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Latest reads (and serial tv)

Apologies for neglecting this site. 

I’m always reading, and I’ve watched some wonderful serial television. Let’s start with books. 

Have I mentioned that I love a train wreck? Case in point, the life of superstar television wanderer Anthony Bourdain, who killed himself — over a girl — in 2018. Newly published is the biography of Bourdain by sportswriter Charles Leershen, “Down and Out in Paradise: the Life of Anthony Bourdain.”

I inhaled this book. Leerhsen is a top notch journalist and writer. He digs deep, back to Bourdain’s “boring” childhood in Leonia, N.J. That’s one theory for Bourdain’s bad boy persona, because he was too young for Vietnam and its protests. He wanted a fight. (Yes, there’s heroin, and cocaine, and steroids…) His was not a straight path to stardom, and he gave up the love of his life to pursue it. 

This is a rich read. 

Another train wreck: a young wife in Korea is troubled by nightmares, which leads her to give up eating meat. This simple act of autonomy causes her to lose her husband, her family, and her place in the every day world. “The Vegetarian” is by Han Kang, translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith. 

Worth a read. 

Where do you find books to read? I found one on my son’s Substack, Evan’s Newsletter/EvanD/Substack. A bookseller in lower Manhattan, Evan writes about new and old books — and life — with substance and wit. I love his “Actually Pretty Good” posts about new fiction. 

In one of Evan’s posts, he called out Christopher Beha’s “The Index of Self-Destructive Acts.” This is a novel set in contemporary New York City. Columnist Frank Doyle, a society drunk, makes a racist comment about Barack Obama during a televised baseball game. Doyle’s punishment is swift: he loses his job. (He is his job.) There’s more trouble at home: wife Kit has squandered her father’s investment house; son Eddie, a veteran, makes himself penniless; daughter Margo pursues the (married) Midwestern journalist who’s assigned to write about Daddy. This is a delicious story of New York and its institutions, and a meditation on a young bride’s search for healing. 

A good long read. 

Finally, can we discuss George Eliot’s “Mill on the Floss”? I read her “Middlemarch” last summer in Vermont, on an island, with little else to do. (Bliss.) So I brought “Mill…” this year. Well! What happens to beautiful, spirited Maggie Tulliver will break your heart. I thought: that’s not fair! A few days later I realized that Eliot had laid out the truth about society’s treatment of women. Once tarnished, they will never be forgiven. 

More to come, sooner. 

Oops, I forgot to mention television. All worth a watch, in no particular order: 

“The Bear”

“The Empress” 

“The Sinner” 

 

Also in the blog

At our summer place in Quebec, I can read for hours without interruption. Recently there, I inhaled A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy, an author I read repeatedly. This one is not like his others because its heroine is not undone by men (i.e., Tess of the d’Urbervilles.) Paula Power, the only daughter of a railroad magnate,

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It’s so satisfying to be in the hands of a seasoned storyteller. In a row, I read three newly published novels written by authors who have been winning prizes and selling boatloads of books for decades. What sets their work apart? The art of storytelling: what to show, what to hold back. Dialogue, description, pace.

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I ate and drank and traveled and read my way through December and early January. Here’s what I enjoyed: Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid, which turned out to be my favorite read of the year. It’s about young lovers in an unnamed country that falls into civil war. The two must flee, leaving family behind,

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