a reader

an eudæmonistreading

2012

December

Thomas Love Peacock. Nightmare Abbey. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1818). [192.d]
As deep a mess of silliness as one could hope for. It is satire of course, but mostly it is silly.
Elizabeth Inchbald. A Simple Story. Project Gutenberg, 2007 (1791). [191.d]
Yet another 18th century novel proving that the male sex are unreasoning creatures, swayed by emotions, and given to the vapors.
Patricia Meyer Spacks. On Rereading. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2011. [190.d]
When professors of English literature reach a certain age, they tend to publish these amusing books, half memoir/half essay, usually about reading, often about literary criticism; they are not scholarly books, though they are born of a scholarly frame of mind. This is a good example of the genre, on an interesting topic – less academic than I was hoping for, but that’s my own problem.
Sigmund Freud. The Uncanny. Trans, David McLintock. London: Penguin, 2003 (1899 – 1919). [189.d]
Curiouser and curiouser.
Jake Adelstein. Tokyo Vice. New York: Vintage, 2009. [188]
Some interesting stories, but the author seems more broken and less wise at the end than he did at the beginning, which is not my preferred trajectory for journalist memoirs.
Peter Handke. Slow Homecoming. Trans. Ralph Manheim. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009 (1979, 1985). [187]
Could easily be renamed ‘Slow Going’.
Alice Miller. The Drama of the Gifted Child. Trans. Ruth Ward. New York: Perennial, 1997 (1979, 1981). [186]
Meh.
William Gerhardie. Futility: A Novel. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2012 (1922). [185.d]
Russophile silliness.
Geoffrey Wolff. Black Sun. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009 (2003). [184.d]
An attempt to understand the life of the dilettante Harry Crosby, who committed suicide with a girlfriend for no reason other than the will to death. Mostly gossip.
Hugh Walpole. Mr Perrin and Mr Traill. London: Capuchin, 2009 (1911). [183.d]
Very unhappy teachers at a mediocre prep school. Shivers.
Kenneth Fearing. Clark Gifford’s Body. New York: NYRB Classics, 2007 (1942). [182]
An odd book, all bits and pieces, but of the sort I like. A bit hard to get into, and harder to get out of.
Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1934). [181.d]
The didactic, third person, impersonal narrator; also much shorter than I remembered.
D.E. Stevenson. Miss Buncle’s Book. London: Persephone, 2008 (1934). [180.d]
Sweet and amusing; like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, like all the pleasant miss-ish books re-published by Persephone. Lurve.
Jane Austen. Persuasion. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1818). [179.d]
I’d forgotten about Mrs Clay running off at the end with the young Mr. Elliot.
Fanny Burney. Evelina. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1778). [178.d]
Surprisingly primmer than I remembered; but I might have it confused wtih Cecilia or Camilla.
William Davis. Wheat Belly. New York: Rodale, 2011. [177]
Amusing hyperbole about the dangers of wheat to the human organism.
Haruki Murakami. 1Q84. Trans. Jay Rubin & Phillip Gabriel. New York: Vintage, 2012 (2010). [176]
Up to his usual tricks I see; much better than Kafka on the Shore. I rather enjoyed the structure of it, which I found myself thinking about rather more than I normally do when I read a twelve hundred page book over the course of a weekend.
Gail Carol Levine. Ella Enchanted. New York: Harper Trophy, 1997. [175]
Cute retelling of Cinderella, about a third of which was nonsense.

