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December 2019

Starting the Year with Smiley

Unlike what I wrote in the last post, my first book of the year was not by Rachel Cusk. That one turned out not to be the right book at the right time. My first three books of the year were the first three published by John Le CarrĂ©, an author I'd never read. Spy stories were just the ticket for the new year: A Call from the Dead, A Murder of Quality, and The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, all collected in one volume, The First Three Novels. I got the idea from a Novel Readings post that mentioned Smiley's People, the last of the Smiley series. By the way, that's a great blog for Austen-ites and other literary people. It's written by Rohan Maitzen, an English professor in Canada, and she frequently writes about what is going on in her classes. 

Another fun blog that I stumbled upon is Locus Solus: The New York School of Poets. After taking Penn's Modern and Contemporary American Poetry* MOOC on Coursera last fall, I've become a fan of the poets Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, et al. Today at Locus Solus is a bit about O'Hara's influence on the young writer Garth Greenwell, whose new novel, Cleanness, waits for me at the library. Synchronicity!

In addition to the Penn course, David Lehman's book The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets was very informative.

*Highly recommended


January 1, 2020

New year, new decade. Yeah! It looks like my first book of 2020 will be one I started in 2019: Rachel Cusk's Coventry. It's rawther bracing. In a review for the Toronto Star, Nathan Whitlock writes, "The twin literary prerogatives of truth and discomfort are the threads that unite the 17 essays collected here. Whether she is writing about her ongoing estrangement from her parents in the title essay, or analyzing cultural misconceptions about creative writing classes in 'How to Get There,' Cusk is constantly scratching away at default thinking, uninformed bigotry, and received wisdom in order to find whatever authenticity may lie beneath."