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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

108

Really Good Books You Could Spend Your Allowance On: Part Two

If you're just tuning in, Part One is here.

Women of Wonder: The Classic Years and The Contemporary Years, ed. Pamela Sargent – Two anthologies of speculative fiction penned by women. EVERYTHING YOU WANT.

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, George Saunders – Seriously! Also Pastoralia. I do not know what is wrong with George Saunders, but I devoutly hope that he never recovers.

Plays: 5, Tom Stoppard – "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" is the one to geek out on in high school, but "The Real Thing" explains love, and "Arcadia" explains everything else.


When the Sacred Ginmill Closes
, Lawrence Block – The best title for the best book in the best series of American detective fiction.

Writing Home, Alan Bennett – Any of his collections, really. And The History Boys: "Cloisters, ancient libraries...I was confusing learning with the smell of cold stone. If I had gone to Oxford I'd probably never have worked out the difference."

The Collected Stories of Richard Yates, Richard Yates – The stories are better than Revolutionary Road, trust. And Revolutionary Road is incredible!

Novels and Stories, Shirley Jackson – Every single survey class of AmLit should cover Shirley Jackson, it's a crime that most people only know her from "The Lottery." GENIUS.

Black Dogs, Ian McEwan – Not only is McEwan one of the greatest living writers, he is never, ever the same. It's impossible that The Cement Garden is by the same person who wrote The Child in Time who wrote On Chesil Beach. Impossible. Black Dogs is a book to read every year, to see if it means the same thing to you later. I tend to rabbit on about McEwan, but it's because, well, Zadie Smith once said that every author has a perfect reader, a reader who appreciates every word, who sort of hums on the same vibration. She felt that way about E.M. Forster. I feel that way about McEwan, if there's a way to say it without sounding like a total juicebox. There probably isn't.

Sabbath's Theater, Philip Roth – Not everyone loves Roth, but everyone should love Mickey Sabbath. It's grown-up Roth, but he's still disgusting in that particularly wonderful way. I had a really embarrassing moment with this book in a seminar, where I kind of drifted off, and was asked what a particular allusion was to, and blanked and said Lewis Carroll, when it was actually extremely obviously King Lear, and to this day I cringe over it.

Running Wild, J.G. Ballard – All the Ballard! What IS this novella, it is amazing. Reading Ballard is like reading a narrative of the dreams you have and only know about when you're woken unexpectedly at three am because your dog needs to go out. I don't know how he did that. And the marvelous thing about Running Wild is that it's a mystery, and it's completely obvious to you what's happened from page one, but the investigators are blind to it.

Wicked Beyond Belief: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper, Michael Bilton – It was a real struggle to only have one book about a serial killer on this list, so, um, counting the Mikal Gilmore, now there are two. To be fair, this is really about almost blinding police incompetence. Having grown up on English mysteries, I always assumed that life would eventually make me Detective Chief Inspector Cliffe of the Thames Valley CID. And this shit would never have gone down on my watch. Assuming they would have loaned me out to Yorkshire. Which they would have.

Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin – There are basically no happy books about love that aren't complete dreck. Except for this. But then, of course, she died young, so the universe screws you either way, right?

Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick – In a direct parallel to the illusion of sexual choice, you either like Dick or you don't. In a less-accurate parallel, if you like Dick, any Dick will do. (Ugh, that happened.) Really, though, this is maybe the best. You can't go wrong with The Man in the High Castle, of course. But sometimes guys read that one in high school and become unbearable. It's a thing.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer – I had a friend who said this ridiculously cheeseball thing about how we each get the afterlife we believe in (when it's obviously OBLIVION AND THE VOID for all), but I have a secret hope that I'm wrong and it's Riverworld for me.

The Neverending Story, Michael Ende – It's nice to end with the other best book, which this most certainly is. I was twenty-five before I accepted, on some level, that The Neverending Story might not be true. And if Bastian in the library with the blankets and the sandwich isn't you, even a little, then you are incomprehensible to me.

Go forth and read!



