9/16/14

From the TBR Shelf #29: Virginia Woolf by Nigel Nicolson


http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0670894435.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgVirginia Woolf (2000) by Nigel Nicolson

Except for Jacob's Room, my only experiences with the novels of Virginia Woolf ocurred in college. We read Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and several of her essays/talks, including "A Room of One's Own" and "Modern Fiction."

Except for "A Room," I found myself underwhelmed by what I read. Most likely, it was because I didn't approach her unique and experimental style with an open mind. I knew what I liked, and I found her works too bewildering to enjoy. Perhaps now, when I'm more seasoned, I'll be able to appreciate them more.

9/15/14

Random Recommendation Guest Post: Visible City by Tova Mirvis

This recommendation comes from Geoff. Lamb. You can follow him on twitter @Onceatenor.


http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387770132l/18222711.jpgVisible City (2014) by Tova Mirvis

Mirvis has written "an intimate and provocative novel about three couples whose paths intersect in their New York City neighborhood, forcing them all to weigh the comfort of stability against the costs of change." Her other novels include The Ladies Auxiliary (1999) and The Outside World (2004).

9/13/14

Review: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ZkbwNHzCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgStone Mattress: Nine Tales (2014) by Margaret Atwood

To give you some context, the only other Atwood book I've read so far is The Handmaid's Tale, which was very smart and very creepy. I plan to read her Maddaddam trilogy soon.

As in The Handmaid's Tale, the narrative voice in Stone Mattress is, at times, confident, witty, and cutting.

Which I loved.

Of the nine tales, several stood out because of their unusual subject matter, by which I mean, issues that I personally haven't come across often in works of literary fiction: the problems and complications associated with aging, writers' relationships with zealous fans, and the conflict between a novel/poem and academic interpretations.

9/11/14

Review: Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer


http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61yrYcCnmGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAcceptance (2014) by Jeff VanderMeer

Haunting. Mesmerizing. Extraordinary.

These are the first words that come to mind when I try to talk about the novels that make up the Southern Reach Trilogy (see my reviews of the others below).

Acceptance, the final installment, differs from the first two in that it isn't focalized (mostly) through a single character, but jumps back and forth between all of the major characters previously introduced. Here, for the first time, we learn about Saul, the lighthouse keeper, in great detail, and how the "change" that came over Area X impacted and transformed him. We learn about the Director's past relationship to what Area X was before it morphed into whatever it now is, and we learn what happened to the Biologist (the focus of Annihilation).

9/10/14

Books to Look For (September): History, Comics/Graphic Novels, & Travel

History

http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/UCH/images/jacket_covers/original/9780226121277_93dbf.jpg?width=1000Packaged Pleasures: How Technology and Marketing Revolutionized Desire by Gary S. Cross and Robert N. Proctor (University of Chicago Press, 336 pages, September 30)

Just over a hundred years ago, a revolution occurred in which food, drink, and many other consumer goods became pre-packaged and mass-produced. Packaged Pleasures attempts to define and explain that phenomenon and how it has influenced the ways in which we currently consume everything from candy to music, and art to bread. Here, Cross and Proctor show us how "sensation became mechanized, commercialized, and, to a large extent, democratized."



9/9/14

If Cats Wrote Books

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Raise your hand if you think that cats would write some freakin’ awesome books.

The only reason they don’t? Because we shoo them away from the computer and they don’t have opposable thumbs so they can’t hold a pen.
SO. NOT. FAIR.

Well, during my latest visit with the parents back east, I had a cozy little chat with my little cat brother, Max (my parents’ favorite child- for reals). We talked about books, movies, you know…And then he said that he was thinking of writing a novel, which inspired this post. So this one’s for you Max, you handsome tuxedo-cat you.

From the TBR Shelf #28: The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls


http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/t/the-silver-star/9781451661507_custom-c08fa0017449530fcf21256215de10bd3b3e6eb9-s99-c85.jpgThe Silver Star (2013) by Jeannette Walls

Unlike Walls's two other books, which dealt with her own and her grandmother's lives, respectively, The Silver Star is straight-up fiction. But like those first two, this one is terribly addictive. Walls has the ability to write so transparently that you forget you're actually reading- sometimes, you feel like you're living the story. And while, at times, I've sighed at her lack of a more sophisticated approach to these narratives, I do appreciate her delicate but confident handling of her characters and their complicated lives.

9/8/14

Random Recommendation Guest Post: Consider the Oyster by M. F. K. Fisher


This recommendation comes from Summer Brennan. Check out her website here and follow her on twitter @summerbrennan. Her book, The Oyster War, comes out next spring.



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/Consider_the_Oyster.jpgConsider The Oyster (1941) by M. F. K. Fisher

"Plumbing the 'dreadful but exciting' life of the oyster, Fisher invites readers to share in the comforts and delights that this delicate edible evokes, and enchants us along the way with her wise and witty prose."

9/3/14

Books to Look For (September): Biography, Literary Fiction, & Mystery

Biography

http://images.abovethetreeline.com/ea/SS/images/jacket_covers/original/9781476767079_ebf5b.jpg?width=1000Bowie: The Biography by Wendy Leigh (Gallery Books, 320 pages, September 23)

Here we have the story of "the iconic superstar of rock, fashion, art, design, and the quintessential sexual liberator"- BOWIE.  Through interviews with Bowie's former lovers, groupies, and band members, Leigh has delved into what makes Bowie the "living legend" that he is; she's even looked into his parents' backgrounds. Also, there are lots of pictures, so clearly you're going to want to read this.




9/2/14

From the TBR Shelf #27: American Gods by Neil Gaiman


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/49/American_gods.jpgAmerican Gods (2001) by Neil Gaiman

Honestly, I've never read anything like this before.

American Gods is sweeping, complex, and fast-paced, with side-stories and back-stories sprouting from every chapter, as if wishing to become novels in their own right. I can see why this book won twenty thousand awards and why everyone has recommended it.

In a sense, Gaiman here does for America in fiction what Antonín Dvořák did for it in music at the end of the 19th century: highlight and artistically adapt the country's cultural artifacts, which were in plain sight all along. Gaiman imagines the dislocation that comes from immigrants abandoning their beliefs in order to assimilate, and what happens to those "gods" when they are left behind. It's the idea that nothing, not even intangible beliefs or ideas, ever really vanishes.