Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008


¶ Matins: On her train ride to Albany, Kathleen missed Sing-Sing. I told her to keep her eyes peeled, but the windows were so dirty that she was glad that she hadn’t brought a camera.

¶ Tierce: RACE STILL A PROBLEM IN US, according to American Presidential Campaign. Barack Obama dissociates himself from Rev Jeremiah Wright. (The New York Times, Front Page.)

¶ Vespers: Alone for dinner tonight, I’m tempted to make a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. Here’s a recipe, in case anyone should need such a thing.

¶ Compline: If I’ve got an excuse for not writing (much less posting) this week’s Book Review review until the tail end of Wednesday, I don’t know what it is.


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008


¶ Matins: At lunch yesterday, Édouard told me that, while he used to read the Book Review religiously, he never looks at it now, because it’s so clearly the inside job of a self-interested coterie. If it were really that precious, it would be far more interesting. In this whirlwind week, I have to ask myself why I read the Book Review, and the answer is clear. I wouldn’t read it at all, if it weren’t for this weekly feature of mine.

¶ Tierce: Good news on the goofball front: the late Virgilio Cintron’s buddies won’t be going to jail for wheeling his corpse to a Pay-O-Matic in order to cash his Social Security check.

¶ Sext: In today’s Morning Read, I came across the very pithy expression of a truth that I learned to the limit in the last presidential election: “There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.”

¶ Vespers: A treat for anyone who bothers to click through.

¶ Compline: We had theatre tickets for this evening, but I was able to make a last-minute change, freeing the evening for — in a word — stargazing. (more…)

Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008


¶ Matins: If it’s as nice a day as predicted, I might just walk up Second Avenue to Dmitri’s.

¶ Prime: A look at this week’s Book Review, at Portico.

¶ Tierce: Maureen Dowd says that Americans don’t like elitists. I’ll tell you who dislikes elitists: journalists, among other entertainers.

¶ Sext: JR writes, with an anticipation of nostalgia for bygone days that are not, in fact, quite bygone yet, about the significance of hard copy: don’t bury the CD!


Daily Office: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008


¶ Matins: Ms Cornflower is not as lucky with her new dishwasher as I have been with the new computer. Even if it didn’t work — and it does, just fine — the new computer would not flood the blue room with suds. My heart do go out.

¶ Sext: Kathleen, expects to fly on American Airlines to North Carolina this weekend, to visit her parents. I wonder if she’ll be able to get there.

¶ Vespers: After a quiet day of reading and minding the domestic front (isn’t that a nicer way of referring to “paperwork”?), I’m going to try to finish watching Ha-Buah (The Bubble), an Israeli movie that I rented the other day. Whose idea was it to print the subtitles in yellow?


Daily Office Wednesday

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

The grim redoubt of Château Gizmo.

¶ Matins: Reading The Sun Also Rises, I feel that I’m looking over Colm Tóibín’s shoulder. Compare Chapter X of the Hemingway with the Compostela pilgrimage chapter of Mr Tóibín’s very interesting “travel” book, The Sign of the Cross. Not that the latter chapter involves Pamplona.

¶ Sext: So, it turns out that willpower is a muscle, after all. You’ve got to work you’re way up to the heavy lifting. Another way of looking it would be that willpower is a habit.

¶ Vespers: A look at this week’s Book Review, at Portico.


Daily Office Monday

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Gentrification beneath Bruckner Boulevard, in the Bronx.

¶ Matins: In the space of one page, Rachel Donadio manages to reduce Literature to Logo: “It’s Not You, It’s Your Books.” I may not know whether to laugh or to cry, but I do despair.

¶ Tierce: In the paper today, two stories about the the kind of mundane change that, without paying a lot of attention, we get used to in the blink of an eye. Both, not coincidentally, forecast emptier shelves at home. Susan Dominus on The Kindle (“Snoopers on Subway, Beware Digital Books“) and David Carr on the download (“We Want It, and Waiting Is No Option “)

¶ Sext: Kathleen calls from the office: do I want to go to London in May or June? Yes! But I hope that that fix the mess at Heathrow first! (Even though we Yanks go through Terminal 3.)


Daily Office Wednesday

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008


¶ Matins: In this week’s Book Review, at Portico.

