Summer Reads, part 2

by anneMoore on July 14, 2017

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Our place in Quebec is my place to read, on the dock, in the boat, in our newly furnished living space, in a big oversized chair and ottoman in the reading loft designed for me. Unbroken hours, and quiet. No tv, no telephone, no cell, no Internet. Someone else does the cooking. Bliss.
There I inhaled Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, a magnificent work of reporting and analysis that began as a New Yorker article. Mayer details the chilling history of the Koch family, imagesindustrialists (read: polluters) bent on dismantling regulatory government. After failing to win people over to libertarianism, the family (and others attracted to their cause) put their fortunes into think tanks, universities, and political campaigns. If they couldn’t change thinking, they’d buy it. And they have. I didn’t understand, once Trump took office, why the EPA was targeted to be dismantled. Now I know. A propulsive read.
Next I turned to the third (of four) Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. They’re so rich I had to take a break; I’d read the second last summer. Such satisfying fiction! The women, images-2whom we’ve known since childhood, are in their twenties. It’s the late 1960s and Italy is roiled by demands for workers’, students’, women’s rights. Lina works in a meat processing factory. Elena is celebrated for her racy first novel. This being Naples, there’s head-turning violence and twisted devotion. (As my friend Debbie said about these books, appreciatively and with her hands, “They’re sooooo Italian.”) Studying code, Lina and her lover make a better life for themselves; Elena abandons her young daughters. There’s drama on every page.
I was eager to read China Mieville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution. Mieville is a gifted writer; I kept earmarking pages to look up words I didn’t know. Mieville is celebrated for his post-modern fantasy and science fiction so I’d hoped for a images-3compelling read; reviewers called it a “dazzling” retelling. It’s not; it’s a slog. Mieville recounts every meeting, every vote, every slight. His commentary made me smile, but the whole read I can’t recommend.
Earlier in Chicago I picked up a slim book from my piles to stick in my purse. Such a pretty book, too, with its pale pink cover: Junichiro Tanizaki’s Devils in Daylight. I’m a fan of Tanizaki, a mid-century Japanese author (1886 – 1965) whose novels detail everyday lives that go off the rails, typically because of an obsession. I loved The images-1Makioka Sisters, Naomi, Some Prefer Nettles. He has more, and I’ll read them all. Devils in Daylight is 87 pages, a novella. This is the story: A tired writer is awakened by his louche friend, who insists he join him to witness a murder foretold by a code in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Gold-Bug. (A nod to Poe will always get my attention.) The writer and friend, after a few mishaps, come upon the aftermath of the murder of a gentleman, by a beautiful woman and her servant, who are preparing the dead man’s chemical extinction. Shocking. It gets better: the friend becomes involved with the murderous woman, and asks the writer not to interfere in his certain death. Weirdly wonderful.

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