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12th May
written by Steph

It seems like I spend all my time on this blog apologizing these days! Prolonged absences punctuated by a post promising that I am back for good (à la Take That circa 1995), only to disappear into the real world for another extended period. This time, real life whisked me away to a six-day conference in Naples, Fl where I sometimes hobnobbed with vision scientists from around the globe, but mostly spent the time lizardlike, lazing by the pool and taking the occasional dip in the ocean. I brought four books and managed to finish one, but I never seem to get as much reading done at these things as I think I will. Probably because of all that quality programming on HGTV and Animal Planet that I am otherwise deprived of when at home!

So I am back now just as many of you are planning to fly away to BEA and take your own little blogging breaks, which is amazing timing, no? Well, there’s nothing to be done about that, so as I scramble about and try to get my life in Nashville back in order, I present to you my latest acquisitions from a mini-splurge at McKay’s a few weeks back when dissertation proposal stress was making my brain bleed. Because in the end, is there anything more soothing than new books? Get the complete low-down on my haul after the jump! This first stack of books is sort composed of authors  who I’ve already read and am making a habit of attempting collecting their complete works. Of course, as we’ll see, there are few authors tossed in here who I haven’t read but who I somehow feel quite certain I will love and have therefore prompted me to buy several of their novels in one pass with the expectation that this will not be a mistake…

Talking It Over
by Julian Barnes – At this point I’ve only read one novel by Julian Barnes and it was so brilliant I completely neglected to write about it on the blog because I was sort of at a loss about what to say regarding it. Still, as impressed as I was by A Brief History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters, I now feel that I must buy and read everything he has ever written. And let me tell you, this man is prolific. And no, I don’t even know what this book is about, just that it was only$1.50… Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey – It is always such a thrill when I find a Persephone at McKay’s in part because they are so rare, and also because they are always priced so cheap ($.150!)! Slowly but surely my Persephone library expands! The Abbess of Crewe and The Finishing School by Muriel Spark – Given my newfound obsession with Muriel Spark, these two were must have acquisitions. I’ve not heard anything much about either of these titles in the book blogging world, so I’m looking forward to giving them a go and then spreading the word. The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt – Hustvedt is a relatively new discovery for me, but I am already smitten by her fearlessness and her brilliance. Such a strong and demanding author, her most recent book was one that I both responded to emotionally and as well as intellectually. So I must own all the fiction she has written… I thought I was close to completion with this one, but no, I still have two more novels to track down. Offshore and Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald – Yet another tragically underread author who is brilliant. I would like to re-read The Bookshop, which I read last year and which I suspect I will like all the more the second time round as I will be prepared for how sly and devastating it is. Offshore won the Booker prize in 1979, and Human Voices takes place at a BBC offices during WWII. I’m intrigued by both! The Man in the Wooden Hat and The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam – I think I now own three books by Gardam and haven’t read any of them yet! But I just know she and I will get on, given that she is known for her dazzling sense of humor, so part of me is really wondering what the heck I am waiting for. Wooden Hat is actually a sequel of sorts to what might be Gardam’s most famous novel, Old Filth, so obviously that means I need to acquire its precursor at some point before I tackle it!

English, August
by Upamanyu Chatterjee – About as exciting as finding a Persephone book in the shelves at McKay’s is finding NYRB titles! These are gradually cropping up more and more, though they can sometimes be on the pricier side (~$7). I decided to try this one because it was only $1.50 and is compared to A Confederacy of Dunces and The Catcher in the Rye, which are two much-loved novels by yours truly. Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames – I feel like Ames is an author I should know, and yet I don’t. I’ve had this book on my Amazon wishlist for ages (at least a few years) because it is supposed to be a comic masterpiece and is inspired by Jeeves & Wooster, so I clearly have high hopes! Cotillion by Georgette Heyer – Heyer is another author who whenever I see her books at McKay’s I feel like I have to buy them. So far I’ve managed to snag two of them, and I must admit, I love these little Sourcebook editions! So cute! The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick – I read about this book a while back over on Shelf Love when Jenny wrote a review of it and I was super intrigued by the concept. I generally don’t like short stories, BUT I really love the idea of linked short stories. In some ways I guess this similar in scope to Olive Kitteridge (though I haven’t read that one, so who knows how apt the comparison is!) and I was definitely excited to stumble across this book, since apart from Jenny’s review, I’ve not heard much about it. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx – Another pick inspired by Jenny! Somehow I’d gotten it into my mind that this was a supremely boring book, but Jenny’s review convinced me that I should give it a shot. And for 5 CENTS, I figured there was no harm in doing just that! Kipper’s Game by Barbara Ehrenreich – This was a total random pick. For some reason, Ehrenreich’s name was familiar to me, though I honestly cannot say why that is (doing a cursory Google search, I’m fairly certain her name entered my consciousness when her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America came out). Still, it was enough for me to pull this book from the shelf and then be totally intrigued by the premise: a computer hacker named Kipper has created an addictive game and dropped off the grid. Now Della is out to find him, and at times her search parallels that of Alex, who is looking into the past of a neurobiologist who may have had Nazi ties.  Sounds like there’s a lot going on here, and I’m hoping that it delivers lots of twists. Three Novels: The Road Through The Wall; Hangsaman; The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson – Unlike many other bloggers, I didn’t completely lose my shit over Jackson’s novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, when I read it. I thought it was fine, but it didn’t blow my mind. Still, there is an undeniable allure to Jackson, and I am always up for a creepy story. Maybe I’ll have better success with some of her lesser known works that haven’t been as hyped as Castle or Hill House? So there you have my most recent book bounty! Have you read any of these books? Where would you start?


