Category: Literature

Feb 12 2020

The Story of Flamenca: The First Modern Novel, Arranged from the Provencal Original of the Thirteenth Century by William Aspenwall Bradley

What a delightful thing to read in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. Being both thrifty and impatient, I actually read the online copy for free at The Hathi Trust digital library, as the original came out in 1922 and is yet unavailable for e-reader. Since I’ve been listening to Rosalia’s El Mal Querer on …

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Jan 18 2020

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I expected more. While well-written — in the sense that, as with real life, the moments of sublime beauty are interspersed with observations of banal minutiae — it’s essentially a deep dive into the mind of a young, heterosexual white couple. Marianne is a girl from a rich, abusive family. She’s unpopular in the Carricklea …

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Dec 30 2019

Molotov’s Magic Lantern by Rachel Polonsky

Molotov's Magic Lantern

Early on in Molotov’s Magic Lantern Rachel Polonsky quotes Osip Mandelstam as saying “Ask me for my biography, and I will tell you the books I have read.” (p. 6) From that perspective, Polonsky braids three biographies. One is Vyacheslav Molotov, erstwhile foreign minister of the Soviet Union whose former apartment a banker friend of …

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Dec 16 2019

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

One of the problems with the classics is that their motivations can seem so far removed from our everyday lives. Even if the works can stand alone on their artistic merits, there’s often a lot of phobic nonsense distracting to modern-day readers who don’t have the privilege of merely ignoring such in our day-to-day: must …

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Dec 06 2019

Herrn Dames Aufzeichnungen by Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow

Herrn Dames Aufzeichnungen

The series introduction to Herrn Dames Aufzeichnungen (Herr Dame’s Notebooks) calls it “the key novel about the Bohemian scene in Schwabing around 1900″ and the volume’s introduction notes that in it Reventlow worked through some of her experiences with the “Cosmic” circle that included writers and artists such as Stefan George (the only name I …

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Nov 02 2019

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

I’m pretty sure I would have liked this more if it had been more speculative fiction and less MFA. Thing is, it’s an entirely worthy book. If it wasn’t for Freshwater, I would have no idea what a non-binary trans person is, and I’m richer for having found out. But I didn’t find out from …

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Sep 21 2019

Schellingstrasse 48 by Walter Kolbenhoff

Schellingstrasse 48

For all that it is a Millionenstadt, Munich can also be quite a small town. Literary and artistic Munich even more so. Thus it’s not very surprising that in Schellingstrasse 48 (48 Schelling St.), Walter Kolbenhoff’s memoir of the Nazi era, POW internment in America, and early post-war Munich, other authors from the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s …

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Aug 10 2019

An Informal History of the Hugos by Jo Walton

An Informal History of the Hugos

I remember enjoying these assessments of the Hugo Awards when they first appeared as columns on Tor.com, and I am glad to see them collected in book form with the addition of selected comments that appeared in the discussion that followed each column. The subtitle of this collection — A Personal Look Back at the Hugo …

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Aug 10 2019

Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin and David Naimon

Conversations on Writing

Conversations on Writing grew from three sets of discussions between Ursula K. Le Guin and David Naimon for the Oregon radio station KBOO. She completed her introduction to this volume less than four months before her death in January 2018; Naimon wrote his not quite two weeks after her passing, it’s a touching valediction. “I …

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Apr 20 2019

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Twenty-odd years ago, I would likely have rated this novel higher than I do now. I actually only picked it up because I was recently told that it’s considered a classic of the romance genre. I’ve read my fair share of Barbara Cartland and old school Mills & Boon, and was delighted in college to …

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