a reader

an eudæmonistreading

2015

December

H.D. End to Torment: A Memoir of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1978 (1958). [141]
Personal, allusive – elusive.
Valeria Luiselli. Sidewalks. trans. Christina MacSweeney. Minneapolis, MN: Coffeehouse Press, 2014 (2010). [140]
A necessary tonic for my current malaise.
Faith Sullivan. Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed, 2015. [139.d]*
I had a good adjective for this earlier, but I forgot. Adequate – reading group fodder.

November

Stefan Zweig. Montaigne. trans. Will Stone. London: Pushkin, 2015 (1942). [138]
Charming.
Peter Toohey. Boredom: A Lively History. New Haven: Yale UP, 2011. [137]*
See post.
Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Making of a Marchioness. London: Persephone, 2009 (1901, 1907). [136]*
Liked it more than I did six months ago – and seemed rather more Jamesian, too.
Julia Strachey. Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. London: Persephone, 2002 (1932). [135]*
Amusing and strange.

October

Edna O’Brien. A Pagan Place. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (1970). [134.d]*
Rather a forward momentum.
Anne Brontë. Agnes Grey. New York: Open Road Media, 2014 (1847). [133.d]*
Changing sense of the narrator.
Heidi Julavits. The Folded Clock: A Diary. New York: Doubleday, 2015. [132]*
Felt rather melancholy by the end.
Ivan Vladislavić. Double Negative. London: & Other Stories, 2013 (2010). [131.d]*
Grew stronger as it went along.
J.E. Neale. Queen Elizabeth I: A Biography. Garden City, NY: Anchor Doubleday, 1957 (1934). [130]
Quite enjoyed, see e.g.
Donald Jones. Contemporary American Poetry. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963. [129]
Found some things I liked and also some things that I didn’t.

September

Peter H. Fogtdal. The Tsar’s Dwarf. trans. Tiina Nunnally. Portland, OR: Hawthorne Books, 2008 (2006). [128]
An odd, disjointed, and interesting book about outsiders and history; would be interested in comparing it to Lagerkvist’s The Dwarf, and also The Tin Drum.
Evan Lavender-Smith. From Old Notebooks. Buffalo, NY: BlazVOX, 2010. [127]*
Markson manqué.
Meghan Daum. Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. [126]*
Although not the most wrench of the lot, the essay ‘On Not Being a Foodie’ was my favorite.
Machi Tawara. Salad Anniversary. trans. Juliet Winters Carpenter. London: Pushkin Press, 2014 (1989, 1987). [125]
Charming.
Abdullah Al-Udhari and George Wightman, ed. Birds through a Ceiling of Alabaster: Three Abbasid Poets. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975. [124]
Don’t really have anything to say about these. Moody.

August

Kay Dick. Ivy & Stevie. Ivy Compton-Burnett and Stevie Smith: Conversations and Reflections. London: Duckworth, 1971. [123]*
Charming, though more amusing if one is familiar with the subjects (that is to say, I got more out of the section on Ivy C-B than the one on Stevie Smith).

July

Birgit Vanderbeke. The Mussel Feast. trans. Jamie Bulloch. London: Peirene, 2013 (1990). [122.d]*
Rather a creepy little book.
Meghan Daum, ed. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed. New York: Picador, 2015. [121]*
(Mostly) thoughtful essays on the choice not to have children.
Peter LaSalle. The City at 3 P.M.. Ann Arbor, MI: Dzanc, 2015.[120]
Dyer-ish.
P.D. James. Children of Men. New York: Vintage, 2006. [119]*
An odd book – a bit more Barbara Pym-ish than I was expecting.
Elizabeth Gaskell. Cranford. London: Everyman’s Library, 1930. [118.2]
Restful.
Alejandro Zambra. My Documents. trans. Megan McDowell. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2015. [117]*
Short stories from Chile – rather like The Loss Library, but less smooth.
Lucilla Andrews. No Time for Romance. London: Harrap, 1977. [116]*
Of course I read it because of the Atonement kerfuffle.

