Showing posts with label Outmoded Authors Challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Outmoded Authors Challenge. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

In the wings...

Another couple of weeks and The Ragazzo and I will be on vacation in England, so I'll be selecting my vacation reads from among these (and anything I pick up along the way and since I know of two bookstores we will be visiting in London and we'll be visiting Hay-on-Wye, that is likely).

My Life as a Dog is one of my top 10 movies of all time, but I have never read the book. The paper I am writing now draws heavily on this story so I should have it at my finger tips. Ingemar is around 11 years old, growing up in late 1950s Sweden. His mother is dying and the film is about the anticipation and the aftermath of that event. His life is an absolute wreck. He has an angry adolescent brother, none of the relatives want to take him, and he is the type of kid to whom disasters constantly happen. He muses on the dog, Laika, sent up in Sputnik without any food. He feels it is important to experience life's tragedies in perspective, he tells us. The film is touching, but not a downer, I don't know what the book is like but I am about to find out.

All my English booky acquaintances have been going on about Sarah Waters latest, The Little Stranger but the book pictured left caught my interest first. The Night Watch is set near the end of World War II in London and moves backward in time through the lives of ordinary people. The Little Stranger is a Victorian era ghost story. They both sound like entertaining reads, and Dani seemed to enjoy The Little Stranger. It sounds like an addictive, wait I just have to read the end of this chapter kind of book. I hope so as The Ragazzo and I are planning on doing four things, hike, read, have tea, and see friends. Oh, and go to bookstores, and theatre, and opera. Ok, seven things.

What Dovegrey had to say about this Orange Prize shorlister also caught my fancy. The central character is a woman of the theatre and the writer, Deirdre Madden, is Irish. So between my first career, the theatre, and my weakness for the Irish narrative voice (as if there is only one, but that little wee green island has churned out an impressive list of story tellers) I should have a good read ahead of me. The playwright muses over the nature of acting and writing as sculpters of identity, and the results sound as though they are thoughtful and moving.

It's A. S. Byatt's latest, what more can I say. I just read her sister's (Margaret Drabble's) book on moths, so I guess it is her sister's turn with dragonflies. Actually I don't know know much about this book other than the fact that it has a gorgeous cover and that Cornflower books is anticipating its pleasures too. Even when I haven't liked a book by Byatt, I have had to admire it. This sounds like it chronicles the end of innocence as the Victorian era gives way to the Edwardian.

I just picked Night Train to Lisbon off the bookstore shelf. It tells the story of a man whose life is changed by a chance encounter, in a bookstore no less. It sounds like it could either be wonderful or awful. But Isabel Allende liked it, the cover said so, and who am I to challenge her!

I read Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy as part of The Outmoded Author's challenge a few years back and I tore through those 900 pages like wild fire. If you are not familiar with the book, you might know the television adaptation Fortunes of War. A young English husband and wife go to Bucharest on the eve of World War II. The community of ex-pats of which they become a part has some very memorable characters and in addition to the involving plot, the book is simultaneously a history lesson about how the war unfolded for the niaive. They escape to Greece and as the first trilogy ends, to the Levant where the aptly titled next three volumes take place.

Those are just some of the pleasures that await me in the wings. And now, I had better get working on that paper.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Outmoded and overcommitted

Imani's first annual Outmoded Authors Challenge wrapped up yesterday. I challenged myself to read six books by four authors. Unfortunately, I never got to two of them. May Sarton was an old favorite, although Faithful are the Wounds was a re-read, it had been twenty-five years since my first reading and she not only stood the test of time, I think I could appreciate her even more. I was completely unfamiliar with Olivia Manning. The Balkan Trilogy consists of The Great Fortune, The Spoilt City, and Friends and Heroes. They were marvelous books, set in Eastern Europe during World War II. Reading them made me interested in reading her Levant Trilogy as well. In fact, maybe I'll just put that one on the acquisitions list. There are multiple posts for the trilogy, so I'll leave you to click on the Outmoded Authors Challenge label on my side bar if you would like to read them.

John Galsworthy - Fraternity
May Sarton - Faithful are the Wounds
Ivy Compton-Burnett - Manservant and Maidservant
Olivia Manning
- The Balkan Trilogy

Monday, December 24, 2007

Count Down - Mission impossible update

We spent the night in Amish country in a lovely B&B - only the sound of the river running by the house and the horse and buggies as the locals went off to church early on Sunday morning. The drive across the rest of Pennsylvania to Ohio yesterday was a little trecherous - lots of rain and fog in the Poconos, but we always bring tons of music along so we listened the whole way and appear to have made it in one piece.