¶ Tierce: Whether it’s because I watched the 1994 BBC adaptation of Middlemarch last weekend, or because I just finished one of the more acutely unromantic chapters of The Red and the Black, the tortured account of a school trustees’ meeting at Outer Life, this morning, made me laugh as only the finest English social comedy can.

¶ Sext: Luc Sante offers an understated justification for the oversized library, at Pinakothek. Even though, having just moved house, he’s glad to have unloaded twenty-five boxes of books.

¶ Nones: My friend Yvonne has just tipped me off to an interesting site that she describes as “a Scottish lady’s ‘domestic blog’,” Cornflower. Book talk seems to be the principal interest here — bravo! — but the lady (a sometime lawyer) is also a knitter, and she has just knitted a pair of socks in the Blue Willow Pattern. Is this another message from the cosmos — re-read The Egoist, now! — or what?


Daily Office Wednesday

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

La grosse Pomme, vu du comté de la Reine. (Le nord à droite.)

¶ Matins: A look at this week’s Book Review.

¶ Tierce: Within a little more than a week — Eliot Spitzer’s scandal erupted in public only last Monday — the complexion of American politics seems to have changed, and the change is marked by two speeches, delivered, respectively, by Barack Obama and David Paterson.

And don’t miss a Great American Car Story by the Ganome.

¶ Sext: Women of the world (not to be confused with Women of the World — although most of them probably are both) discuss Eliot Spitzer’s lapses. “Bad manners,” says Nancy Lee Andrews, at one point Ringo Starr’s fiancée.

¶ Nones: Confused about which way is up in FreeMarketLand? This report in the Times, which, for all I know, may be a daily feature, does a fine job of connected all the dots with a remarkably clear coherence.


Daily Office Wednesday

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008


¶ Matins: A look at this week’s Book Review, at Portico.

¶ Tierce: Spitzer still governor; Albany paralyzed. Aw, shucks. “Albany Paralyzed” is about the happiest headline that I’ve read since I moved back to New York in 1980. Can we think of something stronger and more permanent than “paralyzed”? “Nuked,” maybe? No; “nuked” is politically incorrect. How about “razed and salted,” like Carthage?

¶ Sext: Well, that’s that. All hail Governor Paterson…

¶ Vespers: Oy, the (no) pressure! Look for the Leisure Economy.


Daily Office Wednesday

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008


¶ Matins: A look at this week’s Book Review.

¶ Prime: Two stories show the superiority of Gothamist to The New York Times for local reporting — and one of them involves a Times writer!

— Building Collapse in Harlem Stops Metro North

— Ceiling Collapse in Broadway Dings Reporter’s Friend.

¶ Sext: Which would you rather have, a dollar or a dollar-fifty? Don’t be too sure!


Daily OfficeWednesday

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008


¶ Matins: The Book Review review.

¶ Tierce: In Seventeen-Hundred-and-Fifty-Two, Columbus sailed the Ocean …. WTF??

¶ Nones: The menu for Saturday’s family luncheon is set: onion soup, boeuf bourguignonne, and Dacquoise — made to recipes from one or the other of Julia Child’s Mastering treatises.

¶ Compline: What to do with old Christmas cards? Ten ideas.


In the Book Review

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


This could easily be one of those blog entries that are all about how the writer has nothing to say, &c.

An update on “What I’m Reading” used to occupy this space. Books and reading have so extensively pervaded The Daily Blague that it seems fatuous to devote an entry to what turns out, week after week, to be a list of books that I am not reading. I want to read them, I mean to read them — but I’m not reading them. I’m reading lots of other things, things which, for one reason or another, don’t seem to fall under the rubric “What I’m Reading.” All the books on the Morning Read list, for example. And all those magazines!

And now, there’s the Daily Office. This new variety of entry is still very much in the beta stage, so I’m not calling attention to it — I’m just writing it and seeing what happens. The Daily Office is a journal that I plan to spruce up with lots of links, something that The Daily Blague has been short of lately. These weekday journal entries can hold up to eight sub-entries, each one tagged with the name of a “Canonical Hour” — more about which some other time.  Because the meat of each entry lies below the jump, it ought to be very easy to see at a glance if the entry has been updated since one’s last visit to the site.

Meanwhile, our look at this week’s Book Review:

¶ Of Crime and the River.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

In desperation, I consider a novel method of shelving books.

