Spring 2021: Forging ahead to Bloomsday as we read these books

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Inspired by several glowing ILB recommendations I just have dipped a toe into I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith, and the narrator is so gosh darned charming I don't know how I could refuse to accompany her the rest of the way through her adventures.

A successor thread to Winter 2021: ...and you're reading WHAT?!

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Saturday, 20 March 2021 16:58 (one month ago) link

Thanks Aimless, I’m going to repost my post from the end of the last thread!

Scamp Granada (gyac)
Posted: 20 March 2021 at 15:52:41
Having one of those weekends, so rather than sleeping away the day I found myself rereading The Mystery of Mercy Close (Marian Keyes). I’ve actually read this before, probably about a year after it came out, but had only meant to dip into it today and instead ended up rereading the whole thing with barely a pause.

I think her stuff is very unfairly maligned, mainly by people who’ve never read her and mainly because of the marketing, cos her subjects are dark. There’s addiction (Rachel’s Holiday), bereavement (Anybody Out There?), all the classics. But even the lightest books are tinged heavily with darkness, as the author has experienced these things herself and writes them too.

TMOMC is about depression - something the author talked about a lot - but it’s also as the title says, a mystery. Not just the titular one in the plot but the things that our narrator Helen, a misanthropic post-crash private detective struggling through the ruins of her life - has going on in the background. Why won’t her former best friend speak to her anymore, what happened with her and sleazebag Jay, why has she ended up homeless?

So I really enjoyed it and all its wonderfully detailed characters on reread, particularly the overachieving sister (been there) and the fussy, overinvolved mammy (been there too), but most of all the long slow tightening as Keyes unravels the plot and as Helen falls apart. Even the tertiary characters in this have life and vigour and the short sharp sentences that sometimes fade into spiralling vague thoughts exactly mirror Helen’s personality at different times. Sometimes it is brisk, sometimes it is slow (but not very often, the whole thing takes place over a week with sparingly used flashbacks). Truly a great way to spend a grey Saturday morning/evening.

Scamp Granada (gyac), Saturday, 20 March 2021 17:20 (one month ago) link

What Maisie Knew. Outstanding of course but it's a real mental workout trying to figure out exactly what Maisie knew, what she thought she knew, what the grown ups thought she knew, what they wanted her to know, and what they actually knew.

Ignore the neighsayers: grow a lemon tree (ledge), Saturday, 20 March 2021 21:09 (one month ago) link

Charm is a much neglected thing in literature, and ICTC has it in spades.

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 21 March 2021 00:15 (one month ago) link

Still reading Lorrie Moore's Collected Stories. I'm up to "Real Estate" (they're arranged alphabetically). I've been swamped with other, work- and dissertation-related reading these last few months, so a giant collection of short stories is actually the ideal thing to be able to dip in and out of right now.

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Sunday, 21 March 2021 00:31 (one month ago) link

i quit twitter for lent and started finishing a book per week

patricia highsmith - the price of salt

kinda boring and ponderous? i watched Carol the day after i finished it, and while usually i dislike film adaptations after i've read the book because i get too attached to the parts they remove, in this case there was so many dragging that needed to be excised in the novel i was delighted to see it pared down. also, despite not having ever seen the film before (loved it) i knew of its existence and couldn't help visualize carol as cate blanchett the whole time i was reading it (in the novel carol is only in her early thirties). which, i'm not complaining ;)

ottessa moshfegh - death in her hands

this was definitely a throw-away publication (apparently it was shelved over half a decade ago) to tide over the fans until her next Big Important Novel, and while it's noticeably her most "minor" work, it's really not a drop off in quality. most similar to eileen in that it's a bit noir, but similar to everything she writes in that it's all about how well the writing inhabits the inner dialogue of her characters. i know a lot of people think she sucks because she's like an edgy gen x'er but that's kinda what i love about her, even her characters' ugliest thoughts feel relatable. i was at big bookstore chain indigo (like the canadian borders or something) and saw this book on a display called said "ASIAN VOICES" next to Jenny Han and a book about Avatar: The Last Airbender, which made me lol

molly brodak - bandit: a daughter's memoir

excellent but reading if after the author's suicide a year ago makes it much more devastating than it otherwise would have been. a memoir that's nominally about growing up with a father who was a gambling addict and bank-robber, but that's more the sales hook than what it's actually ~about~ imo

flopson, Sunday, 21 March 2021 01:41 (one month ago) link

i quit twitter for lent and started finishing a book per week

If more people did this the world would be better.

edited for dog profanity (cryptosicko), Sunday, 21 March 2021 01:53 (one month ago) link

Started re-reading The Woman in White, and wow that novel is such a delight. It starts a little slow, but now I've gotten to the point where the plot has been set in motion and Fosco hasn't appeared yet but we've heard his name, and I'm remembering how much fun this book is.