I have finished Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy. Manning writes insightfully about her characters and the story put me convincingly in the experience of an expat in Europe at the start of World War II. The Pringles marry and move to Bulgaria, as Guy Pringle teaches English there for the English Legation -they are forced to leave Bucharest as the Nazis encroach on Eastern Europe. They escape to Athens, where they are only steps ahead of the Germans and by the end of the third volume, they are again fleeing, this time for the Middle East where Manning's next trilogy is set - The Levant Trilogy. The story is held together not only by history and politics, although those are An important part of it, but by the growth of the relationship of the Pringles. Harriet Pringle is very different from Guy, and she thrown into a marriage with a man she has known only a few weeks and immediately moves to a new country where she doesn't speak the language or know anyone besides her new husband. The story is as much one of Harriet's growing insight about herself as it is our experience of the war through naive eyes.

Reading the trilogy has made me interested in getting to know more of Manning's books - she is a descriptive and un-showy writer with human and historical insight and I found the events of these three novels almost mesmerizing. Reading them for two or three hours at a stretch never seemed an effort. If you haven't read anything by her, and I hadn't before these - I recommend her heartily.

Completion of the trilogy brings me one book closer to my meaningless goal of reading 50 books before the end of this year. I am quickly finishing Peter Abrahams' thriller Nerve Damage, my 42nd book of the year. His thrillers are generally pretty fast moving - one of the reasons one or two of them are ending up in this end of the year effort - but I am finding the plotting of this one a bit obvious and the idea of a man with a disease that will put an end to his ability to solve the mystery he has become a part of is an idea Abrahams already used in Oblivion, on which I thought he did a more convincing job.

40. The Spoilt City - Olivia Manning
41. Friends and Heroes - Olivia Manning

42. Nerve Damage - Peter Abrahams (almost finished!)
43. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
44. Tell me Everything - Sarah Salway
45. Experiment in Love - Hillary Mantel
46. The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
47. The Last Town on Earth - Thomas Mullen
48. Lisrael - Garth Nix
49. Abhorsen - Garth Nix
50. Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mission Impossible - Update (Books - The Spoilt City by Olivia Manning)

Count down!

Olivia Manning's The Balkan Trilogy is such a vivid account of what it must have been like, I imagine, to be an ex-pat during the beginning of World War II. Manning is particularly insightful about her characters. I enjoy watching the young couple, the Pringles, getting to know each other better through their travails:
She sighed, feeling in the gummy September heat all the tedium of the year repeating itself. Guy, thinking she was bored, said: "Nearly finished," but she was not bored. Becoming conditioned to Guy's preoccupation, she was learning the resort of her own reflections. With him, in any case, talk was too general for intimacy. He despised the metaphysical and the personal. He did not gossip. She was beginning to believe that what he had lacked was a fundamental interest in the individual - a belief that would astonish him were she to accuse him. But she did not accuse him. Once she had believed that finding him, she had found everything: now she was not so sure. But here they were, Wrecked together on the edge of Europe as on an island and she was learning to keep her thoughts to herself.

Manning seems less observant of the little physical details of life - the physical attributes of the apartment where the characters live, she will say that a meal on a train was terrible, but won't say what precisely was terrible about it. The political events, however, are very excitingly drawn. The abdication of the king of Roumania, the economic situation, relationships between the fascists, the peasants, and the Jews. The rude awakening of the chief British bureaucrat of Bucharest that his days are numbered there. He is truly that breed of man who "knew his place"
"...London office must be told that we face a final break-up here. It's only a matter of time. We should be instructed where we're to go, what we're to do when we get there. We don't want to become refugees without employment.
The second volume ends on a real cliff-hanger! I'm now on to volume three - Friends and Heroes. With any luck, I can complete it tomorrow. Time is of the essence.

