August 28, 2011
The Hunger Games — Suzanne Collins (2008)

I GIVE UP OKAY THIS SHIT WAS AWESOME. 

August 28, 2011
Blood Meridian — Cormac McCarthy (1985)

What’s inside: Cowboys, Indians, Mexico, dead babies, scalping, judgment, betrayal, snow, cholera, robbery, guns.

A sample: “The judge smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But rial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which wagered swallows up game, player, all” (249). 

— Katharine

August 28, 2011
The Ask — Sam Lipsyte (2010)

What’s inside: Brooklyn, White Males, their Problems, adultery, philanthropy, whatever.

A Sample: My copy of this book is at another location, but you don’t need a sample anyway, it’s not that tight.

August 20, 2011
Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy (1877)

what’s inside: death, adultery, politics, the destruction of the family.

A sample: “I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will still be the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on blaming her for my own terror, and being sorry for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no longer meaningless, as it was before, but it has an unquestionable meaning of the goodness which I have the power to put into it” (923).

August 4, 2011
Secrets and Surprises — Ann Beattie (1978)

What’s inside: Bougie couples, disintegrating relationships, New York, New Hampshire, who gets the dog, drugs, babies out of wedlock.

A Sample: “‘That’s pretty,’ he said, pointing over her shoulder. ‘What kind of bush is that?’ ‘Hibiscus,’ she said. ‘But look—what are you doing here?’ He was sitting by her on the bed. Her skin was cool, on top of her arm where his arm touched hers. The bed linen was cool, too, because the window had been open and the bush outside had shaded it from the sun. It was summer in Florida, and winter back north. He was holding her hand. Years ago he had held her hand when she was eighteen. He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. He picked up the letter with the other hand and dropped it to the floor” (171).

August 2, 2011
Herzog — Saul Bellow (1964)
What’s inside: zzzzzzzz…….
A sample: (see photo)

Herzog — Saul Bellow (1964)

What’s inside: zzzzzzzz…….

A sample: (see photo)

July 27, 2011
Remainder — Tom McCarthy (2005)

What’s inside: Money, light, blood, re-enactments, London. (All I can say about this book is that the dude at BookCourt who recommended it to me excels at his job).

A sample: “No. I'd picked up all the options, held each one like a child holding a cheap and crappy toy for a few seconds until, realizing that it’s not going to spin, make music or in any way enchant him, he puts it down again. So was bored—by people, ideas, the world: everything” (62). 

July 25, 2011
A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments — Roland Barthes (1977)

What’s inside: thoughts about what happens when a person is in love, including feelings of jealousy, anxiety, tenderness, ravishment, languor, dependency, and exile. Very French, all of it.

A sample: “In the encounter, marvel that I have found someone who, by successive touches, each one successful, unfailing, completes the painting of my hallucination; I am like a gambler whose luck cannot fail, so that his hand unfailingly lands on the little piece which immediately completes the puzzle of his desire” (198).

July 18, 2011
Girl with Curious Hair — David Foster Wallace (1989)

What’s inside: Ten stories, one as short as two pages and one as long as one hundred and fifty. Scattered throughout are historical figures, the author himself, questions of love, hate, and betrayal; the midwest, graduate creative writing programs, politics, and entertainment.

A sample: “She said ‘Love is simply a word. It joins separate things. Lyndon and I, though you would disagree, agree that we do not properly love one another anymore. Because we ceased long ago to be enough apart for a ‘love’ to span any distance. Lyndon says he shall cherish the day when love and right and wrong and responsibility, when these words, he says, are understood by you youths of America to be nothing but arrangements of distance’” (115). 

July 17, 2011
Sabbath’s Theater—Philip Roth (1995)

What’s inside: geriatric sexual escapades, ghosts, vaginas, dirty puppets, slow-burning existential despair.

A sample: “If he weren’t too old to go back to sea, if his fingers weren’t crippled, if Morty had lived and Nikki hadn’t been insane, or he hasn’t been—if there weren’t war, lunacy, perversity, sickness, imbecility, suicide, and death, chances were he’d be in a lot better shape. He’d paid the full price for art, only he hadn’t made any. He’d suffered all the old-fashioned artistic sufferings—isolation, poverty, despair, mental and physical obstruction—and nobody knew or cared. And though nobody knowing or caring was another form of artistic suffering, in his case it had no artistic meaning. He was just someone who had grown ugly, old, and embittered, one of billions” (142-3).

July 16, 2011
Goodbye, Columbus — Philip Roth (1959)

What’s inside: summer, sex, New Jersey, the effects of the war, orthodox vs. reformed vs. nothing at all.

A sample: “I sat down on a wing chair, raising some dust. it had begun to rain outside, and we could smell the fall dampness coming through the vent that was outlined at the far end of the storeroom. Brenda got up from the floor and sat down on the sofa. Her knees and Bermudas were dirty and when she pushed her hair back she dirtied her forehead. There among the disarrangement and dirt I had the strange experience of seeing us, both of us, placed among disarrangement and dirt: we looked like a young couple who had just moved into a new apartment; we had suddenly taken stock of our furniture, finances, and future, and all we could feel any pleasure about was the clean smell of outside, which reminded us we were alive, but which, in a pinch, would not feed us” (48).

July 15, 2011
The Last of Mr. Norris — Christopher Isherwood (1935)

What’s inside: nazis-on-the-rise-to-power, witticisms, poorly-kept secrets, blackmail, continental escapades, and sex!

A sample: “They smiled approvingly at these youngsters in their big, swaggering boots who were going to upset the Treaty of Versailles. They were pleased because it would soon be summer, because Hitler had promised to protect the small tradesmen, because their newspapers had told them that the good times were coming. They were suddenly proud of being blond. And they thrilled with the furtive, sensual pleasure, like schoolboys, because the Jews, their business rivals, and the marxists, a vaguely defined minority of people who didn’t concern them, had been satsfactorily found guilty of the defeat and the inflation, and were going to catch it.

   The town was full of whispers. They told of illegal midnight arrests, of prisoners tortured in the S.A. barracks, made to spit on Lenin’s picture, swallow castor oil, eat old socks” (179). 

July 13, 2011
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare (1623 (first folio print))

What’s inside: If you think you know because you’ve seen 10 Things I Hate about You, then you don’t deserve to know.

A sample: 

Kate: “I am ashamed that women are so simple

To offer war where they should kneel for peace,

Or seek for rule, supremacy, and sway,

When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.

Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,

Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,

But that our soft conditions and our hearts

Should well agree with our external parts?” (5.2.166-173).

July 12, 2011
The Odyssey—Homer (700 BC). Translated by Robert Fitzgerald.

What’s inside: cyclops, disguises, sirens, Penelope playing hard to get, Calypso, Odysseus taking the long way home.

A sample:

"Now from his breast into his eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea” (23:259-264).

July 11, 2011
The Waves — Virginia Woolf (1931)

What’s inside: eponymous waters that crash upon the shore, inner monologues, England, emotions.

What’s not inside: a narrator 

A sample: “They are all impelled by some necessity. Some miserable affair of keeping an appointment, of buying a hat, severs these beautiful human beings once so united. For myself, I have no aim. have no ambition. I will let myself be carried on by the general impulse. The surface of my mind slips along like a pale-grey stream reflecting what passes. I cannot remember my past, my nose, or the colour of my eyes, or what my general opinion of myself is. Only in moments of emergency, at a crossing, at a kerb, the wish to preserve my body springs out and seizes me and stops me, here, before this omnibus. We insist, it seems, on living” (113). 

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