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Recent reads, Oscar movies

I’ve been reading, reading, reading. So many wonderful books. Here’s a few I enjoyed recently.

When I Lived in Modern Times, by Linda Grant

Palestine before it was Israel? Yes, please. It’s 1946 and London native Evelyn Sert, 20, is newly orphaned. Her late mother’s beau gives her money to emigrate. “Did he really see me as the future of Jewish humanity? Or was he just getting rid of me?” Evelyn arrives on a tourist visa and settles in Tel Aviv, where she discovers a new world of scents and sun and foods and sex. She fails at field work but thrives at a beauty parlor. Evelyn falls for Johnny, a bad boy on a motorcycle who’s a native of Jerusalem and a spy. This novel read like a memoir. I felt like Evelyn took me by the hand and showed me the beauty and terror of Israel as it was forming.

Foregone, by Russell Banks

Banks writes about American men and women like no other. (My favorites are Continental Drift and The Darling.) His latest is Foregone. It tells the story of Leonard Fife, an American who fled the country during the Vietnam War, for Canada, where he became a celebrated documentarian. A film crew is in his Montreal apartment with the aim of documenting his process. He’s dying: noisily, uncomfortably. Fife doesn’t want to talk about process, he wants to talk about his life. The film crew indulges him, so they (and we) hear Fife’s story, which may or may not be true. He’s drugged. Is he confusing his story with his wife’s? This is a tale of abandonment (country, wives, children) and renewal. Like all Banks’ work, this read is complex but accessible.

Corrigan, by Caroline Blackwood 

Lady Caroline Blackwood is best known for her singular beauty and many marriages, to the painter Lucian Freud (“Girl in Bed” is in the British National Gallery) and to the poet Robert Lowell. Blackwood says it was Lowell who encouraged her novel writing. Corrigan is her last. It tells the story of Mrs. Blunt, a grieving widow who takes in a poor Irishman confined to a wheelchair. Corrigan (and his cause) is the tonic Mrs. Blunt needs to live again. It’s fun to see dainty Mrs. Blunt succeed as a farmer and “picker” of antiques. Corrigan is scam artist. Does she know? Does it matter? 

I started this post just after the Oscars were announced. I saw many films last year (at home). These are the movies that stayed with me. They made me think. 

The Sound of Metal

Shiva Baby 

A Promising Woman

Nomadland

Also in the blog

Instead of grabbing you by the throat, some books take you gently by the hand. Soothing, comfortable — ok, slow. But you’ll tote that book around like a third child and finish it, and feel sorry when you have. “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” is one of those books. A 2007 prize-winner in France, it

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Of course I’ve been reading. Newly published books left me frustrated — nicely written but tedious — so I turned to my daughter’s college humanities list and my own stacks of old books I haven’t read yet. Here goes: Dorothy B. Hughes’ In a Lonely Place. Did I want to be in the mind of

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I’m posting this out of frustration with the bland, dated advice in yesterday’s New York Times Travel section. A couple celebrating their 25th anniversary plans to spend a few days in Chicago in early December. What to do, where to go? Agreed. It will be cold. Let’s review the reasons to visit Chicago any time

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