Here's what I've been reading around here lately:
I know - I may be getting out of hand but at least my bank account has been safe from handbags lately!
Coming off Light in August, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Moveigoer and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter I decided that perhaps, just perhaps, I'd had enough Southern angst for a while. So, what better place to turn to than the political intrigue, family madness and sexual perversity of ancient Rome?
I bought I, Claudius because I found it at the used book store and it is on Time's list of 100 Greatest Books. It was not what I was expecting. It's funny. It's gossipy. It was easy to get into and I enjoyed it immensely. I'm not gonna lie. It'll help if you have at least a passing knowledge of ancient Roman history. At least it'll help you keep everyone straight. And at one point I thought "Oh my God, Tiberius! Just DIE already. Geeze!"
Before reading The Epicure's Lament, I had just read The Great Man, also by Kate Christensen. While I enjoy Ms. Christensen's writing, I didn't so much like this book. I felt like it was a good idea that was never really fully developed - so it just rambled along. Overall, I found it really unsatisfying.
I'm starting to read Saul Bellow. Really, I want to read The Adventures of Augie March and Humbolt's Gift, both of which are more than 500 pages. So I started with Seize the Day, a slim novella. I think it was one of his first books. Overall, I liked the book but it didn't change my life or anything. I'm excited for other Bellow books in the future, though.
I liked The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I didn't know much about it going in (except that is is short - which suited my immediate requirements for a new book) and I've only seen excerpts from the movie. I really liked it and now I want to see the movie. Jean Brodie is an egomaniacal, narcissistic, irresponsible crazy woman! And she's in charge of young girls! If you're wondering how much damage one bad teacher can do in the name of education, this book may give you some enlightenment.
I'm not sure that I can say I liked BUtterfield 8. First of all, I've seen the movie, which I can only say is only loosely based on the book. The book is rich in historical detail and certainly sets the tone and feeling of New York after the Crash. It follows the short and tragic life of Gloria Wandrous - a party girl with a sad past and a dim future.
And then, you know, I was ready for some more Southern fiction. A Summons to Memphis won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. It tells the story of a long escaped son of a Memphis lawyer who is summoned home by his spinster sisters to prevent the re-marriage of their 80-something father. I have to say that the story was certainly familiar to me - if the source of the family's long standing hurts and bitternesses were not entirely understandable or (to my mind) reasonable. Altogether I was engrossed by the book and happily followed it through to the end, it's not a perfect book. The writing and language are entirely lovely, though.
Possession is also on Time Magazine's list and I read it with a great deal of interest and enjoyment. It intertwines the tales of 2 romances: one modern and the other between two Victorian writers that took place 100 years ago. As the modern couple researches and uncovers the heretofor undiscovered romance between the married and famous Victorian writer Randolph Ash and the minor (and previously believed to be lesbian) poet Christabel Lamotte, they fall in love with each other and discover new meaning in the writings of the authors they have devoted their professional lives to studying. As other, more notable scholars close in and try to steal the glory from their discovery, the whole thing becomes a rush to uncover the truth about Ash and Christabel and the true reaches of their long ago love affair. A very good book.