Tag: Literature

9 Books I Read in 2020 That Weren’t Published in 2020

The following are recommended, in no particular order. Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.

Hamlet
William Shakespeare (audio book)
Shakespeare’s most famous play is one of the greatest stories in the literature of the world.

Distressed by his father’s death and his mother’s over-hasty remarriage, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is faced by a specter from beyond the grave bearing a grim message of murder and revenge. The young prince is driven to the edge of madness by his struggle to understand the situation he finds himself in and to do his duty. Many others, including Hamlet’s beloved, the innocent Ophelia, are swept up in his tragedy.

Hamlet is played by Simon Russell Beale. Imogen Stubbs plays Ophelia, Jane Lapotaire is Gertrude, and Bob Peck is Claudius. Polonius is played by Norman Rodway.

It’s the cast that makes this an exceptional Hamlet.

A Cab at the Door
V.S. Pritchett
A Cab at the Door, originally published in 1968, recalls his childhood in turn-of-the-century and World War I London with the urbane subtlety and wry humor that have marked his other works. For the wild and eccentric Pritchett family, life is a series of cabs waiting at the door to transport them to a succession of ten-bob-a-week lodgings, in their flight from creditors and the financial disasters of their father. A Cab at the Door also captures the texture and color of the working-class side of Edwardian England.

10% Happier – How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
Dan Harris
Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable. Now revised with new material.

After having a nationally televised panic attack, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had propelled him through the ranks of a hypercompetitive business, but had also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.

Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction
Elizabeth Vargas
From the moment she uttered the brave and honest words, “I am an alcoholic,” to interviewer George Stephanopoulos, Elizabeth Vargas began writing her story, as her experiences were still raw. Now, in Between Breaths, Vargas discusses her accounts of growing up with anxiety–which began suddenly at the age of six when her father served in Vietnam–and how she dealt with this anxiety as she came of age, eventually turning to alcohol for a release from her painful reality. The now-A&E Network reporter reveals how she found herself living in denial about the extent of her addiction, and how she kept her dependency a secret for so long. She addresses her time in rehab, her first year of sobriety, and the guilt she felt as a working mother who could never find the right balance between a career and parenting. Honest and hopeful, Between Breaths is an inspiring read. Winner of the Books for a Better Life Award in the First Book category Instant New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
First published in the Soviet journal Novy Mir in 1962, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich stands as a classic of contemporary literature. The story of labor-camp inmate Ivan Denisovich Shukhov, it graphically describes his struggle to maintain his dignity in the face of communist oppression. An unforgettable portrait of the entire world of Stalin’s forced work camps, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is one of the most extraordinary literary documents to have emerged from the Soviet Union and confirms Solzhenitsyn’s stature as “a literary genius whose talent matches that of Dosotevsky, Turgenev, Tolstoy” — Harrison Salisbury

Ravelstein
Saul Bellow
Abe Ravelstein is a brilliant professor at a prominent midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means. His close friend Chick has suggested that he put forth a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, and much to Ravelstein’s own surprise, he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir or a life of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends, old and new, and vaudeville routines from the remote past. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the Midwest and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies

Water by the Spoonful
Quiara Alegría Hudes
“How many plays make us long for grace? Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Hudes is such a rare play; it is a yearning, funny, deeply sad and deeply lyrical piece, a worthy companion to Hudes’s Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue. The play infects us with the urge to find connection within our families and communities and remains with us long after we’ve left the theater.” – Paula Vogel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of How I Learned to Drive

Writing to Learn: How to Write – and Think – Clearly About Any Subject at All
William Zinsser
Using numerous examples of clear, stylish writing from a broad range of disciplines, and adding the warmth of his personal experiences, Zinsser makes a strong case for his claim that writing about a field of knowledge is the best way to immerse oneself in it and to make it one’s own. Three guiding principles emerge accuracy, brevity, and clarity and, Zinsser argues, writers who keep them in mind will avoid much of the misunderstanding that results from bad writing. Zinnser has particularly harsh words for what he calls “corporation-speak,” the incomprehensible nonsense that invades many professional publications. His reference, whose title so accurately sums up its philosophy, should become a standard for those who care about good writing.

