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BIBLIOGRIND

Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

What Books Did You Add to Your Shelf in 2016 ???

As a writer, I’m also a reader. 2016 was a busy year. Here’s my list, and recommendations for all readers and writers and artists:

The tail of the spines …

Because They Wanted To (Mary Gaitskill)
The Keep (F. Paul Wilson)
In a Free State (V.S. Naipaul)
MaddAddam (Margaret Atwood)
Crime and Punishment (F. Dostoevsky)
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami)
Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
The Wapshot Scandal (John Cheever)
The Savage Detectives (Roberto Bolano)
Cat’s Eye (Margaret Atwood)
Star: The Life & Times of Warren Beatty (Biskind)
London Belongs to Me (Norman Collins)
Millroy the Magician (Paul Theroux)
The Secondary Colors (Alexander Theroux)
Dan Leno & The Limehouse Golem (Peter Ackroyd)
Daniel Martin (John Fowles)
Waiting for Sunrise (William Boyd)
The Facts: a novelist’s autobiography (Philip Roth)
Humboldt’s Gift (Saul Bellow)
The Wasteland & other poems, (T.S. Eliot)
The Heart Goes Last (Margaret Atwood)
Life Before Man (Margaret Atwood)
Germany: memories of a nation (Neil MacGregor)
April in Paris (i fired this one)
The Cowards (Josef Skvorecky)
The Western Coast (Paula Fox)
Immortality (Milan Kundera)
Daily Rituals (Mason Currey)
Tests of Time (William H. Gass)
Patrimony (Philip Roth)
Shop Talk (Philip Roth)
Laughable Loves (Milan Kundera)
The Enigma of Arrival (V.S. Naipaul)

33 books
12,591 pages
5,162,310 words

Readers will want to look into “Germany” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” … Writers will want to reader deeply with “Crime and Punishment” and “Daniel Martin” and “The Savage Detectives” and “Millroy the Magician” … Artists will find lots to feel with “The Secondary Colors” and “Humboldt’s Gift” and “Tests of Time”

What have been your favorites from 2016??

“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster

The “follies” Auster refers to are those human foibles that “Uncle Nathan” has witness, heard of, or otherwise committed himself throughout his life. He’s nearing sixty, is in cancer remission, and newly divorced from his wife and estranged from his only daughter. But Nathan has a healthy attitude towards life, and the follies which he is compiling get a boost as the story of Nathan and his nephew, Tom, as their lives suddenly become intertwined.

The story moves quickly, and pleasantly. This is not a typical Auster novel, his deep intrigue and illusory themes/characters/endings. All that you read in THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES is exactly is what’s on the page. I wasn’t disappointed, but hadn’t expected such a light read from Auster. If you’re on the beach, in a car, out back on the hammock, it’s a good read.

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My new novel is now on sale: “Max, the blind guy” is the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This book is available in print at Amazon.com and the digital edition is available as a serialized novel — 12 parts, published every fourth week. Come by MarkBeyer : Author to read an excerpt that you won’t find at on-line bookshops.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

Books Read Lately: Trevor, Robinson, O’Neill

Four books this time, each a unique world of subtle human emotions, intrigue of character, and story that matches this modern world:

Two Lives (“Reading Turgenev” and “My House in Umbria”) by William Trevor

Umbria: Simply amazing. A mystery, put inside a pastoral, wrapped in human illusion. A must read for those who like well-drawn characters but are thoroughly opposed to explosions and anything with fangs.

Turgenev: A fabulous story by a writer whose nuanced prose takes you along like on a cloud (sometimes, then, a thundercloud).

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I read about author Marilynne Robinson in the LRB, and was intrigued. This short novel of hers is deftly told, strangely compelling, and, ultimately, satisfying to an imaginative minded reader. Two girls are left to the care of their grandmother, who dies shortly; Ruthie and Lucille are then looked after by their aunt, a wanderer, who comes into the teens’ lives with strange habits that make their lives turn over.

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Highly unusual tale of “the immigrant life in America” between Brits & Dutch & West Indians. Murder, mystery, life-stories, business-in-America, marriage & all that … this books has everything. And it’s well told.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

Books Read Lately: Gaddis, Eugenides, Fowles

The Recognitions by William Gaddis

Gaddis wrote the story of identity (theft), forgery, and the high price(s) we pay for fame AND obscurity, in 1955. I think, if he were alive today, he’d say things have only gotten worse. The beauty of this novel (all 490,000 words) is how Gaddis has not given anything away; he hardly lets the reader know what’s “going on” in the plot. Yet there are intricately described places, and people; there’s are dozens of pages of non-stop dialogue. This is a fun book that takes the reader into a world of danger, beauty, loveless-love, depression, and unfailing hope.

The Marriage Plot by Jefferey Eugenides

I was disappointed by the start of this book … too cute, and the whiff of commercial story-telling. And then Eugenides’s wit and erudition came out from the curtain wings and played the part I recognized from his previous books. Anyway … the love between college students is a nice flashback; the intellectualizing of affection, of lust, of “the possible.” The interwoven stories of Madeliene and her male suitors is often funny, and terribly real.

