You’re forgetting your Italy, Dear

A Room with a View

A Room with a View · E.M. Forster · 1908
Everyman’s Library, 2011 · 217 pages, hardcover

Oh, Italy! The tourists in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View are stumbling over each other in their haste to appreciate Giotto’s frescoes, but they can’t appreciate them until they’ve learned which are his (and so which among all of the frescoes are allowed to be appreciated). They affect intelligence. There’s nothing new in a view so stifled.

And there’s nothing emphatic in erudition, not when it’s had for making a point. Continue reading

Currently reading…

upcoming reviews 2

That yellow rain slicker, the gray rapids of a flooded street…the little newspaper boat that floats toward the stormdrain…and then the carnival smell of popcorn and the shining silver eyes of Pennywise the Clown as he offers up a balloon to young Georgie Denbrough.

The first scene in Stephen King’s IT is one of my favorite openers of any novel. It’s been probably two years since I last read any King. A new IT movie comes out September 8th though, and the novel is out in a great new edition from Scribner, so…I’m getting back into it! Truth be told, I left this one 70 pages to the end last time I read it (really, 94% through the book and I left off!) I remember the story slowing considerably toward the end, but from what I’ve heard I was at the edge of something good.

Kurt Vonnegut who, when reading him is to do mental gymnastics, is hit-or-miss for me. Slaughter-house Five is a great book and Sirens of Titan amused me last summer, but this one – Deadeye Dick – is so far just a jumble of stuff that is kind of a chore to read. I’m only about a fifth of the way into it, and I hope he’ll come around to please me with the usual zaniness.

I’m nearly finished with E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View and want to publish the review by end of week. Forster was a bit like an English Edith Wharton: wry, compassionate and, at times, acerbic.

What are you reading?

Interlude: end of Q2 at the Masthead

The Masthead is closing out its second quarter! A quick look at the past three months:

Books reviewed: 8 (6 novels, 1 book of short stories and 1 play, Rose’s Twelve Angry Men)
Translated fiction: 2 (from 2 languages: Russian and Turkish)
New-to-me authors: 7: all except Tolkien were new for me!
Oldest book: Collins’ The Woman in White (1860)
Newest book: Tóibín’s House of Names  (2017) *but…it’s the oldest story 😉
Longest book: Collins’ The Woman in White (672 pages)
Shortest book: Rose’s Twelve Angry Men (73 pages)

A pithy recap of each book read and reviewed here since April 15:
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Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White

Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White hinges on identity, on forgery, on rank suspicion, suspicion that gets the better of us and makes us rash instead of rational.

The Woman in White

The Woman in White · Wilkie Collins · 1860
Penguin, 2009 · 672 pages, hardcover

The Woman in White is both a sensationalist thriller and a social commentary. Collins takes his shots at the marriage laws and rules of inheritance of 1850s England, and he provides a creeping horror alongside it, the same kind of horror where you realize how very trapped you are and how powerless you are to get out. A close marriage, the words invalid and invalidate; that pernicious horror doesn’t confine itself to money, nor even to love, but asserts itself as an erasure of recognition.

And this erasure necessitates a different kind of forgery – that of reclamation and the forging of a new life.

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Violence begets violence: Tóibín’s House of Names

Food merely whets our appetite, sharpens our teeth; meat makes us ravenous for more meat, as death is ravenous for more death. Murder makes us ravenous, fills the soul with satisfaction that is fierce and then luscious enough to create a taste for further satisfaction.

House of Names

House of Names · Colm Tóibín
Scribner, 2017 · 275 pages, hardcover

The curse placed upon the House of Atreus…Colm Tóibín’s most recent novel, House of Names, is a retelling of the ancient story of Clytemnestra. It tells of her husband’s, King Agamemnon’s, sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia so that the winds of war may blow in his favor. It tells of their son Orestes’ escape and their daughter Electra’s imprisonment. It tells of Clytemnestra’s affair with the prisoner-come-king Aegisthus and the manipulation they played in the name of love and power.

Clytemnestra, Electra and Orestes – Tóibín tells the story through their eyes. His finesse lies in his control of language and perspective, which shift with each narrative. His words are of the simplest nature, but he pulls the strings of linguistics to make the words bleed from his pages. Continue reading

Political theater, poetic farce

Orhan Pamuk’s Snow begins as a novel that had a good shot at feeding the intellect but instead contorted itself into a soap opera complete with convenient fixes for its weaknesses.Snow - Kar

Snow · Orhan Pamuk · 2002
Maureen Freely translation · Vintage, 2005 · 463 pages, paperback

A political coup that manipulates the theater to confuse and gain power? A string of suicides inspired by Turkey’s uncertain position on the East-West divide? An exiled poet who just might find enlightenment in the forsaken streets of his home town? Pamuk’s writing in Snow (originally published in Turkey as Kar) is too placid for the story he wanted to tell. We read the few moments of heightened drama in this novel in a detached way, as if we’re too tired to keep our eyes open and our brains can’t hold onto the words we’re reading: we just don’t care.  Continue reading

The Fellowship of the Ring

Doom-boom. Doom-boom. Doom, doom, doom. Doom-boom. It’s a quieter kind of evil, but it’s an evil that reaches throughout all Middle-earth. Tolkien proves in the first part to his Lord of the Rings trilogy (actually six books in three parts) that subtlety makes for powerful magic.

Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring · J.R.R. Tolkien · 1954
Mariner, 2012 · 398 pages, paperback

Frodo inherits more than a hobbit hole and an adventuring spirit from Bilbo Baggins when he moves into Bag End. The Ring he’s left holding is cursed with dark magic, and he’s set on the quest to destroy it – far South and East into Mordor, into the heart of Sauron’s territory.

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Currently reading/Up next

Even as Frodo and company are only leaving Tom Bombadil’s at sun up, I’ve already started thinking about my next reads.

Currently reading:

The Fellowship of the Ring – JRR Tolkien
Snow – Orhan Pamuk

Up next?

The Godfather – Mario Puzo (re-read)
Ham on Rye – Charles Bukowski

But THIS is what I’m really excited about:

House of Names
Colm Tóibín, House of Names

May 9, 2017
Scribner, 278 pages (hardcover)

The story of Clytemnestra:

[…] how her husband deceived her eldest daughter Iphigeneia with a promise of marriage to Achilles, only to sacrifice her because that is what he was told would make the winds blow in his favor and take him to Troy; how she seduced and collaborated with the prisoner Aegisthus, who shared her bed in the dark and could kill; how Agamemnon came back with a lover himself; and how Clytemnestra finally achieved her vengeance for his stunning betrayal—his quest for victory, greater than his love for his child.”

— summary from Goodreads

Sounds so good! I saw a review in the Minneapolis Star Tribune shortly before its release and continue to *almost* pick it up – only scared it will fall short (I’ve not read Tóibín before so I really shouldn’t have this fear.)

Patricide and prejudice in Twelve Angry Men

“We don’t owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn’t he? What d’you think the trial cost? He’s lucky he got it. Know what I mean?”

Twelve Angry Men

Twelve Angry Men · Reginald Rose · 1954
Penguin, 2006 · 73 pages, paperback

Reginald Rose’s teleplay Twelve Angry Men opens onto an empty jury room, drab and bare of what isn’t necessary. “One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully” – the judge, reminding the jury (and the audience) that New York required the death penalty for any convicted murderer.

Which is why the behavior of the men who then file into the jury room is so revolting.

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