November

Harry Houdini. The Right Way to Do Wrong. New York: Melville House, 2012 (1906). [174.d]
I was amused.
Peter Roach Phonetics. Oxford: OUP, 2001. [173]
A brief and thorough introduction. The reading components less supplementary and useful than in other volumes in the series.
Patrick Hamilton. The Charmer. London: Penguin, 1989 (1953). [172]
A curiously structured book,which made more sense on realizing that it was part of a series about Gorse, rather than a stand-alone novel.
Robert S. Rait. Life in a Medieval University. Project Gutenberg, 1912. [171.d]
Rather more amusing than I had imagined.
Sylvia Townsend Warner. Lolly Willowes. New York: NYRB Classics, 1999 (1926). [170.d]
Classic spinster novel takes a supernatural turn.
Marion Shaw. The Clear Stream: The Life of Winifred Holtby. London: Hachette, 1999. [169.d]
As a biography, I’m not sure that it’s wholly successful – the line of the life story is lost in a tangle of relationships. One could make the case, though, that as in the book, so in the life.
D.H. Farmer, ed. The Age of Bede. London: Penguin, 1988 (1983). [168]
The most interesting thing about these saints’ lives is what can be read into them. In the case of St. Wilfred, for instance, the struggle between local secular authority and papal authority is rather hidden behind the man’s misfortunes – if indeed it can be considered a misfortune to be deprived of property when you have renounced property.
Nancy Mitford. Love in a Cold Climate. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1949). [167.d]
I read this before, and didn’t much care for it; it was better this time around, especially knowing it was a part of a sort of series, in which is works better than out of it. Also, I think I was at times devoid of a sense of humor; this happens at time to young people, but I hadn’t realized it happened to me.
Nancy Mitford. The Pursuit of Love. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1945). [166.d]
Very Mitford-ish.
Mavis Gallant. The Cost of Living: Early and Uncollected Stories. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009. [165]
Mostly stories of unhappy people living far from home.
Céleste Albaret. Monsieur Proust. trans. Barbara Bray. New York: NYRB Classics, 2006 (1973, 1976). [164]
I.e., the most private, exquisite, and intimate life of Saint Marcel.
Paul Harding. Tinkers. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2009. [163]
Gilead lite.
Tatyana Tolstaya. The Slynx. trans. Jamey Gambrell. New York: NYRB Classics, 2003. [162]
See post.

October

Tetsu Kariya & Akira Hanasaki. Oishinbo: a la carte. 3 vols. trans. Tetsuichiro Miyaki. San Francisco: VIZ, 2009 (2005). [161]
Cute Japanese foodiness. Over-subtle.
Robert Darnton. The Case for Books. New York: PublicAffairs, 2009. [160.d]
Reprinted essays, mostly Google-phobic, but some of them rational.
Muriel Spark. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. New York: Penguin, 2000 (1961). [159]
Wow. Subtle and rich in characterization and style. Dammit but it’s a writerly book.
Patrick Quentin. Suspicious Circumstances. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965 (1957). [158]
Forgettable comic-thriller about a movie star and her family.
Osamu Tezuka. Black Jack 1. trans. Camilla Nieh. New York: Vertical, 2008 (1987). [157]
Like House, but with more avenging-angel-of-medicine-ness.
Jessica Mitford. Hons and Rebels. New York: NYRB Classics, 2004 (1960). [156]
An unpleasant family, but an interesting story. Strangely passionless.
Susan Cooper. The Dark is Rising Sequence. 5 vols. Harmondsworth: Puffin, 1965–1977. [155]
It’s amazing how often tweens end up saving the world.
W. Somerset Maugham. Liza of Lambeth. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982 (1897). [154]
Gissing without the moral outrage. Zola without the human interest. Dickens without the humor. Hardy without the poetry. Slumming pure and simple.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Striding Folly. Open Road, 2012 (1972). [153.d]
Silliness.
Dorothy L. Sayers. In the Teeth of the Evidence. Open Road, 2012 (1939). [152.d]
Soft-boiled Egg?