June

Tammy M. Proctor. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. New York: NYUP, 2003. [115]*
A slight book.
Maggie Nelson. Bluets. Seattle: Wave Books, 2009. [115.d]*
Expecting something slight more sentimental.
A.E. Stallings. Hapax: Poems. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 2006. [114]*
Picked it up because she had been on the ballot for Professor of Poetry; it was of the Housmanian type one expected.
Tomás González. In the Beginning Was the Sea. trans. Frank Wynne. London: Pushkin, 2014 (1983). [113]*
Unpleasant people living unpleasant lives.
Mary Lascelles. Jane Austen and Her Art. Oxford OUP, 1963 (1939). [112]
An enjoyable bit of criticism.
Gilbert Adair. The Death of the Author. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2008 (1992). [111]
Clever.
Cyprian Ekwensi. Burning Grass. London: Heinemann, 1971 (1962). [110]
One doesn’t want to make comparisons with The Palm-Wine Drinkard, but that’s what sprang to mind.
M.V. Hughes. A London Family Between the Wars. Oxford: OUP, 1981 (1940). [109]
Her notes on driving are amusing.
M.V. Hughes. A London Home in the 1890s. Oxford: OUP, 1983 (1937). [108]
Charming.
Fiona Templeton. Delirium of Interpretation. Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2003. [107]
See post.

May

Frances Hodgson Burnett. Emily Fox-Seton: Being ‘The Making of a Marchioness’ and ‘The Methods of Lady Walderhurst’. Project Gutenberg, 2011 (1901). [106.d]
A silly book – rather like the Semi-Attached Couple.
Ursula K. Le Guin. Annals of the Western Shore. 3 vols. New York: Harcourt, 2004–2007. [105.d]*
A diversion.
Jacqueline Winspear. Pardonable Lies. New York: Penguin, 2006. [104]*
Silly.
Alan Jacobs. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford: OUP, 2011. [103]*
I am not quite sure what to make of this book, as I found myself agreeing with parts, but not the whole.
Orhan Pamuk. The Naive and Sentimental Novelist. trans. Nazim Dikbaş. London: Faber & Faber, 2011. [102]
I’m not quite sure that I would say with such confidence that Anna Karenina is a perfect novel.
Maggie Nelson. The Red Parts: A Memoir. New York: Free Press, 2007. [101]*
An interesting and thoughtful memoir, but I felt – as so often with this sort of nonfiction – that Joan Didion casts rather a long shadow; this is not a matter of particular approaches, but rather of overall tone.
James H. Hodge, ed. Famous Trials 4. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1954. [100]
Really quite enjoyable – although quality varies from essay to essay.
Jacqueline Winspear. Birds of a Feather. New York: Penguin, 2005. [99]*
Doesn’t quite follow through.
Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs. New York: Penguin, 2003. [98]*
Amusing enough.
Ruth Rendell. A Dark-Adapted Eye. New York: Open Road Media, 2011. [97.d]*
Rather better than I had expected.
Jacqueline Winspear. Leaving Everything Most Loved. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. [96.d]*
Self-indulgent.
Jacqueline Winspear. Elegy for Eddie. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. [95.d]*
Improbable.
Jacqueline Winspear. A Lesson in Secrets. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. [94.d]*
Made me want to reread The Secret Service, so that’s one thing in its favor, I suppose.
Jacqueline Winspear. The Mapping of Love and Death. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. [93.d]*
Amusing.
Ruth Rendell. The Monster in the Box. New York: Scribner, 2009. [92.d]*
Amusing enough.
Ruth Rendell. The Veiled One. New York: Open Road Media, 2010. [91.d]*
Amusing enough.
Ruth Rendell. An Unkindness of Ravens. New York: Open Road Media, 2010. [90.d]*
Like very late Margery Allingham in tone.
Eula Biss. On Immunity. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf, 2014. [89]*
Thought-provoking, but doesn’t quite deliver – too personal. Perhaps I wanted to read a different book.

