Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Books I'm reading and thinking about- murder included

A Year in Van Nuys, Depth Takes a Holiday and If You Lived Here, You'd be Home by Now, all by Sandra Tsing Loh (read years ago and greatly enjoyed- discussed recently with friends). Loh is a multi-instrumentalist who has performed on piano (see LA freeway performance art), vocals (hear her commentary on public radio shows, including Marketplace: The Loh-Down) and typewriter.*

Murder Duet: A Musical Case by Batya Gur (thinking about, read and enjoyed years ago, want to write about it but can't review this one without going through it again- a fine, complex mystery).

A Perfect Arrangement by Suzanne Berne (read recently and enjoyed, will review, suburbia gets the creeps, and maybe more!)

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (read recently, a richly developed novel of mystery, murder and families, not necessarily in that order, review on its way).

The Innocent and Death of an Englishman, by the late Magdalen Nabb, read recently. These are wonderful mysteries, though The Innocent is a tragic tale, if tempered by the joyously deep understanding and love of his people, and the quirky pragmatism, of the Florentine Marshall Guarnaccia. This has been much in my mind because a note from Cara Black really personalized the loss of this wonderful author, as did the fact that my late father and mother met in Florence.

Chronicles by Bob Dylan. I'm savoring this one- reading it remarkably slowly. I just don't want it to end. I almost never read slowly, though sometimes I read over decades. A few of Lawrence Durrell's books fit in that category, for example, but in those cases the writing reminds me of traveling through Norway: each page is so beautifully written, each sentence is such a gem, that wherever you are, there is no great hurry to go anywhere else. I've been discussing (with friends again) the Dylan-related book Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina, by David Hajdu, which I thoroughly enjoyed (in spite of the bad review by Greil Marcus, whose own books I also enjoy, but I felt this review of his was done poorly). Somehow I can't get over the fact that my wife was growing up in Chelsea Massachusetts and going to the beach right when and where Bob and Joan where picnicking (well, we haven't established actual simultaneity, but the year was the same).

The Chekhov short stories and literary crit. on Wilkie Collins mentioned in previous posts: both still in progress, both well worth it.

My Strange Quest for Mensonge: Structuralism's Hidden Hero (MSQFM) by Malcolm Bradbury. I have the oddest feeling that I somehow incorporated the entire text of this book into my memory of Dr. Criminale, also by Bradbury, so that my review of Criminale is really a review of a composite of the two books. This will require some research (or helpful feedback!!??). MSQFM is the postmodern novel that really makes an art of the wild goose chase.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the book that helped spawn the environmental movement. I've been thinking about this because of the smear campaign being perpetrated against the memory of Rachel Carson by anti-environmentalists.

No musicology.

Amazingly, I can locate every single book mentioned on this page. In my house. Now.

I'll track down and add links and pictures later. Comments are welcome!

*Sandra is the sister of a very dear friend.

Added late: almost forgot that I just started The Vice-Consul by Marguerite Duras.

Added later: I've frequently found myself discussing The Emperor of Ocean Park (TEoOP) by Stephen L. Carter (a first novel for the acclaimed legal scholar). TEoOP is one of my favorite books of recent years because, while an excellent (if not absolutely perfect) mystery, it has also set me thinking a lot about race relations, white liberals (that would be me), African Americans and the Black church(es). Carter's protagonist makes some intriguing remarks on the subject, remarks that I suspect are rooted in truth. More to come.

© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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  1. Liked your site. It's comprehensive about books, my most favourite subject. I've added yours to list of blogs I like, mentioned on my blog.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! I really enjoyed Literary Jewels. Best wishes, Jim