Category Marginalia

LAWRENCE - Lady Chatterley's Lover

On constancy

Of course I would love Lady Chatterley’s Lover, of course, of course, of course. I will always be partial to restless women—restless for one reason or another—and Lady Constance Chatterley belongs now to that specific pantheon in my head, with the likes of Emma Bovary, of April Wheeler. Women who desire, women who want something and want for something—these are the people my bibliophilic heart beats heaviest for. (And, hah, not to mention their illicit loves and the series of delightfully cathartic poor judgment calls and the convoluted ways they try to make themselves happy.) [Continue reading.]

GREY — The Juliette Society

Neither porn nor romance

But Sasha Grey absolutely did not write an erotic romance in The Juliette Society; it’s more dangerous, for one, and follows more faithfully the tradition of erotica. That is: Grey’s book isn’t a romance with graphic sex scenes, which usually [tediously] involved forays into a poorly conceived BDSM culture. Sasha Grey isn’t a hanger-on of James’ [utterly frustrating] success—I am arguing that Sasha Grey, with The Juliette Society, was writing under the house of Anaïs Nin, even of Pauline Réage. [Continue reading.]

ex01 _ The Batman Shelf

Bat-crazy

I don’t take lightly the whole “Books That Changed Your Life” tag, y’all—but The Dark Knight Returns changed my fucking life. This book caused the very landscape of my reading to change—the bowing bookshelves that hold my growing collection [!] of comic books can attest to that. TDKR barreled its way through a barricade I had unintentionally built around a whole genre of literature, gave me new great things to fall in love with, and has since ensured that I will spend my last days at the poorhouse. Vengeance! Justice! Human decency! Badass machinery! Angst parties! Story lines that do not condescend, that bring everything good about the novel into a glossy book-as-object! The artistry that goes into each page, how threaded with thought these books are! And, as I’ve been saying for months now: Nothing fucking beats an aging Batman in a rearing stallion! [Continue reading.]

DOYLE — The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

“He must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary.”

Arthur Conan Doyle, in his preface to The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes: “I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary.” The insistence: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson would go, as would their stories, and would remain gone. And now: I have read all of the canon. That is: There are no more Sherlock Holmes stories for me to read, for the first time. [Continue reading.]

PROUST — Days of Reading

“Merely the noblest of distractions.”

“For myself,” Marcel Proust writes, “I only feel myself live and think in a room where everything is the creation and the language of lives profoundly different from my own, of a taste the opposite of mine, where I can rediscover nothing of my conscious thought, where my imagination is exhilarated by feeling itself plunged into the heart of the non-self.” I feel immensely giddy that I am allowed a more literal interpretation: I am in the mad throes of love with my room. The good books are better, and the blows are softened when I’m with the books that don’t like me so much. I’m savoring every moment I have in this room, and I’m looking forward to the days and nights-into-days of reading that it will host. Sure: The detritus will find a way to rise, inch across my desk and on the floor; the books will ever so surely contrive a disarray; Real Life will intrude and I’ll be too weary to even try to stop it. But—and, yes, almost a chant of mine now—I will keep reading, I will immerse myself in what Proust rather earnestly dubs as “merely the noblest of distractions”—for as long as the floors gleam, for as long as I have a clear view of every book in the room, for as long as that red chair will hold me. And even after, of course—of course. [Continue reading.]

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl, THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt, DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King

Last year’s comebacks

I got caught in a lot of hype last year, mostly of the for-the-comeback variety: Good authors who’d taken their sweet time coming out with a new book, good authors who’ve just kept on writing but managed to hit the sweeter spot this time around. I have this notion about myself that I steer clear of hype, because it’s just the publishing world lying to me, but this is obviously flawed thinking. And so I like to console myself that the comeback-hype is the better kind of hype to fall prey to—one that has basis, plus the odds are with you because you know that it’s worked for you before? It’s more infectious, too: The hype was more of the bookish internet slaying everyone with a celebratory cheer: Marisha Pessl had a new book, Donna Tartt had a new book, J.K. Rowling kicked everyone’s asses and proved she still had a good book under her belt, Stephen King wouldn’t fucking relent and just kept getting better. [Continue reading.]

KAHR — Life Lessons From Freud

Self-help as curation

It’s the curation I was curious about; someone had to wade through all those case studies and psychiatric treatises (or whatever they’re called) and fashion them into a mini-manual on, say, how to steal another man’s wife. Brett Kahr fit the bill, I found out. Life Lessons from Freud is tidy and clever, offering enough of brain hurt from Freud’s writings, with Kahr’s voice confidently (chummily, intelligently, and never condescendingly) steering the reader through it all. [Continue reading.]

MACLEAN — No Good Duke Goes Unpunished

Because I deserve December

Seems rather telling re what kind of reading year 2013 has been, I know, but: For December, I am going to read books that I really want to read. That is: I’m going to read books I’ve been saving up as treats. So out trot the Anna Campbells and the Sarah MacLeans, the Stephen Kings […]

Yolanda Reading

Calamitous

There remains shame in bewailing one’s difficulty with reading—never mind that stepping into books has always been a salve, a sanctuary for my sanity, my exhausted-with-feeling soul—more so the overwhelming gladness that a semblance of a reading life has returned, in light of all that’s happened. This is the shift, I suppose, when one belongs to a nation in mourning: Everything shall be [must be] held against that light. [Continue reading.]

HILL — NOS4A2

Quid pro quos

Important things are always at stake in NOS4A2. That’s what makes it so damned brave and satisfying, and truly horrifying. Beyond the creepy children trapped in Christmasland, more than Charlie Manx’s vendetta against Vic McQueen and the pocket of horror he’d built for himself in Christmasland, more than his sidekick who stretches the boundaries of what true inhumanity could signify, more than the fact that this book never ever pulled any punches with its oh so very damaged heroine—the disquiet and utter terror one finds in NOS4A2 is the truth that you will always have something to lose, no matter how firmly you’ve convinced yourself that nothing good has remained in you, of you, for you. [Continue reading.]