Five books: Isabel of Burgundy, by Aline S Taylor; The Father of All Things, by Tom Bissell; How to Read Montaigne, by Terence Cave; David Rieff’s Swimming in a Sea of Death; and A Window Across the River, by Brian Morton. What I’m really reading — devouring — is the Morton. I am almost certain that anybody who enjoys reading this blog would get a kick out of Mr Morton’s novels about bookish New Yorkers. Just before Nora, the heroine, has “the Talk” with her boyfriend, Benjamin, he disappoints her by telling her that he neglected a favor that he promised to do for her ailing aunt. The reason? He was distracted by a call from a woman who is an important character in Mr Morton’s previous novel, Starting Out in the Evening.

“That was Heather Wolfe. She used to work for Tina Brown at Talk magazine. I asked her what she’s up to now, and she said she’s helping launch a new magazine. But she was very mysterious about it. She told me to send her some clips. Maybe Tina’s starting something new. Wouldn’t that be amazing — to be writing for Tina?”

He’d never met Tina Brown, but like everyone else in the publishing world, he referred to her by her first name. She was like Madonna for intellectuals.

Meanwhile, a not very intellectual “political” issue of the Book Review.

¶ Politics, Real and Imagined.

In the Book Review/What I'm Reading

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

The most beautiful American woman, ever.

What am I reading? I seem to have passed into an alternative universe in which the question no longer means anything. I am reading from seven books most weekday mornings; on the weekends, lately, I’ve been finishing off novels. Am I ready to blame this blog for the fact that I read much less than I used to do? What I ought to blame is the Nano. I was up until two-thirty in the morning loading up a new device, in a vain attempt to get things just right. It is some sort of revenge for all my offhand dismissals of modish personal music systems, which I had “outgrown.” Ha. When I told my friend Nom de Plume how childish I was the other night (or early morning), she riposted, “I don’t know about ‘childish,’ but it seems very masculine to me.” A guy and his Nano — ouch!

Meanwhile, I’m listening to Michael Palin’s audiobook of his Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years, and learning all sorts of things while being hugely entertained on my daily walks. Names, for one thing: “Cleese” rhymes with “please,” not “geese,” and it’s “Palin” with a long “a.”  Every time I mention the audiobook to Kathleen, she says, “He’s the one I don’t like,” but this in fact always turns out to be Eric Idle, and of course it was Mr Idle’s characters whom Kathleen didn’t like.

I don’t know which Monty Python routine is my favorite, but the one that Kathleen and I quote most often is, by far, Ann Elk’s theory about the brontosaurus. “And that it is, too, Chris.”

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


While tidying up over the weekend, I got a bit drastic with the bedside pile. I am actually reading all of these books. What’s more: at the moment, I am not reading any other books. I regret having stalled on J M Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year, because it’s a very interesting book. That’s part of the problem: because of its three interlocking story lines, reading the book requires greater than ordinary attentiveness. Nancy Mitford’s two best-known novels (one volume) are there for bedtime reading.

While nothing could be more trivial, or of less general interest, than the ups and downs of my reading piles, casting the glare of publicity on the matter from week to week has proved to be instructive and salutary. I can hardly bear to buy a book at this point — all the new ones in the house are Amazon orders made weeks ago. Happily, there’s nothing in this week’s Book Review that tempts me.

¶ Death’s Army.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

readwhati0123a.jpgThe pile has been edited a bit: I’ve removed all the unopened books. The week’s big read, Beginner’s Greek, spent a night or two in the pile — no more — but never made it into a group picture. The bad thing about a treat like Beginner’s Greek is that it spoils both one’s taste and one’s appetite. It’s a good thing, I suppose, that such books don’t come along very often, because I should never get anything done if they did.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that neither the Prexy nor the Veep reads for pleasure, but — Condoleezza Rice? According to Jacob Heilbrunn’s review of Elisabeth Bumiller’s new biography, the Secretary of State was so excessively force-fed books as a child that — but I can’t bring myself to excuse or explain such an appalling failing. To give up reading for pleasure is to set one’s imagination out to pasture. It is a form of self-mutilation. Better never to have been a reader in the first place.

As for this week’s Book Review:

¶ Living with Ghosts.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008


Okey-doke: time to put a lid on this pile. Really, the idea of reading more than five or six books at a time is absurd. NO NEW BOOKS!

Looking back over the snaps that I’ve been taking of this heap since November, however, I note more change than I expected. If you’d like to check for yourself, simply click on the “Book Review” category in the left-hand sidebar, and scroll away.