The Ebony Tower by John Fowles

This collection of five novellas has art as its link; the way, the why, the how-to, the what-for, and even the why-not? Underlying each is human frailty: in love, work, mind, and body. These are very well written stories, which take you to places, and into the minds of people, whom you have not had the pleasure of meeting before. At least, I wish I had had that pleasure.

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My newest novel is “Max, the blind guy” — the story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. This new novel will be published on June 5, 2015.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

Books Read Lately: love, punishment, philosophy

 

The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov

Written between 1934-37 in Berlin, Nabokov elucidates the German mentality via a young Russian émigré, full of spirit, poetry, love, and wonder (along with a lot of memories of his father’s long absences to collect butterflies and moths around the world). The young man’s desire to write about beauty in the world, and his love for Zina (his landlady’s daughter) keeps him from losing his mind in a world not his own, or even of his choosing. Nabokov is honing the wit in this story that he shows so brilliantly in later novels.

 

The Punisher’s Brain by R. Hoffman

Where does our penchant for punishment, forgiveness, and revenge come from? Societal convention, or somewhere deeper within the psyche? Trial judge Hoffman explores these questions from several vantage points, each stemming from brain functions that, over 100,000 years ago, designed our minds to cheat, find other cheaters, and punish the members of our tribe (not to mention outsiders!).

 

The Book and the Brotherhood by Iris Murdoch

A large group of former Oxford grads are in various stages of stasis, growth, decline, and mental anguish as they approach middle age. One man is the central point of solidity: David Crimond is a brilliant thinker who has been working on a book for 25 years (or more!) that will reposition political thought and argument. But the coterie that has funded his ability to think & write all these years without encumbrance, has some questions. Meanwhile, hearts are afire. Iris Murdoch delivers some great dialogue about modern society and how it all may end (or end up).

 

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“Max, the blind guy” is a story of Max and Greta Ruth, their 40-year relationship, and all the demons that show up as they find that life rarely goes according to plan. The manuscript is now out with agents; it may be in print as early as December 2014.

What Beauty was published in 2012. It’s a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

 

 

Books Read Lately: Narayan, Graves, Golding

Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayan

Narayan wrote of Indian life of the 1930s – 50s. The small town he invented, Malgudi, is a universal that we all can understand, if only for the differences in technology, food, and the Indian culture. Otherwise, we see the lovely humanity of Swami and his childhood friends as they negotiate school, games, friendships, and parents. This story is a real treat, and the omnibus “Malgudi Stories” is enchanting, and haunting.

 

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Claudius is the Caesar between Tiberius and Caligula. A happy group, these oddly incestuous clans were. Claudius is perhaps the most unpredictable character in fiction (or history) because he was a nobody nephew/uncle who rose to Roman heights. Along the way, he has given us a chronicle, through Graves’ writing mastery, of the 50-years in which families commit intrigue left and right. The most scary of which are the women, who are constantly (and I imagine, must have had to) manipulating their men. Case in point: Tiberius needed an ally, so he forced his daughter to divorce her husband and marry some old cretin; momma was really behind the plot. Yes, the happy elites of ancient times.

 

Rights of Passage by William Golding

I recently read “Darkness Visible” by Golding, and was entranced by the oddity and strangeness of the characters and story. With “Passage” I was not; this story is predictable, barely engaging, and mostly a series of cobbled incidents that don’t make much of an impact, while they are happening or afterwards. Frankly, I didn’t finish the book, and had to fire it about 2/3 through. Life is short enough without bad fiction. Nevertheless, I’m going to read “Pincher Martin” soon, and shall hope for that Golding light to shine.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

Books Read Lately: Hamson, Nabokov, DeLillo

On Muted Strings by Knut Hamson
The second part of “The Wanderer” bi-logy 🙂 is a pastoral book, in which the Norwegian countryside is mirrored against the Norwegian psyche. Hamson, a Nobel prizewinner, has a light touch with his prose. There are no tricks here, either. The story of Knut Pedersen is the story of everyman — work, living, loving — who feels his way through the world (a very small place, when the truth is found).

Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov
Nabokov said this was his favorite book to write; he poured many years into this tale of “family relations” … okay, let’s call it what it is: incest (between young cousins). The story lasts a lifetime: there is infatuation, lust, love, friendship, separation, memory and thought. But Van never forgets Ada, nor she him. And that’s the story (and point of the story). Meanwhile, Nabokov has written a most witty story, wrapped & infused & tapestry laden with allusions for a month’s reading and years’ worthy of remembrance.

The Names by Don DeLillo
Outside Athens, there is a cult living hand to mouth. Hardly seen, but felt by the locals. Single murders happen over the course of years. Then a man, his ex-wife, and their son, live in close proximity. He finds interest in the story behind the most recent murder. The compulsion to learn what “the names” means is the food by which he learns why he’s not the man his wife thought him to be. A great book.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

 

New Year’s Book Total — 2013 Reads

The year 2013 was good for many things, and books also, but not for total books read. At least, not according to my standards. Lots of reasons can be sited, but none particularly worthy of the let-down. I had time, and while not having wasted it, made use of those minutes and hours for other — equally important — passions: food, travel, writing work, loving, thinking.

