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What are you reading?


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Thanks for all the suggestions. We should have our own Book of the Month Club :)

I had a lovely reading list for summer, and I never got to it. My reward to myself for finishing my own book was to read and I went out and bought: "Atonement," "Snow Falling on Cedars" (I'd missed it when it was new), "The Lovely Bones," "The Doctor's House," and two collections of short stories. And I still haven't finished Andrew Solomon's "The Noonday Demons" that a friend gave me for Christmas!

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Must put in a good word for a warhorse I re-read earlier this summer, Kathleen Winsor's combustible "Forever Amber." It's a romance about the picaresque life and times of a ruthless Restoration adventuress, improbably named Amber, and all I can say is, she makes Manon look like Sister Wendy. How this one slipped by MacMillan, I'll never know. She's a farmer's daughter (not really a farmer's daughter, actually, her parents were really toffs tragically separated during the Civil War – but I can say no more), who goes through an impressive list of men en route to a fortune, a title, and the bed of King Charles II, although she nurses a yen for privateering aristo Bruce Carlton.

Miss Winsor's earnest attempts at period accuracy are amusingly juxtaposed with blatant anachronisms – Amber's favorite exclamation is "Marry come up!" while the King favors "Odsfish!" but people also say things like "Thanks a million!", a phrase no doubt coined by Pope. The Earl of Rochester shows up briefly and says cynical things. The Duke of Buckingham plots, along with everyone else. I adored it.

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"Forever Amber" would make a wonderful MacMillan ballet, I agree. I can't believe you unearthed that. When I was growing up, my mother had a "secretary" -- a desk with a glass bookcase attached. It was locked, but the key was in the lock. (They trusted me. ) In it were my aunt's medical textbooks, and, among other "grown up books" which I was not allowed to read -- "Forever Amber." Probably a first edition. When I did finally read it, I had read so much that it was no longer shocking. Sigh. I always felt cheated.

I wonder who could choreograph photoguy's code breaking book? :)

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Probably the same courageous fellow who tackles "Seabiscuit."

I found my copy of "Amber" years ago in a bin at St. Vincent de Paul's – the local branch used to have an extensive collection of old books. I did hear that it once caused great scandal, although it packs no such punch today, needless to say. I have a weakness for the sort of period book in the Edna Ferber manner where the heroine has adventures, wears pretty clothes, and eats lots of interesting meals, all of which are described in exhaustive detail. They don't write them like that any more. It's a chick thing, I suppose.

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I'm reading Lincoln Kirstein's Lay This Laurel and comparing and contrasting it with Peter Burchard's One Gallant Rush and Luis Emilio's A Brave Black Regiment, all histories of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War. For additional information, I'm also looking through Edmund Wilson's irritatingly underinformed and overopinionated Patriotic Gore.:)

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Hey, he was primarily a literary critic, not a historian. I admit the book is flawed, and there are some odd lacunae (Lanier and no Dickinson?) However, he pointed me toward the diaries of Sarah Morgan and Mary Chesnut, among other fascinating items (his remarks about Mrs. Chesnut's diary are remarkably prescient, especially in view of the edition he was working from). The chapter on Justice Holmes was splendid, I thought. And at least with Wilson his opinions are Out There – he has an agenda and you know up front what it is.

Robert Lowell wrote a beautiful poem about Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th – it's in "For the Union Dead." I think Kirstein mentions it.

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Well, in his defense, he wasn't so much waving the bloody shirt as expressing what in his circle would have been an unfashionable anti-centralized government view. (He was born in New Jersey, wrote for The New Republic and The New Yorker, excuse me if I'm telling you old news.) His sentiments may have been colored by his tussle with the IRS over his tendency to forget to pay his taxes. Apparently he really didn't intend to evade them – just a blind spot. :) So when he wrote the book, the views he expressed actually weren't getting all that much play (and I agree that one hears far too much of it these days). At an earlier point in his career, Wilson might have noted, for example, that the South benefited more than any other part of the country from the evil centralized Communistic New Deal and received other forms of largesse from the wicked Feds, but I guess he was too fired up. Aristocratic and overopinionated --well, yes. (Apparently it was quite common to overhear him in the offices of The New Yorker sharing comments like "Unreadable!" at the top of his lungs.)

Sorry for the lengthy response. I admire Wilson greatly, as you might gather.

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While I admire a great deal of Edmund Wilson's output, Patriotic Gore is not a work I fancy. I am well aware of his antecedents and education, as well as his employment history. This particular work exhibits the tendency of some critics to underresearch a topic and overruminate it. Sources available at the time were left ignored, historical events are simply mistold, and testifies to a bias à la Fernando Wood, the NYC Mayor who espoused the idea of his city's secession and declaration as an open city, so it could profit from both sides. (Which it did anyway)

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I am reading girl in the mirror A book about moms and daughters in the years of adolescence.