September

Dorothy L. Sayers. Busman’s Honeymoon. Open Road, 2012 (1937). [151.d]
Easy to imagine as a play.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Gaudy Night. Open Road, 2012 (1935). [150.d]
Oxford ladies.
Dorothy L. Sayers. The Nine Tailors. Open Road, 2012 (1934). [149.d]
Bells.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Hangman’s Holiday. Open Road, 2012 (1933). [148.d]
Hard-boiled Egg?
Dorothy L. Sayers. Have His Carcase. Open Road, 2012 (1932). [147.d]
Yet another entertainment.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Five Red Herrings. Open Road, 2012 (1931). [146.d]
This one was just silly.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Strong Poison. Open Road, 2012 (1930). [145.d]
Another entertainment.
Caroline Blackwood. Great Granny Webster. New York: NYRB Classics, 2002 (1977). [144.d]
Much better than Corrigan; light, cruel.
Dorothy L. Sayers. Unnatural Death. Open Road, 2012 (1927). [143.d]
An entertainment.
Jessica Mitford. Poison Penmanship. New York: NYRB Classics, 2010 (1979). [142.d]
Light journalism.
Osamu Tezuka. Barbara. trans. Ben Applegate. Gardena, CA: DMP Books, 2012 (1973). [141]
A novelist meets his muse. Maybe.
Winifred Holtby. Anderby Wold. London: Virago, 2011 (1923). [140.d]
On the role of women, the problems of passivity, and the demands of youth.
Winifred Holtby. The Crowded Street. London: Virago, 2011 (1924). [139.d]
On the role of women, and the problems of passivity.
Joseph Heller. Catch-22. New York: 1994 (1955). [138]
Not the most cheerful story ever told, is it?
Cao Xueqin & Gao E. The Dreamer Wakes: The Story of the Stone. vol. 5. trans. John Minford. London: Penguin, 1986 (c. 1760). [137.2]
Dissolution.
Dennis Wheatley. The Devil Rides Out. London: Wordsworth Classics, 2007 (1934). [136]
Deeply silly Satanist-fighting romp.
Claudio Magris. Danube. trans. Patrick Creagh. New York: FSG, 1989 (1986). [135]
Gossipy; sadly not catty.
Grant Peterson. Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike. New York: Workman, 2012. [134.d]
On not wearing spandex and lycra.
Jan Morris. Hav. New York: NYRB Classics, 2006 (1985). [133]
see post.
Rebecca West. The Fountain Overflows. New York: NYRB Classics, 2006 (1956). [132]
Family mellow drama.
Winifred Holtby. Poor Caroline. London: Virago, 2012 (1931). [131.d]
Middling stuff.

August

Margery Wolf. Women and the Family in Rural Taiwan. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1972. [130]
Interesting anthropological observations, of a kind not often come by now.
Kenneth Fearing. The Big Clock. New York: NYRB Classics, 2006 (1946). [129]
Noir-ish improbabilities. The chapters from the different characters’ POVs was a interesting touch, and the voices were certainly distinct from each other, but it lacked the weight of inevitability (i.e. it didn’t add much).
Natsume Soseki. Grass on the Wayside. trans. Edwin McClellan. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1971 (1915). [128]
Unnerving look at obligation and relationships.
Nancy Mitford. The Sun King. New York: NYRB Classics, 2012 (1966). [127.d]
History lite.
Selina Hastings. Nancy Mitford. New York: Vintage, 2012. [126.d]
Biography lite.
Robert Walser. Berlin Stories. trans. Susan Bernofsky, et al. New York: NYRB Classics, 2012 (2006). [125]
Light handed snapshots of Berlin at the turn of the 20th century; the sort of stuff that would go out as blog posts nowadays.
Barrett Hathcock & Scott Esposito. Lady Chatterley’s Brother. TQC Publishing, 2011. [124.d]
A prejudicial look at pornography and sex in literature.
Tamar Adler. An Everlasting Meal. New York: Scribner, 2012. [123.d]
Food writing in the tradition of M.F.K. Fisher. Truly enjoyable.
Nancy Mitford. Madame de Pompadour. New York: NYRB Classics, 2001 (1954). [122.d]
Whimsical and more about Nancy Mitford than 18th century France.
Margaret Cavendish. Sociable Letters. ed. James Fitzmaurice. Toronto: Broadview, 2004 (1664). [121]
Samples of the epistolary art, with particular reference to the role of women in society.
Agnes Jekyll. Kitchen Essays. London: Persephone, 2008 (1922). [120]
Recipes and reflections.
P.G. Wodehouse. The World of Jeeves. New York: Harper & Row, 1988 (1967). [119]
A comfort in the waning days of summer.
Ozamu Tezuka. Dororo. trans. Dawn T. Laabs. New York: Vertical, 2012 (2008; 1967–1969). [118]
Creepy story of a creepy kid whose body parts were stolen by demons and has to fight to get them back.
Winifred Watson. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. London: Persephone, 2000 (1938). [117]
Agreeable light fiction; not quite the sort of thing that serious-minded people complain about when they complain about the state of the novel, but close. Same sort of stuff as Wodehouse, but more dilute.
Jason Epstein. Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future. New York: Norton, 2001. [116]
Mostly sentimental, with a warm, fuzzy view of value of literature, and some rather accurate predictions about digital books (in somewhat vague terms, of course).
Leonard Koren. Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers. Point Reyes, CA: Imperfect Publishing, 2008 (1994). [115]
Fluff.