Our Country’s Good
Timberlake Wertenbaker
Australia 1789. A young married lieutenant is directing rehearsals of the first play ever to be staged in that country. With only two copies of the text, a cast of convicts, and one leading lady who may be about to be hanged, conditions are hardly ideal…Winner of the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year Award in 1988, and many other major awards, Our Country’s Good premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 1988 and opened on Broadway in 1991. ‘Rarely has the redemptive, transcendental power of theatre been argued with such eloquence and passion.’

Fiction vs Real Life

Recently, I won’t say exactly when but embarrassingly late in life, I realized that books had been lying to me. Movies were slightly better, but still untruthful. To put it another way, I realized that nothing is connected. Nothing is central. Not all things happen at the same time, or a millisecond before or after that time, or at midnight, or on anniversaries.

Nobody jogs down a street and sees a sign that says SIMPSON and then later that afternoon drives to their dentist and finds a new receptionist, surname Simpson, caressing the desk with nails of plastic coral.

Her eyes are never the precise whimpery blue of an April morning in the Southwest. They may bear a passing resemblance to that shade, they may be very, very close, but they are never the same, no matter how hard one overworks one’s eyes.

disclaimer
Jackson Arn
https://www.3ammagazine.com/

Best Books of 2020

Selections mine, blurbs via Amazon.

Interior Chinatown
Charles Yu, January 28, 2020

Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as the protagonist in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but always he is relegated to a prop. Yet every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. Or is it?

The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison
Jason Hardy, February 18, 2020

Prompted by a dead-end retail job and a vague desire to increase the amount of justice in his hometown, Jason Hardy became a parole officer in New Orleans at the worst possible moment. Louisiana’s incarceration rates were the highest in the US and his department’s caseload had just been increased to 220 “offenders” per parole officer, whereas the national average is around 100. Almost immediately, he discovered that the biggest problem with our prison system is what we do—and don’t do—when people get out of prison.

Sing Backwards and Weep: A Memoir
Mark Lanegan, April 28, 2020

In Sing Backwards and Weep, Lanegan takes readers back to the sinister, needle-ridden streets of Seattle, to an alternative music scene that was simultaneously bursting with creativity and dripping with drugs. He tracks the tumultuous rise and fall of the Screaming Trees, from a brawling, acid-rock bar band to world-famous festival favorites that scored a hit number five single on Billboard’s alternative charts and landed a notorious performance on Late Night with David Letterman, where Lanegan appeared sporting a fresh black eye from a brawl the night before. This book also dives into Lanegan’s personal struggles with addiction, culminating in homelessness, petty crime, and the tragic deaths of his closest friends. From the back of the van to the front of the bar, from the hotel room to the emergency room, onstage, backstage, and everywhere in between, Sing Backwards and Weep reveals the abrasive underlining beneath one of the most romanticized decades in rock history-from a survivor who lived to tell the tale.

How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
Jerald Walker, October 30, 2020

For the black community, Jerald Walker asserts in How to Make a Slave, “anger is often a prelude to a joke, as there is broad understanding that the triumph over this destructive emotion lay in finding its punchline.” It is on the knife’s edge between fury and farce that the essays in this exquisite collection balance. Whether confronting the medical profession’s racial biases, considering the complicated legacy of Michael Jackson, paying homage to his writing mentor James Alan McPherson, or attempting to break free of personal and societal stereotypes, Walker elegantly blends personal revelation and cultural critique. The result is a bracing and often humorous examination by one of America’s most acclaimed essayists of what it is to grow, parent, write, and exist as a black American male. Walker refuses to lull his readers; instead his missives urge them to do better as they consider, through his eyes, how to be a good citizen, how to be a good father, how to live, and how to love

Garner’s Quotations: A Modern Miscellany
Dwight Garner, November 10, 2020

A selection of favorite quotes that the celebrated literary critic has collected over the decades. From Dwight Garner, the New York Times book critic, comes a rollicking, irreverent, scabrous, amazingly alive selection of unforgettable moments from forty years of wide and deep reading. Garner’s Quotations is like no commonplace book you’ll ever read. If you’ve ever wondered what’s really going on in the world of letters today, this book will make you sit up and take notice. Unputdownable!

Products Related to this Item – Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller

The Bottom of the Sky
William C. Pack
A Pulitzer contender and USA Best Book Award finalist, this Montana rags to Wall Street riches story is a tale of family, power, and consequences.

