Monthly Archives: June 2009

David Benioff, “City of Thieves”

David Benioff frames City of Thieves as his grandfather’s story of survival during the Siege of Leningrad, and it may be that. But he also tips us off very early that his book is also about story-telling. The narrator is … Continue reading

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Irish Murdoch, “A Fairly Honourable Defeat”

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, and not in a good way. We used to talk, in art-history graduate school, about the idea of a canvas being “transparent to” the subject; this meant that the painting itself did not get in the … Continue reading

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Margot Asquith, “Octavia”

I am so happy that I live in a place where the communal book shelf in the laundry room (recent source of that Simenon novel) also yielded Margot Asquith’s Octavia. I read her autobiography years ago, while researching the heiresses … Continue reading

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Minette Walters, “The Chameleon’s Shadow”

Minette Walters’ books are a reliable pleasure. True, they are slightly creepy, but often, as in The Chameleon’s Shadow, superficially disturbing characters reveal appealing characteristics and Walters sticks to the bargain we expect from a mystery: that order be restored. … Continue reading

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Joseph O’Neill, “Netherland”

Wow! I love New York. Love the variety, the strangeness, the spectacular nature of the city, the weird pockets of mini-neighborhoods, the way we’re all thrown together here, the way the city tosses mysteries at you that you will never … Continue reading

Posted in best seller, contemporary fiction, literary fiction | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Brenda Wineapple, “Sister Brother: Gertrude & Leo Stein”

I knew very little about Gertrude Stein before reading this — the famous Picasso portrait, Biography of Alice B. Toklas, “Rose is a rose is a rose,” and 27, rue de Fleurus in Paris about summed it up. I did … Continue reading

Posted in art history, biography, French, scholarly | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Georges Simenon, “Maigret in Vichy”

Random find from the laundry room bookshelf. I have a dim memory of reading a few Simenon novels for French class a million years ago, and not caring much for them. But what was Maigret doing in Vichy?  I vaguely … Continue reading

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Sarah Waters, “The Little Stranger”

Why is this title sinister? Maybe it’s the combination of ideas: “stranger” always connotes something potentially menacing, and when you add the diminutive you tip over into the creepy. Then you fabricate a decaying English country house, a self-deceiving narrator, … Continue reading

Posted in anglophilia, contemporary fiction, ghost story | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Christopher Buckley, “Losing Mum and Pup”

It’s time for a warning to writers of my generation — “Think veeeery carefully before you start that ‘my-famous-but difficult-parents-are-dead’ book. The field is getting crowded.”  The field is not actually crowded, yet, but as I read Losing Mum and … Continue reading

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Colette, “The Vagabond”

There’s something so bracing about Colette. Sometimes the cynicism is hard to take but The Vagabond is maybe a little more disciplined than the Claudine books or Chéri. Here Colette isn’t trying to shock or titillate; it feels as if … Continue reading

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