July

Rachael Ablow, ed. The Feeling of Reading: Affective Experience & Victorian Literature. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. [114]
Looks both at reading in novels, and socio-historical reading novels. Less effective were the rather arbitrary explorations of a particular ‘readings’. The essays on Trollope and poetic fatigue were particularly interesting (entertaining and thought-provoking), while the ones on Mill, Oscar Wilde, The Mill on the Floss, and Alice in Wonderland failed to interest or amuse.
Bonnie Mak. How the Page Matters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. [113]
See post.
Vladimir Nabokov. Speak, Memory. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1966, 1951). [112.d]
An almost completely different book from when I read it last time. After a bit, I began to recognize that previous book in it, but it took a while.
Sarah Becan. Shuteye: Six Tales of Dreams and Dreamers. Chicago:self-published, 2012. [111]
Great product of a kick starter project; quite enjoyable.
Hope Mirrlees. The Counterplot. New York: Knopf, 1925. [110]
Really pleased to get this on inter-library loan; slightly less pleased to see that the last quarter of the novel is a play supposedly written by one of the novel’s characters.
Stella Gibbons. Westwood. London: Vintage, 2011 (1946). [109]
There are some good parts in it, but there are also parts that are like being hit over the head with a rolled up umbrella.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Good-Bye. trans. Yuji Oniki. Adrian Tomine, ed. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2008 (1971 – 1972). [108]
A bit oversexed.
Ivo Andrić. The Bridge on the Drina. trans. Levett F. Edwards. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977 (1945). [107]
The small stories about the people were my favorite part; the larger narrative of the bridge kept disappearing in a fog of metaphor.
Patrick Leigh Fermor. A Time to Keep Silence. New York: NYRB Classics, 2007 (1957). [106]
A quiet, meditative excursion.
Stella Gibbons. Starlight. London: Vintage, 2011 (1967). [105]
I remember seeing an acrobat once who kept wobbling and almost falling, and I couldn’t tell whether this was a display of great skill or great ineptitude; this book was like that.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Fallen Words. trans. Jocelyne Allen. Adrian Tomine, ed. New York: FSG, 2012 (2009). [104]
Could have been great, but was still pretty okay.
Osamu Tezuka. Ode to Kirihito. trans. Camellia Nieh. New York: Vertical, 2006 (1970 – 1971). [103]
Peculiar. Politics vs. integrity; prejudice vs. reality; etc.

