"This year the books I liked best fell into two categories: the ones I read in a rush, squeezing in pages every spare moment or staying up late to finish them; and the ones I read slowly over several months, so that the books became my faithful companions. I tend to read three or four books at a time and this year what often happened is that one book would reveal itself to be a tortoise, and would live on my nightstand for weeks, while the hares (and whatever animal is between a hare and a tortoise — a cat?) raced by. As someone who gravitates toward “slow” books and movies, my sympathies lie with the tortoises, but I have to admit it was exciting to come across so many books that I couldn’t put down."
One thing that makes Roth Unbound interesting is that Pierpont was able to interview [Philip] Roth in the first years of his retirement. You can feel Roth’s reflective, relaxed state of mind as he looks back on his career, cataloging his regrets and triumphs.
Anyone who has ever passed time in a hospital will find something recognizable and true in Lore Segal’s new novel, Half The Kingdom. Outside of Aleksandar Hemon’s heartbreaking essay, “The Aquarium,” I don’t think I’ve read anything that so accurately captures the otherworldly experience of hospital life, where catastrophic situations are so frequent they become banal, or worse, bureaucratic. And yet there is nothing heartrending about Half The Kingdom, which unlike Hemon’s essay, does not focus on life’s tragic, unexpected brushes with disease and death. Instead, it’s a comic novel about old age.
I feel it in my brain, I can feel when it’s been a few hours since I’ve gone into my inbox. When I go online my brain feels like it’s sizzling. It’s not a good way to think for someone who needs to make intuitive and imaginative and memory-based connections.
Initially I had a blog because everyone told me to have a blog. And when I started, I thought what can I regularly blog about that feels like a deep enough well? And the answer was: the process of writing. The creative process itself. What it takes to do the work, what are the pitfalls and the joys, the struggles and the privileges. We do what we do alone in a room. Yet we’re struggling with the blank pages.
Because isn’t storytelling as fundamental as walking? One day when I’m clearing yet another thorny mess out of my path, I’ll see something attractive in the distance and I’ll walk right over to it without even realizing that there was an opening in the underbrush, allowing me to see it. Until that moment, I’ll be writing my sentences, one by one, hoping that they add up to something as graceful as a body in movement.
Hannah Gersen, “Playing Survivor on Novel Island”
On its most basic level, A Stone Boat is about clinging to love in the face of death, but on a deeper level, and especially in light of Solomon’s subsequent books, it’s a story about illness and identity, and how families cope when reality intrudes on their ideals. In the face of cancer, Harry and his mother cling to their simple love and their simple identities: the adored, dutiful son and the adoring, commanding mother. But cancer treatments undermine Harry’s mother’s authority, not to mention her beauty and vitality; and Harry cannot feel altogether adored or dutiful, knowing that his mother disapproves of, or at least, misunderstands, his sexual identity.
Our own Hannah Gersen reviews Andrew Solomon’s A Stone Boat.
Occupy Wall Street, Istanbul, The Standing Man, and Bartleby, The Scrivener.
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