Lily Dale, Sunday, 21 March 2021 16:51 (one month ago) link

It is a delight.

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 21 March 2021 16:53 (one month ago) link

after all the discussion of long foreign books, i abandoned mdme bovary after 60 pages, think i might've had a duff copy because it seemed like words were missing. it's not even that long.

read Slade House which i enjoyed. 200 pages.

now reading more Hugo, the last day of a condemned man, or sentenced to death or whatever (it seems to have many names). only 92 pages and like 50 chapters.

koogs, Sunday, 21 March 2021 18:06 (one month ago) link

Count fosco is the best villain in literature

Tsar Bombadil (James Morrison), Sunday, 21 March 2021 22:43 (one month ago) link

Thanks Aimless, I’m going to repost my post from the end of the last thread!


Oh thank god

calstars, Sunday, 21 March 2021 23:36 (one month ago) link

Being judged by calstars, a new low

Scamp Granada (gyac), Sunday, 21 March 2021 23:39 (one month ago) link

Not sure what your problem with me is or why you dissed me on slack, I never you existed until you attacked me

calstars, Sunday, 21 March 2021 23:49 (one month ago) link

1491 by Charles Mann.
Reading about the tribes at the time the Mayflower arrived. So not exactly sticking to the timeline.talking about Europeans trying to trade with increasingly hostile groups of natives. The more familiar with Europeans the more hostile.
I thought this stuck more to the time before European contact though.

Stevolende, Monday, 22 March 2021 01:42 (one month ago) link

Reading about the tribes at the time the Mayflower arrived.

More like Christopher Columbus w/ the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria.

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Monday, 22 March 2021 02:13 (one month ago) link

I finished Robert Christgau's memoir, "Going to the City". The "Dean" is pleasant enough company and you tend to believe he's telling you the truth, at least as he sees it, which is a good baseline requirement for a memoir, I think. I kind of wish he loosened up his trademark compressed and sometimes gnomic style more than he does, but I guess he's set in his writing ways by this point. It's fun reading about bohemian Manhattan in the '70s, and possibly even more fun to read about what kind of underground cultural touchstones hep '50s kids were into, since that stuff seems to be more forgotten these days. Some of Christgau's touchstones are not so underground. It's kind of funny to see Christgau apply his critical lens to "Casey at the Bat" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", kind of like the book report he always dreamed of turning in.

Now I'm reading the "Early Stories" of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Dover Press edition, stuff that was published in the big national weeklies in the late teens/early '20s.

o. nate, Monday, 22 March 2021 02:52 (one month ago) link

I like Christgau, and have read his other books, but I'd feel absurd reading a rock critic's memoir.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 22 March 2021 03:31 (one month ago) link

Not that I regard anyone else reading it as absurd!

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 22 March 2021 03:31 (one month ago) link

Point I was just making about 1491 was that it appears not to stick with that strict timeline. Author is talking about the Powhatan who helped out the pilgrims fathers as well as some other tribes from around the same time who are showing lack of welcome and broadly hinting it's time the Europeans moved on.
I had thought it was a survey of the time at the end of the 15th century. But looks like it extends to other first and early contact. Like Columbus didn’t hit the US mainland anyway. I'm still early in the book so not sure how late Mann goes. There were a lot of different tribes in different areas. While there were trade networks which later helped the spread of disease that decimated the population there were still other points of first contact.
1491 was presumably therefore more of a snappy succinct title with connotations because the Columbus related date from the next year was so well known. Rather than being a point of chronological accuracy/parameter delineation.

Stevolende, Monday, 22 March 2021 07:44 (one month ago) link

Heading towards the end of the Françoise Hardy autobio now. She has such an enormous imposter syndrome - like in the mid 90's she subs in for Marianne Faithful on a duet with Iggy Pop, made for a compilation of current artists doing torch songs (how 90's is that??) and talks so much about her and her producer being terrified of living up to the guy's talent. I mean I don't hate Iggy Pop or anything but if you're recording a fucking crooner track and you're Françoise Hardy I don't think you need to feel too intimidated by the aging punk dude.

