literature

Thumbs up for Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman. Literature.

An internal tale of first love–that sounds tedious, doesn’t it? Kudos to Aciman that he gets you into Elio’s head so quickly and absolutely that you can’t even protest: No, I don’t care about your cliched troubles, kid. Every emotion and turn of the heart is so precisely observed that the book makes its own complete, mesmerizing reality, essentially immune to criticism. … >> Read more

Thumbs up for Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler. Literature.

By all rights I should have hated this book: modern American family dramas being #2 on my “nope” list. So I suppose it’s testament to Anne Tyler’s skills that I picked it up and stayed with it. The structure–discovery of events via the points of view of different characters, who focus on different things–was pleasingly handled.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. Literature.

A young man–worldly and introspective relative to the society in which he lives, but that’s not saying much–is engaged to be married to just the right girl. Then her cousin, who is actually worldly, shows up from Europe…. Sometimes I think reading classic literature is hardly different from reading fantasy or science fiction.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac. Literature.

Every time I think of Balzac I think of the West Wing episode in which Balzac is made fun of for his windiness. This is not wrong – at least in the first chapter. It was good that the introduction (by E.K. Brown) in my edition warned me that Balzac front-loads his books with lots of description, setting the scene and placing the characters within it before the story gets rolling.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Taras Bulba and Other Tales by Nikolai Gogol. Short stories.

“Taras Bulba” – an adventure novella about the father and two sons of a Cossack family – is a fun historical swashbuckler which does a fine job of evoking a time and place: the landscape, the culture, the individuals. This is, mind you, assuming you can overlook the rampant anti-Semitism and various other bigotries, which were so pervasive that even I – used to putting up with a lot of offensive stuff in old books – found it difficult to squint past.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Essays on Russian Novelists by William Lyon Phelps. Literary criticism.

After I finish this *grrr* book I’m writing, my reward is going to be delving into Russian literature. (If you’re shocked that I consider this a reward—hi, I’m Emma! We clearly haven’t met.) It seemed like a good idea to do a little preparatory reading around the subject so I could know firstly, what to read, and secondly, what works are supposed to be satire, because it can sometimes be hard to judge that without context.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Literature/Humor/Science Fiction (sneakily—watch for it).

It’s always a dangerous business when you search out whichever classic it is that has almost the same plot as what you’re writing. Some authors refuse to read That Book (whatever it is for them), and I’ve sometimes fallen into that camp. This time, though, I don’t really care.… >> Read more