15 April 2012
Bits and Bobs
What's a serial reader to do?
My friend Roz just finished Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series and she doesn't know where to turn next. And don't bother saying the Palliser novels because she finished those this year as well. In fact, she read both series in the span of two years all the while voraciously reading a million other things. I suggested there are lots of other Trollope novels to read (thirty-five others, in fact) but I think she will miss the serial form as much as the fact that it is Trollope. And when I say "serial form" here, I don't mean a long Victorian novel that was serialized in a newspaper or periodical, I mean a multi-novel series like the Barset and Palliser novels. So what say all of you? Where should she go next? I haven't read The Forsyte Saga or A Dance to the Music of Time, so I have no idea if those would be appropriate. Is The Forsyte Saga even made up of separate novels? I have read The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell, and as much as I liked it, I am not sure it is a good replacement for Trollope. Is Miss Read (may she rest in peace) too simple? Thoughts?
And speaking of Roz...
It just occurred to me that you all would like Roz and her wife Layla. First and foremost because they are readers, but also the fact that I met them thanks to their acquaintance with blogosphere luminaries Polly (Novel Insights), Claire (Paperback Reader) and (I think) Simon (Savidge Reads). They were all part of a book club in London. When Roz got a VIJ (very important job) in Washington, DC, those bloggers said "you should meet Thomas". And so she has. Always happy to have bookish friends, I wasted no time in getting acquainted with Roz and Layla.
Meeting them within the first week of their arrival in the United States, I stopped into Kramerbooks to find an American novel or two to welcome them. My enthusiasm in choosing American novels for them bordered on the evangelical. I ended up choosing five novels each representing a different geographic part of the U.S.: Main Street for the Midwest, A Confederacy of Dunces for New Orleans, Paul Auster's Brooklyn Follies for New York, Then We Came to End by Joshua Ferris for Chicago (which is also the Midwest but in a much different way than Main Street) and of course they needed a novel about their new home, so I chose Ward Just's brilliant Echo House about a dynastic political family in old Washington. (I realize I totally missed the West Coast, but nothing popped into my head as I hastily purchased the five books.) The best part about choosing these books for Roz and Layla, is that they actually read them with alacrity and, while they liked some more than others, didn't find a dud among them. And what is more gratifying for a book lover than to have someone enjoy one of your recommendations? How many times have you given, or lent, or recommended a book to someone only to have the book go unread? I might now be afraid to recommend anything else to them lest I choose a clunker.
And Roz and Layla are convinced that, despite the fact that I didn't like the movie (twice), I will indeed like Cold Comfort Farm. So they bought me a wonderful Penguin edition. I wonder if they know that the cover illustrations are by another Roz (Chast) who does lots of illustrating for The New Yorker?
Muriel Spark Reading Week is coming up
Mustn't forget that Muriel Spark Reading week begins on April 23rd. Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book and Harriet at Harriet Devine's Blog will be hosting the festivities. I am definitely going to read at least one Spark novel so I can join in. Spark's work is funny and subversive and quirky and she was prolific. I have read about 12 of her novels to date and am excited to see which one I read next. I have a few on the TBR pile to choose from.
Two Sentence Reviews
Gideon Planish by Sinclair Lewis: Con artist makes a living proselytizing about intellectual nonsense not unlike modern think tanks. Good if you are in the mood for the satirical dry wit of Sinclair Lewis and have already read his masterpieces.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford: A satisfying and often funny family saga from interwar England that will leave you craving the other two books in the trilogy. Will also leave you wondering why no one ever mentions Don't Tell Alfred, the third book in the trilogy.
A Glass of Blessing by Barbara Pym: I don't know why this was in my TBR pile since I read it back in 2002. Pym is brilliant and based on this experience, I think her novels are the kind one can read over and over.
Rhapsody by Dorothy Edwards: A collection of short stories most of which have music and musicians as part of the story. All are about love (both requited and unrequited) and relationships and, oddly, all are told from the perspective of a male character.
Bossypants by Tina Fey: A quick, fun read IF you are Tina Fey fan. I only needed one sentence for this one.