a reader

an eudæmonistreading

2013

December

Geoffrey Faber. A Publisher Speaking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935. [166]
See post.
André Schiffrin. A Political Education. Hoboken, NJ: Melville House, 2007. [165]
Feel ambivalent about the book. Admire some of his politics, but cannot help but be annoyed by the enormous privilege allowing him to hold those beliefs. The following perhaps sums it up best:

But I had never thought of us as underprivileged or belonging to the lower class. When I was still a child, Simone had explained the French social system to me: The poor, of course, were at the bottom, then the various layers of the bourgeoisie. But on top of them all were the intellectuals. that was us, and therefore there was never any question of our feeling underprivileged (118).

For all that he may champion the ‘lower class’, it is from above, not alongside.
Adam Gnade. The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad. Lansing, KS: Pioneers Press, 2013. [164]
As it sounds.
Michael Sims, ed. The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Detective Stories. New York: Walker & Co., 2012. [163]
Not sure about the ‘connoisseur’ part, but an adequate collection.
Franz Kakfka. The Castle. trans. Mark Harmon. New York: Schocken, 1998 (1926). [162]
An odd book, but more amusing than I remember from my failed attempt to read it 15 years ago.
George Simenon. Uncle Charles Has Locked Himself In. trans. Howard Curtis. New York: HBJ, 1987 (1942). [161]
It is not a murder mystery, but a mystery of psychological destruction. Slow murder, perhaps.
Jean Cocteau. The Difficulty of Being. trans. Elizabeth Sprigge. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2013 (1947, 1966). [160]
I would have been more taken with this book at a younger age – caught glimpses of that while reading. An arrogant and charming book.
Derek Hudson, ed. Modern English Short Stories, Second Series. Oxford: OUP, 1956. [159]
An odd collection of stories, the known mixed with unknown, the fashionable with the faded. The Woolf story was a low piece of business, but the Greene was the original for Fallen Idol, so that was fun. Should read more C.S. Forester and Frances Towers.
Michael Joseph. The Adventure of Publishing. London: Allan Wingate, 1949. [158]
A critical view of the publishing industry in the UK after WWII (I really read it in October except for the last three pages which I read in December – arbitrary reading list rules…).
Margery Allingham. Hide My Eyes. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2010 (1958). [157]
Why do villains always crack under pressure? That’s what I don’t get.
Margery Allingham. The Beckoning Lady. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2010 (1955). [156]
Country zanies.
Margery Allingham. The Tiger in Smoke. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2010 (1952). [155]
The times they are a-changing. Allingham deals nicely with the aging of Campion, her main character, and he takes a suitably backseat role in this crime novel. More interesting is the increased presence of people not upper-middle class and above as characters instead of comic relief.
Margery Allingham. Pearls Before Swine. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2009 (1945). [154]
The enemy action notion is just as improbable as in Traitor’s Purse and rather reminds me of one of the American mysteries I read last year or so which was propaganda without merit. There is a novel here, at least, but not one of the best.
Margery Allingham. The Fashion in Shrouds. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2008 (1938). [153]
The action-hero ability to survive just about anything wears a bit thin.
Margery Allingham. The Case of the Late Pig. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2008 (1940). [152]
The improbability of insurance agents; there should be more improbable novels about insurance agents.
Margery Allingham. Dancers in Mourning. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2008 (1937). [151]
A rather dizzy romp.
Margery Allingham. Flowers for the Judge. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2008 (1936). [150]
A publishing house on some poisonous foundations.
Margery Allingham. Death of a Ghost. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2007 (1934). [149]
More incipient insanity causing problems, this time in the art world.
Margery Allingham. Police at the Funeral. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2007 (1931). [148]
Autocratic Victorian dowager rules over a ruffled roost.
Margery Allingham. Mystery Mile. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2006 (1930). [147]
Country house murder party.
Irmgard Keun. After Midnight. trans. Anthea Bell. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2011 (1985, 1937). [146]
An impressive and artful short novel – unsettling.
Margery Allingham. Traitor’s Purse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961 (1941). [145]
Amnesia and different sorts of counterfeit.
Margery Allingham. The Crime at Black Dudley. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960 (1929). [145]
So I didn’t realize, when I read More Work for the Undertaker, that Albert Campion was a recurring character of the laughable/affable a— school of British detecting – I had imagined him as more of a Maigret-type. Live and learn.
Storm Jameson. Women Against Men. London: Virago, 1982 (1933). [144]
Three novellas about women – with troubled relationships with/to men.
Sarah Gerkensmeyer. What You Are Now Enjoying. Pittsburgh: Autumn House, 2013. [143]
I saw Ms Gerkensmeyer read as part of Late Night Library’s Two from Out of Town series, and was amused by the charm and humor of her stories. I picked up her collection there and it did not disappoint.