  1. 05/12/2011

    Heh, I do this absence-apology-absence thing , too!

    Love love your pile of books, I especially envy you the Shirley Jackson! I hope the other stories will make you a fan 🙂 I didn’t know about any hype when I read Castle and it did blow my mind 🙂

  2. JoV

    I would start with Julian Barnes. Oh I don’t know about The Shipping News Steph. I read first chapter it was so boring I wanted to bleed. Let me know what you think about it, after all it’s 5 cents. 🙂

    Enjoy your purchase!

  3. 05/12/2011

    Oh please read the Shirley Jackson stuff soon! I want to move beyond Castle and Hill House myself, and haven’t even heard of these! Is the front cover of that volume as much fun as the side?

  4. 05/12/2011

    How awesome to pick up a Persephone! I am going to Naples, FL on Sunday and I can’t wait.

  5. 05/12/2011

    Not only have I not read any of those books, I haven’t read any of the authors! Oh wait, except for Shirley Jackson. I’m starting to think I need to check out Siri Hustvedt, though…she seems to be popping up everywhere.

  6. 05/13/2011

    I have not heard much about any of these books, but they all do sound very interesting. I know what you mean about retail therapy. I often find myself hungering for a trip to the book shop when I am feeling stressed or down, and always feel so lovely after having indulged and bought a few new acquisitions. I hope to hear more about these soon, and I also hope that you enjoy them!

  7. 05/15/2011

    @ Bina: I really need to read some more Shirley Jackson soon… I think I maybe was just in a foul mood when I read that first book and was predisposed to not really like it as a result. These other novels sound a bit more suburban, which I think in some odd way I may wind up liking more! We shall see!
    @ JoV: I have heard that The Shipping News can be a real slog so I think I will wait until I’m in the mood for a contemplative, slower novel. I did the same thing with Gilead by Marilynne Robinson and I’m sure part of the reason I did respond well to that book was because I waited for the right time! But if it sucks, it was only a nickel!
    @ Sarah: The front cover is actually way more fun than the side! I did a search and while it’s hard to find any big pictures, this is what it looks like:
    @ Stephanie: How totally random about Naples! I was there for a conference, otherwise I don’t think I’d ever have gone! Have fun and if you’re looking for some good recommendations of places to eat, email me! We ate at some great places, but also some not so great places too…
    @ softdrink: I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on Hustvedt! She’s so gosh darn smart!
    @ zibilee: Sometimes I just really need to get out of the house and “be out in the world” and this being Nashville, the easiest place to just wander is at shopping complexes. Visiting McKay’s is always a dangerous proposition, but I never regret it! 😀
    @ Aarti: Oh, so glad to hear you love this Heyer! I think I will start with this one if you say it is so very good!

  8. 05/14/2011

    Cotillion is, I think, my favorite Georgette Heyer novel. I LOVE it- so hilarious and sweet 🙂 I hope you enjoy it, too. And yay for finding used, cheap Persephones!

  9. 05/15/2011

    Oh Steph I missed these posts. Not that you had any lack but I’ve also been going away more often and for much longer periods. These stacks are less familiar to me but 5 cents is a great deal for The Shipping News. I thought the same thing, that it would be boring (because I’d seen the film and it was depressing and bleak and not much happened), but then the writing really made the difference. It wasn’t the story so much as how she tells it. It turned out that I loved the book.

    I’d love to hear what you think of English, August because it was recommended by a friend and he says it’s really good.

  10. 05/16/2011

    @ kiss a cloud: I completely understand what you mean about how writing can transform a story. There are certain books that have been made into movies that I wonder about because I feel like something critical would be lost without the writing behind the story (for instance, Blindness by Saramago). So glad to hear you enjoy The Shipping News! I will wait until I’m in the right mood for it (probably the winter… it doesn’t seem like a summer book!).

  11. 05/20/2011

    I’ve been meaning to get my hands on Cotillion just because I love that title. I haven’t read any Georgette Heyer for a while (I think I read some when I was at school – we had a lot of historical romances in our library as it was a girls’ school). I’ve only read The Shipping News which I don’t recall much of, but I did read it a long time ago. Enjoy!

  12. I was a little meh about Cheerful Weather for the Wedding but it was one that has definitely grown on me with time; it is very wry and bears rereading (which I should do as it is a very quick read).

    I wrote a mini review of The Finishing School last year and it’s a puzzling Spark and not my favourite (her last novel, I think?) It did teach me how the proper way to eat asparagus…

    I love that volume of Shirley Jackson novels! I did lose my shit over her work but can understand why it and she don’t live up to the hype for everyone.

    I only own three NYRB Classics (they are so expensive here! I’ve only found one second-hand copy but it was serendipitous as one I was looking for) but do love their classic appearance and the spines. I’ll be in the States in a few weeks and plan on coming home with a few; taking my Kindle with me allows for more book-buying 😉

  13. 05/24/2011

    @ sakura: I think I’ll read Cotillion as my first Heyer! It’s supposed to be one of her best!
    @ Claire: The NYRB Classics are expensive here too, generally even when I find them secondhand, but because this one was so cheap I knew I had to just give it a try! They are so pretty after all… and from what I heart, the writing ain’t bad either! 😉

  14. 05/25/2011

    I love the Georgette Heyer Sourcebook editions. I have now developed quite the collection. Cotillion is a very enjoyable read

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