She also tells a story of a 20something woman in New York approaching her in a hotel corridor (again, in the 90's) saying "I know who you are! Françoise Sagan!". She assures her she's not and her travel partner shows up going "hey Françoise", so woman goes "I knew it!". Hardy's takeaway from this is "of course she didn't know who I was!" and not the to my mind much more likely scenario that she totally knew who she was but had just gotten her Françoises mixed up.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 22 March 2021 11:14 (one month ago) link

Xp to Stevolende: I haven't read Mann, so not sure how good or bad he is on the subject – and I'm sure there is plenty of good history in the book – but the mention of disease transmission in the context of first contact means that I have to bring up the excellent work now being done to deconstruct the idea of "virgin soil epidemics." Jeffrey Ostler's doorstopper Surviving Genocide is probably the definitive work (with a second volume still to come!), but my suggested point of entry would be this recent polemical essay by Nick Estes: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/the-empire-of-all-maladies-estes

Mark E. Smith died this year. Or, maybe last year. (bernard snowy), Monday, 22 March 2021 12:08 (one month ago) link

ok cool thanks
Did wonder if the Mann was still the best choice of book on the subject since it has been a decade plus since it came out.
if there were any better choices. I have meant to read this since i first heard of it
I just read the bit where Most of New England got wiped out by what appears to be hepatitis A.

So this should be better insight into this.

Stevolende, Monday, 22 March 2021 12:30 (one month ago) link

I mean, there absolutely _were_ entire indigenous populations wiped out by virgin soil epidemics. It's just that the "survival of the fittest" genetic immunity explanation has become so cemented (thanks to authors like Jared Diamond) in our telling of American history, and there are all sorts of other pertinent questions that are evaded by it. How is it possible that populations in the interior of the continent survived their first encounters with epidemic smallpox and measles (via the trade networks you mentioned), only to perish of those diseases in huge numbers 100+ years later? Those are the kinds of questions that Ostler and others are beginning to answer.

Mark E. Smith died this year. Or, maybe last year. (bernard snowy), Monday, 22 March 2021 13:03 (one month ago) link

Great, will try to get to read that stuff then. Will just fill out my understanding of the era.
I did wonder if there were better native histories written by native writers since they would have a better perspective on things.
I picked up a couple of Jared Diamond books over the years that are still unread and might not have been in a while. I'm now seeing that he is not being looked at as favorably as I'd assumed.

That hepatitis A thing in New England was new to me.

I listen to the This Pod Will kill You podcast when I get a chance and quite enjoy it. Which may be a cue for me to find out i should scrutinise it better. But seems quite good.

Stevolende, Monday, 22 March 2021 13:20 (one month ago) link

Re: the Mann books, one of the things that 1491 does a good job of drilling down on is that Indigenous populations were not living in some sort of vast wilderness, but were actively engaged in land management and forms of agriculture— it's just that the dumbass Europeans didn't recognize it.

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 22 March 2021 16:15 (one month ago) link

o. nate,I think there's also a piece on xgau's site in which he checks for anachronisms in Inside Llewyn Davis, and consults w some of his contemporaries to see if he's remembering right, or missed something. His collection of book reviews is titled Book Report, for the schoolkid associations you mention, and I might get it: the reviews on and linked to his site are often more emjoyable than the later music writing, and good for variety anyway (dioot the Greil Marcus book reviews that I've read, esp. those culled from his olde Rolling Stone column).

dow, Monday, 22 March 2021 17:33 (one month ago) link

*ditto* the Greil

dow, Monday, 22 March 2021 17:34 (one month ago) link

There are a number of reviews of (music) books in Christgau's collection Is It Still Good To Ya?, he seems to relish getting into context-rich topics that way.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 22 March 2021 17:41 (one month ago) link

Count fosco is the best villain in literature

Rivaled only by Wilkie Collins's other great villain, Lydia Gwilt in Armadale.
I've gotten to the part of the book that Fosco is in, and he's such a perfect Sydney Greenstreet part it's hard to remember that Collins created him well before Greenstreet was even born.

Lily Dale, Monday, 22 March 2021 17:44 (one month ago) link

Due to the manuscript workshop I'm running at the moment, most of my non-work reading has and will consist of shorter chapbooks for the next few weeks, though I started keeping Clark Coolidge's 'Solution Passage: Poems 1978-1981' by the bedside, and it's been making for some really lovely reading— I'd never been able to access Coolidge's body of work on previous attempts, but it's sticking this time. He's had such a voluminous output that I kept picking up books of his that are more for the 'true heads,' so to speak.

Anyway, I finally 'get' Coolidge because I picked up this somewhat-rare paperback omnibus of his first few books, and other than some chaps and pamphlets, I'm awash in the manuscripts of of younger poets looking for guidance and feedback. Not a bad place to be!


it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 22 March 2021 18:54 (one month ago) link

Love Coolidge's verbal drumming. 'Jerome in His Study' is all-time.

pomenitul, Monday, 22 March 2021 18:57 (one month ago) link

It took me so long! I'd read 'The Crystal Text,' of course, but every other book of his I'd get a few pages in and realize I was just not in the right headspace...I'm definitely understanding why friends kept urging me to get this book!