November

Margery Allingham. More Work for the Undertaker. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973 (1949). [142]
Looking around for some more mysteries and stumbled upon Allingham: not a bad choice.
Pascal Blanchet. White Rapids.trans. Helge Dascher. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2007. [141]
Cute story of a small Canadian town, but too much set up and not enough pay off.
Richard Kennedy. A Boy at the Hogarth Press. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978 (1972). [140]
A charming insider’s view of working with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, as well as high-brow literary culture in the 1920s & ’30s.
Tove Jansson. Fair Play. trans. Thomas Teal. New York: NYRB Classics, 2007 (1982). [139]
As humane a book as one could expect to find – slight but lingering.
Nicole Howard. The Book: The Life Story of a Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2009. [138]
See post.
Georges Simenon. Maigret Goes Home. trans. Robert Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967 (1931). [137]
The ways in which it follows the conventions of a detective novel – the gathering of suspects, the application of pressure – and yet it is not the detective who reveals the murderer…
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah. New York: Knopf, 2013. [136]
A novel published this year that I actually enjoy? Yes, please.
A.L.P. Norrington. Blackwell’s 1879–1979: The History of a Family Firm. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983. [135]
See post.
Maryanne Wolf. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. [134]
One of those neuroscience fad books, but about reading and what goes on in the brain when one reads (or fails to).

