■ Shylock Is My Name (Howard Jacobson; 2016. Fiction.)
We will see The Merchant of Venice with Jonathan Pryce at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater next month, so I am reading the Hogarth Shakespeare retelling and rereading the play.
He knew what she was nudging him about. One of the traits of his character she had always disliked was his social cruelty. He teased people. Riddled them. Kept them waiting. Made them come to him.
■ Dubliners (James Joyce; 1914. Fiction.)
I am rereading this for an online book club / MOOC and am once again reminded that many books were wasted on younger versions of me. Of the many valuable resources the club / course has provided so far, I thought the link to Mark O’Connell’s “Have I Ever Left It?” (Slate, May 2014) was particularly worthwhile.
From the conclusion of “Araby”:
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
■ Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (J.D. Vance; 2016. Non-fiction.)
I picked this up after reading after reading Vance’s piece on The Huffington Post.
The problems that I saw at the tile warehouse run far deeper than macroeconomic trends and policy. Too many young men immune to hard work. Good jobs impossible to fill for any length of time. And a young man with every reason to work — a wife-to-be to support and a baby on the way — carelessly tossing aside a good job with excellent health insurance. More troublingly, when it was all over, he thought something had been done to him. There is a lack of agency here — a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself. This is distinct from the larger economic landscape of modern America.
But I love these people, even those to whom I avoid speaking for my own sanity. And if I leave you with the impression that there are bad people in my life, then I am sorry, both to you and to the people so portrayed. For there are no villains in this story. There’s just a ragtag band of hillbillies struggling to find their way — both for their sake, and by the grace of God, for mine.
■ Fell, Vol. 1: Feral City (Warren Ellis; 2007. Graphic fiction.)