Perfect for a lot of us moms on board:) it's about peer influences, "raging" hormones, the girls need to "seperate" from mom, and the big one "parental control"

It is co-authored by mom's of adolescent daughters.

Hoping to help "my journey and hers" a bit easier and smoother than mine was.;)

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What a great thread! So many of you mentioned old favorites, esp. Jane Austen and Chesterton. My husband and I read Austen's books at the same time - we have two copies of all her novels - he's as big a fan as I of her works. We've both read them many times.

I'm afraid I'm stuck with many required reading books for school but in between them, I've recently read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" - great for lovers of anthropology, history and politics.

Reread "Good King Harry" by Denise Giardina, a historical novel about King Henry V. He was the people's king, having been thrust into a post he didn't want or enjoy. He also was the king who put an end to chivalry and the reasons why he did so were compelling and still have ramifications. Great book, engrossing. In fact, all her books are intriguing. Her "Saints & Villains" still is on my top 5 list of contemporary books.

Other favorite rereads include the Anne of Green Gables series (dirac, I think they stand the test of time), and the Betsy-Tacy children's series by Maud Hart Lovelace. My sister gave them to me as a wedding present 26 years ago. We grew up reading them. I continue to reread these much loved books.

And then there's "War & Peace" by Tolstoy. I read it once every decade. (I'm due in two more years). That book represents my evolving maturity; it seems that with each reread I focus on something entirely new. As a 20 year old, it was the romance, as a 30 year old it was the war, as a 40 year old it was family. I suspect I'll understand and like the elders far more when I read it as a 50 year old.

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i first read "Jane Eyre" as a young teenager and was of course madly in love with it; years later, on yet another re-reading, looked again at this phrase and didn't love it so much anymore. i don 't have it in front of me but it is in the very last chapter, where, when talking about adele's future she says something to the effect of "as she grew, a good sound English education corrected in large measure her French defects". eww. does anyone have a book that they once loved and then decided they didn't?

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Mme. Hermine, thanks for reminding me of that line from "Jane Eyre." Well, all eras have their prejudices, don't they? :) "Jane Eyre" was one of my favorites when I was growing up, and it still is, but I know what you're talking about. I'm still a sucker for lines such as "Reader, I married him," though.

It did give me pause, as an adult, to reflect that the only apparent way Brontë could devise to make Mr. Rochester into husband material was to blind and cripple him, but that's what it takes with some guys, I guess.

In high school I was very impressed with Henry Miller. Not any more.

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Mme. Hermine, read "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys. She wrote it as the life story of Bertha (whom she calls Antoinette), the first Mrs. Rochester. It's an entirely new slant on Mr. Rochester. After reading it, I couldn't enjoy "Jane Eyre" again myself.

I remember eating up Herman Hesse's writings as a young teen but feeling embarrassed about it later.

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"Oliver Twist" and "Jane Eyre" were my first "grown up" books -- I read them when I was 9, had read everything for children in the library, and was viewed not old enough for anything else. Ah, the 19th century. Childproof books. I can't view either book objectively. I loved "Jane" more than "Oliver," and I'd still say that Jane was entitled to her patriotism :) I'm sure her French counterpart would say something quite similar, in reverse! Something about sauces and religions, say.

Mme. Hermine, I think one of the pleasures of life is rereading old books -- once a decade is a great idea. I remember when I re-read "Wuthering Heights" 20 years after my first read, as a teenager, I was stunned by how different my perception was. I (and I think many girls) turned Heathcliff into a romantic hero, totally ignoring his nasty side. At 36, when I reread it, I had become totally bourgeois. "Stay with Edgar! He's got the big house, the china....."

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That's very true about Heathcliff. In the novel, he's a genuine brute – scary. Emily had a far more unflinching imagination than Charlotte. I saw the movie before I read the book, and I didn't really see the novel's Heathcliff until I read it years later – I saw Laurence Olivier, more sinned against than sinning (and Olivier in his youth had the melancholy regard of a Jersey cow whose foot is bothering her. You just knew he wasn't going to hurt anybody).

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Absolutely. Yet I fell in love with Heathcliff with the same heart as I did with Mr. Rochester -- whose creator told you, on every page, that her hero was outstandingly ugly.

Kay Jamison, in "Touched with Fire" (her consideration of the coincidence of manic-depressive illness with genius) postulates that all three Bronte sisters wrote about dear brother Bram. Charlotte's image of him was formed when he was younger, with a milder case of the disorder; Emily portrays him, as Heathcliff, when he's in full throttle, but still has moments when you think you can save him; and by the time Anne got to him, she was disguisted -- I forget the name of the Despicable Husband in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall -- and you get a character with absolutely no redeeming social value.

