Books I have read lately (May 2018)

Brief reviews of books I have read since last time. This month was more worthwhile than last, I think because I read more true fictions as opposed to obviously autobiographical works or memoirs. Serious reminder recently how out of touch I am with the publishing world: of this list of “best books this year so far,” I have read only three of ten (well, I don’t read short stories, sorry; life is too short) and of those three I read, I really hated two. The last one was a rave, at least.

Highly recommended

Shobha Rao, Girls Burn Brighter. Poornima and Savitha, two girls growing up in severe poverty in a small village in Andhra Pradesh (India) are separated after a terrible act of violence (which is only the beginning of the horrors in this story, unfortunately). Poornima pursues Savitha after her disappearance. Let me say in advance that this is no novel for the weak of heart or stomach — many brutal, demeaning things happen; although they are not described in terribly graphic terms, they are still nasty. The book makes clear that the status of very poor women doesn’t vary all that much in India or the U.S. At the same time, however, I lack words for the beauty of the story and the storytelling. It feels like a fairy tale, a love story, a tale of sacrifice and determination. Recommended in the literary press.

Michael David Lukas, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo. I read this and put it on the “maybe” list and then it was on the new books shelf at the end of April. A story about the Cairo Geniza that shifts between the tenth century CE, the 1890s,  the 1950s, and he years before the Arab Spring, revealing a tangled history not only of two families, but also two religions. There’s a missing manuscript (frequently a plus for me). It has magical story-telling from the starting point of a package delivered to the protagonist, sent by his dead father, with fragments of things that he has to put together and assign meaning to. Another lovely book. The author has an earlier book, The Oracle of Stamboul, now added to my queue.

Kirsten Chen, Bury What We Cannot Take. Due to a betrayal by its son, a family flees the PRC in the late 1950s, but is forced to leave behind its youngest daughter. A devastating narrative written in a clear style with perspectival shifts between the mother, father, daughter, elder brother, and grandmother, involving multiple additional characters, all of whom are caught in conflicts between cultural or gender roles and their feelings and desires to act. Each perspective is sympathetic, although of course one most wants to sympathize with the extremely determined little girl and her struggle to be reunited with her family. This book touched me in a way I did not expect. Recommended in the literary press. I’ll be reading her earlier book eventually as well.

Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse. Recommended in Lithub. Canada in the 1950s: The family of an Ojibway boy flees into the wilderness to try to avoid authorities who want to force its children into school; after a series of misfortunes, the boy ends up in a Catholic mission school anyway, where he’s subjected to horrible treatment and learns to play hockey. A horrible story (of the kind I understand was all too common) and the most lyrical writing about the game of hockey that I have ever read. The author’s other books have joined my queue.

Elif Shafak, Three Daughters of Eve. The purse of a well-to-do Turkish woman is snatched right before a dinner party with international guests. During her attempt to recover it, a photo is jostled loose that triggers a complex cascade of the woman’s memories about her time as a student in Oxford and her relationship with a controversial professor, as well as varied responses from the other dinner guests. The book switches between the 80s, late 90s/00s and 2016 and offers subtle and moving reflections on religion, politics, feminism, the situation in Turkey, and the current state of Turkish – EU relations. In particular I was affected by the relatability of the protagonist’s desire to find compromises between the hardening poles of religion and rationality, and democracy and nationalism — especially because these are often formulated in the story as desperate questions. The author has a gift for writing plaintive sentences that nonetheless cut to their target like knives; I was constantly jotting down quotes I wanted to remember. The rare book I see these days that made me want to read more slowly. Recommended in the literary press.

Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”. Record of conversations between the noted American author and anthropologist (Their Eyes Were Watching God) and Cudjo Lewis, the last living survivor of the last (illegal) slave shipment to the U.S. Lewis describes his childhood and early adulthood in Dahomey, the Middle Passage, enslavement, emancipation, and the years afterwards as he and his fellows first tried to find the money to get back to Africa and then founded their own settlement near Mobile, Alabama. I can’t recommend this enough — it is one of the most interesting autobiographical statements I’ve ever read. Recommended multiply in the literary press. Supposedly the manuscript languished in the archives because publishers objected to the transcription of Lewis’ speech in dialect, and because of discomfort with public discussion of the extent to which Africans themselves had been implicated as participants in the slave trade. Hurston’s main biographer, Hemenway, describes this text as romanticized, but the notes on this edition show that almost everything included here is factual. A gripping read.