June

J.R. Ackerley. We Think the World of You. New York: NYRB Classics, 2000 (1960). [102]
Best dog story I’ve read in a while.
Vikram Seth. A Suitable Boy. New York: HarperPerennial, 2005 (1993). [101]
‘Make note of my five best and five worst qualities. Conserve the later and eradicate the former. ¸Haresh read over this last sentence, looked surprised, and corrected it’ (651).
‘When all else fails, thought Lata, there is always soup’ (1253).
Procopius. The Secret History. Project Gutenberg, 2004. [100.d]
What a grumpy lump.
Blaise Cendrars. Moravagine. trans. Alan Brown. New York: NYRB Classics, 2004 (1926, 1968). [99]
Creepy.
Carl Van Doren. James Branch Cabell. 2nd ed. New York: The Literary Guild, 1932. [98]
Good short general introduction to his works.
Publius Ovidius Naso. Metamorphoses. trans. Charles Martin. New York: Norton, 2010 (1st C. CE). [97]
Fresh and enjoyable.
Jane Austen. Northanger Abbey. Project Gutenberg, 2010 (1803). [96.d]
Surprisingly limpid and lucid.
Stephen Jones, ed. The Mammoth Book of Dracula. New York: Robinson, 2011. [95.d]
Nonsensical. Some fine stories, though.

May

John William Polidori. The Vampyre. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1819). [94.d]
Wildly silly, in broad strokes.
Eugene Field. The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac. Project Gutenberg, 2008. [93.d]
Nice to read about someone else who’s interested in the Noctes Ambrosianae, even if he is annoying, pretentious, and twee.
J.R.R. Tolkein. The Lord of the Rings. New York: HarperCollins, 2012 (1954, 1955). [92.d]
Too much thinking goes on, and too much description of mood, rather than action. Not properly epic.
J.R.R. Tolkein. The Hobbit. New York: HarperCollins, 2012 (1937). [91.d]
More of a children’s book than I remembered
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1887). [90.d]
A fair start.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Valley of Fear. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1914–1915). [89.d]
Awkward.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Project Gutenberg, 2012 (1903–1904). [88.d]
Fair enough.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Project Gutenberg, 2012 (1892–1893). [87.d]
Enough to be getting on with.
Emily Post. Etiquette. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1922). [86.d]
I’m rather fond of reading advice manuals; they give such a clear picture of how life isn’t lived.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1890). [85.d]
Pleasing.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sign of Four. Project Gutenberg, 2000 (1890). [84.d]
Wildly improbable.
William Hope Hodgson. Carnacki the Ghost-Finder. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1910). [83.d]
Hmmph. He’s got nothing on M.R. James.

April

Cao Xueqin & Gao E. The Debt of Tears: The Story of the Stone vol. 4. trans. John Minford. London: Penguin, 1982 (c. 1760). [82.2]
The plot is thickening, and thinning out as well.
Cao Xueqin. The Warning Voice: The Story of the Stone vol. 3. trans. David Hawkes. London: Penguin, 1980 (c. 1760). [81.2]
Of the five volumes in The Story of the Stone, this third volume is the one I tend to remember most vividly. The introductions are over, it’s time for the decline to begin…
Roy Chapman Andrews. Across Mongolian Plains. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1921). [81.d]
Should perhaps be entitled: Killing Animals in Exotic Locations. Primarily entertaining for those interested in ‘sport’ – if killing specimens for the Natural History Museum is not your cup of tea, then there is little in this volume to reward you.
Cao Xueqin. The Crab-Flower Club: The Story of the Stone vol. 2. trans. David Hawkes. London: Penguin, 1977 (c. 1760). [80.2]
The plot thickens. Pride goeth…
Albert Cossery. Proud Beggars. trans. Thomas W. Cushing. New York: NYRB Classics, 1981 (1955). [79]
Seamy underbellies.
Patti Smith. Just Kids. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. [78.d]
Self-indulgent, and a little pretentious, but fair enough.
Jeannette Walls. Half Broke Horses. New York: Scribner, 2009. [77.d]
Fair stylistic ear for changes in American idiom from the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th.
Geoff Dyer. Otherwise Known as the Human Condition. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2011. [76]
At his best in the more personal/exploratory essays, though the others were more or less amusing as well.
Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games. 3 vols. New York: Scholastic, 2008–2010. [75]
The conventions of genre are so limiting; these are so much like the Twilight series it’s a bit ridiculous.
Muriel Spark. Memento Mori. New York: New Directions, 2000 (1959). [74.d]
Iris Murdoch light, but with more whimsy.
W.E. Gladstone. On Books and the Housing of Them. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1890). [73]
Prioritizes cramming as many books into as small a space as possible.
Andrew Lang. How to Fail in Literature. Project Gutenberg, 2005 (1890). [72]
Rampant silliness.
Ian Frazier. Travels in Siberia. New York: FSG, 2010. [71]
Enjoyable travel book, about Siberia, and Americans liking Russia.

