Tag: Literature

1958, Books, Fiction

The Poorhouse Fair (1958) by John Updike

Updike is a great literary stylist. Even in this very early novel, he does an excellent job. His sentences are often beautiful. And even when they are not beautiful, they are so full of detail about the person and/or the scene that they leave a vivid picture in the mind. I am prone to imagining …

1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, Books, Fiction

Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories (1962) by John Updike

This is a collection of Updike’s short stories and I feel like it might be his first collection. They range in length and quality but, on the whole, I think they are worthwhile if you like Updike as a writer.

1965, Books, Fiction

Of the Farm (1965) by John Updike

There is a genre in American drama in which a family get together or reunion builds to a emotional climax where everyone’s feelings are revealed. It is not a genre I love. I am familiar with many plays in this genre but, honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a novel in that genre …

1903, Books, Fiction

The Ambassadors (1903) by Henry James

I hate giving up on a book – I just hate it. I have a really strong completist streak in me that has helped me endure through things I’ve really disliked. Since I graduated university I can count the number of books I’ve given up on, on one hand. Usually, it’s non-fiction (such as The …

Books, RIP

RIP EL Doctorow

I got into E.L. Doctorow because he was once one of my father’s favourite American novelists. Over the years I read eight of his twelve novels – though not his most famous, Ragtime – one of his two short story collections and his play. I haven’t read any of them recently. I feel like I …

2000, Books, Fiction

Super-Cannes (2000) by J.G. Ballard

This is a provocative page turner that raises lots of questions about where late 20th century capitalism is headed. FYI, it’s also the first Ballard novel I’ve read, but I have seen both of the films that were adapted from his books. I found it entertaining and mostly provocative, but I did have a few …

1920, Books, Fiction

The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton

Scorsese’s version of this book is, in my opinion, one of his very best films and on the short list of films I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand good direction. This despite Michelle Pfeiffer’s supposedly miscast as the female lead.

1954, Books, Fiction

Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis is a laugh-out-loud novel about what it’s like to feel like a fraud teaching at a university – something I can sort of relate to – while you hate your (sort of) girlfriend, hate your boss, hate your subject matter and generally hate your life – and that hate manifests …

1953, Books, Fiction

The Ponder Heart (1953) by Eudora Welty

I’d like to believe that all my favourite funny things – Python, Kids In The Hall, Mr. Show, and numerous others – transcend time and place, and are objectively funny. I know that’s not true, as tons of people don’t like Python, for example. But I’d like to believe. And I’d like to believe it …

1939, Books, Fiction

The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck

It just so happens that I started to watch Ken Burns’ Dustbowl just as I finished this book, and contrasting the two approaches is illustrative. It’s interesting that Steinbeck makes no mention of the man-made nature of the disaster, even though he knew it was man-made. I suspect this is to help further create sympathy …

1996, Books, Fiction

Civilwarland in Bad Decline (1996) by George Saunders

I had no idea what this was. This book was bought for me as a gift because of the American Civil War painting on the cover and the gifter and I didn’t bother to read anything on the back. Anyway…

2013, Books, Non-Fiction

The Book of Legendary Lands (2013) by Umberto Eco

This is a history of human beings’ invented worlds, not specifically from fiction but rather (mostly) worlds which human beings invented to explain the unknown parts of the earth, which exploration and science hadn’t yet revealed. The chapters cover worlds such as Atlantis, Shangri La, and numerous other fabled lands. Each chapter is further supported …

1997, Books, Fiction

We Were the Mulvaneys (1997) by Joyce Carol Oates

This is one of the most emotionally devastating novels I have ever read. Unfortunately, the end of the novel feels a little rushed and slightly artificial. I don’t think I should harp too much on this because the majority of the novel is outstanding, horrific, a page turner and probably a fair allegory for the …

1989, Books, Non-Fiction

The Life of Graham Greene Volume One: 1904-1939 (1989) by Norman Sherry

Sherry’s biography of the first 35 years of Greene’s life is exhaustive, that is probably the thing to start with. If you are not a fan of Graham Greene, I cannot emphasize enough that you should not read this book.

1886, Books, Fiction

The Bostonians by Henry James (1886)

I haven’t fallen in love in the teenage / young adult sense in some time. The last time I was 26 I think. But that being said, I still think I have a good idea of what it is like. Now, I’m not trying to say love is rational, as it totally isn’t. But I’m …

1880, Books, Fiction

Washington Square (1880, Henry James)

I can’t begin to explain how annoying it is when an author makes his protagonist nothing. Virtually every time James describes Catherine in the first third of Washington Square, it is through negation: she isn’t this, she wasn’t that. Why do I care? I can’t relate to a person who is merely not this and …

1925, 2007, Books, Non-Fiction

An American Tragedy (1925) by Theodore Dreiser

How is An American Tragedy on any best of list? I don’t get it. Dreiser is not a very good writer. I mean, he’s ridiculous. Everything ever has an explanation, apparently. As human beings, we can understand every single aspect of every single action and find all the causes, both major ones and minor / …