Short Stories 2002 edited by Sue Miller I don't know what possessed me to suddenly reread these old stories, but I love Sue Miller. And there are some terrific stories in here, notably, my husband's. Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlan I'm reading her to learn how to write a column. She's really a master of the form. The Virgin's Knot by Holly Payne I met Holly at a party and she is incredibly sweet. Reading her novel is like a trip to Turkey. The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis God, I love this book. It's the best suspense novel I've read in years, and it's about chess. I don't even know how to play chess! I wouldn't talk to anyone while I was immersed in this. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing I will reread this book every month -- until I go into menopause. Then I will put it away, with a little prayer to Lessing for having saved us from a similar fate. Thank God it's short. Even looking at the cover gives me a little shiver of horror.

P.S. by Helen Schulman This is a nice novel, and I liked it very much, but I saw the movie first, and the movie is exactly, precisely faithful. So it was a little bizarre to read the book. I'm not going to make that mistake again. Book first. Movie after. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews This is a good novel; there's nothing wrong with it. The writing was really clean and spare. The story is well constructed. It's my own fault I couldn't get into it.

Sanctuary by William Faulkner Yes, Goddamnit. I've never read Faulkner. I know. I am a Philistine. What can I say? I started with an easy one, and it was pretty terrific. But I'm such a moron that it took me ages to figure out the whole rape with a corncob thing. I had to be knocked over the head with it, basically.