WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What are you currently reading?
Prisoner, by Lia Silver. The backbone of this romantic action series is werewolves, but Silver is doing her own thing with the world building, adding in powers as well as seriously bad-ass warriors male and female. Best of all, the characterizations are complex, as you’d expect from a writer who by day is a therapist specializing in trauma and PTSD, but there is plenty of wisecracking and humor to keep the story lines from descending into grit and grue.
This is the second of her series, the first being Laura’s Wolf, though they each stand on their own.
Middlemarch, by George Eliot, reread. I’ve always admired the wisdom and complexity, but this round I’m appreciating the thread of irony that bursts into subtle humor every so often. I’ve been briefly liveblogging it over at Goodreads, sparking a bit of discussion.
• What did you recently finish reading?
My life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead. This is a pleasant, articulate exploration of George Eliot’s life and work, centering around Middlemarch, and organized loosely around Mead’s three major rereads over the course of her life. I think the book is best enjoyed by those who have read Middlemarch at least once, and possibly a biography and the letters, though I might be wrong in that.
The Augs, by G.B. Stern: her books are nearly impossible to find over on this side of the Atlantic. She was one of those smart English female writers of the front half of the twentieth century who critics called “middlebrow’ during the days when critics’ hierarchies of taste and intellectual sophistication meant something to the reading world.
A lot of them wrote mysteries, some wrote historical novels, many wrote contemporary novels. In this contemporary story set at an imaginary seaside town, one Stern demonstrates a real eye for character, especially from the child’s point of view, and from that of a single middle-aged lady.
Men of Silk, by Glenn Dynner. A careful, scholarly look at the rise of Hasidism in Poland during the 1700s, a time remarkable for its changes in that country, and subsequently. As always, seeing how mainstream political ‘necessity’ interacted with the Jews is painful, and anyone who has read history of that period is not going to find anything new. What they will find is the Jew’s-eye view of various famous and semi-famous Hasidic figures, the charlatans as well as the truly holy leaders. Traces how wisdom from the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nahman of Bretslav, among others, influenced the growing movement within Judaism. Interesting side examinations of Kabbalah and magic as practiced within the community.
The Age of Conversation, by Benedetta Craveri (trsl. Teresa Waugh).
This excellent book forms a companion for Elizabeth C. Goldsmith’s Exclusive Conversations: Craveri sets the stage, and the tone, for the evolution of the salon, focusing in on the woman who shaped the salon, and who were the leaders in devloping the art and style of conversation.
She makes a case for style and art being a way of life, an attitude infinitely seductive–and sometimes difficult to maintain. Especially when one encounters “The Other,” i.e. love and attraction.
At times I wished for more detail rather than summaries (for example, in the chapter on the Grand Mademoiselle, Craveri tells us that after she fell in love with Lauzun at age 40, the Grand Mademoiselle suffered humiliation and tragedy, but doesn’t detail the stormy arc of that relationship) .
On the other hand, some of the discussions are useful, such as why French became the language of diplomacy (and French cultural usage the style of diplomacy) in spite of the fact that Italian had long been considered the language of elite culture. Terrific notes.
What do I think I’ll read next?
I have an enormous pile of various histories and biographies here, plus Islands, by Sara Stamey. Ordinarily I have resisted anything having to do with the seventies, specifically the Vietnam war, an era I lived through. Fiction set around the issue of that time was a turnoff, until I read and really loved James Hetley’s Ghost Point. So when I saw that Stamey’s book overlapped certain aspects, while set in a wildly different milieu (from Maine to the Caribbean!) I thought, Looks good! Let’s grab it.
What about you? What are you reading, have you been reading, wanting to read next?