108 Comments / Post A Comment

Emby

ARCADIA. ARCADIA MOTHERFUCKING FOREVER. It is my favorite written work ever.

SEPTIMUS: When we have found all of the mysteries and lost all of the meaning, we will be alone, on an empty shore.
THOMASINA: Then we will dance.

^^^^I'm getting this tattooed on me when I can scrounge up a few bucks for it. Not joking.

melis

@Emby Oh dear, I'd rather hoped you were. Can't you just read that page again whenever you'd like to be reminded of the sentiment?

Emby

@melis I could, I could, but where would be the fun in that?

She was a retail whore

@Emby Text on wrinkly paper > text on wrinkly skin

Emby

@taigan Oh you and Melis are just party poopers extraordinaire.

alphabiddycity

@taigan Anti-tattoo sentiment is so unnecessary. It's your body! Do what you want. Seriously, why is being holier-than-thou about tattoos acceptable? It's no different than judging someone for their eating habits.

Tattoos are awesome, if you want one!

And that would be a fantastic quote to get tattooed.

insouciantlover

@Emby Pish posh to the naysayers. I say go for it! I think that's a fantastic quote. Or you know, if you're into the whole brevity thing you could just get "then we will dance" and it will remind you of the rest.

Nick Douglas

@Emby And if anyone wants the wordplay and farce without the scientific and philosophical meaning, may I also recommend Stoppard's reworkings of "Rough Crossing" and "On the Razzle"?

mattewmc

Ahhhhhhhh damn@t

feartie

HOORAY! (is it all right if I shout, or should I be whispering: does this count as a library-type setting?)

Also I am reading Green Girl by Kate Zambreno and it is getting its teeth into my younger self.

alphabiddycity

No. Shush. The Neverending Story is a true story and it always will be and someday Artax and I will travel together through a magical world.

If you can watch this and not shed at least one teeny tiny tear, we will never be friends: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y688upqmRXo

redonion

@alphabiddycity The Neverending Story is the best. I think I have finally given up on being Bastian/Atreyu, but I still hold out hope that I will someday grow up to be Mr. Coreander.

Dirty Hands

@alphabiddycity @redonion You don't have to be Bastian, Atreyu, or Mr. Coreander! Anyone can become part of the Neverending Story (perhaps you already are! But that is another story and shall be told another time.), and any book can become the Neverending Story, as well. In fact, I suspect that there are other portals into Fantastica for the illiterate-- the Childlike Empress chose the illiterate Atreyu to be her messenger, and she wouldn't judge.

little fish

@alphabiddycity My first goldfish were named Falcore and Atreyu. I was six. I've only gotten nerdier with age.

Emby

MORE BECAUSE I CANNOT HELP MYSELF:

THOMASINA If you do not teach me the true meaning of things, who will?
SEPTIMUS Ah. Yes, I am ashamed. Carnal embrace is sexual congress, which is the insertion of the male genital organ into the female genital organ for purposes of procreation and pleasure. Fermat’s last theorem, by contrast, asserts that when x, y and z are whole numbers each raised to power of n, the sum of the first two can never equal the third when n is greater than 2.
THOMASINA Eurghhh!
SEPTIMUS Nevertheless, that is the theorem.
THOMASINA It is disgusting and incomprehensible. Now when I am grown to practise it myself I shall never do so without thinking of you.
SEPTIMUS Thank you very much, my lady. Was Mrs Chater down this morning?
THOMASINA No. Tell me more about sexual congress.
SEPTIMUS There is nothing more to be said about sexual congress.
THOMASINA Is it the same as love?
SEPTIMUS Oh no, it is much nicer than that.

YOU SING TO MY PUN-LOVING BROKEN HEART, TOM STOPPARD.

entangled

@Emby MORE PLS. I am now reminded that it's been years since I've read Arcadia and I have a copy of it at home where I am not.

3000flowers

coming out of lurkerville to post one of my all-time favourite quotes, spoken by Valentine in Arcadia:

Well, it is odd. Heat goes to cold. It’s a one-way street. Your tea will end up at room temperature. What’s happening to your tea is happening to everything everywhere. The sun and the stars. It’ll take a while but we’ll all end up at room temperature.

