This has been a light year of reading, compared to 2011 & 2010. I’ve been busy with marketing WHAT BEAUTY and getting ready for its release. Plus I’ve fired a couple of books and am taking time with a couple others. It seems I’m reading at least two at a time.
Reading Myself and Others by Philip Roth
Besides his work on novels, in the first half of his career Philip Roth crossed the globe speaking with famous authors, both contemporary and elder craftsmen. He also wrote criticism for magazines, forwards to books, and was asked to contribute to magazines his opinions on books & authors & writing & book culture. Reading Myself is a collection of such writing. Each is a well-written essay that shows Roth as the thinking man of letters apart from his novels and public persona. Some of these essays actually address the difference b/w the “stories” and his “life.” He once writes, “People think I have lived the life of my characters, the sex and the anxiety and drama. But if you follow me around you’ll find that I sit in a chair writing until the afternoon, then taking a walk in the woods, and reading at night. I think most people would find this pretty boring.”
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
Cornelius Suttree lives on a derelict houseboat on the river running through Knoxville. He catches fish to sell at the markets, gets drunk with friends, lies with the odd woman given the chances, and generally has said good-bye to common life. With his humanity intact, Suttree is the common man of the USA who is more in line with life than all those running about in their cars and offices and PTA meetings. McCarthy’s prose is stimulating and rich and always inviting to a world that we seldom notice and otherwise push aside when we do.
The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow
This political book of the Vietnam era takes as its premise the aftermath and lives of children (now adults) whose parents were executed for treason at the height of the Cold War and USA’s Red Scare. We see what they saw as children and felt when their parents were taken away, and now (1967) as adults with all the memories and many questions yet unanswered. Daniel is the narrator and one of the two children, and this is his story of finding himself and the truth behind a government’s fear of people and ideas and those who speak a radical language from the status quo.
The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.