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 22 March 2021 18:59 (one month ago) link

I had my timeline a bit mixed up. The first four of the F. Scott Fitzgerald stories in the Dover edition I'm reading were published in the Princeton student literary magazine. That makes more sense, actually. I can't imagine a mainstream national weekly in those days publishing something as edgy and dark as "Sentiment - And the Use of Rouge", which is basically about how WWI led to the loosening of morals among the young women of Britain.

o. nate, Tuesday, 23 March 2021 19:55 (one month ago) link

I read the first half of Ta Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me first thing this morning.
Resonated I Thik. I'm assuming this is mainly his own biography as told to his son supposedly.
NOt read him before but do have some more of him coming.

Also started reading heads by Jesse Jarnow again over the night before the Coates arrived. I read the bit about Keith Haring and his girlfriend which surprised me since I thought he was gay, then got to the end of teh section to find out he was just discovering he probably was. Need to get through this sometime this year.

Our iNner ape by Frans der wal
which has been sitting on a shelf since I picked it up cheap in a local newsagent chain several years ago. Read teh first chapter might go back to it.

& Charles C Mann 1491
He's gone back in time to what I thought was going to be teh timeline and is looking at teh inka empire which connected the peoples along the west coast of South America for several thousand miles for the first time.

Stevolende, Tuesday, 23 March 2021 23:44 (one month ago) link

I have continued obsessively reading Annie Dillard: FOR THE TIME BEING is almost as good as Tinker Creek, but more... gnostic? Structured on some obscure principle, threading clouds, sand, birth, death, Teilhard de Chardin and Baal Shem Tov. The theodicy of HOLY THE FIRM is even more baffling. AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, which I just started, by contrast feels almost too light - blithe memories of gilded youth? Still think she's the most brilliant writer I've read in the last five years.

LUX THE POET by Martin Millar. Remember picking this up when it came out in the late 80s but never finishing it. Now feels incredibly redolent of that even-then vanishing sCity Limits-squat-GLC era London - a kind of hysterical-realism partner to Geoff Dyer's Colour of Memory. Has some charm, but even at barely 160 pages outstays its welcome.

THE EXPLORER - Katherine Rundell. I have enjoyed Rundell's natural history bits in the LRB, and heard her kids books were good, so started reading as this month's bedtime book with my daughters. Honestly surprised that this kind of poshos-in-peril stuff is still published! Four kids stranded in the Amazon and they're all frightfully earnest public school types (one of whom is wearing a cricket jumper for the first three chapters), obsessed with Percy Fawcett. Take out the incessant references to snot and it might have been published in 1927.

LIGHT PERPETUAL - Francis Spufford. Follows the might-have-been postwar lives of kids killed in the Woolworths New Cross V2 explosion. Quite nicely written on a sentence by sentence basis - certainly compared to similar stuff by Lanno - but doesn't escape the temptation to drop soc-historic DO-YOU-SEEs - eg the character who works as a Fleet St compositor, on strike as the Tories are voted in in 1979 (allows FS to drop lots of lovely but strictly irrelevant science about hotmetal printing), another who makes a killing from ex-rental property after Right to Buy etc etc. This felt like a cliché when eg Tim Lott did it, decades ago - kind of hoped for more from FS. Still have 100 pages to go, so maybe he pulls it around?

SLOW DAYS, FAST COMPANY - Eve Babitz. Have been reading this off and on since last year and as with all the Eve I've read, it's so pleasurable I never want it to end.

Piedie Gimbel, Wednesday, 24 March 2021 13:34 (one month ago) link

For reference, an essay by Willa Cather:

the pinefox, Thursday, 25 March 2021 18:47 (one month ago) link

Piedie, many consider HOLY THE FIRM to be a sort of hallucination— many believe Dillard was under the influence of psychedelic drugs while she wrote it, which I wouldn't doubt. Her daughter from her first marriage is a fine poet, C0dy-R0se Clevidence.

