Three Books Published Today

Not in my library yet but I’ve downloaded the samples on my iPhone, trying to decide which to read first.  They all look good.

  41nPeHMQ9NL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Since hearing Ann Patchett praise her preview copy this summer, I’ve been waiting for this book of short stories by the famous actor.  According to Ann, he can write too.

 

SevenDaysblog-196x300Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

If a family reunion during the holidays has you apprehensive, the premise of this story may help prepare you.  After returning from disease infested Liberia, Olivia returns to England but must be in quarantine for seven days. This family has never spent that much time in each other’s company and it promises to be quite a Christmas.

 

LastMrsParrish-blog-196x300The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Psychological suspense with shades of The Talented Mr. Ripley – noone is who you think they are – sounds deliciously thrilling.

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Years Is A Long Time to Last

December has the centenary anniversary of two of my favorite authors – Shirley Jackson and Penelope Fitzgerald.  Have you read The Lottery or The Blue Flower? If you have not, consider celebrating with a few of these authors’ good stories.

unknown-1A few years back I was so excited to hear a local book club had invited the author of The Lottery to speak; imagine how disappointed I was to discover it was a local author with a fictionalized memoir of buying a winning ticket in the sweepstakes.  Sadly, many in the audience had not read or heard of the famous author of horror and fantasy, Shirley Jackson.  When I read Jackson’s short story The Lottery as a young girl, her eerie Gothic world fascinated me, and I soon went on to read The Haunting of Hill House.  Her practice of writing one thousand words a day – more ambitious than Virginia Woolf’s goal of two hundred fifty – cemented her place in my list of writers to model.  December 14 is her 100th birthday.

unknown-2 Discovering Penelope Fitzgerald’s short novels accidentally opened a quiet escape for me.  I have her Man Booker Prize winning novel, Offshore, on my to-read list, but my two favorites of her writing are The Blue Flower and The Bookshop.  In her obituary for The Guardian, Harriet  Harvey-Wood wrote of her: “Throughout Fitzgerald’s novels, there are certain recurring themes, the most striking of which is the single-minded and blinkered innocent (usually male), whose tunnel vision causes disaster to those around. There is an example in almost every book, the most satisfying perhaps being Fritz von Hardenberg, Novalis in The Blue Flower.”  Perhaps because she found her voice later in life (writing The Blue Flower when she was 78), Fitzgerald represents an author to emulate. December 17 is her 100th birthday.

Addendum:

22trevor-obit-blog427 Today, a friend told me William Trevor died, and I looked for his obituary in the New York Times.  Although his birthday is in May, he deserves recognition.  I discovered Trevor when I read he was a favorite author of the revered British actress Maggie Smith, and I enjoyed his lyrical Irish flavor in The Story of Lucy Gault.  Have you read it?

 

Time to Read Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award winning novelist and short story writer, produced a short story for the Book Review of the New York Times – The Arrangements.    The title had me  wondering if the story would mimic Maggie Shipstead’s Seating Arrangements, set in Nantucket, but the political cartoon on the page promised something better.  No matter what your politics, this “Work of Fiction,” will have you wondering and laughing.

9780307455925_p0_v2_s192x300     I have not yet read Americanah, Adichie’s acclaimed story of a young Nigerian woman who emigrates to the United States for a university education and stays for work.  I now have it on order at the library.

Have you read it?

Minnesota Roots and A List of Books

images  Before Prince created the Minnesota Sound, Jason Diamond reminds us that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a native Minnesotan.  In his article for the travel section of the New York Times – Tracing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Minnesota Roots – Diamond reviews the Minnesota places haunting many of Fitzgerald’s work.

“He wrote The Beautiful and the Damned in the yellow Victorian home with the wide porch on Goodrich Avenue and took strolls along White Bear Lake, about 10 miles to the north, in his mid-20s, newly married and having just published his first book – it was the place where he was inspired to set and write Winter Dreams.  Minnesota, it seemed, was good to him.”

I had never read “Winter Dreams,” and found the short story free online -you can read it here –  Winter Dreams  full of Minnesota references.

Fitzgerald was a prolific writer but in 1936, as he was  convalescing in a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina,  he offered his nurse a list of 22 books he thought were essential reading – none of his were on the list. 

These are books that F. Scott Fitzgerald thought should be required reading. Have you read any of them?

  1. Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
  2. The Life of Jesus, by Ernest Renan
  3. A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
  4. Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
  5. The Old Wives’ Tale, by Arnold Bennett
  6. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
  7. The Red and the Black, by Stendahl
  8. The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant, translated by Michael Monahan
  9. An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, edited by Gardner Murphy
  10. The Stories of Anton Chekhov, edited by Robert N. Linscott
  11. The Best American Humorous Short Stories, edited by Alexander Jessup
  12. Victory, by Joseph Conrad
  13. The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France
  14. The Plays of Oscar Wilde
  15. Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
  16. Within a Budding Grove, by Marcel Proust
  17. The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust
  18. Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
  19. South Wind, by Norman Douglas
  20. The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
  21. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  22. John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

9781594634635_p0_v2_s192x300Helen Oyeyemi’s name was in the wind.  I heard her mentioned in the book I was listening to on Audible, The World Between Two Covers, and a friend suggested reading Oyeyemi’s celebrated Mr. Fox for a book club discussion. When Nancy Hightower of the Washington Post described Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories What Is Yours Is Not Yours as ” a series of loosely connected, magically tinged tales about personal and social justice,” and NPR called her writing masterpieces,  I decided it was time to read her.  Besides, the library conveniently produced What Is Your Is Not Yours in a day.  The universe must be calling.

Keys and locks connect the nine short stories, and as I read the first – “books and roses,” I had the same feeling I get when reading Haruki Murakami – what was I missing?  Some important undercurrent lurked just beyond my grasp, and if I could decipher the meaning, the reward would be great.  Despite rereading the first story, I’m still not sure.

Montserrat, a foundling girl left in a Catalonia chapel with a key hanging around her neck. grows up and finds work in a laundry, where she encounters Señora Lucy, a painter who also wears a key. The strange connection between the two women’s unrelated stories surprisingly merge at the end when Montserrat discovers she and Lucy are linked, as the keys unlock a beautiful garden, and a window into their lives.

Oyeyemi used revealing language to underscore her messages, and comprehension of her plots seemed secondary to reading her words, so I continued.

“Some new tax that only people with no money had to pay.  Or yet another member of the county police force was found to have been an undercover gangster.  If not that then a gang member was found to have been an undercover police officer. An Ottoman-style restaurant opened in a town nearby; it served no food but had a mineral water menu tens of pages long, and fashion models came to drink their way through it while we played football with their bodyguards.”

The second story “‘sorry’ doesn’t sweeten her tea,” begins with a house of locks and two friends, a rock star, and you-tube. Sisters Day and Aisha, who are being raised by their father and his boyfriend, deal with the news that their favorite singer has been accused of savagely beating a woman.When the rock star is exposed by the victim on you-tube, his fans’ reaction is to praise rather than condemn him, and he cynically uses his exposure as a vehicle for his next popular song.  Young Aisha, an ardent fan, now demands not only accountability but also his repentance.  The ending is satisfying, if other worldly, but had me wondering how we would all like to see some comeuppance for those who tend to “get away with it.”

Happy to have found Helen Oyeyemi, I will keep reading – seven more short stories in this book, and hope I will be able to discuss them with someone who has read them.

Have you?

Related Review:  Haruki Murakami