How incredibly happy I would be if I got to see this performed and see how they cast Plautus/Lightning!

oh, disaster

I got Happy All The Time at the library on Saturday! I was in a mood to reread Home Cooking but thought I'd try something else of hers.

hero worship

I love Laurie Colwin! The Lone Pilgrim, her collection of short stories is such a great read for a rainy day and Happy All The Time's Misty Berkowitz is the literary character I would most like to befriend.

hero worship

@hero worship -also, hooray for the completely fucking amazing Shirley Jackson. Merricat is definitely tied with Misty for imaginary, literary best friend status.

Tulletilsynet

WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO CRUSH ME WITH READING LIST NEUROSES MERCY HAVE MERCY

Decca

I'm not a big fan of McEwan at all (Atonement sent me into a rage spiral when I read it) but, granted, I've only read his later fiction. I should give Black Dogs a shot.

I always associate him with John Banville for some reason - probably because Banville ripped McEwan to shreds over Saturday - and so I'll take this opportunity to recommend two books by Banville: The Untouchable and The Book of Evidence. The first is a fictional version of the Cambridge spies, specifically Anthony Blount, and is sexy and gin-soaked and wistful. The second is loosely based on Malcolm McArthur, Ireland's most notorious murderer who killed two people in the 1980s (we don't really "do" serial killers, in Ireland). It's a first-person narration by a completely odious, yet oddly charming, human being. Banville is as good as Nabokov in that technique.

And yes to Shirley Jackson.

The Lady of Shalott

@Decca Oh my goodness I am so glad I am not the one who slogged through Atonement, finished it, and chucked it across the room. The only book that made me anywhere near as enraged when I read it was some book by Wendy Shalit, I think.

Lucienne

@The Lady of Shalott Oh, is this the Atonement-hating thread? This is my favorite thread!

Decca

@The Lady of Shalott It's actually assigned reading for a class I'm taking this year, so I have to reread it and I'm really interested in my reaction second time around. It's been about 5 years since I read it first, so my memory is slightly hazy. I just remember thinking it was fine, if a bit clinically written, until the twist at the end when I just exploded with fury. I'm all in favour of po-mo fuckery, but in that case it just read as a case of McEwan sneering at the reader for getting emotionally invested in the story. A chance to show off his own intellect, rather than serve his story.

britishpetroleum

@The Lady of Shalott I much preferred Atonement to Saturday, though. That book is a big pile of ugh.

The Lady of Shalott

@Decca "I'm all in favour of po-mo fuckery, but in that case it just read as a case of McEwan sneering at the reader for getting emotionally invested in the story. A chance to show off his own intellect, rather than serve his story."

YES YES YES THIS, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES

Lucienne

@The Lady of Shalott See, I never felt ripped off or sneered at because I never got invested in the story. I'm often a pretty dispassionate reader, and the most I could muster for Atonement was polite interest. This made the ending seem ... cheap and hacky.

redonion

@Decca I really like early McEwen and really dislike recent McEwen. They are totally different people. On Chesil Beach was meh, Atonement was boring before it made me throw the book across the room due to the twist, Saturday was ok, and I haven't touched anything he's written since. I think he is starting to write like an older man looking back on the world in a certain way, and his way bores me. But I like his earlier stuff.

Decca

@redonion I need to read some early McEwan, then, definitely. Looking through his bibliography, the earliest work I've read is The Child in Time, which I like much better than anything post-Enduring Love, so I should probably give early McEwan a chance.

catfoodandhairnets

@Decca @The Lady of Shalott I love all the Ian McEwan books I have ever read. Except for Solar, but including Atonement and Saturday. This thread makes me sad.

Decca

PLEASE DON'T HATE ME, NICOLE.

Nicole Cliffe

Gurl, we have too much shared Mitford love to ever fight.