Boss of Me: A grumpy boss, enemies-to-lovers romance (Fight for Love)
Tia Louise
My sister says he’s the devil. She says don’t fall for the young, arrogant CEO. I say don’t worry. I say I can resist him. But maybe I was wrong…

Chains of Time
R.B. Woodstone
Across time, a magical battle for freedom… Finalist for the Readers’ Favorite Book Award… “A gripping tale of race and family.” – Kirkus Reviews

Talented: A Dystopian Superhero Origin Story (The Legacy of Cameran Monroe Book 1)
S.E. MacCready
They designed the perfect superhuman–and stole her memories. Can her unreliable mind defeat their deception, or will it forge a damsel in distress?

RUINED – The Price of Play: Everhide Rockstar Romance Series Book 2
Tania Joyce
Love rock star romance? This accidental baby romance is full of heart wrenching emotion. It’ll leave a mark on your heart. Prepare to ugly cry.

Sponsored items related to Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer

The Big Space Fuck – Kurt Vonnegut, Quote From, Intro

In 1987 it became possible in the United States of America for a young person to sue his parents for the way he had been raised. He could take them to court and make them pay money and even serve jail terms for serious mistakes they made when he was just a helpless little kid. This was not only an effort to achieve justice but to discourage reproduction, since there wasn’t anything much to eat any more. Abortions were free. In fact, any woman who volunteered for one got her choice of a bathroom scale or a table lamp.

In 1989, America staged the Big Space Fuck, which was a serious effort to make sure that human life would continue to exist somewhere in the Universe, since it certainly couldn’t continue much longer on Earth. Everything had turned to shit and beer cans and old automobiles and Clorox bottles. An interesting thing happened in the Hawaiian Islands, where they had been throwing trash down extinct volcanoes for years: a couple of the volcanoes all of a sudden spit it all back up. And so on.

Kurt Vonnegut, Big Space Fuck

Writing to Learn – Amazon Review of

5.0 out of 5 stars
An Importrant Book on Writing to Learn and Learning to Write

Mr. Zinsser echoes many of my fears and concerns with writing. At 18 years old, I wrote my first and most meaningful official document, an explanation of an infantryman’s death. I sought to explain how my fire-team leader died from a bullet fired from a “spider hole” in the “Iron Triangle,” Vietnam, January 11, 1966. A hail of bullets struck my comrade and nearly took off my head several times that morning.

Neither had I any idea of what my leaders expected nor did I have the simple skills to give a good account of that moment. If I had followed some model, something like Ernie Pyle’s war correspondence (a stretch), I could have honored my fallen leader. If I had the writing skills, I could have brought clarity of the moment to others. That document testified to my lack of writing experience.

Of course, I see my childhood education would have changed dramatically had my parents and teachers insisted that I “settle down” and “learn to learn” by “writing across the curriculum.” Education ought to follow this simple process and remain directed by it. Of course, it would not hurt to avoid wars in the first place.

Writing to Learn

AlDaily – Desultory Selection, October 4, 2020

How to think about disaster. Accepting one’s place in a vast, complex, and violent world is healthier than it sounds… more »

When William James gave up on religion, he went in search of a new avenue to save his life. Can his approach help you save your own?   … more »

What Joseph Brodsky was able to set in motion: “Not the limits of a meager idea, but the activity of thought itself.”  … more »

Beware the reflexivity trap — the notion that awareness of a fault absolves one of that fault. It is rampant in millennial fiction… more »

Why we hoard. Stuff attracts more stuff, and accumulation has a powerful logic rooted in history and biology   … more »

Go forth and get you some learnin -> aldaily

Raymond Chandler’s Prose Style – Some Examples

But the LOA people knew what they were up to. Two pages into The High Window I was convinced that Chandler, despite some stylistic excesses, belongs in the canon as well as the cigar store:

“A large black and gold butterfly fishtailed in and landed on a hydrangea bush almost at my elbow, moved its wings slowly up and down a few times, then took off heavily and staggered away through the motionless hot scented air.”