Robert Hilburn, Paul Simon. A new biography of the artist based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Simon and those who know him. Recommended by my musicologist friend. I knew as good as nothing about Simon’s life, which is a little embarrassing because he was my mother’s favorite songwriter and he’s certainly one of mine. The author does a great job of explaining someone who’s always seemed a bit opaque (and apparently has a reputation as cool and detached) and provides a very detailed account of his career without overwhelming the reader. I particularly appreciated the sections on the early part of Simon’s career (he was a name in England before the U.S.), and the 70s and 80s. The author has a good way of explaining song lyrics, too. Recommended by my musicologist friend.

Recommended

Evan S. Connell, Jr., Mr Bridge (1969). Discovered in a list of recommended novels about Kansas and Nebraska, and then I saw an article in the NYT this spring about what a fantastic book it is. I knew Connell as the author of an important biography of Gen. George Custer and had no idea he’d been a novelist. This novel — the story of an upper middle class Kansas City family’s life in the decades just before WWII — is written in episodes from the husband’s perspective. It’s a bit like Babbitt, if Babbitt had been an establishment Republican. Or like what could have happened to Nick Carraway if he’d moved back to the Midwest and settled down. It’s also dark, in its own way, but the satire is less obvious than in Sinclair Lewis, and perhaps for that reason the troubling episodes are truly disturbing. This was the “sequel” or pendant to an earlier novel, Mrs. Bridge, which I’ve added to my queue. Wish I’d known about this years ago, but mid-century U.S. literature means Roth, Bellow and Updike, and Connell was outside that canon, I guess.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun. Seen on a list of underappreciated literature by African authors. An elderly Nigerian immigrant to the U.S. slips and breaks her hip, disrupting her life in San Francisco and causing her to rearrange her relationship with the panoply of friends and denizens in her neighborhood. She also passes review of a fascinating, cosmopolitan life-story that ranges from Lagos to Paris to the U.S. Told through the story of the kind of people one typically encounters in San Francisco (a homeless Deadhead, a Palestinian florist) this isn’t an incredibly deep novel, but it is a gentle one, and who doesn’t love a protagonist who arranges her books by which characters she thinks should be speaking to each other?

Christina Stead, The Man Who Loved Children. A dysfunctional family in the U.S. Depression era rubs along: a father who loves fathering children but would rather go on a scientific exhibition than provide for them or parent them; a mother who’s trying to make ends meet, struggling with her debts, and realizes she’s been stuck with a pile of kids she doesn’t want; and the kids themselves, particularly the eldest daughter, who just wants out. I’d read about this book years ago (I think there was a profile in The New Yorker, or maybe NYROB), and every now and then I’d hear it was some prominent author’s favorite book, but the reason I picked it up is because it was right next to the St Aubyn book that I came to the stack for several months ago. In any case, this book very much reflects my own view of family life, and its terrible ending is both expected, somehow funny, and incredibly absurd.

Krystal A. Sital, Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad. The sudden illness of a grandfather in New Jersey and the family argument about his care brings to light the multi-generational tangle of physical abuse in a Trinidadian family; cultural norms lead to the continuation and perpetuation of the abuse. The first half of the narrative concerns the author’s mother, who is about my age, and the contrast between our lives devastated me page after page. The second half concerns her grandmother, whose children continue the abuse by forcing her to continue the care of their father. A moving meditation on what it means to discover that your relatives are not quite the people you thought they were, with a lot of “food talk” thrown in.

A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window. An agorophobic observes her NYC neighbors through her windows; what happens when she observes a murder no one else thinks happened? Very well-done, neo-classical urban psychological thriller with an unreliable female narrator; nothing genre-shattering but fantastically well executed. Yes — obvious references to Rear Window; the better your classic film knowledge, the more you’ll get out of it. A book for people who like classic noir, Alfred Hitchcock, The Girl on the Train and/or Gone Girl.