40. The Spoilt City - Olivia Manning
41. Friends and Heroes - Olivia Manning
42. The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick
43. Tell me Everything - Sarah Salway
44. Experiment in Love - Hillary Mantel
45. The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue
46. The Last Town on Earth - Thomas Mullen
47. Lisrael - Garth Nix
48. Abhorsen - Garth Nix
49. Across the Nightingale Floor - Lian Hearn
50. Musicophilia - Oliver Sacks

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

History Re-lived (The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning)

What was most impressive in The Great Fortune, the first of the three books in The Balkan Trilogy, is how Olivia Manning creates a story of suspense out of historical events to which we already know the ending. Set at the start of World War II as a newly wed English couple comes to Roumania, the story is -necessarily - the war. What will the Axis do? Will the allegiance with Russia last? Will they be able to return to England? Will the English protect Roumania as they had promised? Will the Nazi's invade France? We actually know the answers to these questions, but I care about the outcome because this story is really about the lives of a broad cast of warmly observed people and how their existence is affected by the world's events. My first post can be found here.

The story is related mostly from the perspective of Harriet Pringle, the young wife of a English lecturer at the University, and Prince Yakimov - of a Russian czarist father and an Irish mother. Harriet is new to Bucharest and her husband is the only person she knows there. She is naive and yet also tough. She is caught in the difficult role as a practical partner to a dreamer - her husband is a big softy who can never say no to helping an army deserter, a poor depressed orphan, or a drunken scrounging prince like Yakimov, who ends up living with the Pringles. Guy Pringle decides to direct a production of Troilus and Cressida at the university with the roles assumed by the broad cast of characters to whom Manning has introduced us. The production forms the unlikely but delightful climax to this first of three books in the trilogy.
what [was] is for - this expense of energy and creative spirit. To produce an amateur play that would fill the theatre for one afternoon and one evening and be forgotten in a week. She knew she could never give herself to such an ephemeral thing. If she had her way, she would seize on Guy and canalise his zeal to make a mark on eternity. But he was a man born to expend himself like a whirlwind - and, indeed, what could one do but love him?

The tumult of their domestic life is the foreground and the war the background and as a result, we follow a character walking down the boulevard who stops to look at the movement of troops on a map in the window of the German propaganda office with interest. What will happen next in the world happens to these people for whom we have come to care. Prince Yakimov has never worked a day in his life. He dances delicately between his role as a member of a royal family (long dead) and a master manipulator in a manner that works fiercely to maintain a facade of graciousness - even to himself:
He could also make a little pocket-money when he dined out with the Pringles. Guy, who over-tipped in a manner Yakimov thought rather ill-bred, always left a heap of small coincs on the table for the piccolo. Yakimov, insisting that Guy precede him from the table, would pocket all he could gather up as he passed.

Guy was absurdly careless with money. One noonday, when they were rehearsing alone, Yakomov saw him pull out with his handkerchief two thousand lei notes. Retrieving, and borrowing, these unseen, Yakov excused himself and went to Cina's where he sat on the terrace eating the aspragus of which he had been deprived and heard the orchestra play in the elegant chinois stand over which the Canary creeper was breaking into flower.

He is infuriating and Manning seems to have a delicious time devising his next plot to live one more day able to sleep till noon and have a hot bath. Both Guy and Harriet seem powerless to refuse him as he has no where else to go.

It's fascinating to observe the political and military progress of this well-known war through naive eyes. Manning has a talent for placing us back in that circumstance. Even though the events of the book are based on her life, it was written in the 1960s. The dissolving fortunes of a Jewish family who's wealth is tied up in German industry, the future of Bessarabia, fought over for centuries by the Russians and the Roumanian's, even the future of Paris become newly interesting amidst the domestic conflicts of the Pringles and the dissolved fortunes of a drunken hanger-on. I'm already 100 pages into the second book of this 900 page trilogy, The Spoilt City, but I've no doubt I'm going to finish it before Christmas. It moves swiftly and its cast of characters are well-known to me now. Which brings me to another more pressing question, I had really hoped to reach the meaningless goal of having read 50 books this year. When I complete this trilogy I'll be at 41. Think I can make it? Nine more books in about three weeks, it's going to be close.

Now I'm off to one of my two finals. The other is tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Arriving in Bucharest on the Eve of War (Books - The Balkan Trilogy by Olivian Manning)

I have begun The Balkan Trilogy by Olivia Manning, my second book for the Outmoded Authors Challenge hosted by Imani. It and The Levant Trilogy are a fictionalization of Manning's life with her husband in which, as a newly married couple, they moved to Bucharest on the eve of World War II, staying there until the Germans invade Greece and then moved to the middle east. The six books are collectively titled Fortunes of War and were the basis for the Masterpiece Theater series of the same name.

Manning's ability to present the sweep of a scene in which many small dramas seem to be happening at once, and to people those dramas with detailed characters, is remarkable.

