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Peter Cameron
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(The Hogarth Press, 1978) Another dark, disturbing and idiosyncratically brilliant book by this fascinating writer. A Heavy Feather is self-defined on the half-title page thusly: This is the story of Almayer Jenkin's progress through life. "You start alone, you finish alone, " she says. "It's fine to be alone, it's... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2018 at extreme legibility
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(George H. Doran, 1918) A slight and silly but charming book set in London during WWI. Patricia Brent, an intelligent and resourceful young lady, is resigned to her fate as a spinster although she is still in her twenties. She lives as a "paying guest" in a rooming house along... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2018 at extreme legibility
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(Riverhead, 2018) Sigrid had told me a year or so ago that she was working on a novel about a woman who inherits a Great Dane after the dog's owner, a friend of the woman's, dies. This sounded like a promising premise for a novel, so I felt predisposed to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2018 at extreme legibility
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(Joan Kahn/St. Martin's Press, 1983) I've read and enjoyed many books by Penelope Mortimer (The Pumpkin Eater, My Friends Say It's Bulletproof, The Home, A Villa in Summer, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting, Saturday Lunch at the Browning's), and I think I liked this one least of all. In fact, I found... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at extreme legibility
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Chatto & Windus/Hogarth Press, 1983 I had very much admired two other books by John Hopkins, which I had read many years ago: Tangier Buzzless Flies and The Tanger Diaries 1962 - 1979, a non-fictional and fictional account of the time Hopkins spent in Moroccoo in the '60s and '70s.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at extreme legibility
Hogarth Press, 1974 Another fascinating book by this interesting and idiosyncratic writer; I think that I liked this best of the three I have read. There is something antiseptically bracing about A Source of Embarrassment that makes reading it both disturbing and delightful. The source of embarrassment is a middle-aged... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at extreme legibility
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New York Review of Books, 2017 (originally published by Dutton in 1988 as The House of Fear) In 1940, Leonara Carrington was living with her lover, Max Ernst, in Provence. When the Nazis invaded France, Ernst was sent to a concentration camp and Carrington "suffered a psychotic break." This memoir... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at extreme legibility
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Timber Press, 2005 I was intrigued by this (authorized, I think) biography of the English 20th-century writer Beverly Nichols. It follows Nichols from his birth at the turn of the century to his death in 1983. Nichols was extremely prolific, publishing more than 50 books during his lifetime, which included... Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2018 at extreme legibility
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(Erstwhile Press, 1979) This book is pretty much entirely devoted to John Valentine's sexual encounters with teenage boys (the youngest is 12). His sexual obsession with boys began while he was in high school, when he slept with many of his friends and often fooled around with them. He can't... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Norton, 2016) This new novel by a writer I have long admired is divided into three distinct parts. I loved the first two and did not like the third section very much at all, so the book was ultimately disappointing. The main character of this novel is Gustave Perl. He... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Virago Modern Classics, 1985) This book was originally published in 1961 by Anthony Blond Ltd. It is the story of Josephine, a young woman who has a "nervous breakdown" while a student at Oxford and is sent to a "mental asylum." Her therapy there seems to be mostly confined to... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Harcourt Brace, 1956) That Uncertain Feeling is Amis' s second novel, published a few years after Lucky Jim. It's a comedy in much the same vein, about the misadventures, professional and romantic, of a young Welshman. John Lewis is married to an unsentimental and practical woman names Jean. They have... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(University of Wisconsin Press, 1999) I've had this book by my old friend Jaime Manrique on my shelf for many years, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. The eminent maricones Jaime writes about (in separate essays ) are himself, Manuel Puig, Reinaldo Arenas, Federico Garcia Lorca,... Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963) This novella (the title novella in this book of several) by a British writer was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in the US, and The Hogarth Press in the UK, in 1963. I had never head of A. L. Baker (a woman) . Apparently, she published... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Secker and Warburg, 1973) I didn't manage to finish this book, but I read more than 300 of its 400 pages before I gave up. It's a messy, poorly conceived and paced novel that follows two characters who are distantly related: Hamo, a middle-aged botanist who has developed a new... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Little, Brown, 2006) A smart, quirky book, fun and interesting to read, but ultimately disappointing. The Thin Place is set in, and mostly about, the small town of Verennes, which seems to be in northern New York near the Canadian border. It describes and follows the lives of many of... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Blond and Briggs, 1976) A very unusual book. A memoir in the form of a novel, in which Lehmann exhustively and in great detail describes (just about) all of his sexual experiences with boys and men before, during, and after WWII. Most of the book is set in Vienna, where... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986) I think I might have liked this best of all the Purdy novels I've read -- it's less gory and violent, and the book deals with archetypes in a very tender and original way. Chad Coultas was born to a wealthy and distinguished family in Yellow... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(New Directions, 1958) Mishima's novel/memoir about growing up in war-time (and post-) Japan. A boy with a sickly constitution, the young Mishima lives with, and is cared for by, his doting , and often ailing, grandmother. As a child, he develops an obsession with images of the tortured St. Sebastian,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Europa, 2016 ) This is a novel about the final years in Thomas Hardy's life. It centers around a theatrical production of Tess of the d'Urbervilles that is being produced by a local amateur company. Hardy develops a romantic obsession with the leading lady, a beautiful woman named Gertrude Bugler,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) A memoir/(auto)biogrpahy of the Ephrussis, a wealthy European Jewish family, tracing their history from 1860 to the present time by following a collection of 264 pieces of netsuke, one of their many fabulous possessions. The collection was originally acquired by Charles Ephrussis in Paris in... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Hogarth Press, 1964, originally published 1946) I've been trying for a while to read a Henry Green novel. I read Loving in college and since then have tried and failed to read Doting, Blindness, and one other -- perhaps Partygoing. But I found Back to be the most accessible and... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) I saw this book on my shelf and realized that 13 years have passed since I first read it as a judge for the National Book Awards in 2003 (it won). I remembered being intrigued, moved, and impressed by it then and decided to revisit... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Bloomsbury USA, 2015) I've been intrigued by Barbara Trapido ever since her name appeared in close proximity to mine in an online literature map that arranges authors of similar sensibilities near to on another. Perhaps because I read Juggling with a bit of hiatus between the first third and second... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2017 at extreme legibility
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(Doubleday Doran & Company, 1939) I bought this book because Glenway Wescott somewhere claimed that it was the best novel of his time. It isn't a very good a novel at all, but one can understand what about it may have impressed and interested Wescott. A young Englishman, of a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2016 at extreme legibility