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Thursday, 25 March 2021 20:26 (one month ago) link

finished dennis cooper's guide a few days ago. probably the novel in the george miles cycle i liked the least, but it still felt necessary? it's like the tropes of the series so far are so outrageously exaggerated that they start to disintegrate, leaving the skeleton of the novel exposed, c.f. when "dennis cooper" is breaking the fourth wall and telling you he's arranging these people who may or may not be real into situations of his own contrivance. i also found the return of george's name to the text super heartbreaking. finally i will never not be loling at his choice of pseudonymizing silverchair as "tinselstool"

just started period, about twenty pages into it and it is the best book i've ever read

mellon collie and the infinite bradness (BradNelson), Sunday, 28 March 2021 23:36 (one month ago) link

what should i read next: pnin or 2666?

flopson, Monday, 29 March 2021 04:45 (one month ago) link

Youll know when you get there.
Bob Gluck's book on the Mwandishi band.
Only in the first chapter where the band is being introduced but been meaning to read this since it was reviewed in Wire.
Seems to have rather extensive end notes so i need a 2nd bookmark.
But looking forward to knowing more about the band.

1491 Charles Mann
Now in the bit about how disease preceded initial contact in a lot of places. Which is why small groups of Europeans could succeed in conquest. Do now see there is an alternative understanding as to how disease spread could happen but he's looking at white dismissal of population estimates pre Columbus and reasons for that. So I need to read the more recent counter claims and know their context better.
I'm finding this book difficult to stop reading so it's not great as a bog book.
But now I've started it I want to get through it.

Between the World & Me Ta Nahesi Coates
His letter to his teenage son regarding his own context in society etc. Quite eye opening. Possibly would be more so if this was the first thing I'd read on dealing with racism. Still a good read I'd recommend.

We Were 8 Years In Power
Coates look back at several articles he'd written for magazine etc publication in a post Obama world. The title is a reference to a Reconstruction era statement by a black politician who has been stripped of power by changes in government becoming a lot more racist. But it also fits the Obama era having ended and a far more racist and corrupt one starting. This came out in 2017 so not sure exactly how much impact had been felt so far.
I have read the first section which was triggered by Bill Cosby facing trial. Need to read the rest.

Stevolende, Monday, 29 March 2021 06:19 (one month ago) link

I was very confused there for a second when I saw the name Bob Gluck, as there's also my friend Bob Glück, who...uh...wouldn't have written about the Mwandishi band, knowing him lol.

Glad you're enjoying the last of the cycle, Brad.

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 29 March 2021 15:03 (one month ago) link

I'm halfway through HEARING, a collaborative poem written by Lyn Hejinian and the late Leslie Scalapino. It is the sequel to their book, SIGHT, which dealt with that sensory realm. An interesting history behind it— when Scalapino passed away from pancreatic cancer in mid-2010, Lyn shelved the work, thinking that because she was unable to edit it with her friend and collaborator, it wasn't respecting Scalapino's legacy or their friendship.

Then, in 2017 or so, one of the trustees of Scalapino's papers, my friend Michael Cr0ss, was searching through Hejinian's correspondences with Scalapino and came upon a *FAX* that had Scalapino's edits of the collaborative manuscript, and a note that once these were implemented, she thought the book should go to print.

So, more than ten years after her passing, a new work emerges. It's a very cool thing, and a great book.

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 29 March 2021 15:12 (one month ago) link

I'm still reading Siri Hustvedt: MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE. A hybrid form I suppose: memoir, fiction, essay, together. It could just be non-fiction, but she seems to change certain facts and thus complicate that.

I quite like this book: late 1970s NYC, literature. She's serious about memory, time, mortality, looking backward and forward in life.

Less good is the very long and tiresome series of scenes where she listens through the wall to her odd neighbour. SH doesn't seem to have any idea how boring these are.

The book also contains too much whingeing about things, which becomes too generalized. She goes to a lecture by Paul de Man, doesn't like it much (fair enough, I find de Man dull and fiddly too, would genuinely be quite uninterested in listening to him). It then becomes very convenient that de Man is later disgraced (a pretty old story now). But she also extrapolates that any time anyone gives a talk he's a 'Great Man' communicating nothing but his charisma and power to his adoring audience, and thus the same as Donald Trump.

Not very convincing.

But I still, on balance, tend to like the book.

the pinefox, Monday, 29 March 2021 16:41 (one month ago) link

Last night I finished I Capture the Castle, having enjoyed it quite a bit. The plot was updated Austen, but the voice was wholly original.

Unlike horseshoe, who in the Novels of 1948 thread expressed the idea that Dodie Smith found high modernism dubious, I thought Smith produced a very cogent defense of it. She chose to place that defense in the mouth of Simon, a different character than her narrator, Cassandra, whom we the readers are clearly meant to identify with, but in doing so I didn't read that choice as Smith dissing Joycean modernism. It just made more sense to do it that way in terms of the plot and characters she had created and who her likely readership was. Anyway, a greatly engaging book.

Now I have started Gringos, Charles Portis.