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I just finished Anne Edwards' new biography of Maria Callas. I always enjoy her writing, and as she actually knows something about music, this was a nice break for me.....along the same lines is Molto Agitato, a book about the Metropolitan Opera (of course I got it for the title alone...)

Earlier this summer I reread Fonteyn's Magic of Dance (I always am struck by the good illustrations chosen for this book)

Alexandra's mention of Touched by Fire (an excellent, excellent book) always reminds me of another favourite:

Born under Saturn; the character and conduct of artists....by Rudolf and Margot Wittkower.....

glad to hear that we are all reading and supporting our local libraries ;)

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I'm reminded of Stella Gibbons' Mr. Mybug, a character in her book "Cold Comfort Farm," who is convinced that Branwell actually wrote the sisters' novels, on the apparent theory that someone so troublesome must have been creative. (Another wonderful book, incidentally.)

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I have read "Jane Eyre" as a teen-ager but don't especially remember that line about French manners- perhaps it's time to read it again! :) (Actually it reminds me of the Captain Hornblower books by C.S. Forester, it became quite amusing to read all those comments about those French with their nice ships and their lousy, undisciplined sailors...)

A Bronte-related book about which my opinion changed a little bit was a biography of Emily Bronte by Jeanne Champion. I had read it when I was 12, just after reading "Wuthering heights" at my school's library (on the advice of a friend who had told me it was a "good frightening book"). I had loved both, and reading the biography made me read also "Jane Eyre", "The professor", "Agnes Grey", "Villette", "Shirley", some poems by Emily and "The tenant of Wildfell Hall" in the two following years (some of them were really hard then to find in French translation- they were re-published recently). And also a biography of Branwell Bronte by Daphne du Maurier, and one of Charlotte by Margot Peters which were quite interesting. But reading Champion's biography against later, I found its style a bit too melodramatic.

Also as a teen-ager I used to read a lot of sci-fi, and especially tenths of books by Asimov, but when re-reading some of his books I really liked it less. On the other hand, Matheson's short stories stood well the test of time.

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One series of books that I loved as a teenager were Hugh Walpole's "Rogue Herries" books. It traced a family in England for two centuries, and I loved the idea of that. There were four of them, and I'd read them, and then start again, over and over. When I reread the first one about ten years ago, I couldn't read more than a chapter. It was very sad.

(I was also an Anne of Green Gables fan. I haven't read them in years, because I memorized them. And also the Little Colonel series -- NOTHING like that *&^&$%# Shirley Temple movie. I recently reread the first of those twelve books and was surprised to find how well-written it was.)

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There have been so many great books mentioned on this thread! I've been meaning to get over here for some time. Interesting that so many have mentioned "Lovely Bones" - I believe I heard the tail end of an interview with the author on NPR fairly recently...and a friend of mine was just given this as a "thank you present" - glad to hear your feelings, Treefrog.:)

I have a confession to make...I could not finish "The Corrections" and I'm not quite sure why. Am just finishing "Rise to Rebellion" by Jeff Shaara - a novel about the American Revolution...I loved his father's book "Killer Angels" and, although I've read several of the son's, I don't think he is anywhere near as good a writer as his father.

I have two new books waiting to be started: Edward Villela's autobiography "Prodigal Son" and Thomas L. Friedman's "From Beirut to Jerusalem".

And by the way, dirac and any others who've been put off by "The Hobbit" - I agree with the poster who suggested that you just skip it and move on the trilogy of The Rings!

P.S. vagansmom, I loved "Saints and Villains" by Denise G. too - an excellent book about the theologian Dietrick Bonhoeffer during WWII.

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Cheer up, BW – I couldn't begin "The Corrections." :)

As an admirer of General Lee, I felt obliged to dislike "The Killer Angels" – okay, Gettysburg was not his finest hour, but I thought (Michael) Shaara made him look like a senile old boob kept in line only by gallant, self-effacing General Longstreet. I was pleased to note recently that a new book on the battle has better things to say about Lee's role, although I haven't read it yet. "Killer Angels" is a very good read, however.

I enjoyed Villella's autobiography, especially the bit where Melissa Hayden orders him to drop his pants for a vitamin shot, in just those words. The Friedman book is good, too – that was back in the days when he was still a reporter, not an "information arbitrageur."

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Gahd, this thread is running for so long, I'm now entering my second book!

Reading Cynthia Ozick's "Messiah of Stockholm". The prose is so luscious, I find I'm slowing down to make it last longer. Haven't done that since McCourt's Angela's Ashes.

Speaking of Ms O, I know there were a lot of Cold Mountain fans, but her Puttermesser Papers should have won the National Book Award that year. I dunno: mebbe ya needed ta bea NooYawkah!

Watahmill

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