Wendell Steavenson, Paris Metro. An Anglo-American journalist marries an Iraqi in the wake of the Iraq War. In the immediate aftermath of the Bataclan attacks, she reflects on her/their history and rethinks her commitments. That plot, and the fact that this is a novel written by a war journalist, made me think it would be allegorical and thus almost put me off. But despite a few “newspapery” moments, the book is multi-faceted and interesting, and the protagonist’s honest frustrations with the paradoxes of her situation reflect my own confusion about how to think about the world these days. Her questions are earnest without being cloying. In reality, our perceptions about any situation are always more complex than our political commitments, something Steavenson seems more aware of than the average journalist, and we can’t always predict how we will react in a crisis. Readers familiar with the history of the Middle East and world relations since 2001 will get more out of this than novices to politics, but I think it’s still accessible enough as a narrative without that knowledge. Recommended by the BBC.

Kishwar Desai, Witness the Night. Found via web search for crime novels about or set in India written by Indian authors, after unease with Sujata Massey’s most recent novel. A social worker pursues the truth about a house fire and thirteen murders in a small, north Indian town. I loved the main character, Simran Singh, and have asked my library to order the other books in this series. I did have to look up a lot of Indian words, which was cool.

Rachel Lyon, Self-Portrait with Boy. A wannabe artistic photographer inadvertently catches the suicide of a young man in a photo she takes of herself. A meditation on the development of an ambitious artist, the potentially necessary callousness of art, and a snapshot of the Lower Manhattan art scene in the 1990s. The conclusion is foreshadowed from the very first pages, but I found myself reading quickly to find out what would happen anyway. To some extent the pace of the story interfered with my ability to think much about the issues involved, and the narrator was more opaque to me than I would have liked, but this is a first novel. I would read another from this author. Picked off the “new fiction” shelf at the library.

Anthony Horowitz, Magpie Murders. A book editor becomes preoccupied with the suicide of her publishing company’s most important author, the unhappy author of a series of English village whodunits. The story switches between the editor’s present and the author’s last manuscript. Really clever execution and a subtle send-up / satire of the genre by a writer for Midsomer Murders. This one kept me glued to the page during my father’s four hour opthalmologist appointment, and kept me guessing almost all the way through. Aficionados of Agatha Christie will love the many references to her works.

Jeffrey C. Stewart, The New Negro: the Life of Alain Locke. I am ashamed to say I did not know who Locke was, although he is just as important a cultural figure as W.E.B. Du Bois. Picked up after reading this excerpt. Stewart provides a scholarly, chronological work with particular emphasis on Locke’s “Black Victorian” childhood and surroundings, his journey through higher education in the U.S., Oxford and Berlin, his sexual orientation, and his sponsorship of some of the great twentieth-century U.S. Black cultural figures (Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston) and struggles with others (Marcus Garvey). This biography is excellent, if slightly more psychologically oriented that I am typically comfortable with, and it deserves the rave reviews it’s been getting. The only reason I didn’t put it in “highly recommended” is its length. At over 900 pp. it will primarily be of interest to specialists. But if you’re at all interested in the intellectual and philosophical background of the Harlem Renaissance or the African American intelligentsia of the twentieth century, and have the patience for such a long work, it will repay your attention.

Worthwhile if something about it interests you

Tara Westover, Educated. A young woman escapes a brutal, hyperreligious Mormon childhood in rural Idaho for BYU and Cambridge and more general enlightenment. Recommended all over the literary press and extremely generously blurbed, although I expect more out of admiration for the challenges the author superseded to get to the point where she could write her memoir than for its insightfulness. Honestly, I wondered so many times while reading why people still live this way today, and why no one in their church family or community interfered with the bizarreness and abuse. Competently written but it provokes prurience on the part of the reader more than insight. This feels like another memoir that would have been better had the author waited a decade to publish.

Tristan Palmgren, Quietus. An anthropologist from an alien civilization rescues a fourteenth-century Carthusian monk from the plague, in the process being drawn into an attempt to overthrow the Unity, a universe-wide empire. Picked up from The Guardian‘s new authors list, although I was suspicious that I wouldn’t like it. It’s true that the portrayal of the medieval and Carthusian worlds, especially of the monk’s interior life are largely unempathetic and anachronistic, but that problem is salved to some extent by the fact that they are being observed by someone of a different species, from a futurist perspective. The microcosm / macrocosm relationship is interesting (the medieval papacy and the Unity), and I continue to be interested in books about the dilemmas of the participant-observer problem. I would consider reading the sequel, which will be out this fall.

