Monday, August 31, 2009

Mailbox Monday

. I was expecting to get Plainsong by Kent Haruf in the mail last week, which would have been the highlight of my Mailbox Monday post. But it did not get here yet. It is my book club's September choice, so I have to get cracking on it. A few other books came into my house last week: The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O'Brien (on Erica Jong's list of Top 100 novels by women) Regeneration by Pat Barker (the first book in her "Regeneration Trilogy" that ends with the Booker-winning The Ghost Road) The Murder Room by P. D. James (#12 in her Adam Dalgliesh series that I haven't even started yet, but that recently caught my attention) Trust Me by John Updike (a collection of short stories) The Falconer by John Cheever (on the All-TIME 100 best list) .

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: American Rust

. "Isaac's mother was dead five years but he hadn't stopped thinking about her." American Rust by Philipp Meyer. Interesting enough, if not a real grabber. In fact, this is my second try at starting this one. It has been sitting on my LibraryThing Early Reviewer list since January. I am going to buckle down and finish it. PS: I started two new books this week -- this one and The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. I usually have three books going at one time: one at home (Chinese Chef), one to carry around (Rust), and one audio book on my iPod (Shalimar the Clown this week). The carry around book is either a hardback without the dustjacket, or a paperback that I don't care it it gets beat up or that I put a protective cover on. I've followed this three-book system for so long, I hardly even recognize it as the fussy idiosyncrasy it is. Do other people have particular book habits? .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Challenge Update: Colorful Reading

. We are soon to enter the fourth quarter of 2009. Time to get organized if I am to accomplish a couple of reading goals by the end of the year. One of these goals is to complete the Colorful Reading Challenge. So far, I have read five of the nine books I picked for the challenge. Those books are listed here, with links to my reviews: RED: Red Square by Martin Cruz Smith (review) BLACK: Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke (mini-review) GOLD: Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Dinkelspiel, Frances (review) GREEN: Blue Planet in Green Shackles: What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom? by Vaclav Klaus (review) YELLOW: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris (review) I have four left, but I am halfway through my SILVER book, The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso. I originally picked the following books for the remaining three colors: BLUE: My Blue Notebooks: The Intimate Journal of Paris's Most Beautiful and Notorious Courtesan by Liane de Pougy WHITE: White Teeth by Zadie Smith BROWN: Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosely But I am going to make a couple of changes. For one thing, I am going to read American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham for my "WHITE" book, because that one is languishing on my guilt list. If I read it by the end of the year, I can accomplish two goals at once. Also, I am switching one of my extra colors. Instead of "BROWN" I am going to read a "RUST" book. So, "bye bye" to Bad Boy Brawly Brown, and "hello" to American Rust, which has been on my LibraryThing list even longer than the Andrew Jackson book. Another two-fer. Thanks, again, to Rebecca at Lost in Books for hosting this challenge. .

Friday, August 28, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Last Chinese Chef

. "Maggie McElroy felt her soul spiral away from her in the year following her husband's death; she felt strange wherever she was." -- The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones According to the back cover, this is a novel about "the hidden world of elite cuisine in modern China." I am reading this as my fiction choice for the Spice of Life challenge. I am particularly looking forward to it because I have been jonesing for good Chinese food lately -- one of the things I miss the most now that I don't live in San Francisco any more. .

My Life According to Literature

. I do not know who started this, but it sucked me in when I read it on We Be Reading. It will probably pop up on facebook soon enough. "Using only books you have read this year (2009), cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!" Here is my life, according to literature (links to reviews): Describe Yourself: The Innocent How do you feel: Great Expectations Describe where you currently live: The Amateur Marriage If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Atget’s Paris Your favorite form of transportation: A Yellow Raft in Blue Water Your best friend is: The Fixer You and your friends are: Kiss Kiss What’s the weather like: All Quiet on the Western Front Favorite time of day: The Mating Season If your life was a: Crime and Punishment What is life to you: The Floating Opera Your fear: Underworld What is the best advice you have to give: Water the Bamboo Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Great Notion How I would like to die: Au Revoir to All That My soul’s present condition: Mere Christianity OTHER LITERARY AUTOBIOGRAPHIES The Noisy Daisy (Please leave a comment with a link and I will add it here.) .