October

Julian Barnes. Levels of Life. New York: Knopf, 2013. [133]
I put this on hold at the library in April, I think, or May, and just received it last week. It was worth the wait; I had my doubts during the first thirty pages or so (really, do we need more books about hot air balloons), but I was wrong.
Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth. Stumptown. 2 vols. Portland, OR: Oni Press, 2011, 2013. [132]
Always nice to see a Portland-based detective story.
Tove Jansson. The Summer Book. trans. Thomas Teal. New York: NYRB Classics, 2008 (1972). [131]
A charming little book; captures the feeling of being outside in the summer.
Ivy Compton-Burnett. More Women Than Men. London: Allison & Busby, 1983 (1933). [130]
More creepy sociopathic goodness from Ivy Compton-Burnett.
Alexis M. Smith. Glaciers. Portland, OR: Tin House, 2012. [129]
A charming novel, very Portland-flavored; it reminds me of a different novel, a different narrator, that I can’t quite name. Not working very hard to do so. Perfectly lovely, but not much more.
John Green. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton, 2012. [128]
So the library has a ‘Lucky Day’ shelf, where single copies of books with a lot of holds show up at random: you can check them out but not renew them (which you couldn’t do anyhow, with so many holds). This was one of the books and since I’m woefully behind on current publications, I picked it up. Did not realize until after I finished the book and looked at the author photo that it was written by Crash Course World History guy.
Lucy Knisley. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. New York: First Second, 2013. [127]
A charming graphic memoir centered around food and family.
Storm Jameson. The Blind Heart. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. [126]
Needlessly doomy novel; realism doesn’t need to be depressing: I wish authors would realize that.
Storm Jameson. Love in Winter. London: Capuchin Classics, 2009 (1935). [125]
Broken people falling almost in love. A sad, sweet book. So many typos, though – all OCR errors.
John Hall Wheelock, ed. Editor to Author: The Letters of Maxwell E. Perkins. New York: Scribner’s, 1950. [124]
Perkins spent a lot of time responding to cranks; I think most people today would dismiss some of the folks he was so very patient with as trolls.
Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. New York: Portfolio, 2008.[123]
Has the sort of breathless enthusiasm of a Malcolm Gladwell book – this is not, I think, a good thing.
Katherine Losse. The Boy Kings. New York: Free Press, 2012. [122]
I read this memoir because its author raised a stink about Dave Egger’s allegedly ripping off her work; I don’t intend to read Egger’s novel, because I’m not a fan of his work and, frankly, who care’s at this point. Losse’s book had the potential to be interesting, though, and so I dove in. While I don’t doubt the corporate culture of Facebook is obnoxious, Losse’s complaints about the privileging of engineers and hackers at the expense of ‘humanities’ graduates is entitlement at its most loathsome. Just because you took out a loan to get a master’s in English at Johns Hopkins does not make you either morally or socially irreproachable. This is a bit of hyperbole on my part, admittedly, but Losse’s narrative is so thoroughly unsympathetic (after all, it was a choice to work at Facebook: she could have continued in her dead end job writing copy for a cosmetics company – she could even have sunk to data entry) and the intent of the book so plainly to capitalize off the public’s morbid fascination with corporate gossip that it’s hard to take it seriously. The most frustrating thing is I was ready to be on her side, but it seems just as unappealing and arrogant as the Harvard-educated sausage-fest she condemns.
Mollie Panter-Downes. London War Notes 1939–1945. New York: FSG, 1971. [121]
An amazing collection of anecdotes about wartime London, geared to an American audience (they were originally published in The New Yorker). More privileged than Few Eggs and No Oranges, but of the same general character.
Simon Garfield. Just My Type. New York: Gotham (Penguin), 2010. [120]
A cute introduction to the characters of typography. ‘that’s the challenge for all of us – to create warmth in a digital world. Not many people can do it. You see a lot of stuff that looks great but simply doesn’t turn you on’ – Erik Spiekermann (qtd. on p. 186). Also liked the bit about sans-serif fonts coming out of Switzerland after WWII: ‘the present belonged to clean lines devoid of political or historical connotations, to an alphabet that looked the same throughout the new Europe, to a simple g that would be instantly recognizable without recourse to a typeface encyclopedia’ (192)
Steven Beller. A Concise History of Austria. Cambridge: CUP, 2006. [119]
A solid and straightforward introduction. On the Habsburgs under Francis I: ‘The mix of repression and incompetence had a deadening effect on civic life, a sense of political and intellectual stasis’ (p.117).

September

Maurice Dekobra. The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars. trans. Neil Wainwright. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2006 (1927). [118]
An entertainment.
Robert Musil. The Man Without Qualities. vol. 1. trans. Wilkins & Pike. New York: Vintage, 1995 (1952, 1978). [117]
Ambivalent.
Muriel Spark. All the Stories of Muriel Spark. New York: New Directions, 2000. [116]
I don’t think I’ve outright enjoyed a book as much as I enjoyed this one for a very long time. Heartily, utterly what I needed to read.
Dawn Powell. Dance Night. South Royalton, VT: Steerforth, 1999 (1930). [115]
Young people tire of blighted expectations and provincial life.
Jeannette Winterson. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?. New York: Grove, 2011. [114]
Memoir of an unhappy childhood and finding her mother.
Marguerite Yourcenar. A Blue Tale and Other Stories. trans. Alberto Manguel. Chicago: UChicago Press, 1995 (1927–1930). [113]
A charmingly slight collection.
Monica Dickens. Mariana. London: Persephone, 2008 (1940). [112]
A light and sentimental amusement.
Marghanita Laski. Little Boy Lost. London: Persephone, 2008 (1949). [111]
Dark and dreary and captivating.
Oliver Wendell Holmes. The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, N.D. (1857). [110]
An odd book; not quite sure what to make of it.
Vere Hodgson. Few Eggs and No Oranges: The Diaries 1940–45. London: Persephone, 2010 (1976). [109]
A personable account of London during the Blitz.
Mollie Panter-Downes. Good Evening, Mrs. Craven: The Wartime Stories. London: Persephone, 2008 (1939 – 1944). [108]
I love it when searching by publisher in the library catalogue brings gems like this to the surface. A thoroughly enjoyable collection of stories about wartime Britain.
Claude-Anne Lopez. My Life with Benjamin Franklin. New Haven: Yale, 2000. [107]
An amusing collection of essays.
Susan RoAne. How to Work a Room. New York:HarperCollins, 2005 (2000). [106]
I may have mentioned I like self-help books; the presence of anxiety about the world which they represent is soothing to me. This one could be boiled down to ‘don’t be a jerk’, but I suppose that’s what most of them say.
Jack Hitt. Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character. New York: Crown, 2012. [105]
Started off strong, but the chapters did not coalesce into a larger overall argument about either amateurs or ‘the American character’; an amusing light read.