Charlie Lovett, The Lost Book of the Grail. A cranky English literature professor in modern-day Barchester (stolen from Trollope) and an American librarian search the cathedral library for a missing manuscript, with flashbacks to the history of the manuscript and its provenance. Found on a list of mysteries related to bibliophiles. Pluses: a book about a bibliophile written by a bibliophile (Lovett is a former antiquarian bookseller and ongoing member of the Grolier Club); the modern-day pieces of the narrative; the chapters around the cathedral hours. Minuses: the bibliophile is a crank professor; the author has no idea what contemporary UK university life is like; long debates between the professor and the librarian about whether we need physical books or not (uch — this is SUCH a non-issue); the medieval portions of the narrative. All in all Lovett is no Trollope and he doesn’t succeed in making his narrative as absurd as the Barchester Chronicles or his satire quite as biting. If this were going to be a series of mysteries I might hang on for the second, but Lovett’s oeuvre is comprised of stand-alone novels, and I’m not that interested in reading any of the others. You might like this if you enjoy modern retellings of the Grail myth, the intellectual moments of Dan Brown novels, or the plot of the third Indiana Jones film.

Abir Mukherjee, A Necessary Evil. Picked up after enjoying the first book in the series. Our hero, Sam Wyndham, along with sidekicks “Surrender-Not” (Surendranath Banerjee) and Annie Grant, journeys to a fictionalized Sambalpur to track down the murderer of its crown prince. I liked this a lot, although not as much as the inaugural book, for a couple of reasons: one is an issue with plotting that I won’t spoil in case you want to read it; the second is the way it turned from the gritty, politicized atmosphere of Calcutta in the first volume to a decadent court that seemed much more stereotypical here; and the third is the amount of time spent on opium smoking, which I accept is necessary to give the protagonist a vulnerability, but which I also find a bit stereotypical and rather boring. I don’t care about the modalities for smoking differing qualities of the drug. On the other hand, I learned the origin of the English word, “juggernaut.” I would still read another one of these because I like the characters.

Zoe Quinn, Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate. Picked up after reading Shame Nation. Memoir of the initial GamerGate target with suggestions about how to respond. The first half will primarily be of interest to those entirely unfamiliar with the controversy, although it points out how vulnerable our private lives are, notwithstanding our attempts to protect ourselves. The second half will be more interesting to those of us who are looking for solutions to navigating the other paradox the book underlines: between the incredible potential of the Internet as a tool for connecting us and the incredible harm it can be used to wreak — no matter the perceived “justness” of the cause. (Reading this book reminded me of my “friends” who supported vigilante campaigns against white supremacists in Charlotte; I deleted every single one of them from my private networks.) Unsurprisingly, platform TOS are a big piece of the problem, along with moderators / abuse investigators who are usually not clued into why a certain statement might constitute abuse in any particular situation. I was pleased that she defended pseudonymity, which I think is an important piece of functional Internet life and not quite the same as the anonymity that supports online disinhibition. Another piece of the problem that her analysis hints at but doesn’t really name: severely lacking privacy legislation in the U.S. Her main suggestion: behave ethically, don’t jump to conclusions. Fortunately, as regards the former, the debates will continue.

Robert Seethaler, Der Trafikant. Translated into English as The Tobacconist. Picked up from this ambassadors’ list of “if you could read one book about my country, it should be …” A young man comes to Vienna from the Austrian countryside to work in a kiosk, meets Sigmund Freud, and falls in love — in 1937, the year before Austria voted to be annexed to (Hitler’s) Germany. I had avoided this title when it came out due to my general dislike of fiction about Sigmund Freud. A lot of bittersweetly nostalgic novels about the 30s have been written in post-WWII Germany, and this is probably one of the better ones I’ve read, but I stopped out of frustration around p. 120, due to the predominance of the male gaze and the stereotypical objectification of the only major female figure. I’m also not sure how much this book would really teach you about Austria if you weren’t already familiar with the basics of the country’s history, geography, food, and culture. But I can see why it was a bestseller, and if you’re looking for a well-done, conventional novel about Austria in the 30s, or if you know nothing about the Anschluß and are interested in the street perspective, this might suit.

E. F. Benson, Mapp & Lucia. On Tim Gunn’s list of favorite books. Satire of manners; upper-middle-class snobs in East Sussex one-up each other over things like the village fête and the extent of their ability to speak Italian, in constant attempts to challenge and re-establish the village pecking order. It reminded me a bit of Robertson Davies’ Salterton trilogy, if Davies were quite a bit more mean-spirited. This was quite amusing, and there are more novels in this series, but none of the characters really made me want to meet them again.