Thursday, August 27, 2009


. This week''s Booking Through Thursday question asks what "fluffy" books we have read recently. Looking at my list of books over on the right column, I see a lot of serious books, and not many books I would characterize as fluffy. Doctor Sally by P.G. Wodehouse probably counts. It is shorter than other Wodehouse novels I have read. It is funny and clever, but there are far fewer characters than most of them and the plot is pretty linear and simple. But still a lot of fun to read! PS: Thanks to J.G. at Hotch Pot Cafe for reminding me that this post is a definite KITTEN opportunity! .

Challenge Update: Battle of the Prizes

. Congratulations go to Caitlin at Chaotic Compendiums for finishing the Sunshine Smackdown: Battle of the Prizes. Caitlin's three challenge books, with links to her reviews, were: Sophie's Choice (National winner) Empire Falls (Pulitzer winner) The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (double-dipper) Thanks, Caitlin! Also, if you do a wrap-up post, please let us know and I will add the link. Book Psmith has also finished her National Book Award winner, The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud. Psmith's review is here. Challenge details and links to all the reviews submitted so far are on the main challenge page. There are still a few weeks to go before the challenge ends on Labor Day. And Labor Day is only the deadline for reading books -- reviews are welcome after that date. Please leave links to reviews on this post or the main challenge post. Thanks, again, to everyone who is participating!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Review: Underworld

Don DiLillo’s Underworld is an atmospheric pastiche of nuclear age anxiety. After an interminable Prologue in which the Giants beat the Dodgers for the 1952 National League pennant, the book generally traces two stories – the story of the winning homerun baseball and the story of Nick Shay. The ball passes from the kid who nabbed it at the game to a series of collectors. Shay grows from a Bronx hooligan to an executive for a large waste management company in Phoenix.

What could be an engaging story – how a juvenile crime changed the trajectory of Shay’s life – is attenuated and addled by laying out the narrative backwards. The story starts in 1992, then moves back in time in chunks until 1952. This means that events in the beginning of the book only make sense later, and characters met early on fall into place later. This is a needlessly confusing and self conscious format. It is like looking at a scrapbook backwards, figuring out how the people and events fit together.

And, of course, a backwards timeline cannot really work if there is to be any resolution of the story, because “how the story ends” would have to come at the very beginning. That would make for a boring book. So the first section raises dramatic issues that hang there through the entire book, until they are wrapped up in a lengthy Epilogue set in 1992 again.

Also confusing are the myriad characters who are all linked, but some only tangentially. Many of the connections are artificial, mere excuses for elaborate digressions. The unifying theme of waste – particularly nuclear waste and destruction – further ties these side stories together, but not in any way enjoyable. DiLillo lingers over descriptions and rumors of disfigurement and deformity caused by nuclear testing, as well as other descriptions of wasted lives.

This book is too long, too self-righteous, too slow, too dark, too garbled, and simply too trying. DiLillo has his fans, but I am not one of them.


If you would like your review of this or any other DiLillo book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will list it here.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Paul Newman

. "But they were easily put off by the parochial aspects of living in Hollywood -- the continuous obsession with money, celebrity, and the next deal. They preferred to keep a quiet space to themselves, and if that made them seem aloof to people, that was their problem." -- Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy, discussing why Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward chose to live in a renovated barn in Westport, Connecticut. This is a terrific book. It is packed with details, but written with such easy grace that it never gets bogged down. Levy's years as a film critic bring depth to the story by really analyzing Newman's movies instead of just providing the celebrity gossip personal side of the story. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. .

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mailbox Monday

. Were it not for the Book Blogger Retreat here in Portland this weekend, no books would have come into my house last week. As it is, my Mailbox Monday list is very short. It includes only the two books that I picked up from fellow bloggers at the book swap they organized: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie Resistance: A Woman's Journal of Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France by Agnes Humbert I don't even know who brought the two books I nabbed, so I have to thank the whole group. .