March

Anne Carson. Plainwater. New York: Vintage, 1995. [70]
Yes, well.
Claude Lévi-Strauss. The Jealous Potter. trans. Bénédicte Chorier. Chicago: UCP, 1988 (1985). [69]
Goatsuckers and sloths. (And structuralism.)
James Kelman, Agnes Owens, & Alasdair Gray. Lean Tales. London: Vintage, 1995. [68]
I’m not sure what I expected of this collection. I rather enjoyed the stories by Owens, and Alasdair Gray is always charmingly whimsical in a way that I can understand, but Kelman, well, seems like second-rate Beckett. This probably isn’t fair, but readers seldom are.
Alberto Manguel. A History of Reading. New York: Viking, 1996. [67]
Idiosyncratic and personal approach to reading history.
Hansjörg Schertenleib. A Happy Man. trans. David Dollenmayer. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2009 (2005). [66]
Happiness and memory and dogs and trains.
Cao Xueqin. The Golden Days: The Story of the Stone vol. 1. trans. David Hawkes. London: Penguin, 1973 (c. 1760). [65.2]
I seem drawn to this book whenever I have the flu or a sinus infection or pneumonia. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to happen more than once every seven years or so.
Derek Raymond. He Died with His Eyes Open. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2011 (1984). [64]
See post.
Daphne du Maurier. Rebecca. London: Virago, 2009 (1938). [63]
The nameless second wife with her postcard of Manderlay, odd and creepy.
Bram Stoker. The Lair of the White Worm. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1911). [62.d]
I don’t really have anything intelligible to say on the subject: snake lady.
Charles Dickens. Great Expectations. New York: Signet, 2009 (1861). [61.2]
See post.
Bram Stoker. Dracula’s Guest. Project Gutenberg, 2003 (1914). [60.d]
Yet another of those books that I think I read, but forgot about.
Jane Smiley. At Paradise Gate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981. [59]
I suppose you could call it realism.
Bram Stoker. Dracula. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1897). [58.d]
An odd book.
Charles Dickens. David Copperfield. New York: Bantam, 2006 (1850). [57.1]
‘I found that the street was not as desirable a one as I could have wished it to be, for the sake of Traddles. The inhabitants appeared to have a propensity to throw any little trifles they were not in want of, into the road: which not only made it rank and sloppy, but untidy too, on account of the cabbage-leaves. The refuse was not wholly vegetable either, for I myself saw a shoe, a doubled-up saucepan, a black bonnet, and an umbrella, in various stages of decomposition, as I was looking out for the number I wanted.’
Anna Katharine Green. The Filigree Ball. Project Gutenberg, 2000 (1903). [56.d]
This time it’s the missing husband bureau.
Annie Dillard. Three by Annie Dillard. New York: HarperCollins, 1990 (1974, 1987, 1989). [55]
I don’t think I’ve ever met a reader of books who likes Annie Dillard, except when they are also people who aspire to be writers of books. I’m not quite sure why that is.
William Morris. The Story of the Glittering Plain. Project Gutenberg, 2007 (1913). [54.d]
If it were not so unbearably false, it might be interesting.
Anna Katharine Green. Lost Man’s Lane. Project Gutenberg, 2010(1898). [53.d]
Creepy.