BoozinSusan

@Nicole Cliffe Tickled to see there's a new McEwan! And you should all listen to Alan Bennett's brief interview on Morning Edition here. He's a delight!: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/14/145102962/alan-bennett-defies-expectations-with-smut

Verity

@Decca *hearts Anthony Blunt* Have you watched Cambridge Spies? If not, go and do so, as it is excellent.

Re. Atonement - I watched the film and spent the whole time wondering when the plot was actually going to start - I never really felt like it got going properly. (There was some excitement when some of the scenes took place just outside my hometown, though.) I attempted to read the book afterwards and had much the same problem.

Decca

@Verity No I haven't! And thanks for the reminder, I keep meaning to watch it.

Verity

@Decca I have to warn you, it might break your heart a bit. But still, so good. (Also, tangential thought based on your username and the Mitford-related comment above - I just finished reading Debo Mitford's autobiography, and she talks about how much she disliked Anthony Blunt, to my rage. HOW DARE SHE.)

Interrobanged

@Decca I remember liking Atonement (although I was 15 at the time, so who knows), but I hated Saturday with the fire of a thousand suns.

CO-SIGN WITH JOHN BANVILLE.

thebestjasmine

@Decca I HATED Atonement. Hated it so so much. I recognize that he's a great writer, but wow did I hate that book. I only finished it because I was stuck on a plane with nothing else to read, and I'm still bitter about that.

Mr. B

Oh man, five years ago I would have totally agreed with Nicole about McEwan being the best living writer, but HOLY SHIT did "On Chesil Beach" ever piss me off. And then "Solar" was just ... stupid. So, two strikes.

About hating "Atonement," though ... it's the ending that most readers hate, right? My sense is that we're supposed to hate it -- that McEwan agrees with us that Briony Tallis hasn't atoned for anything, and that she has in fact continued to wrong Robbie and Cecelia though her exercise in narcissistic wish-fulfillment. Too didactic? Eh, "Atonement" bothered me, but in a good way.

"Black Dogs" is one of the few McEwan novels I haven't read yet, but it's on my list. But I still have to plug "Enduring Love" -- that book is fucking awesome.

Steph

@catfoodandhairnets Me too! I love McEwan, (except Amsterdam) but ESPECIALLY Atonement, so I'm a little surprised how disliked it is. Oh well, something for everybody right?

thebestjasmine

@Mr. B Nope, I mean sure I hated the ending too, but I pretty much hated Atonement from the end of the first part forward. I put it down then and never would have finished if not for the trans-Atlantic plane flight where I ran out of other reading material.

teaandcakeordeath

“We are tied down to a language which makes up in obscurity what it lacks in style.”
<3 Tom Stoppard!

wildschild

GAH I cannot take seeing more articles like this as I am lost, confused and beyond frustrated in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I desperately wanted to finish the novel before I saw the movie, and I just.cannot.dooooooooooit.

Decca

@wildschild I've read the book, watched the recent movie and the original BBC adaptation (which is the best), and I still haven't a fucking clue what's going on. Just enjoy the slow-burning Cold War intrigue!

wildschild

@Decca So happy I'm not the only one completelyfuckinglost/ this is terrible news that the film will bring no clarity!!

Lucienne

I'm not the only one who likes the moderns better than the Regencies (who I still love lots!) in Arcadia, right? Right ...?

Gosh, that is some torturous syntax.

Emby

@Lucienne By which you mean Hannah, Valentine and Bernard? Ummmmm... I mean, yeah, they're great. But Septimus and Thomasina are just too awesome.

Lucienne

@Emby I don't know, I think Hannah and Valentine etc are a little more complicated than Septimus and Thomasina, who are both sort of ... pure in a way that makes them less interesting. To me.

entangled

@Lucienne I think I like Hannah best of all, but it's really the interplay of the two stories that makes the play. and when everything starts running together at the end... my god so haunting.

Emby

@arrr starr I cannot read the final few pages without getting chills. A physiological impossibility for me.