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Blogger Retreat

. This was the weekend of the Book Blogger Retreat here in Portland. It was terrific to meet some of my fellow bloggers and do some very fun bookish things. Huge thanks go to Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? for organizing the event. PARTICIPANTS Wendy from Caribousmom Bethany from Dreadlock Girl Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? Gabe from Reading Local Teddy from So Many precious Books, So Little Time Juli from Whimpulsive Kristen from We Be Reading Ali from Worducopia ACTIVITIES We met Friday evening for dinner at Ringler's, the McMenamin's in the Crystal Ballroom building. It was a great, casual way to all meet each other and get acquainted. Saturday morning was the tour of Powell's, which was entertaining and interesting, even for the Portlanders among us who think we "know" Powell's. For instance, I did not know that 1) there are a million books on the shelves at any time; 2) there is a huge tank under the store that catches the rainwater and regulates the flow into the sewers so as to help the city deal with the never-solved problem of its "combined sewer/overflow system"; 3) they have one of the original editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, for $35,000; and 4) someone is buried in the book column outside the 11th Avenue entrance. Thanks go to Bethany for arranging the tour! We started off Saturday afternoon with a presentation in the Rare Book Room of the Multnomah County Library. Jim Carmin showed us some amazing books and ephemera from the collection, including a couple of contemporary "art books," a letter from Charles Dickens, a book of hours woven in silk, a manuscript about a safari that is bound in lion skin, and one book from the four-volume The Birds of America set by John James Audubon. This was the highlight of the weekend for me. I was blown away. Thanks go to Ali for setting this up. After the rare books, we had a great "round table" discussion (minus the actual table) with Portland author Molly Gloss. Molly was gracious and engaging, willing to talk with us about writing, blogging, the state of the publishing industry, her experiences as an author, and her books. Her latest novel, The Hearts of Horses, is getting rave reviews and is going on my TBR shelf right away. Thanks go to Gabe for making arrangements with Molly! This was a really wonderful event and I am so glad I was here to participate. Trish took copious notes and lots of pictures -- as did several others -- so they will have very good wrap-up posts. Please visit their blogs to read more about the Book Blogger Retreat. .

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Challenge Update: Battle of the Prizes

. DONE! I am all finished with the Sunshine Smackdown: Battle of the Prizes Challenge. This is the first challenge that I have ever completed, as well as the first challenge I ever hosted. The challenge was to read three books between May 1 and Labor Day: one book that won the Pulitzer Prize, one that won the National Book Award, and one that won both. My three reviews are: 1) Advise and Consent by Allen Drury (my Pulitzer pick); 2) Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth (my National pick); and 3) The Fixer by Bernard Malamud (my double dipper). How do these compare? My choices were all mid-century winners, but different in significant ways. The Fixer is a historical novel, set in Tsarist Russia in the early 1900s. The Drury and Roth books are both "middle class realism," but A&C is a doorstop of WASP politics and G.C. is a breakout collection of short stories reveling in Jewish family life. I cannot make any big generalizations about Pulitzer winners versus National winners based on my selection of three. But they all fell within my preconceived notions of these prizes, which are that the Pulitzer tends to go to books that have popular appeal, and the National goes to books because they have some significant beyond the story. In this case, Roth's shift to a Jewish perspective on American middle-class life was revolutionary. Even if it does not seem so now, the book had an edge to it back in 1960. So, why did The Fixer win both? It certainly has an edge -- it is downright grim. But I guess it could have had some popular appeal as well because it is an incredibly moving, fast-paced story. I definitely deserved to win both prized. It is an excellent book. There is still time to finish the challenge before Labor Day. J.G. at Hotch Pot Cafe is already finished. Book Psmith recently finished and reviewed her Pulitzer pick, Olive Kitteridge. Feel free to submit your reviews with a comment here on on the main challenge page. .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Review of the Day: Blue Planet in Green Shackles


Václav Klaus is the President of the Czech Republic, a former Prime Minister of the country, and an economist by training and profession. Given his position and background, he brings an informed and interesting perspective to the issue of global warming, which he sees as a conflict between statism and freedom.

Klaus witnessed firsthand the devastation – human, economic, and environmental – caused by communism. Based on these observations, he believes that the best hope for dealing with climate change is to allow technology and innovation to thrive so that future generations can adapt to whatever changes may come. Klaus is not talking through his hat. He has researched and written about climate change and other catastrophic scenarios from an economic standpoint since at least the early 1990s. He is also well versed in the hard science aspects of the debate.