The thing is, these aren’t the books that I’m reading every day. The books that I’m reading every day — every morning, after the Times — are in another pile, stacked alongside my favorite chair. I read so much of each one every weekday, and have been doing so for months now. As a result, I may get through the entirety of Aeneid and Decameron, in both cases, perhaps, before the summer! I’m still shy about this project, and have decided not to discuss it at any length until I’ve finished at least one of the six original titles. I can think of one at least that I’ll have done with by the middle of February, and possibly much sooner. But — not another word!

As for this week’s Book Review,

¶ Say What You Will.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008


The pile would be even taller if I slipped in the two books that Miss G gave me for my birthday. It’s the damnedest thing, but I can’t remember whether I’ve read V S Naipaul’s A Bend in the River.  I’m absolutely certain that I’ve read the first couple of pages — can I possibly have stopped? O age, I know thy sting. 

Interestingly, there are only two novels in this heap. The new Coetzee, which I wasn’t going to read until a critical mass of reviews convinced me that I must, and Daniel Martin, which I’ve wanted to read ever since Thanksgiving in Ste Croix.  (I’m willing to say “Sant Croy,” but writing “St Croix” is illiterate. My inner tween thrives on such problems, and it’s best to indulge the less obtrusive ones.) That hasn’t stopped me from reading three or four other novels first. The rest of it is — arduous-looking. You can see Peter Gay’s new book near the bottom. I hereby vow that I shall not open it until I’ve finished Mr Krugman’s book. A few other impetuous purchases are beginning to stale as well. Ay di me.

“Ay di me” is my latest affectation — do admit (my second) that it has been a while since I sported one. I’ve no idea what it means, beyond it’s being an Italianate expostulation that somehow found currency among the British. Which British, I don’t yet know. I’ve stolen it, as anyone can tell, from the Mitford sisters, who had it, probably, from Violet Hammersley, their mother’s impossible friend — but perhaps not. To me, “ay di me” means, “I’ve got to sit down for a minute,” but only as spoken by someone who does little or no physical work.

And just what do I call making dinner — even if it is burger night? (Well, especially if…)

As for this week’s Book Review,

¶ Islam.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008


As we begin a new year of reading, I wonder how my own book list will track the ones that appear in the Times at the end of the year. If I was looking for official validation of my judgment in 2007, the Times was not there to provide it. Each year, the Book Review selects ten best books, to which the principal critics of the daily paper add another thirty. I read only one of the Book Review’s best books (Joshua Ferris’s wonderful Then We Came To The End), and I owned only one of the daily’s thirty (Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, about the CIA). Worse, I realized that if anyone asked me for a list of the ten best books of the year, I wouldn’t be able to answer off the top of my head — although I would certainly mention Mr Ferris’s book. It occurs to me that list-building is not an activity to reserve for December.

What with the holidays, I haven’t been reading very much. The bedside pile just gets higher. What’s dispiriting isn’t so much the rising altitude itself as the incongruity between enjoying reading and feeling compelled to consume books. One instinct puts books in the pile while the other tries to knock them out. It also bothers me that there seems to be no plan behind my reading choices; it’s just one damned thing after another. Now, that’s something to work on in 2008. It’s certainly more important than deciding what the “best books” were. 

As for this week’s Book Review,

¶ Strong Opinions.

What I'm Reading/In the Book Review

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007


Not much change since last week, naturally, given the holiday. When I was young, the holidays were a great time for reading, but in those days I was strictly on the receiving end of all the goodies. Now I’ve got to cook them myself &c.

Aside from The Sportswriter, which I seem to read in odd hours while Kathleen naps, I’ve begun a few other titles, including The Father of All Things, by Tom Bissell. What was the first book that I read about Viet Nam, I wonder. It must have been Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake. I was very absorbed by the I Ching at the time, and knew all the trigrams by sight. I used to “throw” the hexagrams with Tinkertoy rods, yarrow being not only unavailable but unknown to me. (I would grow it in my garden years later, as achillea.)

What I’m really working on, though, is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, the Hercule Poirot mystery that made Agatha Christie famous in 1926. Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, this is homework: I’m preparing to read Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?, by Pierre Bayard. I’m hoping that the latter will prove to be as cheeky as How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read.

As for this week’s Book Review,

¶ A Beast in the Jungle.