February 2019 books read

  • Lethal White – Robert Galbraith, 2018 – I love the Robin and Cormoran story but I’ve already forgotten the details. I look forward to re-reading down the road.
  • The Incomplete Book of Running – Peter Sagal, 2018 – Wanted to love it… good not great.
  • The Sellout – Paul Beatty, 2015 – quotes pulled, review tdb
  • What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning will Renew our Lost Evolutionary Strength – Scott Carney, 2017 – I’ve taken a cold shower every day since about 2016 and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. Not quite the same as this for now, but it’s intriguing.
  • Door to Door : the Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation – Edward Humes, 2016 – quotes pulled, review tdb
  • The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan, 2012.
  • Miss Mapp (1922), Lucia in London (1927), Mapp and Lucia (1931), The Worshipful Lucia/Lucia’s Progress (1935), Trouble for Lucia (1939) – E. F. Benson
  • All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque (1929) – quotes pulled, review tdb

Short stories and novellas:

  • “The Miracle of Purun Baghat” – Rudyard Kipling (1894) – I read and re-read the Jungle Book stories a zillion times as a kid, but this is the one that really sticks with me as an adult. I love the depiction of the various stages of life, and the idea of age bringing purity and nobility.
  • “Souls” – Joanna Russ (1982) – Another story I first read as a {teenager? | young adult?} that haunts me years later and which I re-read every few years at least. Radegunde is both deeply humanly sympathetic – and ultimately detached from the “poor old puppies.” Like Jim Woodring’s Frank, it’s as though there something deeply true here that I can’t express or put my finger on.

The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan, 2012

Irish Writers selection. A short novel that I found remarkable, both for capturing many different voices in brief chapters, and for the technical brilliance of weaving them together in a narrative without revisiting any. It would have helped me to take notes along the way—I might re-read it at some point.

Most of the inhabitants of this small Irish town, post financial collapse, are miserable. Bobby, the first narrator and effectively the hero, has a father so bitter about his fate that he “trains himself to become a drinker.”

I can forgive him for turning piles of money into piss … I’ll never forgive him for the sulking, though, and the killing sting of his tongue. He ruined every day of our lives with it. Drunk, he was leering and silent and mostly asleep. Sober, he was a watcher, a horror of a man who missed nothing and commented on everything. Nothing was ever done right or cooked right or said right or bought right or handed to him properly or ironed straight or finished off fully with him. We couldn’t breathe right in a room with him. We couldn’t talk freely or easily.

Lily, who sleeps around unashamed and has five children who all leave her, says, “Isn’t that a fright, after a life spent blackening my soul for him, for all of them? Yerra what about it, sure wasn’t I at least the author of my own tale? And if you can say that as you depart this world, you can say a lot.”

Vasya loves to look at water:

The evening sun turns it to a glistening, dazzling thing that has no place on this dull earth except in that short time before sunset. That light is a trick: if I were to swim to it or row out to put my hand upon it, it would be gone as I approached and there would be only dark, cold water in its place.

Bridie, mourning her drowned son:

I came to a little church with a lovely name: Star of the Sea. I went in and knelt down and blessed myself and bowed my head and anyone looking on would have thought I was praying to God for my lost son. I wasn’t, I was cursing Him. You bastard, I was saying, you bastard, just because your son was killed, have we all to suffer forever? Have you not had enough revenge? And your boy only stayed dead three days. Will my boy be back on Sunday, the way yours was?

There’s also a reference to the Pixies’ Black Francis, extra-cool because he lives around here!