During the afternoon the receptionist rang through three times to say a lady wished to speak to Domnul Pringle. "The same lady?" Harriet asked the third time. Yes, the same lady.

When, at sunset, Guy's figure appeared in the square, Harriet's forbearance was not what it had been. She watched him emerge out of a blur or dust - a large, untidy man clutching an armful of books and papers with the awkwardness of a bear. A piece of pediment crashed before him. He paused, blinded; peered about through his glasses and started off in the wrong direction. She felt an appalled compassion for him. Where he had been a moment before, a wall came down. Its fall revealed the interior of a vast white room, fretted with baroque scrolls and set with a mirror that glimmered like a lake. Nearby could be seen the red wall paper of a cafe - the famous Cafe Napoleon that had been the meeting-place of artists, musicians, poets and other natural non-conformists. Guy had said that all this destruction had been planned simply to wipe out this one centre of revolt.

Entering the hotel room, Guy threw down his armful of papers. With a sasualness that denoted drama, he announced: "The Russians have occupied Vilna." He set about changing his shirt.
"You mean, they're inside Poland?" ask Harriet.
"A good move." Her tone had set him on the defensive. "A move to protect Poland."
"A good excuse, anyway."
The telephone rang and Guy jumped at it before anything more could be said: "Inchcape!" he called delightedly and without consulting Harriet added: "We're dining up the Chaussee. Pavel's. Come and join us." He put down the receiver and, pulling a shirt over his head without undoing the buttons, he said: "You'll like Inchcape. All you need do with him is encourage him to talk."
Another character has also been introduced, Yakimov. I don't really know who he is yet. He could be nobility fallen on hard times or a swindler.

He held a suitcase in each hand and his crocodile dressing-case hoisted up under his right elbow. His sable-lined greatcoat hung from his left arm. The porters - there were about a dozen to each passenger - followed him aghast. He might have been mobbed had not his vague, gentle gaze, ranging over their heads from his unusual height, given the impression he was out of reach.

When the dressing-case slipped, one of the porters snatched at it. Yakimov dodged him with a skilled sidestep, then wandered on, his shoulders drooping, his coat sweeping the dirty platform, his check suit and yellow cardigan sagging and fluttering as though carried on a coat-hanger. His shirt, changed on the train, was clean. His other clothes were not. His tie, bought for him years before by Dollie, who had admired its 'angelic blue', was now so blotched a be-yellowed by spilt food, it was no colour at all. His head, with its thin, pale hair, its nose that, long and delicate, widened suddenly at the nostrils, its thin clown's mouth, was remote and mild as the head of a giraffe. On top of it he wore a shabby check cap. His whole sad aspect was made sadder by the fact that he had not eaten for forty-eight hours.

A description like that and at once I want to know more. We are introduced to the Pringles and Yakimov on a train heading for Bucharest. In the first pages, a German refuge on that train loses his papers. At once the atmosphere of burgeoning war gripped me, a sort of hysterical tension. I've only read a few chapters but am already completely drawn-in to the world of Manning's novel.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Ideas and Ideals - The Role of the Intellectual Dissenter (Books - Faithful are the Wounds by May Sarton)

I've completed my first book on the Outmoded Author's Challenge! Reading Faithful are the Wounds again for the first time in 20 years confirmed my naive impressions of May Sarton as a humanistic writer of passion and clarity. Her books observe human beings intimately from the inside and ask questions about how they become who they are. How are our sense of right and wrong formed? What is our role as a teacher, young man, old woman, writer?

The plot is built around the suicide of Edward Cavan, literature professor at Harvard and Socialist activist. The time is the 1950s. The Civil Liberties chapter of which he is a member is asking for a letter testifying there are no communists in their ranks. There aren't, and some members of the chapter see no harm in saying so, but Cavan feels their most basic freedoms are being challenged by being asked for such a guarantee. An insurmountable conflict arises between those who must live their ideals and those whose practical considerations, desire for moderation, or just plain fear of risk takes priority. What is interesting about the novel isn't simply how the conflict turns out, from the third page Edward is already dead. What is interesting is how the people in the wake of his death must look at what they stand for and see if they can say they are living a life of integrity, one that will have meaning when it is done.