Mariajoseh

I just turned 24 and I think about The Neverending Story maybe once a day, and I totally am Bastian. This book changed (shaped?) the way I think about so many things. I think I will be older than 25 when I accept that it is not true. What is TRUE, anyway?
Looking forward to reading all those other books. I'm trying to read more McEwan, because I loved Atonement, but he is really hard to find in Mexico and I still don't have an e-reader.

noReally

Laurie Colwin! Go, and read everything she wrote. Except maybe that last one, which was maybe finished off by an editor after she died.

But Nicole, Happy All the Time not Goodbye Without Leaving? Are you sure?

Decca

I wish Zadie Smith would stop doing other things and write another novel already.

purefog

@Decca Seconded. Maybe we could throw her and Claire Messud together and have them convince each other?

Nicole Cliffe

"The Hunters" by Claire Messud is ALL THAT. I feel like "The Emperor's Children" has that "Atonement"-y quality of being bigger but not as good as tighter earlier stuff.

purefog

@Nicole Cliffe Yeah, she has only four novels, I think (just like Zadie!), and The Emperor's Children is the least of them. I like to hope it's a momentary setback.

Steph

I met George Saunders once and he was awesome! Definitely recommend both short story anthologies above. They are funny and witty and just perfect.

Two-Headed Girl

I just started reading Middlemarch for a class and I loooove it. Eliot is so gloriously sharp and catty and wonderful! (Also, the class is comparing ethics in Middlemarch and The Wire and is basically the best. English classes!)

Also, Habibi! I found it somewhat problematic (even within the context of the story, the amount of naked lady, etc seemed somewhat gratuitous), but nevertheless it is beautiful and super compelling.

Verity

Tom Stoppard! I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last summer and loved it so much. And, excitingly, two of the actors from the film of The History Boys (I think they were both in the stage versions as well) played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. As The History Boys is also great, this was extremely pleasing (as it seeing it on this list). And Arcadia is so heartbreaking. *weeps* I love it. (I saw it in Oxford, which made it even more heartbreaking and awesome, because it was all so easy to picture.)

To sum up rambling comment: I love Tom Stoppard, and Alan Bennett, and Oxford. SO MUCH.

Verity

@Verity (Um I don't even mean Arcadia, I mean the Invention of Love, and I am a complete idiot. I would probably love Arcadia if I had seen/read it; as it is, I can only speak for The Invention of Love. Which is great.)

Megasus

They would have loaned you out to Yorkshire for having ladyparts. And then you would show them!

janedonuts

Well, I guess somebody had to do it. I'll just come out and say that I think this is a weirdly masculine/male-heavy list. Philip Roth and Ian McEwan? For this crowd? Not hating on male writers by any stretch, but this seems...strange.

Decca

@janedonuts I've already expressed my misgivings about McEwan and I have issues with Roth as well (although, my best friend, who is a dude, keeps pressing me to read Sabbath Theater and I trust him on stuff like that), but I don't have any issue with their inclusion on this list. I tend to think favourite authors/books are above politics. I unreservedly adore some male writers that are "problematic" when it comes to women (Kingsley Amis?).

Also, I do kind of feel that there are certain dude authors who I just will never really get, much as there are certain female authors who I don't demand my male friends enjoy. If a book-loving guy tells me he doesn't read any female authors, I'll be suspicious, but if a guy confesses to me he doesn't really like, say, Elizabeth Bowen, I won't automatically give him the side-eye. Readers should have a healthy diet of both sexes, but there are certain cases where I think it's perfectly valid to say "Hey, author X? Not for me because of their sex."

Except Bret Easton Ellis. Fuck that guy.

janedonuts

@Decca Shit I had a comment all written out and accidentally deleted it. Anyway, was saying that I totally agree, and many of my favorite writers are male (and some even fairly sexist), but given this audience, the pitch of this list seems a little off. Not to mention the fact that there's a huge debate going on in the literary world about the underrepresentation of female writers in popular criticism/publicity.

Decca

@janedonuts I dunno, apart from Roth/McEwan - who have clout, I'll admit - it's a fairly broad spectrum? And most of the guys on the list aren't really bursting with machismo.

janedonuts

@Decca Out of 32 authors recommended, only seven were women.