August

Marghanita Laski. The Victorian Chaise-Longue. London: Persephone, 2010 (1953). [104]
Creepy, but put me strangely in mind of Somerset Maugham; strange to think it was published the same year as The Present and the Past.
Jessicah Carver & Natalie Guidry. Rethinking Paper & Ink: The Sustainable Publishing Revolution. Portland: Ooligan, 2011. [103]
Like it says on the tin, a short introduction to publishing in general and sustainable publishing in particular.
Ivy Compton-Burnett. The Present and the Past. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972 (1953). [102]
A family drama, with some comeuppance.
Iris Murdoch. A Severed Head. London: Penguin, 1961. [101]
Like one of those math puzzles, who sleeps with whom.
Barbee Davis, ed. 97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know. New York: O’Reilly, 2009. [100]
In short, you need to make your own mistakes, and they will probably be dreadful – hopefully you’ll learn from them.
Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics, 2005. [99]
Much more enjoyable than I would have thought.
Robert Darnton. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books, 1984. [98]
An amusing excursion in 18th century France; the title essay is the best of the bunch.
Rich Ling. Taken for Grantedness: The Embedding of Mobile Communication into Society. Cambrige, MA: MIT UP, 2012. [97]
Looks at how technologies change societies and cities; most interested in mobile and smart phones, but also has chapters on clock time and automobiles.

