BOOKISH Blog Posts

  • THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
    on Dec 4, 2016
    This book, written in 1959, is apparently a famous progenitor of the modern supernatural thriller. Shirley Jackson is well know as the literary mother of Steven King. The story begins with an elderly scientist who invites a group of people to come t...
  • THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
    on Dec 3, 2016
    I don't really know what was going on in the 1930s in Europe, but damn, the literature of that period is tortured. And it's not tortured in some kind of physical, comprehensible way; their worries are all very non-physical, or metaphysical, or someth...
  • NOW IN NOVEMBER by Josephine Johnson
    on Aug 27, 2016
    This won the Pulitzer in 1934, when the author was 24. It was her first novel. Can you imagine? I haven’t read any of her other eleven novels, but I think we can rest assured that the rest of her writing life was basically one long case of that...
  • FATHERS AND SON by Ivan Turgenev
    on Aug 21, 2016
    I went to an exhibit recently about 19th century Russian portraiture, and suddenly found a great gap looming in my knowledge of the western cannon. In the same breath as Tolstoy and Dostoevesky, the captions spoke of someone called Turgenev. Who is...
  • THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER by Goethe
    on Aug 14, 2016
    I have been avoiding this brief novel for years. I am not really sure why. It just sounds sort of stupid. Famously, the novel was a huge success in 18th century Europe, igniting a fashion for yellow waistcoats, and setting off the first recorded w...
  • MY SON, MY SON by Howard Spring
    on Aug 14, 2016
    This is a novel about a man who is seriously hung up on his son. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, it's an interesting window into the pre-Wars world, and reminds me how extraordinarily lucky I am to be born now rather than then. Obvi...
  • NEW GRUB STREET by George Gissing
    on Jul 16, 2016
    This is a book about struggling young artists, and in my opinion it is totally authentic, because it's main focus is on money. Not, obviously, on having money, but on not having it. It's probably the most money-focused book I've ever read; far more...
  • A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara
    on Jun 5, 2016
    This novel drips shortlists and rave reviews from quality papers, and probably deserves them all. It starts off as a story of four friends from college all trying to make it, mostly in the arts. This was my favourite part of the novel, capturing ea...
  • GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
    on Jun 4, 2016
    Of this novel, his first, Baldwin said "MOUNTAIN is the book I had to write if I was ever going to write anything else. I had to deal with what hurt me most. I had to deal with my father."And he certainly odes deal with his father. Big time. The...
  • THE CHRYSALIDS by John Wyndham
    on May 21, 2016
    John Wyndham is famous for DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, a terrific novel that if you haven't read you ought to. It's about alien plants aiming to take over the world: you know you want to. I've been thinking about it often this spring, because frankly all...
  • MORT by Terry Pratchett
    on May 15, 2016
    My inability to entertain myself is probably getting close to abnormal. I was recently in Rome and ran out of reading matter just before we were about to travel back to London. Panic! What will I do? Think my own thoughts? What a horrible prospe...
  • HEARTBURN by Nora Ephron
    on May 15, 2016
    This book is a comic retelling of the end of the author's second marriage. As she says in the introduction: " . the book you're about to read . . is often referred to as a thinly disguised novel. I have no real quarrel with this description, even...
  • THE KINDNESS by Polly Samson
    on May 9, 2016
    THE KINDNESS moves around a lot in time. This is not an easy thing to do, and Samson does not manage it. We see a relationship's beginning from its ending, and etc etc. Done well, this adds mystery and excitement. Done poorly, it just removes all...
  • YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler
    on May 8, 2016
    I feel bad to say it but this book made me like Amy Poehler a little less. The early section, where she talked about her childhood (blissful) and her struggle to get into comedy (inspirational in retrospect) was interesting. But the lengthy last par...
  • SOME RAIN MUST FALL by Karl Ove Knausgaard
    on May 8, 2016
    SOME RAIN MUST FALL is Book 5 of 6, and as with the others nothing happens. Yet somehow you can’t stop reading, and when it’s over you feel awfully sad and lonely.I pity the poor blurb writer, who tries to give it a plot, telling how the main ch...
  • LIFE CLASS by Pat Barker
    on Apr 3, 2016
    I'm not saying you can't write novels of the First World War, but I kind of also am saying that. Barker makes a strong effort here - it's all there, the field hospital, the eyeballs swinging out of sockets, the deserter for execution, etc etc: but i...
  • MISLAID by Nell Zink
    on Mar 28, 2016
    This is a book with a lot of opinions, and I really enjoyed it. Here's one, on some girlie magazines the main character finds at a dump: "The cover price was high, suggesting a wealthy man, but pornography is a classic payday splurge of the shiftle...
  • WHAT I LOVED by Siri Hustvedt
    on Mar 28, 2016
    This is an unusual book in being a sort of boring thriller. The first half is the description of the life of an art critic and his wife who develop a friendship with the artist and his wife who live upstairs from them in New York. There is a lot -...
  • BOOKS I HAVE ABANDONED
    on Mar 28, 2016
    I don't know if I'm getting less disciplined in my old age, less interested in the wider world, or if everything's just getting more crap. I've been abandoning books left and right. Here's an overview:PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Henry James: This shoul...
  • WHAT I READ IN 2015
    on Dec 31, 2015
    Time for the annual review of what I read this year – and guys, it’s big news, because for the first time ever I actually read more books by women than men this year. Admittedly this is because in a fit of despair I did some major re-reading,...
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