26 April 2013

Reading Rundown


Another rapid-fire round of the briefest of thoughts on my recent reads.

Dangerous Ages by Rose Macaulay
Loved, loved, loved this book. Macaulay follows the women in a family over the course of a summer in 1920, each one of them representing a different age/generation. It was beautiful, thoughtful, sad and overall really wonderful. A must for the Persephone crowd.

Final Payments by Mary Gordon
After taking care of her invalid father for eleven years (since she was 19!) Isabel finds herself without a life when he passes away. (Imagine missing your 20s.) When she gets into the work world the descriptions of sexual harassment would seem totally overdrawn if it hadn't been written in 1978. Parts of the book reminded me a bit of Mary McCarthy's The Group.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
I really liked this novel and can understand why it won the Booker. Such an interesting take on memory and regret. I could empathize with protagonist Tony Webster when he receives a letter that he had written decades before. What seemed so justifiable and clever in his early 20s was in reality cruel and over the top and mean. Fascinating stuff. The friend who gave it to me said it reminded him a bit of Anita Brookner. Kind of made sense, but too much happens to be truly like Brookner.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
When I realized I would never make it through Mrs. Dalloway,  my Century of Books choice for 1925, I had to find a replacement. (I thought I would be okay with Mrs. D given that I have seen the film version twice and The Hours twice. Didn't work.) The reason Gatsby didn't make my Century of Books list in the first place is that I had read it before and I was trying to keep re-reads off that list as much as possible. And then trying to find a copy that didn't have Leo DiCaprio on the cover was not an easy task, but I managed it. As it turns out I might as well never have read Gatsby for all I remembered about it. So what did I think? Does it matter? Everyone and their dog have analyzed this one. I will say that it's wonderfully evocative and provides a disporportionate number of things one could discuss for its slim 180 pages. I particularly liked one description. At one of Gatsby's parties the bar was "stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another." Imagine a cordial that was so old fashion that it was already forgotten in 1925. And what could the flavors have been?

I won't be seeing the movie. The trailer pisses me off.

And if you have ever wondered how movie tie-in covers sell compared to other covers, check out this article in the New York Times about the Gatsby covers.

Most Talkative by Andy Cohen
The autobiography one of the mastermind behind Bravo's reality empire. Love his live nightly show and I loved parts of this book. Made me laugh out loud. But it got a bit boring when he got into what turned out to be the not very tell all part of this tell all.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
I think I would have liked this better 39 years ago. Charming and all that but so tedious to read with no child around.

Under Fire by Henri Barbusse
A story of life in the trenches during World War I, written while the war was still going on. Very interesting (and gruesome) to read a treatment of the war written before the author knew how it ended. Not unlike the war, it felt like a slog. (How's that for trivializing war?)

The Judge by Rebecca West
I have liked (and loved) other books by Rebecca West, but The Judge will never join that list. Man, I disliked this one. Might have been much more compelling if it had been half as long. West's editor must have been on vacation.


5 comments:

  1. The Sense of an Ending was one of my favorites a couple years ago. I've been meaning to read more Barnes ever since.

    Interesting comparison to Brookner. I've only read one of her novels and can see similarities, but they are definitely different in term of 'action'.

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  2. Yes, I enjoyed reading The Sense of an Ending as well and also want to read more of Barnes. I am going to be reading a couple of the new Zelda books out now. They sound intriguing.

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  3. Well, I started off by very much agreeing with you, and then it goes downhill :) Loved Dangerous Ages - but found The Sense of an Ending completely blah, and could read Winnie the Pooh forever and never get bored!

    Rebecca West - have read two; loved one, bored by the other, Who knows with this one...

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  4. Just ordered a copy of Dangerous Ages. Sounds great (and hard to get a hold of - my library only has one of her books, "The Towers of Trebizond").

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  5. JoAnn: The only other Barnes I have read was George and Arthur which was such a different type of book they could have been written by different authors.

    Denise: New Zelda books...hmm.

    Simon: If you hadn't read Pooh as a child, I wonder if you would feel the same way.

    Ruth: The Towers of Trebizond sounds like she strayed into sci fi.

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