Nabokov couldn’t have described a butterfly more tellingly (though he probably would have noted its species and genus). “Staggered away” is perfect. Now consider this: “An old man sat inside it [an elevator] slack-jawed and watery-eyed on a piece of folded burlap on top of a wooden stool. He looked as if he had been sitting there since the Civil War and had come out of that badly.”

Or this: “The bar entrance was to the left. It was dusky and quiet and a bartender moved mothlike against the faint glitter of piled glassware. A tall handsome blond in a dress that looked like seawater sifted over with gold dust came out of the Ladies’ Room touching up her lips and turned toward the arch, humming.

Or even this: “We looked at each other with the clear innocent eyes of a couple of used car salesmen. ”

Michael Dirda
Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments

Find books by Mood and Emotion – www.whichbook.net

Choosing books by mood and emotion
You can mix our mood sliders into great combinations – try unpredictable, lots of sex and optimistic and check what comes up. Flip the slider setting from optimistic to unusual and the books offered are quite different.

Click on a book cover that intrigues you and you can find out more. No need to wade through long reviews, or complicated plot summaries. There’s a short comment designed to convey the essence of the book, what it feels like to read. You can get a direct experience of the author’s voice in a sample paragraph. And there are a few Parallels – other books and sometimes tv shows, songs and even paintings which have some similarities with this one.

Choosing from the world map
Spin the globe and choose a book by the country it is set in. Click on an area – say Africa or Europe – and then click on a specific country. You will find places – and books – you maybe never knew about.
eg: Italy

Choosing by character and plot
You can choose the main character’s race, age, sexuality and/or gender. Or pick a favourite plot shape and discover the range of different types of read that use it.

Starting from a familiar bestseller
You won’t find the biggest bestsellers on Whichbook as everyone knows about them already. But you can use your enjoyment of a current bestseller to see titles with a similar mood that you might try next.

https://www.whichbook.net/

10 Great Modern Classic Novels

Modern = written since 1980
Classic = will still be read 100 years from date of writing
(Selections mine, blubs via Amazon. I stuck with novels written in English because I don’t know enough lit in translation to judge.)

Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes, 1984
A kind of detective story, relating a cranky amateur scholar’s search for the truth about Gustave Flaubert, and the obsession of this detective whose life seems to oddly mirror those of Flaubert’s characters.

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks, 1984
Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:
Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I’d disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.

The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe, 1987
After Tom Wolfe defined the ’60s in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and the cultural U-turn at the turn of the ’80s in The Right Stuff, nobody thought he could ever top himself again. In 1987, when The Bonfire of the Vanities arrived, the literati called Wolfe an “aging enfant terrible.”

The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris, 1988
A serial murderer known only by a grotesquely apt nickname–Buffalo Bill–is stalking women. He has a purpose, but no one can fathom it, for the bodies are discovered in different states. Clarice Starling, a young trainee at the FBI Academy, is surprised to be summoned by Jack Crawford, chief of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science section. Her assignment: to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter–Hannibal the Cannibal–who is kept under close watch in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989
Here is Kazuo Ishiguro’s profoundly compelling portrait of Stevens, the perfect butler, and of his fading, insular world in post-World War II England.

L.A. Confidential – James Ellroy, 1990
L.A. Confidential is epic “noir”, a crime novel of astonishing detail and scope written by the bestselling author of The Black Dahlia. A horrific mass murder invades the lives of victims and victimizers on both sides of the law. And three lawmen are caught in a deadly spiral, a nightmare that tests loyalty and courage, and offers no mercy, grants no survivors.

Regeneration – Pat Barker, 1991
In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified “mentally unsound” and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon’s “sanity” and sending him back to the trenches.

Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin, 1996
Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.

The Wishbones – Tom Perrotta, 1997
Everything is going pretty well for Dave Raymond. He’s 31, but he still feels young. He’s playing guitar with the Wishbones, a New Jersey wedding band, and while it isn’t exactly the Big Time, it is music. He has a roof over his head…well, it’s his parents’ roof, but they don’t hassle him much. Life isn’t perfect. But it isn’t bad. Not bad at all. But then he has to blow it all by proposing to his girlfriend.

Pym – Mat Johnson, 2011
Recently canned professor of American literature Chris Jaynes has just made a startling discovery: the manuscript of a crude slave narrative that confirms the reality of Edgar Allan Poe’s strange and only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.