Since my last annotated list, I’ve read ten books, for a total of 212. I am currently reading Ruth Klüger’s Still Alive, “an unforgiving memoir of growing up Jewish in Nazi-occupied Vienna and escaping death in a concentration camp.” (NYT, October 16, 2020)
■ Lakewood (Megan Giddings; 2020. Fiction.) LIB
Terrific premise; lackluster prose. Review here.
■ Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips; 2019. Fiction.) RFS
This, on the other hand, was gorgeously told. Review here.
■ Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler; 1993. Fiction.) RFS
Ordered the sequel after only three chapters. Related article about this prescient novel here.
■ On Immunity: An Inoculation (Eula Biss; 2014. Non-fiction.) ATY
The following passage (Chicago Tribune; September 1, 2020) prompted me to pick up some of Biss’ work:
To read Eula Biss is to remind yourself that you are relatively illiterate, have never had a clear thought in your life, can’t compose a decent sentence if you tried and should probably just shut up and go into marketing already. Or so I’ve heard. Is this the smartest writer in the Chicago area right now, on this day, in the late summer of 2020? Years ago, before Aleksandar Hemon left Chicago to teach at Princeton University, there may have been an argument. This is a parlor game, after all. But still, who else in the Chicago area, sentence for sentence, thought for thought, writes with more confidence, accessibility and provocation than Eula Biss?
For a number of (perhaps obvious) reasons, I began with On Immunity. She’s remarkable. Review here; interview here.
■ Theory of Bastards (Audrey Schulman; 2014. Fiction.) RFS
Review here. No question, one of the most memorable books I’ve read this year.
■ Devolution (Max Brooks; 2020. Fiction.) ATY
Well, it’s no World War Z, but it was a pleasant enough evening of reading. Review here.
■ New Boy (Tracy Chevalier; 2017. Fiction.) RFS
Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, this retelling of Othello is set in an elementary school. While some may think the premise strains credulity , I think it works well, almost too well.
■ Miracle Creek (Angie Kim; 2019. Fiction.) RFS
This appeared on a number of best-of lists last year. While I thought it was an engaging courtroom drama, I’m not sure it reached the heights its appearance on those lists suggests.
■ Class Trip (Emmanuel Carrère; 1999. Fiction.) RFS
The last time I was this unsettled by a work of fiction was on rereading Turn of the Screw.
■ Fen (Caryl Churchill; 1983. Drama.) ATY
Read to prepare for the third “Theatre & Thought” series presented by the Court Theatre and the University of Chicago, Caryl Churchill’s Fen and the Dramaturgical Process.
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