His recent book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles is a culmination of decades of analysis. In Blue Planet, Klaus argues that global warming is an issue deserving a full and honest debate. He wants to see debate on questions such as: What is the real level of global warming likely to be? Is there evidence for or against significant human contribution to current global warming? Would a warmer climate be better or worse than the present one? Can we do something about climate? He shares his own answers to these questions, solidly supported by scientific and economic evidence.

Klaus makes clear that he is not “anti-environment”; just anti-environmentalism, which he sees as the newest form of megalomaniacal central planning at the expense of human freedom. He supports scientific study of the environment, which he calls “scientific ecology,” but explains, “Even though environmentalism boasts about its scientific basis, it is, in fact, essentially a metaphysical ideology . . .”

While a few passages on economic theory get a little dry, most of this short book is pitched at an introductory level to appeal to a broad range of readers who have probably not given Klaus’s take on the subject much consideration. He is direct, concise, and pulls no punches. It is worth reading, even if just to view the issues from a different perspective.  


(If you would like your review posted here, please leave a comment with a link.)

This was my "green" pick for the Colorful Reading Challenge. .

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best Book

. This week, Booking Through Thursday asks another short questions: What is the "best" book you have read recently? I have two answers. The first is based on an objective standard; the second on a subjective standard. Objectively, the best book I've read lately is The Fixer by Bernard Malamud. Applying the "reasonable person standard" we lawyers are so fond of -- or, in this case, a "reasonable reader standard" -- Malamud's Pulitzer/National winner is a good book. Everyone should read it, and everyone who reads it will be a better person for it. Subjectively, the book that I think is the best I've read lately is Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth. Pure enjoyment. It also made me think, but it was pure enjoyment. I read both of these for my Battle of the Prizes Challenge. My review of The Fixer is here. My review of Goodbye, Columbus is here. .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Paul Newman

. "America doesn't have a national epic, but Our Town might do in a pinch." -- Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy. I've read two celebrity biographies in my life. Both autobiographies, actually: Evenings with Cary Grant and Lauren Bacall: By Myself. I've got Katharine Hepburn's Me sitting on my TBR shelf, and I really thought that would fill my lifetime quota. But then Shawn Levy came out with this: Who am I to resist a Hud-era shot of Paul Newman without a shirt? Wow. I got this one from the Internet Review of Books to do a review for the September issue. Since Levy is a Portland author, I'm hoping to post the review on Reading Local as well, as soon as IRB is finished with it. .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Blue Planet in Green Shackles

. "We are living in strange times." -- from the author's Introduction, Blue Planet in Green Shackles by Václav Klaus. "For quite some time, I have been speaking and writing about the environment in a rather unsystematic way." --Chapter 1, Blue Planet. Václav Klaus is the President of the Czech Republic, a former Prime Minister of the country, and an economist by training and profession. His perspective on climate issues is fascinating. This is my "green" pick for the Colorful Reading Challenge. .

Teaser Tuesday: Underworld

. "Maybe they used to have jazz but stopped. The had a jazz policy that became a policy of no jazz, which is much the same thing if you examine it closely." -- Underworld by Don DiLillo. Huh? Just what does that mean? Most of this book is full of that kind of grandiose, meaningless, blather. It has a zillion characters, but almost no plot. It moves generally backwards in time, so what plot there is is a puzzle to put together as information about earlier events comes around later in the book. I find it needlessly confusing and pompous. Another problem I have with this book is that it is, literally, full of sh*t. It is scatological enough to make it to my sh*t list. Not only do the characters think about the subject, they philosophize about it, saying things like, "All waste defers to sh*t. All waste aspires to the condition of sh*t." I am definitely not cut out to be a DeLillo fan. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. .

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mailbox Monday

. Three books showed up in my mailbox last week, so this is a legitimate Mailbox Monday post. In addition, I used some of my Reading Local contest winnings at Annie Bloom's Books for three other great finds. IN THE MAIL: Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy (from the Internet Review of Books) Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow (from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program) Good for the Jews by Debra Spark (from my friends at the University of Michigan Press) FROM ANNIE BLOOM'S BOOKS: The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants by Anna Pavord Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (recommended by my buddy Laura at Artscatter) Rereadings: Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love, edited by Anne Fadiman .

