May 27, 2004
18. Will, Grace Tiffany
The first of what I imagine will be many books I'll read on my lunch hour at work. Grace Tiffany is apparently a professor at Western Michigan and a Shakespeare historian. Don't let that fool you though, Will is not a scholarly work, but a rather light historical novel about Shakespeare. I enjoyed it, but I have a feeling there are better versions of similar stories out there.
Tiffany focuses primarily on Shakespeare's relationship with his wife, and how events in his real life may or may not have influenced the plays he wrote. Interestingly, her first novel, My Father Had a Daughter was apparently written from the perspective of Judith Shakespeare, who also appears in Will. I'd be curious to read it. She writes well enough, but it's sort of fluffy, not the sort of thing that hangs around a lot longer than a few days after you finish it.
May 23, 2004
17. Billie's Ghost, Chad Hautmann
Free books are a major perk of my new job--that much I knew going into it. What I didn't know was that occasionally advance proof copies of new books come through, sometimes months before they're published. Plume is publishing Billie's Ghost in November of this year, but I was lucky enough to get a copy during a marketing meeting this week. (Of course, as it turns out, Plume is reprinting the novel--apparently it came out a couple of years ago from a small press.)
Anyway, the book itself treads that fine line between literary spec fic and magical realism. The main character, Casey, is a widower who may or may not be haunted by the ghost of Billie Holiday. Whether she's a figment of his depressed imagination or not, she serves to help him get over his wife's sudden death. The book has a great, moody feel to it. It's not perfect, at times it feels a little fractured and uneven, but it's a short, involving read. It's worth keeping an eye out for it when it comes out in November.
May 17, 2004
16. Women and Writing, Virginia Woolf
I have this strange tendency to sometimes read a writer's nonfiction work before ever getting around to their fiction (see also, Ursula K. LeGuin). I bought this book while I was still in school and on a feminist critical theory kick, but never got around to reading it.
Woolf had some interesting ideas of what good writing was, and seemed devoted to some cold, ethereal, abstract notion of Art as separate from the real world. Still, whether or not I agree with her aesthetics, she has some interesting things to say about women writers from a historical perspective. Apparently one of her favorites was Jane Austen, along with the Bronte sisters. (I suppose she and I would agree on that point, at least.)
This book is a small one, and mostly served to whet my appetite for the subject once again--might be time for me to go digging through my old lit textbooks...
May 12, 2004
15. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
Somebody (I think it might've been Julie) described Atwood as a stylemonkey. And she is, she's very stylistic, but I'd forgotten how much I love it.
I felt like I was reading this novel on two levels, first as a reader, following the story and enjoying it immensely, and second as a writer, taking it apart line by line to see how it was put together, almost like a mechanic. The problem is in trying to figure out how to use the parts now lying around me to make something new.
I never fail to be intrigued by how authors convey information to their readers, and sometimes in Atwood, it's so subtle, I'd find myself knowing something about the characters or the storyline, without having a single solitary idea of when or how she'd told me that. She tells the story between the lines, and I would love to learn how to do that.
May 05, 2004
14. Persuasion, Jane Austen
I think Mer has said this is her favorite Jane Austen book. I get that. I so get that. What a marvelous book! Austen really was a brilliant satirist, to the point that she manages to even poke fun of her hero and heroine without losing any of the romantic impact. And what romantic impact! Maybe it's because I'm closer to Anne Elliot's age than to Elizabeth Bennett's, but I was much more drawn in to this story.
I admit, I'm a little puzzled by the last paragraph, which essentially seemed to say that they all lived happily ever after, except for being afraid that a war would start. It seems an odd way to end the story, as if she couldn't resist throwing that in to keep it from being a completely happy ending.
In any case, definitely worth a reread, and definitely a book I'd like to own at some point.