July

Robert C. Donnelly. Dark Rose: Organized Crime and Corruption in Portland. Seattle: UWP, 2011. [96]
As it sounds – a light monograph.
Laurie Sandell. The Imposter’s Daughter. New York: Little, Brown & co., 2009. [95]
Memoir of dysfunctional family and substance abuse; ultimately unsympathetic.
Carl Abbott. Portland in Three Centuries. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State UP, 2011. [94]
Solid introductory history to Portland (although scattered whimsicalities rather lower the tone), with a useful annotated bibliography for further reading.
André Schiffrin. Words & Money. London: Verso, 2010. [93]
A follow-up to The Business of Books, with some potential solutions to the problems facing publishing and newspapers. Since these solutions involve targeted taxation to support government subsidies of small presses and independent (non-profit) media, they would certainly fix the problem – but the probability that they would be put into place is so low as to make them non-solutions. They are good answers, but they answer the wrong questions.
Ellen Forney. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me. New York: Gotham Books, 2012. [92]
Yet another bipolar memoir, this one in comics.
Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. The Letter Killers Club. New York: NYRB Classics, 2012 (1993). [91]
You could read a great deal into it, if you wanted to; I wasn’t in the humor to do so – fiction is leaving me rather stale lately.
Mary MacLane. I Await the Devil’s Coming. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2013 (1902) [90]
Enjoyable, but I read it at the wrong time of life; each page made me wish I could give a copy to someone – only as I neared the end did I realize the ‘someone’ I wanted to give the book to was my younger self.
Leigh Stein. The Fallback Plan. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2012. [89]
Broken college-graduate novel. Meh.
Michael Munk. The Portland Red Guide.2 Portland: Ooligan, 2011. [88]
Neither fish nor flesh: sits on uneasily on the boundary between guidebook and history, while being fully neither. Would perhaps work better in two volumes – one volume of history (which is fascinating) and the second of guided walks & keyed maps. Not sure.
Gyula Krúdy. The Adventures of Sindbad. trans. George Szirtes. New York: NYRB Classics, 1998 (1944). [87]
Not quite what I thought it would be; not sure what I thought it would be, but a ghostly lover visiting his mistresses through the centuries is not it.
Tamara Plakins Thornton. Handwriting in America. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. [86]
A short historical excursion.
Banana Yoshimoto. The Lake. trans. Michael Emmerich. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2011 (2005). [85]
Sort of 1Q84-lite, but in a very good way – a much more focused and intense novel along similar lines.
Nicole Georges. Calling Dr. Laura. New York: Mariner Books, 2013. [84]
A graphic memoir; following in the footsteps of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother?, but more earnest, with all the giddy anxiousness of moving away from a pose and into being (which is at best a bad way to describe what I mean, but I can’t think of a better at present).
Mark Williams, et al. The Mindful Way Through Depression. New York: Guilford, 2007. [83]
Self-help books are one of my guilty pleasures – right after noir detective novels.
André Schiffrin. The Business of Books. London: Verso, 2000. [82]
See post.
Sid Miller. Dot-to-Dot, Oregon. Portland: Ooligan, 2009. [81]
A travelogue in verse.
Marya Hornbacher. Madness: A Bipolar Life. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2008. [80]
Out of control – one feels that Hornbacher’s writing occasionally escapes her control as much as her life does at times.

June

T.W. Arnold. The Caliphate. Oxford: OUP, 2000 (1924). [79]
Once I accepted its being out-of-date, I quite enjoyed it as an introduction. Note to self: look up the Carmathians.
Eliot Treichel. Close is Fine. Portland: Ooligan, 2012. [78]
Some very middle American stories.
Albert Camus. The Stranger. trans. Matthew Ward. New York: Vintage, 1988 (1942). [77]
Bah.
Eric Gill. An Essay on Typgraphy. Boston: David R. Godine, 1988 (1936, 1931). [76.2]
An odd character.
Dubravka Ugresic. Thank You for Not Reading. trans. Celia Hawkesworth. Champaign, IL: Dalkey Archive, 2003 (2001). [75.2]
More petulant and ill-humored than I remember.
Xinru Liu. The Silk Road in World History. Oxford: OUP, 2010. [74.d]
A fine introduction, really intended for high-school or first year university students. The general reader is probably better served elsewhere.

May

Virginia Woolf. A Writer’s Diary. ed. Leonard Woolf. New York: Harcourt Brace, 2003. [73.d]
I’ve read at least one volume of Woolf’s complete diary, and it’s fascinating stuff, gossipy, and personal and very much one woman’s attempt to make sense of her world. A Writer’s Diary is a selection of her diary entries with all the life and fun taken out; the notes are worse than useless – they are either redundant or entirely absent. As a selection, it is skewed not to show Woolf’s creativity, but her struggles with creativity – which is interesting, but not honest. If one is not going to read her complete diaries, then this is a (barely) passable selection – but the multiple volumes of her diaries are far more rewarding and illuminating, more than repaying the extra time it takes to read them.
Álvaro Mutis. The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll. trans. Edith Grossman. New York: NYRB Classics, 2002 (1994). [72]
See post.
Jack Weatherford. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. New York: Broadway, 2005 [71.d]
American anxieties in Mongol dress.
Charles King. The Black Sea: A History. Oxford: OUP, 2005. [70.d]
A solid introduction both to the history and historiography of the Black Sea; the ebook version has many amusing formatting errors.
Arthur Waley, trans. The Secret History of the Mongols and Other Pieces. Looe, Cornwall: House of Stratus, 2002. [69.d]
An eclectic assortment.
Elizabeth Taylor. Complete Short Stories. London: Virago, 2012. [68.d]
Uneven, as such collections usually are – blighted expectations and other miseries.
Jean Baudrillard. The System of Objects. trans. James Benedict. London: Verso, 2005 (1968, 1996). [67]
This would be a more interesting book if there were any evidence in it that Baudrillard could think for himself instead of assembling the ideas of others into a torturous ‘system’ of nonsense.
Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. The Dialectic of Enlightenment. trans. Edmund Jephcott. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2007 (1949). [66]
A sophisticated book, but not a reasoned one. See post.
Svetislav Basara. The Cyclist Conspiracy. trans. Randall A. Major. Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2012 (1988). [65]
One of those rare books I read slowly because I didn’t want to be finished with it.
W.M. Thackery. Samuel Titmarsh and the Great Hoggarty Diamond. Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1984 (1841). [64]
An odd book about fortunes and speculation and mean-mindedness.

