I’m a decade late to Junot Díaz, an omission for which I have no real excuse. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was worth the wait: it’s a novel so deft it overcame the limitations of my own taste. I am not usually a fan of the casual, offhand prose style in which the book is written—again, my defect—but Díaz executes it with such effortless perfection that I didn’t mind. Not once did his wry narrator tip the novel’s precarious tragicomedy out of balance.Read More
I’ve gotten so far behind in my leisure-reading reviews that I’m unlikely to catch up. But I did want to log, very briefly, my impressions of some of the books I’ve enjoyed since July. So here we go, in no particular order:Read More
I cannot recommend Edmund Gosse’s memoir Father and Son (1907) on the merits of its prose. Gosse is a competent writer with a good vocabulary who describes things precisely, recording their beauty or wit as a scientist would. He is diligent and honest, and so whatever grace his writing achieves is situational.
But I found Father and Son fascinating for its subject matter. Gosse was raised in an (to me) incomprehensibly strict Evangelical family, and his memoir records his slow fall away from that faith. So rather than highlighting Gosse’s language, I want to talk a bit about his topic and some of the reflections it’s led me to have about my own relationship with belief.Read More
When I had just finished Tove Jansson’s* The Summer Book (1974) and Jon asked me how it was, I immediately answered “quiet.” When he asked me what that meant, it took much longer. I feel very well what “quiet” means, but it is hard to explain.Read More
Lolly Willowes: or The Loving Huntsman was written by Sylvia Townsend Warner and published in 1926. The title page of my edition features a set of three stamped blue witches, flying diagonally from corner to corner. Until the last fourth of the novel, it’s unclear why they are there; for most of its 250 pages, the book follows the emancipation of frustrated spinster Laura (“Lolly”), who flees her cloying London family for a lonely country town in the Chilterns called Great Mop.
And then in the novel’s final act, she sells her soul to the devil.Read More