At first I found the language of this 1955 novel old fashioned, a little melodramatic. It the ring of dialogue from a film of the same period has - you don't even have to understand the words, you can hear it from the next room and you know when it was made. But Sarton doesn't waste any time. She either has the characters performing a defining action or she dives immediately inside their heads. Take Edward's sister and her husband:
She walked into a stranger's kitchen; she was, she felt, in a stranger's house. It had never seemed quite real and now she was set way outside it, looking in, looking at the carefully planned shelves, the automatic dishwasher, the little herb cupboard, the red tiled floor, looking at herself Isabel Cavan - no, Isabel Ferrier - and her husband, the distinguished surgeon, pouring milk into a saucepan with all the care with which he might have used a scalpel, as if nothing else for the moment existed.
Isabel Cavan must leave the shelter of her San Francisco area, predictable life of bridge games and evening cocktails and arrange her estranged brother's funeral among the liberal intellectual elite of Harvard. She must, in the course of the novel, not only learn who her estranged brother was, but learn who she is as well.
"I've tried so hard to get away, to be - to be - myself," she said, "but Edward was always there, doing crazy things like campaigning for Wallace, being a Socialist, always digging under everything I believed.

Isabel may come from one kind of privilege, but she is challenged, even threatened by the passion, the rage, with which her brother lived out his love of humanity, and by his intellectual colleagues living in another kind of isolation. That difference poses a threat to her sense of normalcy. But those in Edward's immediate circle are no less unsettled by his final act.

His student, George Hastings is still stuck in the narcissism of young adulthood. Edward's death demands that he ponder how one decides to take a stand. How one can discover meaning in literature that has value to the living of a passionate and full life. For him the challenge is to learn how to love someone other than himself.

Edward's colleague and friend in activism, Damon Phillips, has his credo put to the test:

"The damnable thing is that I envy Edward his conviction...Am I just becoming a doddering old fuddy duddy, Julia? Am I crazy?"

"You know what I think? I think that we are having to grow, to change in fundamental beliefs and it's a painful process - at our age. We took an awful lot of things for granted, Damon, you know?"

"Like what?" he asked suspiciously.

"Well, like that the unions must be fight about everything, that Socialism is the answer..."


Damon's saving grace was this, this lightness about what mattered to him, this humility and persistence which had to do with being a scientist, she supposed, but always it moved her. He's a great man, she thought, and most of the time I misjudge him because I have a mean little nature. What was Damon like in that mysterious paradise of his where he sat poring over equations which she could not even read, let alone solve? Was he quiet then? At peace with himself? Centered? She would never know. They had been married twenty-five years and still she would never know.

Sarton creates characters with inevitability, complexity, and clarity. You spend only half a page with someone before you begin to know who they are.
It was really too dark to see, but Julia Phillips stayed on in the dilapidated old garden, cutting down the phlox, trying up the chrysanthemums (why had they grown so very tall and floppy?). She stopped every now and then to look up from the shadowy garden to the extraordinarily luminous lavender sky overhead...

...Still she lingered on, feeling about for her tools in the dark, smelling the bitter sharp smell of the earth and the leaves, not wanting to break this quiet mood. There, working for long hours till her back and legs ached, she felt sane, she recaptured some deep rhythm which these hectic days destroyed. She was a large Junoesque woman who had been a beauty and still had the carriage and air of a beauty, a deceptive surface calm which concealed strong feelings and which had made her the kind of woman people lean on and expect comfort from. She had long ago grown used to giving to life what was expected; the revolt - and there was revolt - was buried very deep. No one guessed what her life with Damon had been, that the other side of his enormous gusto and love of life was an abyss of self distrust. She had lifted him again and again, patiently, quietly, and with what she imaged was love, but it had seemed to her for some time now that she was acting a part, the part of the perfect wife. Lately she had felt a wild desire, to escape, to run away, to find out at long last what she herself was like, to live her own life, though she was very vague as to what this might be.

She felt that this autumn, so outwardly calm, was moving toward some crisis, a crisis which she would not have the power to avert.

In addition to her depth of observation of human nature and her ability to create human beings on the page, Sarton delves into issues of seriousness and value. One of the things Edward is admired for most, by his students as well as his colleagues, is his ability to make his life of passionate conviction and his work writing about and teaching English literature one and the same thing. There is a marvelous scene Sarton writes of a graduate seminar that Edward leads on a student's paper about Willa Cather.

"I don't know what to say, Kovarsky," he began, looking down at his clasped hands. "You've put the cart before the horse, you see, and so perhaps put the wrong cart before your horse. You have in fact judged before you have had the experience;you have committed the - to my mind - unpardonable sin of applying preconceived formula to something which you only looked at through this formula, not for itself. You have got to judge a work of art first for what is is; you've got to possess it completely. But how thin your appreciation is, how poverty-stricken because you wore blinders all the time...