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Monday, 29 March 2021 18:38 (one month ago) link

you think we're meant to identify with Simon? i...disagree.

horseshoe, Monday, 29 March 2021 18:38 (one month ago) link

i just think Cassandra is an aspiring writer in a Dodie Smith mode. i think Smith acknowledged that there must be merit in high modernism, because some smart people liked it, but personally it left her cold.

horseshoe, Monday, 29 March 2021 18:40 (one month ago) link

you think we're meant to identify with Simon?

uh, no. we're very much meant to identify with Cassandra. sorry if the referent of that clause wasn't clear.

Judge Roi Behan (Aimless), Monday, 29 March 2021 18:42 (one month ago) link

oh sorry, no, i just read carelessly. you're right, she does produce a defense of it, but i think Cassandra's lingering skepticism reflects Smith's own.

horseshoe, Monday, 29 March 2021 18:42 (one month ago) link

laughin my butt off @ Pnin

flopson, Tuesday, 30 March 2021 05:36 (one month ago) link

Lawrence Block

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 3 May 2021 16:55 (one week ago) link

But can you be sure the phrase wasn't already on those prior editions and he was only quoting it from them?

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 3 May 2021 16:57 (one week ago) link

Okay, I guess it is usually attributed to the NYT so you are correct, sir.

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 3 May 2021 16:58 (one week ago) link

If it wasn’t on prior editions then he is complaining about a cover blurb that doesn’t exist and then publishers snipped the non-existent blurb out and used it as a cover blurb. Frankly... that rules

Pinefox reviews Reviews (wins), Monday, 3 May 2021 17:12 (one week ago) link

I think he was paraphrasing an actual cover blurb that did exist, but not from the Times, but then publishers took his paraphrase and attributed it to the NY Times, which I guess has more "influencer" value. It would have been odd if the original blurb was from the Times, and he complained about it without mentioning that fact.

o. nate, Monday, 3 May 2021 17:26 (one week ago) link

Hmm, so I guess I was wrong. I see Black Lizard paperbacks from the '80s with that quote attributed to the Times, so I guess that's what Block was referring to in his 1990 article. So now I'm still puzzled where that quote originally appeared. The only place it shows up in the archives search is that 1990 article. Oh well, mystery unsolved..

o. nate, Monday, 3 May 2021 18:16 (one week ago) link

The closest thing I can find, at least in terms of the enthusiasm of praise, is a 1985 review of an Elmore Leonard book by Stephen King in which he mentions that Thompson is his favorite crime writer, but the wording is totally different, and that's still too late, since I see that blurb on 1981 Black Lizard reprints.

o. nate, Monday, 3 May 2021 18:29 (one week ago) link

It must have been by Anthony Boucher. I see he wrote a regular crime fiction column in the Times in the '50s and he seems to have been a big Thompson fan. Also, it appears that most of his columns only exist as image scans in the archive, so they don't support full-text search. I think the mystery has been solved.

o. nate, Monday, 3 May 2021 18:38 (one week ago) link

finally reading let us now praise famous men. picked it up on a whim the other day and found i couldn’t put it down. kind of in love with this endearingly deranged book, though I admit there are moments when i flip ahead mid-paragraph and go “huh. this part goes on for five more pages?”

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Monday, 3 May 2021 19:25 (one week ago) link

Boy On Fire by Mark Mordue.
I think its a pretty decent biography. He seems to have talked to most of the right people, at least those he had a chance to talk to.
Reads quite well as well.
It's been years since i actually read Ian Johnston and i never replaced toe Robert Brokenmouth I sold Cave in the mid 90s. He gave me the cover price for a copy I went to get him to sign. Anyway I don't remember them giving that much about his childhood/teens. i do remember Brokenmouth did have the trousers down at caulfield group photo or taht is sto say nick with trousers down.

Stevolende, Monday, 3 May 2021 19:47 (one week ago) link

Reading 'ELADATL: A History of the East Los Angeles Dirigible Air Transport Lines,' a speculative fiction by one of our finest poets, Sesshu Foster, in collaboration with Arturo Romo. It's excellent so far. More info here: http://www.citylights.com/book/?GCOI=87286100958940

it's like edging for your mind (the table is the table), Monday, 3 May 2021 19:57 (one week ago) link

finally reading let us now praise famous men. picked it up on a whim the other day and found i couldn’t put it down. kind of in love with this endearingly deranged book, though I admit there are moments when i flip ahead mid-paragraph and go “huh. this part goes on for five more pages?”