February

G.K. Chesterton. Twelve Types. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1902). [52.d]
Rambles and digresses unnecessarily in places.
Virginia Woolf. The Common Reader. New York: HBJ, 1984 (1925). [51.1]
This is the first time I noticed the typography of the cover, which sickened me so much I was almost unable to re-read the book.
Anna Katharine Green. The Mayor’s Wife. Project Gutenberg, 2010 (?). [50.d]
Missing wives bureau.
Gabriel García Marquez. Chronicle of a Death Foretold. trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Ballantine, 1982 (1981). [49]
Yellow and green.
Anna Katharine Green. The Amethyst Box. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1905). [48.d]
Odd and unlikely.
William Styron. Darkness Visible. New York: Open Road, 1989. [47.d]
Absorbed in darkness. Doesn’t always communicate.
H.L. Mencken. Damn! A Book of Calumny. Project Gutenberg, 2006 (1918). [46.d]
Essays don’t always age well.
Karl Philipp Mortiz. Travels in England in 1782. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1886). [45.d]
Apparently, one couldn’t travel respectably on foot in England in the eighteenth century. Time travelers take note.
Anna Katharine Green. The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow. Project Gutenberg, 2006 (1917). [44.d]
The missing wives bureau again.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. K. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1915). [43.d]
Doctors and dastards and wicked women.
Anna Katharine Green. A Strange Disappearance. Project Gutenberg, 2012 (1880). [412.d]
Another to the missing wives bureau.
Anne Fadiman, ed. Rereadings. New York: FSG, 2005. [41.d]
Writers rereading books they’d read as children.
Ann Bridge. The Ginger Griffin. Oxford: OUP, 1985 (1934). [40]
An odd and unexpectedly charming book, about the British foreign service class in China in the early 20th century. Rather more about horse-racing than one would expect.
Bruce Chatwin. Utz. New York: Vintage, 1988. [39]
Best novella about porcelain I’ve read.
Virginia Woolf. The Second Common Reader. New York: HBJ, 1960 (1932). [38]
A mixed bag.
Natsume Soseki. Botchan. trans. J. Cohn. New York: Kodansha, 2005 (1906). [37]
I think perhaps the first time I read it I didn’t understand it. I don’t think I really understood it this time, but I got more of it, and am still left wondering.
Graham Greene. Travels with My Aunt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969. [36.2]
Not as smooth as I remember it, but narrative approach to time is significantly more interesting than I recall from previous readings, and the narrator seems both more and less of a schmuck.
John Le Carré. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002 (1974). [35]
I prefer Greene-land, but the moral dilemmas and careful plotting were interesting. A book of sorrow.
Susanna Clarke. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. London: Bloomsbury, 2004. [34.2]
In a hurry to tie itself up in the end and so rather loses its tone, but amusing overall.
Alberto Manguel. The Library at Night. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. [33.d]
What libraries mean to people and to history. Recycles some anecdotes from his other books, but adds some new ones, too. Sentimental bibliomania.
James Branch Cabell. The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. Project Gutenberg, 2003 (1915). [32.d]
Curiouser and curiouser.
Gilbert Murray. The Story of Nefrekepta. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1911). [31.d]
Magic and mystery in ancient Egypt. What fun, what a lark!
Baroness Emma Orczy. The Laughing Cavelier. Project Gutenberg, 2010 (1914). [30.d]
An even sillier adventure story.
Baroness Emma Orczy. I Will Repay. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1906). [29.d]
A sillier adventure story.