April

Roberto Bolaño. The Savage Detectives. trans. Natasha Wimmer. New York: FSG, 2008 (1998). [63]
‘The Queneau was a photocopy, and the way it had been folded, in addition to the wear and tear of too much handling, had turned it into a kind of startled paper flower, its petals splayed toward the four points of the compass’ (20).
Diana Wynne Jones. Reflections: On the Magic of Writing. New York: GreenWillow, 2012. [62.d]
Chatty, comfortable excursions on creativity and writing.
Karl Popper. Unended Quest. London: Routledge, 2002 (1969, 1992). [61.d]
Gets a bit wheezy talking about his ideas towards the end – as though he had stopped living except as an ideamill. Of course, I do prefer my autobiographies to be gossipy.
Leslie Howsam. Old Books and New Histories: An Orientation to Studies in Book and Print Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012 (2006). [60.d]
Like it says on the tin.
Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: CUP, 1983. [59]
Remind me never to bother reading abridged versions of monographs – even if they do have ‘extra’ illustrations. The lack of footnotes drove me crazy, because they were essential to support her argument, which I’m taking on trust for now until I can check the original version. Clearly an influence on Imagined Communities, though.
Christine Brooke-Rose. Amalgamemnon. Normal, IL: Dalkey Archive, 1994 (1984). [58]
A breathless onslaught of cleverness; should have read it in 2003 when I cared for such things.
Paul J. Silvia. How to Write a Lot. Washington, DC: APA, 2007. [57.d]
Aimed at psychology scholars, but has some solid advice for the remainder of humanity.
Jeff Schmidt. Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes Their Lives. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. [56.d]
Getting the student to think like a professional is the top priority in all professional training programs, and so technical skills are of secondary importance not just in law school. Nonetheless, the graduate psychology student, for example, learns more than how to ‘think like a psychologist’ and the graduate history student emerges knowing more than how to ‘think like a historian.’
Of course the part equating being in graduate school with being in a POW camp was a bit much, but overall a useful and thought-provoking book I wish I’d read before going to graduate school.
Roberto Bolaño. 2666. trans. Natasha Wimmer. New York: FSG, 2008 (2004). [55]
See post.