― (The Other) J.D. (J.D.)
the chapter on this book in rancière's aesthesis really piqued my interest--curious to hear what you think when you finish it.

finally getting around to tove ditlevsen's childhood/youth/dependency trilogy & enjoying the first work quite a bit. the reception of the work had me expecting something very different, but so far it reminds me a little bit of a nordic anne of green gables. i imagine that tone will shift as the story progresses, though.

vivian dark, Monday, 3 May 2021 20:17 (one week ago) link

Fizzles your post really makes me want to read some John Dickson Carr, and also reminded me of this recent Guardian article about Japanese locked room mysteries, which might be of interest to you:


.robin., Tuesday, 4 May 2021 03:45 (six days ago) link

Alice Munro, Open Secrets, as good as her reputation suggests. Was a bit surprised to find a picture section at the end with what seemed to be autobiographical photos - parents' wedding day, a baby in a buggy, growing up in ww2 - was she born in london? trekking overland to Afghanistan - inspiration for one of the stories perhaps? The captions seem to refer to extra biographical detail not found elsewhere. Meeting the prime minister of India, pictures of Kim Philby and Antony Blunt, joining MI5 - er quite the background for a Canadian short story writer. Obviously something was up. Being the subject of tabloid stories before becoming the head of MI5. Stella Rimington's biography, it transpires, is called Open Secret.

Also read Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man etc. As accomplished as Munro in what she does but not my cup of tea.

I was born anxious, here's how to do it. (ledge), Tuesday, 4 May 2021 07:54 (six days ago) link

Alice Munro was in MI5 ?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 4 May 2021 08:01 (six days ago) link

Sorry, I was not explicit. Alice Munro's book is called Open Secrets. Stella Rimington's bio is called Open Secret. Some mix up at the publishers.

I was born anxious, here's how to do it. (ledge), Tuesday, 4 May 2021 08:08 (six days ago) link

Remarkable. Like an incident in a Jonathan Coe novel.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 4 May 2021 08:29 (six days ago) link

Fizzles your post really makes me want to read some John Dickson Carr, and also reminded me of this recent Guardian article about Japanese locked room mysteries, which might be of interest to you:


yes i saw it! thanks robin. i read the decagon house murders recently and… well, it plays pretty fast and loose with the notion of a locked room but isn’t without interest. also read edogawa rampo a long time ago, but it was mainly uncanny iirc. didn’t realise he’d done mysteries.

i’m always going on about JDC here but it’s the obvious ones to go for: the hollow man, hag’s nook, the ten teacups, the crooked hinge, the case of the constant suicides, the burning court (i must admit that i go for anything early from him, and on the minus side some of the mysteries like the otherwise good murder in the submarine zone and indeed constant suicides have a very irritating manner where alcohol is concerned.)

Fizzles, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 18:56 (five days ago) link

reading my first wodehouse ('code of the woosters'). it is delightful

mookieproof, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:04 (five days ago) link

At the risk of behaving like the cat I' the adage perpetuating a cliche, I envy you, mookie.

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:09 (five days ago) link

quite so

mookieproof, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:10 (five days ago) link

when was that ever not appropriate? I mean he was mookie's kryptonite!

sharpening the contraindications (Aimless), Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:15 (five days ago) link

the great minds of the thread are standing in a line watching you go by, mookie

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:16 (five days ago) link

The the whole point about the mookieproofs, as I have had occasion to remark before, is that they are not lesser men. They keep their heads. They think quickly, and they act quickly. Napoleon was the same.

mookieproof, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:20 (five days ago) link


A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:21 (five days ago) link

The Code of the Mookies

o. nate, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 22:22 (five days ago) link

I don't understand the last 7 posts.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 5 May 2021 23:06 (five days ago) link

riffing on this: ILX cosmology: the origins of your user name

sharpening the contraindications (Aimless), Wednesday, 5 May 2021 23:20 (five days ago) link

That's great. I always thought it was somehow a Mookie Wilson reference.

o. nate, Thursday, 6 May 2021 01:12 (four days ago) link

Finally reading let us now praise famous men. picked it up on a whim the other day and found i couldn’t put it down. kind of in love with this endearingly deranged book, though I admit there are moments when i flip ahead mid-paragraph and go “huh. this part goes on for five more pages?” Once you've recovered from that one, maybe you'll dig Agee On Film, which is equally energetic in searching for visionz *and* fault---eventually finding fault with some of his own earlier flights in this same doorstop. Also interesting to compare his bop sermon prosody in the New Republic with relatively restrained reports for Time, when dealing with the same subjects.

dow, Thursday, 6 May 2021 01:38 (four days ago) link

Maybe I'll get the local library to spring for this Library of America round-up:
Which also has his screenplay for Night of the Hunter, uncollected film writing, book reviews, and lots more. (Where's the screenplay for African Queen?) Think I'm going to read A Death In The Family pretty soon, and re-read The Morning Watch (LoA's second volume incl. those with "the expanded 1960 edition" of Let Us... and some shorter fiction).