January

Baroness Emma Orczy. The Scarlet Pimpernel. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1905). [28.d]
A silly adventure story.
James Branch Cabell. Taboo. Project Gutenberg, 2005 (1921). [27.d]
Silliness with intent.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Truce of God. Project Gutenberg, 2005 (1920). [26.d]
Sentimental, but not without atmosphere.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. Bab: a Sub-Deb. Project Gutenberg, 2006 (1917). [25.d]
Interesting structure (supposed diary and written theme excerpts of a young lady), but deeply silly.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. Dangerous Days. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1919). [24.d]
Surprisingly, all the rich people are happy at the end, and all the poor people are forgotten. Nice.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Street of Seven Stars. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1914). [23.d]
Sentimental anti-feminist codswallop
Mary Roberts Rinehart. Sight Unseen. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1921). [22.d]
It’s a ghost story AND a murder mystery.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Amazing Interlude. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1918). [21.d]
Sentimental first world war propaganda.
Anna Katharine Green. X.Y.Z. A Detective Story. Project Gutenberg, 2010 (1883). [20.d]
An amusing fillip.
Anna Katharine Green. That Affair Next Door. Project Gutenberg, 2007 (1897). [19.d]
Better for the semi-reliable narrator, rather than the plot, which one can more or less guess half-way through.
Anna Katharine Green. The Circular Study. Project Gutenberg, 2006 (1900). [18.d]
Creepy. The deaf-mute servant summoned by different colored lights rather makes the story.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Cast of Jennie Brice. Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1913). [17.d]
Fits together rather less well than a patchwork coat.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Man in Lower Ten. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1910). [16.d]
Rather involved, so far as plot entanglements go.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Afterhouse. Project Gutenberg, 2009 (1913). [15.d]
Gruesome shipboard murders. Reminded me a bit of Life of Pi, and another book I cannot at present recall.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Confession. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1917). [14.d]
Yet another rented summer cottage holding more than appears at first glance.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Breaking Point. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1922). [13.d]
Artifical memories and multiple personalities.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Window at the White Cat. Project Gutenberg, 2010 (1940). [12.d]
Politics and nastiness.
Mary Roberts Rinehart. The Circular Staircase. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1908). [11.d]
I was amused. Perhaps my brain is softening, but I’m getting to like these mystery novels.
Colette. The Other Woman. trans. Margaret Crosland. New York: Meridian, 1972. [10]
Seldom have I felt so strongly that the meaning of literature changes as when reading this book. One could feel in it that at the time of publication that it was and meant something completely different from what it means and is now, and that its prior life can never be recaptured, even through the best of criticism.
John Steinbeck. The Red Pony. London: Penguin, 1992 (1945). [9.1]
It’s been a long time since I read this, and it’s better than I thought it would be.
Anna Katharine Green. The House of the Whispering Pines. Project Gutenberg, 2003 (1910). [8.d]
Rampant silliness.
Joseph Sheridan LeFanu. The Evil Guest. Project Gutenberg, 2005 (1895). [7.d]
Manages the creepy atmosphere without being actually frightening.
Christopher Buckley. Florence of Arabia. New York: Random House, 2004. [6]
This is the sort of book that gives fiction a bad name. I was not amused.
Joseph Sheridan LeFanu. Carmilla. Project Gutenberg, 2003 (1872). [5.d]
Really this is the original of the ‘Twilight’ books, and has all the same nastiness, which one overlooks because 1) it is a gothic vampire story; 2) the vampire is female, which adds a deliciously squelchy sapphic discomfort.
Vernon Lee. Hortus Vitae: Essays on the Garden of Life. Project Gutenberg, 2008 (1904). [4.d]
Familiar essays, occasionally feeble, frequently light. Nothing to strain the senses.
George Sylvester Viereck. The House of the Vampire. Project Gutenberg, 2005 (1907). [3.d]
Psychological vampirism – the ‘great man’ robbing talented young artists of their creativity and passion, individual destruction in the face of collective betterment. Fits in with a hydra-headed Homer (pace M.L. West).
Hope Mirrlees. Lud-in-the-Mist. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Press, 2005 (1926). [2]
See post.
Various. The Paris Review Book of People with Problems. New York: Picador, 2005. [1]
Don’t know why but I thought at first it was a collection of non-fiction, and only realized they were short stories a page into the second piece. Sort of a taxidermied quality to most of the stories; flashes of life in a few of them, though.

(last revised: 27 November 2014)

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