Gabe Hudson, Gork, the Teenage Dragon. A young dragon (who is emphatically not Grendel, or Smaug! Make sure you remember this) has to master a series of challenges at school: jack up his will to power and get a Queen or suffer the consequences. Lots of immature humor, but appropriate for older teens; a bit Douglas-Adams-ish but too earnest to completely hit the mark in that regard. Read because A was reading it; she thought it was okay but wasn’t that excited.

Yrsa Sigurðadóttir, The Silence of the Sea. Originally published as Brakið (2011). An attorney in Iceland is drawn into the investigation of a disappearance at sea: a couple and their children on a yacht sailing from Lisbon to Reykjavik disappear inexplicably. Third in the series around protagonist Thóra Gudmundsdóttir. Very highly structured plot, with chapters alternating between Thóra’s point of view and the events of the crime. Unfortunately a hugely obvious clue was dropped in the first fifty pages, which spoiled the suspense for me. I hadn’t read the earlier two novels in the series, but I might someday; not rushing to do so, though.

Ruth Ware, The Lying Game. Four women who lied for fun as girls, with disastrous results, are called to return to the location of their English boarding school in a tense, psychological thriller. Picked up because Ware’s new novel is being strongly recommended but I didn’t feel like getting in the queue for it. This is well plotted, but I’ve read a lot of similar books lately and it has a formulaic feel to me — in this one, the laying of the clues was so unobtrusive that it was obtrusive. And I think I just don’t like boarding school novels. But if you like the genre, this is an excellent example of it.

Meh / not recommended

Anne Raeff, Winter Kept Us Warm. Recommended in the literary press. A love triangle that emerges in postwar Germany between a German woman, and two U.S. soldiers (one of them an immigrant) is traced through the subsequent decades. To me, this book read like the author had had a long conversation with a woman who’d served the German postwar and wanted to document her experience, along with the transnationality of the way people moved after the war, in combination with apparently having an interest in Rabat, Morocco. I didn’t understand why the beginning of the book was set in Morocco and I’m increasingly impatient with stories set in exotic locales that don’t refer to the politics of their setting with any depth. Returned to library after 100 pp.

Eberhard Alsen, J.D. Salinger and the Nazis. Discussion of Salinger’s stories in light of his wartime / postwar experiences in Germany by an English professor / Salinger expert. Picked up from the “new non-fiction” shelf at the library because I’m generally interested in the question of how people processed the last year or so of WWII. There are many problems here (the author insists on the out-of-date dichotomy between Wehrmacht and Nazi; he seems to think it’s relevant that his German soldier father was captured by Salinger’s unit, even though he concedes that Salinger could never have interrogated his father and even got a letter from Salinger to this effect). The biggest of these, though, is his incredibly superficial understanding of Jewish identity and his frustration with Salinger’s lack of same, and subsequently, his apparent “failure” to hate Nazis or treat his wartime experiences liberating a concentration camp in his fiction. The book should be subtitled: “Salinger’s puzzling failure to embrace MY moral categories in his writing.” The book jacket blurbs make clear this item was not refereed by a historian. Stilted prose: a troubling proportion of passive voice. Of very narrow interest to specialists only.

Hernan Diaz, In the Distance. Blurbed as a surrealist western and westerns are a genre I hate, but it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist so I decided I should check it out. A young boy from Sweden ships to the U.S. and ends up in California, separated from his brother, whence he explores the U.S. West and its landscapes and inhabitants, gradually becoming a mythical figure, part of the landscape himself. The first chapter was off-putting but about ten pages in we there was enough of a narrative to interest me. Some techniques are interesting, like the way the narrative reflects the boy’s initial non-comprehension of English and then growing understanding of what is said around him. I am troubled, though, by the resolution of the political difficulties in the genre of western writing via stream of conscious and magical realism effects. Stopped at 100 pp., as I wasn’t enjoying it and someone else was waiting for it. I wonder how this made the Pulitzer Prize finals; those books are usually more accessible and not as self-consciously literary as this is.