I can't overemphasize the danger of this schematic approach. You must learn to read with the whole of yourselves; you must bring love as well as intellect to this kind of analysis - just as in personal relationships. After all, a really fruitful reading of an author of this stature means giving up yourself for a time, mean being able to encompass something wholly by imaginative sympathy. These are not mere intellectual matters." His fist was closed, as if he were restraining himself from bringing it down with a bang on the table. "You're going at a fine piece of pottery with a blacksmith's hammer. Naturally it breaks to pieces...

Isn't that a marvelous passage on reading? I can't help feeling that there is some of Sarton's own feeling about literature in it.

The scene of the funeral is also a tour de force, where all of the characters developed over the novel and who have been re-examining themselves in light of Edward's death come together in an event of pathos without any sense of easy resolution. Sarton does a marvelous job of setting the tone:
It was a cold gray day, leaves and dust skirling about in a dirty wind, bits of old newspaper flapping against the fence. The few leaves still on the trees looked tired, and Grace Kimlock as she walked down Brattle Street thought all this appropriate, a restless disintegration, Cambridge itself where the green lawns were slowly being eaten up by apartment houses and the old frame houses needed paint, having lost all dignity and charm. Not thinking of Edward to whose funeral she was going, she thought of these things, the constant flow of noisy trucks down Brattle Street which used to be an ample thoroughfare, stately and peaceful. It's all gone or going, she thought, and we are old and tired.

There is so much marvelous writing and solid, earthy, moral substance to this book, that the deeply searching questions about the ideals we work for, what role serious intellectual thought plays in our lives, what loving others means, what is left after a life has been lived, are not mortifying to ask. While they have their painful moments, they are a pleasure to contemplate. Reading the last 100 or so pages of this book kept me up until nearly 2 a.m. Sarton's style is not fancy, but it is intellectually deep while also being accessible and loving. She does seem to be out of fashion at present. I'm not sure just how widely read she ever was, but after rereading this novel, I hope more lovers of good books take her up. I remember Shadow of a Man, The Fur Person, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing and Kinds of Love all as pleasurable reading.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Love, War and the Truth (Books - The Welsh Girl and Faithful are the Wounds)

I've finished reading The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies. I've said most of what I've wanted to here, here, and here. There is something important that happens to Esther in the last 100 pages or so that creates some fantastic scenes but I feel that if I say too much more, I will ruin the experience for those of you who want to read it. There is a layering of themes in this book: friends and enemies, language, and the ability to live with the truth are the three that have most stuck with me. It's one of the few books I've read recently in which the epilogue actually worked. In any event, I found it well worth reading.

Next up, I'm planning on re-reading May Sarton's Faithful are the Wounds for the Outmoded Authors Challenge posed by Imani. I read pretty much everything by Sarton about 25 years ago. I really enjoyed her novels and memoirs. I'm not really sure why this one just.... because. If I remember correctly, themes of truth and politics crop up in this book too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thumbing your nose at authority

Imani has posed two challenges of writers fallen from grace - Index Librorum Liberorum is a list devised by the Catholic church of books to stay away from if you want to get to heaven. Imani's challenge suggests instead that we go to hell. The Outmoded Authors Challenge gives us all the opportunity to read from a list of writers proposed by Imani's readers who are no longer popular. So whether you're thumbing your nose at the pope or at fashion, click the links provided and sign up.

Preferring to keep my soul intact (and facing the looming start of the semester) I'm signing up for the Outmoded Authors Challenge. There are such great pickings! Dawn Powell, May Sarton, Christina Stead! I'm going to reread one May Sarton book, I suggested her! I've probably read all of Sarton's journals and novels (and some of her poetry) and she's published at least 30 books, but I haven't returned to them. I remember Faithful are the Wounds as a good one and Kinds of Love was one of my favorites, so one of those goes on the list. Fraternity by John Galsworthy has been on the TBR pile for about two years now. The New York Times described it as "among the best novels this century has produced so far," but that was in 1909. But ecstatic reviews aside, it features an interesting conflict between middle class conformity and bohemianism. We'll see. Mostly this challenge intrigues me because of those on the list I've never read. I'm tempted to read something by Olivia Manning, Marian Engel, Ivy Compton-Burnett, E. R. Eddison, and maybe Christina Stead, but that list will probably have to be shortened.