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Announcement: The IRB is Here!

. The August edition of the Internet Review of Books is up now and jam-packed with great reading. There are 13 non-fiction reviews, five fiction reviews, an essay by Eric Petersen on "The Pros and Cons of Net Books," and a good selection of brief reviews. I am very pleased that my review of Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger is included in this month's edition. When the September edition of the IRB comes out, I will post my review here on Rose City Reader. Until then, please visit the Internet Review of Books and read it there.

Opening Sentence of the Day: Underworld

. "He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful." -- Underworld by Don DiLillo. And we are off on an 850+ page meandering, at least a third of which I don't understand, a third I don't care about, and a third I enjoy. I just don't think I'm cut out to be a DiLillo fan. .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review of the Day: Goodbye, Columbus


Philip Roth won the 1960 National Book Award for his first book, Goodbye, Columbus, a collection of five short stories and the title novella. He went on to create an incredible body of work – building on many themes introduced in Goodbye, Columbus – publishing 30 books to date with another on the way.

In the main novella, hero Neil Klugman is home in Newark after two years in the army. He has finished college, is working in the library, and lives with his Aunt Gladys and Uncle Max in the old neighborhood. When Neil falls in love with Brenda Patimkin, the prototypical Jewish American Princess whose family has moved to the suburbs up the hill, Roth begins the examination of American Jewish life that continues through many of his books.

The title is a reference to Ohio State University Seniors saying goodbye to college, goodbye to Columbus, Ohio, but it also signifies growing up and leaving youth behind. Neil and Brenda’s relationship demonstrates the intensity of first love, as well as the disillusionment and emotional tempering that result.

The five short stories that follow vary in force and effect. “The Conversion of the Jews” is a clever piece in which a young student starts a theological argument with his teacher along the lines of, “If God is omnipotent, can he make a rock too big for him to move?” It is fast and crisp and more than a little audacious.

How Jews, particularly secular Jews, assimilated into mid-century American culture is a common Roth theme. In “Defender of the Faith,” he looks at Jews in the military, drawing in part on his own experience in the army. This story leaves questions unanswered for later pondering: Just who defended the faith? Was it the hero, Sergeant Nathan Marx, who fought the Germans in WWII? Or the new recruit, Sheldon Grossman, who demands to follow his religious practices in boot camp? Is Grossman really looking out for the Jews in the unit, or just trying to gain preferential treatment? What about Marx? This would be an excellent pick for a lit class or book club.

“Epstein” is a morality tale about adultery on the brink of the sexual revolution. Louis Epstein learns the hard way that his generation does not get to share in the sexual frolics of the post-war, folk-singing, “socially conscious” next one.

In “You Can’t Tell a Man by the Song He Sings,” Roth touches on themes he comes back to over and over, including growing up in Newark, baseball, interactions among ethnic groups, and political ideology. The idea of a high school teacher falling into the net of anti-communist committee hearing is one that Roth later developed fully in I Married a Communist, one of his Zuckerman novels.

The last story, “Eli the Fanatic,” is the most powerful of the bunch. When a group of religious Jews sets up a Yeshiva for Holocaust orphans, the secular Jews in the “modern community” of Woodenton, New Jersey want the school closed down, fearing that it will upset the delicate balance they have achieved with their secular Protestant neighbors. Poor Eli Peck gets caught in the middle, trying to negotiate between his fellow townsfolk and the school. Peck’s eventual comprehension of the past suffering of the Yeshiva Jews and the shameful position of his cohorts leads to his emotional undoing. This is a story to mull over.

Roth won several more awards after this one, including another National for Sabbath Theater, the Pulitzer for American Pastoral, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Counterlife, among others. He is a true man of letters and a real American treasure.

This was my National Book Award pick for the Battle of the Prizes Challenge.


Hotchpot Cafe

(If you would like to have your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link.)


