Staff Book Suggestions Autumn 2019
(Library of Congress PZ4.S64231 Au 2017)
Autumn is the first of a quartet to span the four seasons. Intensely divided England during the months following the Brexit vote. The protagonist is an art lecturer named Elisabeth Demand who is facing the loss of two things she cherishes: human decency and the elderly neighbor Daniel, who was her unofficial babysitter and unconventional kindred spirit from her childhood. With all the emotional adjustments happening within her, her family, and her environment, she quickly learns that the veil of human decency can easily be swept away but her memories of childhood and her determination to be kind keep her strong and compassionate.
(Library of Congress PZ4 .B9666 Mi 2018)
It is no surprise that this book won the Man Booker in 2018 (along with many other prizes). A novel of chatter, hearsay, and calculated quietness. Burns creates a place full of fear, misjudgment, misunderstanding, tradition, and hope to be your true self. Beautifully crafted with characters, environments and dreams that will long live with you (and haunt you) after you put the book down.
(Library of Congress PZ7 .N25 Li 2019)
A valentine of sorts, to a period that has been getting a lot of love in pop culture these days: the 1980s. Certainly, it reminds me of the 1986 classic Pretty in Pink except the primary focus stays on the outcasts and their love and activism (as well as the subversive glitter of so many gay icons). This narrative takes on a lot: questioning queerness, immigrating to the US from Iran in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, familial and romantic relationships, the AIDS crisis, and finding out what it means to love and be loved. Highly recommended for teens and adults.
(Library of Congress Call number TBD)
The 1954 novel Le regard du roi (translated here as The Radiance of the King) is considered a masterpiece of Francophone African literature. I came upon this fascinating book by chance, wanting in a general way to read more African fiction and intrigued by the promise of an introduction by the late Toni Morrison (originally written in 2001). The story is told from the perspective of Clarence, a white man who has come to Africa and fallen on hard times. In debt and repudiated by the white community, Clarence resolves, rather vaguely, to seek employment with the king, a figure shrouded in grandeur and mystery he does not understand. An old beggar takes Clarence under his wing, and together they journey to “the South,” where the beggar, by turns comical and sinister, assures him the king will come. Someday. Clarence’s Kafka-esque journey, his inability or refusal to understand what is happening around him in a land not his own, reimagines the literary cliché of the white man’s journey into Africa, turning it on its head. Although scholars have debated whether Guinean author Camara Laye had full authorial control while writing this novel, reading it as an African subversion of a classic colonial European trope, which was Morrison’s interpretation, is immensely rewarding.
I am on an Ann Patchett kick:
(Library of Congress CT275.P37885 A3 2013)
2013: essays on the craft of writing, love, friendship art.
(Library of Congress PZ4.P294 Ru 2007)
2007: absorbing novel about family and politics.
(Library of Congress PZ4.P294 Pa)
1992: notable fiction.
(Library of Congress CT1098.A73 K75 2018)
Philosophy is not my thing. Does that slang convey my ignorance? I mean it to. I have no head for philosophical thought. It’s too wispy, I can’t grasp it and hold it. I’ve wondered about Arendt’s philosophy for some time but my natural disinclination to read this subject has hindered me. When I glanced through this graphic novel biography I was hooked, and this gave me an understanding of Arendt’s thought as well as her life. Would a philo-philosophy reader find it too simplistic? There were more footnotes in tiny print than one would expect in a book like this. Arendt knew everyone who was any intellectual, and while I knew most, I found it helpful. The book held heartbreaking moments, in particular Walter Benjamin’s decision in the south of France in 1940. I am interested to know what others think of Krimstein’s handling of Arendt’s relationship with Heidegger. If you have an opinion, let me know.
(Library of Congress PZ4.F356 My 2012)
As our days here in Boston get shorter, darker, and chillier, I’ve been seeking wrapped-in-a-blanket-with-a-mug-of-tea cozy books. As I think everyone would agree: the coziest book in the world is Pride and Prejudice. The second coziest book, however, just might be My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante from the Neapolitan Quartet. In the words of John Freeman of The Australian, “Imagine if Jane Austen got angry and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.” Now, I don’t know if I’d describe My Brilliant Friend as explosive, but its slow burn surely did warm me up. It is a remarkable portrayal of an intimate female friendship that provides space for all its inherent complexity. Escape from the Northeastern chill into the warm bay of Naples for just a few hundred pages and see if you can stop yourself from rushing out to pick up the sequel.