dow, Thursday, 6 May 2021 02:00 (four days ago) link

I've now looked at the thread about names, but I still don't understand the posts above on this thread.

the pinefox, Thursday, 6 May 2021 09:25 (four days ago) link

pinefox have you read no wodehouse?

mark s, Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:02 (four days ago) link

Seems to be the case (couldn’t think of how to say in Wodehouse-ese)

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:17 (four days ago) link

when non-wodehouse-reader (me) is calling to non-wodehouse-reader (the pinefox) like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps

mark s, Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:19 (four days ago) link

Heh, lol

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:23 (four days ago) link

Mark S: No.

the pinefox, Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:27 (four days ago) link

If the statement is that the posts above refer to lines of Wodehouse, that's one thing. But then, I still don't see how they connect to the other thread that poster Aimless linked to.

the pinefox, Thursday, 6 May 2021 10:29 (four days ago) link

In the case of my post, at least, I can safely say it was a dumb play on the title of the book with zero cleverness behind it.

o. nate, Thursday, 6 May 2021 20:37 (four days ago) link

pinefox, wodehouse is quite good! you should give him a try.

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Friday, 7 May 2021 00:21 (three days ago) link


I envy pinefox, discovering Wodehouse

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 7 May 2021 00:29 (three days ago) link

Pinefox, don't bother trying to arrive at an understanding of the mookieproof bantering. It's trivial stuff and not worth a second thought.

sharpening the contraindications (Aimless), Friday, 7 May 2021 03:33 (three days ago) link


I envy pinefox, discovering Wodehouse

B-b-but mightn’t it turn it to be a case of game meet game?

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 7 May 2021 05:00 (three days ago) link

Thanks, fellow ILB posters, for these generous responses.

Wodehouse seems hugely popular; it seems that I have never quite found time to try him.

I did reread a chapter of David Thomson, NICOLE KIDMAN (2006) yesterday, and more John Donne - currently mostly addressing his god, which I find less convincing than when he addresses a woman.

the pinefox, Friday, 7 May 2021 12:12 (three days ago) link

Joy in the Morning is his most perfect book, I think, if you need somewhere to start.

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 7 May 2021 12:35 (three days ago) link

That and TCooW, I guess.

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 7 May 2021 13:56 (three days ago) link

Sorry, that looks awful. And wrong too, should be TCotW, or even just CotW,

A Stop at Quilloughby (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 7 May 2021 13:57 (three days ago) link

I'm now reading "The Price of Salt" (aka "Carol") by Patricia Highsmith. It's part of a big collection that contains here first 2 novels and a bunch of stories. Should I be surprised that it's also great but in a completely different way than "Strangers on A Train"?

o. nate, Friday, 7 May 2021 16:56 (three days ago) link

I finished The Catherine Wheel last night. There was something to love about it on almost every page. Her subsidiary characters were outstanding and the book was full of perceptive touches about humans and their relationships.

The ending did not work as well for me as that in The Mountain Lion, possibly because the overall themes of obsession and repression have been explored in literature so frequently and exhaustively that the climactic few pages felt more perfunctory than climactic. Because the book was so full and rich in other ways, this small glitch at the end didn't really impair my enjoyment of the book at all.

sharpening the contraindications (Aimless), Saturday, 8 May 2021 17:03 (two days ago) link

Toni Morrison Mouth Full Of Blood
Various non-fiction writings from 90s, 00ies and teens compiled in a book taht ahs different names in other territories.
Quite enjoying it, not really read her before.

Mark Mordue Boy On Fire
Early Nick Cave bio which had initially been supposed to be a fulllife one until Arthur, Cave's son died.
Mordue realised he couldn't continue with the fuller version of teh bio but had the early years researched and it would hang together as a book. So he went with that.
Quite enjoying it, haven't read the other 2 main biographies in a while so not sure how much of this ground got covered. I know he did a lot of his own research but both Ian Johnston and Robert Brokenmouth have been cited quite a bit.
It does hang together really well anyway.
I've just got to the point where Cave is getting into heroin after Rowland S Howard has joined the Boys Next door and the lp has been released. Think i'm about 40 pages from the end.
Wish he'd rethink doing a memoir or Mick Harvey might consider doing one.

Charles C Mann 1491
Finished this earlier this week. Enjoyed it. Am now seeing it cited in the An Indigenous People's History of the UNited States.
& seeing that book mentioned in Exterminate All The brutes and its writer being involved in the production.
Started taht then bought the Nick cave book so will get back to it.

Stevolende, Saturday, 8 May 2021 19:05 (two days ago) link

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