Edward Lee, Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine. A noted restaurant chef explores the regional and developing fusion cuisines of the U.S. in narrative episodes that include (Korean influenced) recipes. Recommended in Eater. I usually enjoy narrative recipes (I have occasionally written them myself), and I think they’re a good way to explore local places, but this book was a huge disappointment. The chapters are frustratingly ego-ridden, and the ones that I read were very repetitive. Huge turn-off: Lee condescends to a prostitute in the first chapter, then asserts that she must have thought he was better than she. I read about half, then skipped to the end to read the German chapter, which is embarrassingly uninformed (although Lee’s married to a German-American go figure). It made me suspicious of the rest of the material, frankly. In this day and age, a cookbook that is meant to be cooked from does need pictures, particular when it makes warnings (you have to get this just right or it will be bad!) and unusual combinations and ingredients. Then again, nothing about these recipes made me want to cook them. I make sauerkraut a lot, but nothing could induce me to put butternut squash in it. And this is coming from a person who loves hole-in-the-wall restaurants operated by immigrants and unusual flavor combinations.

Daniel Hecht, On Brassard’s Farm. While seeking to address her psychological malaise, a rootless woman buys land in the country and is drawn into the struggling economy of a small farm. I had no patience with this book, which swings between the equally meretricious albeit romanticizing themes of “suburban woman seeks redemption in the countryside and can’t hack it” and “real redemption is only found through hard physical labor.” The author completely fails to occupy the persona of his female protagonist in any convincing way, and the only emotional moment that rang true for me was a conversation about the way an adult child felt judged for leaving the farm. Heard recommended on a radio show as having an accurate portrayal of the small family dairy farm; that is true. You can learn a lot about the mechanics of the dairy industry from this book. Abandoned after 200 pp. except I read the last two chapters to find out if the farm survived; I did not find the plot resolution credible.

Gregory Blake Smith, The Maze at Windermere. A historical novel about Newport, Rhode Island, told through narratives from five separate time periods. Recommended in the literary press. Returned to library after one chapter, as the main character was ridiculously annoying and unappealing and my life is too short to spend even one unnecessary moment with a protagonist like this.

Alan Hollinghurst, The Sparsholt Affair. A multi-generational story of English families beginning in Oxford in the WWII period, with focus on issues of sexual attraction and changing mores. This has been getting rave reviews, so I picked it up despite not having enjoyed his best known previous novel (The Line of Beauty [2004]). Stopped reading after the Oxford section, which struck me as precious and remote.

~ by Servetus on May 31, 2018.

10 Responses to “Books I have read lately (May 2018)”

  1. I have not had a chance to read much this past year unless it has been a textbook. We where given the name of a book to read and the last day of class we watched the movie and talked about it. The book is called Still Alice and I have not finished it yet but would recommend reading it. It is a sad book and a novel but could happen. It is about early-onset Alzheimer’s and how it changes not only Alice but her family. If you have seen the movie the book is much better.

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    • Sounds like a good recommendation. My brother’s father-in-law has early onset Alzheimers. I’ll put it in the library queue as I see the library has it. Thanks!

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  2. Great books !
    I’ve read other novels by Yrsa Sigurðadóttir (Last rituals , etc) and I really liked them ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it would have been good had I not noticed that clue. (I’ve been reading a lot of “closed room” mysteries lately and I’ve become maybe too alert to the way they are structured.)

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  3. Great reviews! I can’t wait to read Barracoon. I’m sorry you didn’t like Buttermilk Graffiti so much. I really disliked some aspects (the Nigerian scammer reference, the prostitute story you mention) and most of the recipes didn’t do it for me, but other chapters really hit home for me.

    Also glad to see someone else who didn’t give Educated a breathlessly glowing review – it was good but I didn’t quite get the hype.

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    • Thanks for the comment and welcome. I guess I feel like in a book like Buttermilk Graffiti, the chapters and the stories have to contribute to the same picture; they legitimate or delegitimate each other. I am so impatient with men writing about women in this way. Increasingly allergic.

      re: Educated — I feel like she’s getting kudos for having survived an impossible abusive childhood, not so much for the book.

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  4. […] I read since the previous installment, through June 17 (I didn’t read any books for the rest of that month after dad’s […]

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  5. […] The meaning of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels to a South Asian immigrant to the U.S. (and author of a book I rated very highly this year). […]

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  6. […] Horowitz, The Word is Murder. Chosen because I enjoyed one of his earlier books. This one was even funnier: a woman is found strangled in her flat shortly after arranging her own […]

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  7. […] Mukherjee, Smoke and Ashes. Picked up because I enjoyed the previous two, but this is the best one yet. Main character Sam Wyndham must solve a series of murders, against […]

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