April

Anne Garréta. Sphinx. trans. Emma Ramadan. Dallas, TX: Deep Vellum, 2015 (1986). [88]
Wow.
Fabien Vehlmann, Marie Pommepuy & Kerascoët. Beautiful Darkness. trans. Helge Dascher. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2014 (2009). [87]*
Unsettling.
Leela Corman. Unterzakhn. New York: Schocken, 2012. [86]*
A look at the lives of two sisters in early 20th century New York.
Deborah Meadows. Thin Gloves. Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006. [85]
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this collection of poetry – it had the feeling in parts of very informal, highly tinged reactions to pieces of prose (Rabelais, Melville), but in other places the control was so clear that I was unsure whether I’d misread the whether the influence was deliberate or not. Unsettling.
Harry Hodge, ed. Famous Trials 1. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1941. [84]
Accounts of famous court cases (including Dr. Crippen) – doesn’t focus on the crime qua action but rather as opportunity for argumentation.
Rebecca Solnit. The Faraway Nearby. New York: Penguin, 2013. [83]
Quite the right book to read right now.
Javier Marías. The Infatuations. trans. Margaret Jull Costa. New York: Vintage, 2015. [82]
A funny novel about stories, murder, and publishing.
Patrick Modiano. Dora Bruder. trans. Joanna Kilmartin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015 (1999, 1997). [81]
A slight excursion to track down a missing adolescent – either a girl lost in the Holocaust or the author himself.
Ingrid Winterbach. The Elusive Moth. trans. Iris Gouws with the author. Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2014. [80]
An odd, disconcerting novel: an out-of-place, imperturbable woman, familiar from Christa Wolf or The Wall, and inexplicable, ordinary violence.
Nancy Reisman. Trompe L’Oeil. Portland: Tin House, 2015. [79]
A novel in portraits – of a family, of individuals in that family, of moments in time, of paintings in museums.
Catherine Lacey. Nobody Is Ever Missing. New York: FSG, 2014. [78]*
Perhaps I read it too quickly, but I found it a flat and not particularly engaging novel. As one reviewer commented, it is ‘blessedly free of even a whiff of so-called closure’, but unlike the reviewer, I don’t think that is a strength for a novel. It is not a badly written book, but a badly edited one.

March

Roland Barthes. The Pleasure of the Text. trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill & Wang, 1975 (1973). [77]
Ha!
Cory Doctorow. Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2014. [76]
Has some good points, but I found myself longing for a few comfortable footnotes on which to rest my credulity.
Sait Faik Abasıyanık. A Useless Man: Selected Stories. trans. Maureen Freely & Alexander Dawe. New York: Archipelago, 2014. [75]
Spent almost five months reading this because I didn’t really want it to end.
Justin Hocking. The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014. [74]
An unexpectedly enjoyable Melville-tinged memoir.
Dashiell Hammett. The Thin Man. New York: Vintage, 1986 (1933). [73]
Found it at a bookstore near the beach and it was the remedy for all my reading ennui.
Machado de Assis. The Alienist. trans. William L. Grossman. Brooklyn: Melville House, 2012 (1881). [72]
An eerie and entertaining look at madness.
Chad Harbach, ed. MFA vs. NYC. New York: N+1/faber & faber, 2014. [71]
Not really an interesting debate.
Emily Eden. The Semi-attached Couple & the Semi-detached House. London: Virago. [70]
An amusing and silly business, which I somehow respected more when I thought it was written in 1910 than when I figured out it was written in 1860.
Hope Mirrless. Collected Poems. ed. Sandeep Parmar. Manchester: Carcanet, 2011. [69]
See post.
Sylvia Townsend Warner. Kingdom of Elfin. New York: Vintage, 1977. [68]*
When I was reading Virago’s selection of Warner’s stories, the pieces taken from this collection were among the most amusing, so I decided to read the entire collection: it did not disappoint.
Denis Johnson. Jesus’ Son. New York: Picador, 1992. [67]*
An amusing and readable collection of stories, all of which felt very familiar – must have read many of them when they were published in magazines.
Corsino Fortes. Selected Poems. trans. Daniel Hahn & Sean O’Brien. New York: Archipelago, 2014. [66]
A collection of poems that could use some judicious annotation.
Janice A. Radway. A Feeling for Books: The Book-Of-The-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle-Class Desire. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997. [65]*
See post.
M. Thomas Inge, ed. Will Eisner: Conversations. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. [64]*
An interesting collection of interviews, highlighting the very masculine world of comics production during the golden age of comics. As a side note, if I see one more book combining Chaparral and Scala Sans&8230; they’re both lovely typefaces, but I’m getting a bit tired of them (especially the lowercase ‘a’ for Chaparral).
Sylvia Townsend Warner. Selected Stories. London: Virago, 1990 (1932–1977). [63]
An odd and amusing collection of stories; the majority are sort of a mashup of Grace Paley and Ivy Compton-Burnett, while the remainder are fantastic (in the genre-fiction sense of the word – but also very good in a general sense).
Tarpé Mills. Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays, 1944-1949. San Diego: IDW, 2011 (1979; 1944–1949). [62]*
Bore a stronger resemblance to Dick Tracy than I would have thought. Rather silly, with plenty of lingerie on show.
Radclyffe Hall. A Saturday Life. London: Virago, 1989 (1925). [61]
A short and silly novel about a young girl who cannot commit to any form of artistic expression save for marriage – and even that commitment seems dubious. More interesting for what it implies about other characters: that the mother’s friend (and probably the mother herself) are queer, that the husband is a complete nuisance of a human being, etc.
Chester Gould. The Complete Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. vol. 6. San Diego: IDW, 2008 (1939–1941). [60]*
Much better than I thought it would be; the transitions between stories was amusing – a moment of heightened tension as though they were worried whether the new story would ‘take’, but then once the new plot was fully entered, all was devil-may-care even to the utmost absurdity.
Antonio Tabucchi. Time Ages in a Hurry. trans. Martha Cooley & Antonio Romani. New York: Archipelago, 2015 (2009). [59]
Short stories of aging men.
Jules Feiffer. The Great Comic Book Heroes. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2003 (1965). [58]*
Amusing short essays about comic books.
Fabien Vehlmann & Jason. Isle of 100,000 Graves. trans. Kim Thompson. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2011. [57]
Same tone as Black is the Color, but with a significantly more gripping storyline.
Roxane Gay. Bad Feminist: Essays. New York: HarperPerennial, 2014. [56]*
Put this on hold at the library before it came out last summer and only just received it. A solidly thought-provoking collection of essays, some of them a bit too bound in the moment of their composition to work well in a collection, but interesting. Worth the wait.