Yet I did read some good books in 2013, some of them having big page-counts. The statistics hold up well:

22 books read

7,924 pages

3,317,125 approx. words

 

So without anymore fanfare nor excuses, her is my list, in chronological order:

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Tunc by Lawrence Durrell

2666 by Roberto Bolano

The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

Nunquam by Lawrence Durrell

In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates

The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester

 Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

Cordial & Corrosive by Sophie Hannah

Letting Go by Philip Roth

Bleeding Edge by Pynchon (suck!)

Operation Shylock by Philip Roth

The Divine Comedy: Inferno by Dante Aligheri

The Night Train by Carl Purdon

Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson

Darkness Visible by William Golding

Under the Autumn Star by Knut Hamson

Max, the blind guy by Mark Beyer (pub 2014)

 

I shan’t give my faves, though you all must understand, I don’t read bad books (ie. anything with vampires, zombies, or sentimental love, and, NO, I am not sorry for that). Please tell me, on FB or in the comments below, what you’ve read, your list, your stats, or just your faves.

Happy New Year!

Books Read Lately: Philip Roth, Jonathan Lethem, Iris Murdoch

For the last month I’ve gone to three authors I trust. I wanted to go out of the year (27 books read) with some strong fiction. Roth is always good, and I ask myself each time I read him “Why weren’t you reading this guy 30 years ago!?” … while Lethem is an author I know through his journalism more than his fiction … and Murdoch always surprises me; I think she must have surprised herself most of the time.

When She was Good by Philip Roth

Philip Roth accepts the notion that there are many ways to see a particular incident, or life. Evaluation is all about point of view. A young woman finds that her life must be made acceptable, even livable, through her own strength, intelligence, and management. But what happens when other people become part of that life, or when people from the past reenter? Who’s at fault if things go wrong? I must admit that, by the book’s end, I could accept most of the different points of view, when looked at from only it’s angle. So the question erupts: who are we to judge someone’s course in life?

The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem

This collection of Lethem’s book-culture journalism (with smatterings of his short fiction) has a central theme of “those books/authors/events/things that influence a writer’s work/thoughts. The title is a riff on Harold Bloom’s once-seminal “The Anxiety of Influence” (1973) in which Bloom argued (in terms of poetry) that every writer’s precursor creates a particular anxiety in him/her that makes the new poetry find uniqueness, or fail. While that argument has its detractors, Lethem takes the tack that any influence should be yearned for, accepted, and used to a writer’s greatest advantage. Most of the essays are writerly-centric, and not exactly fit for the general audience, but the good thing about Lethem is that his language is always accessible within its literate scope.

The Good Apprentice by Iris Murdoch

Iris’s 1985 story of “being good” and “finding goodness” is of course half-ironical because her characters can hardly get out of their own way. How very human, I kept thinking, though the drama of fiction keeps that thought kindling. In this story, Edward Baltram has accidentally killed a friend; his brother, Stuart, wants to drop out of society and into a monastery; and meanwhile, their father is having an affair with a friend of the family. Each character is in search of, or already thinks he/she’s living a good life. Irony abounds. Characters witness their own failures and others’ triumphs. What we learn is that no set plan can make life good, per se, but the half-righteous desire to simply live is … pretty damn worth living.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.

Books Read Lately

Basic Bech by John Updike

Updike created his alter-ego, Henry Bech, and let him loose on society back in the 1960s (last century!). One overriding characteristic of Bech is that he has writer’s block; he’s had it for several years. He lives off the largess of those who remember him (colleges, societies, institutions) and hire him for weekend talks, foreign tours, etc. … Bech is a libidinous mo-fo, as are so many of Updike’s characters (men); but Bech intellectualizes his sexual excesses. These are great cause for laughter. Ultimately, the Bech stories stand up to time, although we can see the decades from which they spring (for those of us who remember those decades). This minor blip matters little to these stories, which are fun, smart, ribald, and very human.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Eight years ago I read this novel, and sort of understood its meandering time-space-continuum theme. This second reading made more connections for me. Six stories played out by the same characters, re-living their lives in identical, or new, ways, as the Earth moves forward. But does humanity ever move forward? That’s the question the author asks. And, if you’re a student of history and socio-political interconnectivity, the answer is easily graspable. Essentially a morality play, Mitchell writes in six genres, from the Victorian epistolary to science fiction, to futuristic demi-fantasy. Have fun. Pay attention. BTW… a major motion picture is scheduled to open this month.

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

The pinnacle of American political novels, the story of Willie Stark, small-town bumpkin done-good by his own Lincolnesqe studies and work against corruption, this novel is more about the Stark’s “men” … a la “Humpty Dumpty” who fell off the wall and couldn’t be put back together again. This is, in fact, the real story of the American Dream: there is no dream, period. The novel is told by Jack Burden, one of Stark’s men and a one-time historian, one-time newsman, whose family’s closet has more skeletons than the town cemetery. The writing is lush, beautiful, imaginative and heavy with so many memorial images. A book you should read before you die.

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What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

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.