March

Ross Macdonald. The Name is Archer. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1955). [54.d]
I think I like the Archer short stories better than the novels – they hang together a bit tighter.
Ross Macdonald. Meet Me at the Morgue. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1953). [53.d]
Double-crossing, deception, unlikely attractions.
Ross Macdonald. The Blue Hammer. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1976). [52.d]
Art and madness.
Ross Macdonald. Sleeping Beauty. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1973). [51.d]
More family secrets and jealousy and ‘unexpected’ twists.
Ross Macdonald. The Dark Tunnel. New York: Vintage, 2013 (1944). [50.d]
Anti-Nazi propaganda with some nasty homophobia thrown in.
Ross Macdonald. The Underground Man. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1971). [49.d]
Buried secrets.
Ross Macdonald. The Goodbye Look. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1969). [48.d]
Great title; wish the novel matched it.
Ross Macdonald. The Instant Enemy. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1968). [47.d]
Just add water.
Ross Macdonald. Black Money. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1966). [46.d]
The illuminated city and the search for immortal youth.
Ross Macdonald. The Far Side of the Dollar. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1965). [45.d]
Legitimacy and illegitimacy.
Ross Macdonald. The Chill. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1964). [44.d]
The past catches up.
Ross Macdonald. The Zebra-Striped Hearse. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1962). [43.d]
People not always what they seem.
Ross Macdonald. The Wycherly Woman. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1961). [42.d]
Broken relationships.
Ross Macdonald. The Galton Case. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1959). [41.d]
Missing persons.
Ross Macdonald. The Doomsters. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1958). [40.d]
Madness and murder.
Ross Macdonald. The Barbarous Coast. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1956). [39.d]
Tangled and twisted.
Ross Macdonald. Find a Victim. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1954). [38.d]
Or two or three.
Ross Macdonald. The Ivory Grin. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1952). [37.d]
Pretty grim.
Ross Macdonald. The Way Some People Die. New York: Vintage, 2010 (1951). [36.d]
… is quite nasty.
Ross Macdonald. The Drowning Pool. New York: Vintage, 2011 (1950). [35.d]
Various types of hatred and drowning.
Ross Macdonald. Moving Target. New York: Vintage, 1977 (1949). [34.d]
Kidnapping and fine line between guilt and innocence.
Mark O’Connell. Epic Fail. San Francisco: The Millions, 2013. [33.d]
On viral videos, failed art, and sincere intentions.

February

Elly Blue. Everyday Bicycling. Portland: Microcosm, 2012. [32.d]
A splendid introduction.
Otto Penzler, ed. The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps. New York: Vintage, 2007. [31.d]
Another wide-ranging collection of the good, the okay (or okey), the bad, and the silly.
Olivia Manning. Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy. New York: NYRB Classics, 2010 (1960, 1962, 1965). [30]
See post.
Vasily Grossman. An Armenian Sketchbook. trans. Robert VChanlder, et al. New York: NYRB Classics, 2013 (1962). [29.d]
One of the better travel books about Armenia that I’ve read.
Jean Strouse. Alice James: A Biography. New York: NYRB Classics, 2011 (1980). [28.d]
An interesting life, but one that does not make sense. (The biography, on the other hand, makes as much sense out of it as one could hope.)
Raymond Queneau. Exercises in Style. trans. Barbara Wright. New York: NEw Directions, 2012 (1947, 1958, 1981). [27.d]
The new additional exercises by other authors were really no addition at all.
Masanobu Fukuoka. The One-Straw Revolution. trans. Larry Korn et al. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009 (1978, 1986). [26]
Omnivore’s Dilemma with a zen twist – and a better book because of it.
Tété-Michel Kpomassie. An African in Greenland. trans. James Kirkup. New York: NYRB Classics, 2011 (1983, 1981). [25]
Started out strong, but once he actually got to Greenland the pacing sort of lost perspective. The relative weight of his relationships was unclear – in the end he seemed in a rush to get away.
Milton Rokeach. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. New York: NYRB Classics, 2011 (1964, 1981). [24]
About control and authority more than identity.
Otto Penzler, ed. The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories. New York: Vintage, 2010. [23.d]
A wide-ranging collection of the good, the bad, and the silly.