Nicole Cliffe

Clearly, this is because all the BEST books are by women, and these are only the really good books.

Decca

@janedonuts I suppose, qualitatively, you're correct. My "spectrum" comment should have been more a genre / aesthetics, thing. Like, Alan Bennett isn't really who springs to mind when I think of "classic dude author". But I take your point.

My only counter argument would be that this is a personal, idiosyncratic list of loved books. The argument about lack of representation of women authors in publishing is an important one and one that I have regularly. I think it's absolute bullshit that Jonathan Franzen gets fellated by the literati while someone like, say, Anne Tyler, is consigned to chick lit. The VIDA report that came out last year showed awful statistics about the amount of space in review journals given over to women authors compared to men.

I just don't think this particular thread is the place to have this argument.

Decca

@Decca Sorry, I meant "quantitatively" there.

joie

hey Hairpin bibliophiles! Anyone have an idea for a good book to read on a long flight (LAX to Aukland, NZ). I loathe flying and love reading, and I was thinking of re-reading Little Women but then I caved and so I'm re-reading it now, 3 weeks before my flight and I don't have the self-control to stop. So anyone know of a good, light book to read that I won't be able to put down? I want escapism, so much escapism.

Nicole Cliffe

THE MISTS OF AVALON. Sorry, I do that a lot.

Decca

@heyits I don't know if it was on here or somewhere else that somebody recommended The Secret History as the ideal read for this kind of situation, but they were so right.

Nicole Cliffe

I was debating that, but is it light enough? Oh, maybe Possession would work!

joie

@Nicole Cliffe I've read Possession, and completely loved it. A. S. Byatt is so great. Mists of Avalon is Arthurian, right? I dimly remember a made-for-tv movie that I think NBC did several years ago that I was forbidden to watch. Anything smacking of Arthurian myth is my jam. See: yearly re-readings of Once and Future King.

Nicole Cliffe

It's like this Arthurian explosion of womyn energy and dorkitude. Love it.

Decca

@Nicole Cliffe Although the subject matter is 'dark', I think it's written in such a lucid way that the darkness goes down easily? And it's so gripping!

Lucienne

@heyits I'd also like to suggest A Suitable Boy! Although it's in a very different direction than the other options.

joie

@all Thank you! this is so helpful.

Nicole Cliffe

There's something so nice about reading on a long flight, when you really can't be doing anything else, and the plane-white-noise sort of wipes out your surroundings. Have fun!

joie

@all Also, I was just on Amazon seeing which of these is available on Kindle, and saw that one of my all-time favorites, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is only $2.99!!! Day. Made.

Megasus

@heyits Oooh have you read A.A. Attanasio's Arthor series? It's super great.
OT but why do authors have the WORST DESIGNED web pages. EVEN THE REALLY SUCCESSFUL ONES.

thebestjasmine

@heyits I'm reading A Discovery of Witches right now, and it's almost 600 pages and engaging from the first page, I think it would be perfect for a long flight.

joie

@thebestjasmine ohhh I just read the synopsis of that. It looks fabulous. I just bought it. Thanks!
@Megan Patterson@facebook I got yours too! Thanks for the referral. It looks so interesting. My bank account is taking a hit today, but it's worth it for good books.

pinballwizard

Ah, The Neverending Story. I didn't quite finish that one.

I'll show myself out.

janedonuts

@Decca Actually, on a web site written (mostly) by women and for women, I kind of think this is exactly the type of place to point this out. But I'm just making an observation, don't really want to argue. I get it, people what they like.

Decca

@janedonuts I don't really want to argue either, especially because in the grand scheme of things I think we're on the same side.

Anyway...fuck Easton Ellis, right?

janedonuts

@Decca Ha ha, totes. Although I will say, he is pretty interesting on Twitter.

karion

Nicole, I positively loved the tone and manner in which this post was written. I can't get over how stilted and formal my last sentence reads, but I have been chewing on your description of Ian McEwan (I have not read his work so I have no opinion on the man) and I keep rereading it because I love how you described it.

Anyway. Yes. Me likey this post.

