■ The Truants (Kate Weinberg; 2019. Fiction.) LIB
A quick, entertaining read. I particularly relished the idea of Agatha Christie as a subject of academic inquiry.
■ Women and Power (Mary Beard; 2017. Non-fiction.) RFS
Mary Beard is a genius. Related link here.
■ Men Explain Things to Me (Rebecca Solnit; 2017. Non-fiction.) RFS
Related link: “Before there was mansplaining, there was Rebecca Solnit’s 2008 critique of male arrogance. Reprinted here with a new introduction.”
Dude, if you’re reading this, you’re a carbuncle on the face of humanity and an obstacle to civilization. Feel the shame.
Gay men and lesbians have already opened up the question of what qualities and roles are male and female in ways that can be liberating for straight people. When they marry, the meaning of marriage is likewise opened up. No hierarchical tradition underlies their union. Some people have greeted this with joy.
■ The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark; 1961. Fiction.) RFS
Muriel Spark was a genius, too.
■ The Lady from the Sea (Henrik Ibsen; 1888. Drama.) RFS
Read in anticipation of seeing the Court Theatre production.
■ Five Days at Memorial (Sheri Fink; 2013. Non-fiction.) RFS
Related link here.
■ The Taming of the Shrew (William Shakespeare; 1592. Drama.) RFS
Reread in anticipation of seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company at Chicago Shakespeare.
■ Zeitoun (Dave Eggers; 2009. Non-fiction.) RFS
This was the perfect companion to Fink’s Five Days at Memorial and Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler earlier this year.
■ As You Like It (William Shakespeare; 1599. Drama.) RFS
Read in anticipation of seeing the Chicago Shakespeare production.
Act III, Scene V
But, mistress, know yourself: down on your knees,
And thank heaven, fasting, for a good man’s love:
For I must tell you friendly in your ear,
Sell when you can: you are not for all markets:
Cry the man mercy; love him; take his offer:
Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer.
■ American Dirt (Jeanine Cummins; 2020. Fiction.) ATY
From the NYT review by Parul Sehgal:
But does the book’s shallowness paradoxically explain the excitement surrounding it? The tortured sentences aside, “American Dirt” is enviably easy to read. It is determinedly apolitical. The deep roots of these forced migrations are never interrogated; the American reader can read without fear of uncomfortable self-reproach. It asks only for us to accept that “these people are people,” while giving us the saintly to root for and the barbarous to deplore — and then congratulating us for caring.
It certainly was “enviably easy to read.”
What a waste of time it had all been. Lydia feels annoyed that her niece won’t get to see the music box she purchased for her special day. How expensive it was! She realizes, even as this thought occurs to her, how bizarre and awful it is, but she can’t stop it from crashing in. She doesn’t rebuke herself for thinking it; she does herself the small kindness of forgiving her malfunctioning logic.
He’s a philosopher, she thinks. He’s rough, but he means what he says, and his openness is a provocation. Despite everything, he likes being alive. Lydia doesn’t know whether that’s true for herself. For mothers, the question is immaterial anyway. Her survival is a matter of instinct rather than desire.
■ Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey (Alberto Manguel; 2007. Non-fiction.) RFS
We’ve had our tickets to the Court’s sold-out, site-specific remount of An Iliad since September. It was more than worth the wait and the price.
We don’t know anything about Homer. It is otherwise with Homer’s books. In a very real sense, the Iliad and the Odyssey are familiar to us prior to opening the first page. Even before we begin to follow the changing moods of Achilles or admire the wit and courage of Ulysses, we have learned to expect that somewhere in these stories of war in time and travel in space we will be told the experience of every human struggle and every human displacement. Two of our oldest metaphors tell us that all life is a battle and that all life is a journey; whether the Iliad and the Odyssey drew on this knowledge or whether this knowledge was drawn from the Iliad and the Odyssey is, in the final count, unimportant, since a book and its readers are both mirrors that reflect one another endlessly.
A book’s influence is never straightforward. Common readers, unrestricted by the rigours of academe, allow their books to dialogue with one another, to exchange meanings and metaphors, to enrich and annotate each other. In the reader’s mind, books become intertwined and intermingled, so that we no longer know whether a certain adventure belongs to Arsilaous or to Aquiles, or where Homer ends Ulysses’ adventures and the author of Sinbad takes them up again.
The scene of war, says Homer, is never only that of war: it is never only that of men acting out in the present the events of the day. It is always the scene of the past as well, a display of what men secretly once were, revealed now in their ultimate moments. Confronted with the imminence of violent death, war also confronts them with the memory of days of peace, of the happiness that life can, and should, grant us. War is both things: the experience of an awful presence and the ghost of a beloved past.
■ The Iliad (Gareth Hinds; 2019. Graphic fiction.) RFS
I did not appreciate this volume as much as Hinds’ graphic retelling of The Odyssey, which I read last year.
■ Why We Can’t Sleep (Ada Calhoun; 2020. Non-fiction.) LIB
Could we even see our newfound midlife invisibility as a source of power? In Harry Potter’s world, one of the most prized magical tools is an invisibility cloak. There are great advantages to being underestimated. Two of the best reporters I know are women in their fifties. They look so friendly and non-threatening, if you notice them at all. They can lurk in any room without usually wary people remembering to keep their guard up. Then they write devastating whistleblowing articles. The world ignores middle-aged women at its peril.
■ Vinegar Girl (Anne Tyler; 2016. Fiction.) RFS
Read as a companion to my Shrew reread. This was also “enviably easy to read,” and that’s not a criticism.
ATY Acquired this year
LIB Borrowed from library
RFS Read from shelves