Friday, August 14, 2009

Review of the Day: To Darkness and to Death


Julia Spencer-Fleming’s To Darkness and to Death is the fourth novel in her top-rate mystery series featuring priest-sleuth Clare Fergusson. As with the prior three installments, Clare’s vocation as the priest at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Millers Kill, New York shapes her character but not the plot.

Here, Clare gets involved in the disappearance of a young woman, not because Clare is a priest, but because she is called in as one of the volunteers on the search and rescue team. Unlike the earlier books, Fleming experiments in this one with a 24-hour format. The action starts with a pre-dawn phone call summoning the search team to look for the missing Millie van der Hoeven, local heiress and co-owner of a 250,000 acre parcel of Adirondack forest. Things take off from there, with lots of moving pieces, including multiple kidnappings, assault, cover-ups, blackmail, shady dealings, murder and mayhem.

Throughout, the romantic current between Clare and the married Chief of Police, Russ van Alstyne, still hums. Probably because of the 24-hour format, the two do not spend a lot of time together on the pages, but they are always aware of each other and their relationship makes a significant step forward before the story wraps up.

This is more thriller than who-dun-it, with the pieces ultimately falling into place – or at least coming to rest – in a pretty exciting finale. For those who prefer analysis to action, clues to chaos, this lack of actual mystery solving will be a let down after the prior books. But it is still an engaging story and Spencer-Fleming is a gifted writer.

She has a good thing going with this series, which she describes as “novels of faith and murder for readers of literary suspense.” "Faith and murder" -- you've got to love that combination!



(If you would like me to list your review, please leave a comment with a link.) .

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Author of the Day: Philip Roth

Philip Roth was born in 1933 in New Jersey, the setting of many of his books. His personal life was often fodder for his fiction, particularly his books chronicling the lives of 20th-Century American Jews. He created an alter-ego in Nathan Zucherman, the protagonist in nine novels. Another trilogy features college professor David Kepesh as the main character. Roth passed away in May 2018 at the age of 85.

Roth is a personal favorite. I intend to read all of his books. Those I have read so far are in red. Those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue.

Goodbye, Columbus: And Five Other Short Stories (1959) (National Book Award winner; reviewed here)

Letting Go (1962)

When She Was Good (1967)

Portnoy's Complaint (1969) (Modern Library’s Top 100 list)

Our Gang (1971)

The Breast (1972) (Kepesh)

The Great American Novel (1973)

My Life As a Man (1974) (proto-Zuckerman)

Reading Myself and Others (1976)

The Professor of Desire (1977) (Kepesh)

The Ghost Writer (1979) (Zuckerman)

Zuckerman Unbound (1981) (Zuckerman)

The Anatomy Lesson (1983) (Zuckerman)

The Prague Orgy (1985) (Zuckerman)

The Counterlife (1986) (Zuckerman) (National Book Critics Circle Award winner)

The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography (1988) (nonfiction)

Deception (1990)

Patrimony: A True Story (1991) (nonfiction)

Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)

Sabbath's Theater (1995) (National Book Award winner)

American Pastoral (1997) (Zuckerman) (Pulitzer Prize winner)

I Married a Communist (1998) (Zuckerman)

The Human Stain (2000) (Zuckerman) (reviewed here)

Shop Talk (2001) (nonfiction)

The Dying Animal (2001) (Kepesh)

The Plot Against America (2004) (reviewed here)

Everyman (2006)

Exit Ghost (2007) (Zuckerman)

Indignation (2008)

The Humbling (2009)

Nemesis (2010)

Last updated May 23, 2018.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Goodbye, Columbus

"Surely, I thought, the Messiah himself -- if He should ever come -- won't niggle over nickels and dimes. God willing, he'll hug and kiss." -- From "Defender of the Faith" in Goodbye, Columbus: and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth. There is reason why Roth is considered the chronicler of 20th Century American Jewish life. And why he won the National Book Award for this, his first book. I can't believe that this gem has been sitting unread on my shelf for so long. Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. .