February

Lynda Barry. One Hundred Demons. Seattle: Sasquatch, 2002. [55]
I thought I’d read this before, but it turns out that although I’ve read parts of it, I hadn’t read it all.
M.V. Hughes. A London Girl of the 1880s. Oxford: OUP, 1977 (1936). [54]
Interesting look at women’s education in late nineteenth century Britain.
Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee. Nicely Said: Writing for the Web with Style and Purpose. San Francisco: Peachpit, 2014. [53.d]
A charming introduction to writing professionally for the web, aimed at the anxious novice but could be useful to anyone looking to rebrand and refresh their site’s voice.
Mina Loy. The Lost Lunar Baedeker. New York: FSG, 1997 (1914–1949). [52]
Much better than I had expected, compulsively readable modernist poetry, despite the poor printing quality.
Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth & Bryan Talbot. Sally Heathcote, Suffragette. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse, 2014. [51]*
Cute, with good use of color, but the narrative was oddly structured.
Will Eisner. Invisible People. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007 (1992). [50]
Not quite as good as The Building.
M.V. Hughes. A London Child of the 1870s. Oxford: OUP, 1977 (1934). [49]
A sweet, if oddly constructed, childhood memoir.
Will Eisner. The Building. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006 (1987). [48]*
Another ghost story comic book. Got me a little teared up at the end.
Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, et al. All Star Superman. New York: DC Comics, 2011. [47]*
Meh. Presumes too much.
Emma Rendel. The Vicar Woman. New York: Random House, 2012. [46]*
Interesting look at the way ghosts and tragedy and selfishness can overwhelm a community.
Josephine Tey. The Franchise Affair. New York: Scribner, 1998 (1948). [45.d]*
Very sweet tempered, with perhaps a too sentimental belief in the invigorating power of love.

