by Sarah Perry. Should have realized after reading Perry’s Essex Serpent that this would be another unscary Halloween story. Melmoth, the old witness who sees all of our bad deeds, is a witchy figure dressed in black. She lurks everywhere. The one who denied seeing Jesus rise from the dead. She’s the lore of many countries told to little children by their sadistic parents. Guilt. Shame. Conscience. She follows them through life. Spooky? No. For such a horrible portent, the stories told through letters and documents and by Helen, a… Read more Melmoth →
by Mark Sarvas. A beautifully crafted storytelling device trumps a lackluster story. Matt Santos tells his story telepathically to an overnight guard at the auction house where a valuable painting he’s unexpectedly inherited awaits sale. Matt Santos is the anglicized name of the son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants who discovers he’s the recipient of a newly discovered art treasure. The painting was taken during WWII under the Nazi’s and has been discovered at the National Gallery and traced to Matt’s holocaust survivor family. His father has rejected the work and… Read more Memento Park →
by Michael Ondaatje. The story of Nathan’s narrow beam of a life. Ondaatje’s writing has a richness and depth that is rare. His melodic poetic wordplay is a craft beyond compare. His metaphors sublime. As with one of my all-time favorite novels, The Cat’s Table, he returns to the table metaphor often in this work. The war light itself shines on Nathaniel and his world in England after WWII. The story is told through his narrow lens which is unfortunately dulled by a personality lacking curiosity or emotion after being… Read more Warlight →
It seems Philip Roth’s last read was Asymmetry. According to the NYTimes obit today: “Mostly, he read — nonfiction by preference, but he made exception for the occasional novel. One of the last he read was “Asymmetry,” by Lisa Halliday, a book about a young woman who has a romance with an aging novelist who bore an unmistakable resemblance to Mr. Roth — funny, kind, acerbic, passionate, immensely well-read, a devotee of Zabar’s and old movies. In an interview, Mr. Roth acknowledged that he and Ms. Halliday had been friends,… Read more Philip Roth RIP →
His suits and literary legacy live on. No one ever coined cultures better. One of the all-time favorites in Carol’s carrel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. Also loved- Bonfire of the Vanities Back to Blood The Right Stuff
by Chloe Benjamin. Self-fulfilled prophesies. Intriguing premise. Would you want to know the date of your death? Would you waste a long life or live dangerously a short one? Does the knowledge gnaw at you such that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy? Benjamin treats each of these in the context of external forces. Does magic trump religion? Four siblings go to a fortune teller and take their fates away with them on a portentous day in the 1960’s NY. Takes them to San Francisco and Chicago. Well-drawn characters. The first half… Read more The Immortalists →
Dominick Dunne’s 1993 best-selling novel, A Season in Purgatory. Anatomy of the murder of young Martha Moxley in the exclusive enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut in 1975. Bludgeoned by a golf club one night after a country club dance, teen-aged Martha was left dead or dying in nearby woods. Steps from her home. Ethel Kennedy’s cousin Michael Skakel the presumed culprit. Cover-ups and obfuscation ensued. The wealthy wagons circled. In 2002, thanks to Dunne’s research, Michael was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. He served 11 before he won an appeal for… Read more A Season in Limbo →
by Lisa Halliday. Her affair with Philip Roth. Would have been a great story on its own. But. It went astray. Top critical review on Amazon here. No Nobel for Roth or anybody else for literature this year. Scandals postpone the award until 2019.