Challenge Update: Battle of the Prizes

. J.G. from the super-duper Hotch Pot Cafe blog is the first one to complete the Sunshine Smackdown: Battle of the Prizes challenge. Congratulations, J.G.! And thank you so much for participating in the first Rose City Reader challenge. Having such talented reviewers participate made the challenge so much fun for me. The challenge runs through Labor Day, so there is still plenty of time to get your reviews in. Please remember to leave a link to your reviews on the main challenge page or on any of the update posts, including this one. I am halfway through Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus, my National Book Award pick, so will get my third review posted shortly. The three books J.G. read for the challenge are listed below, with links to her reviews. The rest of the reviews by participants are linked on the main challenge page. Olive Kitteridge (J.G.'s Pulitzer choice) The Great Fire (her National choice) The Fixer (her double dipper) .

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mailbox Monday

It is not a long Mailbox Monday list, but thanks once again to Reading Local, I had some mad money to spend on books last week. I used my contest winnings at one of my favorite local bookstores, Daedalus Books in Northwest Portland. I picked up two more P. G. Wodehouse books from the "Collector's Wodehouse" series, Doctor Sally and Nothing Serious. And Vagabond by Colette, which is on my French Connection list. .

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Goodbye, Columbus

"The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses." -- Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth This is Roth's first book and is my National Book Award pick for the Battle of the Prizes Challenge. .

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy 70th Birthday, Dad!

This is a slow blogging weekend for me because the family has gathered (from as far away as Bavaria) to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. It's a big day! .

Friday, August 7, 2009

Opening Sentence of the Day: Doctor Sally

. "The eighteenth hole at Bingley-on-Sea, that golfers' Mecca on the South Coast of England, is one of those freak holes -- a very short mashie-shot up a very steep hill off a tee screened from the clubhouse by a belt of trees." -- Doctor Sally by P. G. Wodehouse I may not be the devotee that Book Psmith is, in that I haven't dedicated my blog to P. G. Wodehouse books. But I could eat these up. Eventually, I will read them all. In a silly way, I avoid reading them because I don't want to use them up. He has 97 books or something. Even if I did read them all, by the time I did, I could start over and they would be fresh again. .

Thursday, August 6, 2009


. This week, Booking Through Thursday asks:
"What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently? (I figure it’s easier than asking your most serious book ever, because, well, it’s recent!)
I thought this would be slam-dunk easy, since I just last week finished reading Bernard Malamud's The Fixer, the grim tale of a Russian Jew falsely accused of the ritual murder of a Christian boy. Imperial-era prison, anti-Semitism, feudal justice system, and pogroms, not to mention poverty, adultery, child abuse, murder, and general violence -- it doesn't get any more serious. This one was so serious that it won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. But then I looked over my list of books that I've read in the last few months, and there are some contenders (linked to reviews): All Quiet on the Western Front (war) The Top Ten Myths of American Health Care (imminent crisis) Native America, Discovered and Conquered (ugly history) The Beggar (existential angst) Black Boy (American Hunger) (ugly history and existential angst) And I can't forget: The Letter from Death I need to go find my happy place. .

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Review: The Naked and the Dead

Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead is a mesmerizing look at Army life in WWII. Mailer tells the story of an Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon on a fictional Pacific Island. There are fewer battle scenes than expected. Most of the story is about the men on daily patrols, guard duty, and a week long patrol behind enemy lines.  The realism of Mailer's descriptions -- particularly, of what it was like to hike for days and days in the jungle carrying 60 pounds of equipment -- are riveting. What those men went through!

Mailer personalizes the characters by interposing flashbacks highlighting the pre-war lives of several of the men. He also switches the point of view among the various characters. Still, the characters are never fully developed, which, oddly, made the story more realistic. The reader gets the kind of impressionistic views of each man in the troop that the men had of each other. These men were all thrown together to serve under horrible conditions, but they had nothing in common to start with and really did not know each other.

All in all, a great book. It is long, but it is a fast read. In Mailer’s introduction to the 50th Anniversary edition he self-deprecatingly explains that the book (his first) was a best seller and was written in the flashy language of all best sellers. But it is not the language that makes the book so good, it is the story.


If you would like your review linked her, please leave a link in a comment and I will add it.


Mailer's best seller did not win any prizes, but it did make it to the Modern Library's list of Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, Radcliffe's competing list, The Book of the Month Club's "Well Stocked Bookcase" list, and Anthony Burgess's list of his favorite 99 novels.

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