January

Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles. New York: Scribner, 1998 (1936). [44.d]*
Also a bit too tidy.
Josephine Tey. The Man in the Queue. New York: Scribner, 1995 (1929). [43.d]*
A bit too tidy.
Patricia Wentworth. The Alington Inheritance. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1958). [42.d]*
Pleasant enough, but a bit tired.
Patricia Wentworth. The Fingerprint. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1956). [41.d]*
Ridiculous.
Patricia Wentworth. Poison in the Pen. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1955). [40.d]*
Also satisfying.
Patricia Wentworth. The Listening Eye. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1955). [39.d]*
Satisfying.
Patricia Wentworth. The Summerhouse. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1956). [38.d]*
The small miseries of housing developments.
Patricia Wentworth. The Benevent Treasure. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1953). [37.d]*
Rather liked this one.
Patricia Wentworth. The Silent Pool. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1954). [36.d]*
Amusing.
Patricia Wentworth. Out of the Past. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1953). [35.d]*
Reminds one of unpleasant seaside vacations.
Patricia Wentworth. Ladies’ Bane. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1952). [34.d]*
Improbable (well, more so than usual).
Patricia Wentworth. The Watersplash. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1951). [33.d]*
Ambivalent.
Patricia Wentworth. Death at Deep End. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1951). [32.d]*
Ambivalent.
Patricia Wentworth. Through the Wall,. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1950). [31.d]*
Ambivalent.
Patricia Wentworth. The Ivory Dagger. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1951). [30.d]*
Silly.
Patricia Wentworth. Mr. Brading’s Collection. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1950). [29.d]*
Like an Anna Katherine Green mechanical mystery.
Patricia Wentworth. Miss Silver Comes to Stay. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1949). [28.d]*
Ambivalent.
Patricia Wentworth. The Catherine Wheel. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1949). [27.d]*
More like an Allingham book.
Patricia Wentworth. The Eternity Ring. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1948). [26.d]*
Ambivalent.
Patricia Wentworth. The Case of William Smith. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1948). [25.d]*
Curious to watch the minor relationships develop in the course of the series, and reworking earlier plot motifs (amnesia, etc.).
Patricia Wentworth. Wicked Uncle. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1947). [24.d]*
Getting a bit feeble.
Rebecca West. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. London: Penguin, 2007 (1943). [23.d]
Wins the prize for longest reading time of any book I’ve read (including Proust).
Eimear McBride. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Minneapolis: Coffee House, 2013. [22]*
One of the blurbers called it ‘harrowing’ and I really think that is the best description of it. Like ‘Breaking the Waves’ in a codex.
Patricia Wentworth. Latter End. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1947). [21.d]*
The forceful lady novelist was amusing, as was the insight into the post war economy of Britain – in much the same was as Allingham’s later Campion books reveal a Britain utterly changed.
Matt Madden. 99 Ways to Tell a Story. New York: Chamberlain, 2005. [20]*
Based on Queneau’s Exercises in Style, and amusing enough, but not quite so clever as the original.
Isabel Greenberg. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. New York: Little, Brown, 2013. [19]*
Quite amusing, captures the feeling of myth and those odd encyclopedias for children; rather like the Gnomes book in places but with a narrative.
Paul Auster, Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli. City of Glass. New York: Picador, 2004 (1994, 1985). [18]*
Can’t say I cared for the prose version, but the comics version was a pleasant way to beguile an evening. A bit overthought, though – just like the original.
Patricia Wentworth. Pilgrim’s Rest. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1946). [17.d]*
Quite creepy, and glad that the criminal ‘got away’ (though of course with the police on their tail).
Tim Winton. Minimum of Two. New York: Atheneum, 1988. [16.d]*
Perfectly acceptable short stories, artfully crafted but nothing out of the common way.
Patricia Wentworth. She Came Back. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1945). [15.d]*
So deeply improbable and borders so nearly on propaganda.
Patricia Wentworth. The Key. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1944). [14.d]*
Amusing
Patricia Wentworth. The Clock Strikes Twelve. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1944). [13.d]*
Closed room.
Patricia Wentworth. Miss Silver Deals with Death. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1943). [12.d]*
Apartment building as closed society.
Patricia Wentworth. The Chinese Shawl. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1943). [11.d]*
Unnerving.
Patricia Wentworth. In the Balance. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1941). [10.d]*
Very Rebecca-ish. Also like that Ross McDonald novel.
Patricia Wentworth. Lonesome Road. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1939). [9.d]*
Amusing.
Patricia Wentworth. The Case is Closed. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1937). [8.d]*
Quite enjoyable.
Patricia Wentworth. Grey Mask. New York: Open Road Media, 2011 (1928). [7.d]*
Just as the first Campion mystery doesn’t feature Campion as the primary protagonist, the first Miss Silver mystery is quite light on Miss Silver – who is more similar to Anna Katharine Green’s Amelia Butterworth (in, e.g., That Affair Next Door) than to Miss Marple. Grey Mask is amusing, if a bit creaky.
Scott McCloud. Understanding Comics. Northampton, MA: Kitchen Sink, 1993. [6.2]
A formalist look at how to read comics.
Ursula K. Le Guin. Orsinian Tales. New York: HarperPerennial, 2005 (1976). [5]*
A momentary thaw in the cold war.
Joesphine Tey. Miss Pym Disposes. New York: Touchstone, 2012 (1946). [4.d]*
Schoolgirl mystery – more about social structure of schools and personal insecurities than about the mystery as such.
Georgette Heyer. Footsteps in the Dark. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2010 (1932). [3.d]*
A silly gothic mystery, reminds me of Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse, but not quite as complex.
Stefan Zweig. Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman. trans. Anthea Bell. London: Pushkin, 2003 (1925). [2]*
The importunate confidences of a woman of a certain age; the fragility and insecurity of such confidences – lack of confidence.
Stefan Zweig. Burning Secret. trans. Anthea Bell. London: Pushkin, 2008 (1913). [1]*
A silly story about the damper children place on extramarital affairs. Deeply unpleasant characters.

(last revised: 24 December 2015)

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