And, although my collection of books is largely going electronic, I just want to put my shout out to Julie Orringer's How To Breathe Underwater. I want to keep hard copies of books that I want to read and reread when the mood suits me, and when I don't want anything with a power source in my hands. I love Julie's book for a whole bunch of reasons, none of which I can describe as well as Nicole.

:Cinnamon Girl:

@karion How To Breathe Underwater is great and ISABEL FISH from that collection is one of my favorite short stories of all time. I just started Orringer's book, "The Invisible Bridge," and it's good but I'm not sold yet. I'm only 100 pages in, but at 600 total it feels like it kinda needs an editor? I dunno, the pacing just seems a little slow. But I can be an impatient reader sometimes...

In other news, my goodreads "to-read" list has 350 books on it. Fuckkkkk. I wish I were a faster reader.

@Nicole Cliffe, how do you make all of us look so bad with your stellar ability to consume books and tv shows???

thebestjasmine

What happened to our Downton Abbey book list????

oh well never mind

Boo for being late when posting from the UK! But yay for Alan Bennett - I'm going through quite a phase of him, fuelled by Smut and The Uncommon Reader, as well as a set of his early TV programmes that I got for Christmas.

Saaoirse

I'm sorry! I'm sorry! But I hate Arcadia. I don't like Enduring Love much either- the only McEwan I've read- and much for the same reason, which is that I can't stand that thing where the characters are primarily written as ciphers for Big Ideas, especially when it's another formulation of Art/Emotion vs. Reason. Enduring Love I like more for the implication that half of it is Joe making it all up, which kind of makes how badly-written Clarissa is okay, but Arcadia doesn't even have that to justify how all the characters, and especially the women, are just empty archetypes backed up by symbol.

Lacey 1211@twitter

Really? I found To Your Scattered Bodies Go to be so misogynistic that I couldn't get through much of it. Save yourselves the rage and pick up some Neil Gaiman.

bouncy castle

SAUN-DERS! SAUN-DERS! Saunders! I love every single thing he writes! Also, go listen to the episode of the New Yorker Fiction podcast with Joshua Ferris reading "Adams," it will change your life. Because before, in your life, you were not listening to it.

samdanielle

I'm being kind of unnecessarily judge-y with this list, but I am disappointed...

Whatever. You gotta read:

LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CRIMINALS by HEATHER O'NEILL

It's about this little girl and her raunchy escapades in the down n' dirty city of Montreal and is written in really beautiful, but highly simplified prose with frequent glorious, highly descriptive metaphors you wish you thought of.

Lily Rowan

Late to the party, but YES to Lawrence Block and the awesomeness of Matt Scudder. And when you're down, you can read some of the Bernie Rhodenbarr to cheer up.

abby536

@Lily Rowan Yes. I would recommend Block's short stories to flat out anyone. If you are a fan of Shirley Jackson or O'Henry's short stories buy the huge collection. It's a QP, think it is called Enough Rope. The man is amazing at dialogue. Sort of a combination of Overheard in New York, James Ellroy and Jane Austen.

churlishgreen

TOM STOPPARD! LAURIE COLWIN!! THE HISTORY BOYS!!! This is the true purpose of the internet: to remind us, even on our worst days, that we are not alone in the world. Thanks, Nicole!

shawbaby

"And the marvelous thing about Running Wild is that it's a mystery, and it's completely obvious to you what's happened from page one, but the investigators are blind to it." ahhhhhh am I the only one who absolutely HATES dramatic irony?

yunkstahn

Yes yes yes to "The Real Thing"! Case in point:

HENRY: I love love. I love having a lover and being one. The insularity of passion. I love it. I love the way it blurs the distinction between everyone who isn’t one’s lover. Only two kinds of presence in the world. There’s you and there’s them.

Kulojam

@yunkstahn YES! this quote about love. and this one about writing (i've been reminding myself to write cricket bats for years):
HENRY: Shut up and listen. This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It's for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you've done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly…[he clucks his tongue to make the noise].
What we're trying to do is write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might…travel …[He clucks his tongue again and picks up the script.]

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