Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Monday, September 25, 2006
this will show you all of the states I've visited.
Friday, May 12, 2006
are both very good reads. Coincidentally both are about the effect of the death of a loved one on the writers, both women. But I enjoyed A Month of Sundays a lot more.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Other books I've enjoyed in the past month: "Billy Budd" (Melville); "Miss Lonelyhearts" (West); "Bobos in Paradise" (Brooks); and "The Good Soldier" (Ford).
Thursday, March 09, 2006
My younger son wanted to read Ayn Rand, so I bought and read "The Fountainhead" while he worked on "Atlas Shrugged." He gave up on "Atlas," but I finished "Fountainhead." I can't actually say I enjoyed it, but found it an interesting read. I'm not sure I could say I'm looking forward to "Atlas Shrugged."
On a much more positive note, I passed a wonderful Saturday afternoon reading "84 Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff.
And I am finally reading John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row."
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I had to read "Swimming at Suppertime" by Carol Wasserman twice, and though I've never been to Buzzards Bay, Mass. (I've never even been to New England), I feel I have known both the locale and the author for many years, perhaps for all of my life. From the delights of cranberry bogs, and quahogs, and the sadnesses of middle age and widowhood ("Men in Geese" was my favorite) each of these is not a short story or an essay, but a haiku or a little tone poem -- short, sweet, evocative, one that really makes readers feel what it is like to be Carol Wasserman living in "a raggedy little town" across the water from upscale Cape Cod.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
In the mid-60s, when I was a sixth-former studying English literature for A level, one title we were all required to study closely was Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel. This wise and lucid book instructed us that the readership of the early novel was almost entirely female. A new class of leisured women not only made possible the development of this emerging literary form, but in some important degree shaped its content. The triumphant first flowering of the 18th-century novel was Richardson's Clarissa. Perhaps there had never been such a thorough examination of the minutiae of shifting emotions. According to David Lodge, whose judgment can be trusted, it is pre-eminent as the earliest and most complete representation of an individual consciousness.
I was thinking of Ian Watt the other day when I went with my son Greg into the gardens near my house to give away some novels. Vintage Books had sent me the complete set of their new Future Classics series. Every single one of the books was already on my shelves in another edition, and shelf space is becoming precious. We mixed in a few old American paperbacks of my own novels, and copies of various other duplicates. We moved through the lunchtime office crowds picnicking on the grass. In less than five minutes we gave away 30 novels.
Every young woman we approached - in central London practically everyone seems young - was eager and grateful to take a book. Some riffled through the pile murmuring, "Read that, read that, read that ..." before making a choice. Others asked for two, or even three.
The guys were a different proposition. They frowned in suspicion, or distaste. When they were assured they would not have to part with their money, they still could not be persuaded. "Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks mate, but no." Only one sensitive male soul was tempted.
As in the 18th century, so in the 21st. Cognitive psychologists with their innatist views tell us that women work with a finer mesh of emotional understanding than men. The novel - by that view the most feminine of forms - answers to their biologically ordained skills. From other rooms in the teeming mansion of the social sciences, there are others who insist that it is all down to conditioning. But perhaps the causes are less interesting than the facts themselves. Reading groups, readings, breakdowns of book sales all tell the same story: when women stop reading, the novel will be dead.