January

Nathanael West. Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust. New York: New Directions, 1969 (1933, 1939). [22]
The first time I read this collection, I though it would love it and was sorely disappointed. This time I didn’t expect much from it except a busy afternoon and found it much more rewarding. These new directions covers always make me expect a certain kind of book, which this emphatically isn’t; after all that Raymond Chandler and Black Mask stories, though, it makes more sense to me – or I can make more sense of it, however one chooses to look at the matter.
Jennifer Baumgardner & Amy Richards. Manifesta. New York: FSG, 2010 (2000). [21]
Needed more substantial revision, especially in areas where they made predictions (the internet, the ‘Girlie’ movement).
S.H. Steinberg. Five Hundred Years of Printing. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974 (1955, 1961). [20]
Short introduction to the history of printing and printers. Has a bit of this and a bit of that, and is a good starting point but not a good place to stop.
Didier Eribon. Michel Foucault. Trans. Betsy Wing. London: faber & faber, 1993 (1989, 1991). [19]
See post.
Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn. New York: Viking, 1968. [18]
‘Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.’
Raymond Chandler. Playback. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1958). [17.d]
‘Just one more question. How in hell do you get away with it? The muggles, I mean.’
Raymond Chandler. The Long Goodbye. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1953). [16.d]
‘He was a guy who talked with commas, like a heavy novel. Over the phone anyway.’
Rebecca West. The Return of the Soldier. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1918). [15.d]
Intended to read a chapter before going to sleep; stayed up late to finish reading it. Reminded me a bit of Cakes and Ale, but glossier, more melancholy, with less mystery.
Raymond Chandler. Trouble is My Business. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1950). [14.d]
‘She didn’t look hard, but she looked as if she had heard all the answers and remembered the ones she thought she might be able to use sometime.’
Raymond Chandler. The Little Sister. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1949). [13.d]
‘He moved another card and flexed his fingers lightly. His nails were bright but short. You could see he was a man who loved to move his hands, to make little neat inconspicuous motions with them, motions without any special meaning, but smooth and flowing and light as swansdown. They gave him a feel of delicate things delicately done, but not weak. Mozart, all right. I could see that.’
Raymond Chandler. The Lady on the Lake. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1943). [12.d]
‘She looked playful and eager, but not quite sure of herself, like a new kitten in a house where they don’t care much about kittens.’
Raymond Chandler. The High Window. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1942). [11.d]
‘Sit down and rest your sex appeal.’
Raymond Chandler. Farewell, My Lovely. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1940). [10.d]
‘We sneered at each other across the desk for a moment. He sneered better than I did.’
Victor Serge. Memoirs of a Revolutionary. Trans. Peter Sedgwick & George Paizis. New York: NYRB Classics, 2012 (1951, 1963). [9]
Memoirs of a man who cannot resolve the conflicts between his beliefs and their faulty execution (pardon the pun). Attitude toward women most disturbing – he manages to get through three wives without a word of explanation or hint of divorce.
Raymond Chandler. The Big Sleep. New York: Vintage, 2002 (1939). [8.d]
And the rain kept falling.
Diana Wynne Jones. Howl’s Moving Castle. New York: Harper Trophy, 2001 (1986). [7]
Quite charming.
Twyla Tharp. The Creative Habit. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. [6.d]
Meditation on creativity – with exercises.
Patrick Leigh Fermor. The Violins of Saint-Jacques. London: John Murray, 2004 (1953). [5]
Charming novella about the disappearance of the past and the persistence of desire.
Sherry Turkle. Alone Together. New York: Basic Books, 2011. [4.d]
Considers some interesting questions about human interaction with technology and what it means to be human and/or authentic in a world of avatars and sociable robots.
Kyung-Sook Shin. Please Look After Mom. trans. Chi-Young Kim. New York: Vintage, 2011 (2008). [3]
A very domestic novel, as much about how a family works as the actual disappearance of the mother. The shifting voices (mostly in second person addressed to a different character in each section) was useful for perspective, but was also occasionally disorienting – intentionally.
Mahmoud Dowlatabadi. The Colonel. trans. Tom Patterdale. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2012 (2009). [2]
Adjectives that spring to mind: rending, eviscerating, crumbling, shattering; a portrait of a person and a nation falling apart. Has some of the same power as Rushdie’s earlier work, but more harrowing.
Dorothy Sayers. Clouds of Witness. Open Road, 2012 (1926). [1.d]
A sort of amuse-bouche for the reading year.

(last revised: 19 March 2015)

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