Saturday, April 6, 2024


UndiscoveredUndiscovered by Gabriela Wiener
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The strangest thing about being alone here in Paris, in an anthropology museum gallery more or less beneath the Eiffel Tower, is the thought that all these statuettes that look like me were wrenched from my country by a man whose last name I inherited."

Undiscovered by Journalist Gabriela Wiener is a dive into Peruvian history as she traces the lineage of her Jewish Austrian/French great great grandfather, an explorer in Peru, grieves the death of her father and tries to understand his dual life with two families, and documents the racism and colonial-tinged political slurs she's encountered as a Spanish resident. She also discusses her polyamory relationship with her husband, Jaime, and her girlfriend, Roci, plus other affairs she experiences. She's a busy narrator. Although the book is catalogued as fiction, I am thinking it is more like autofiction from the online interviews. She's a good writer but I bogged down a bit in the ancestral family tree hunts and wanted to whip back to the contemporary which yielded plenty of drama. Her exchanges with her mother toward the end were satisfying in conversation and letters, although my overall assessment is that I would rather see any one of the story lines developed, particularly the effects of her move to Spain and life there as a journalist.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024


LiarsLiars by Sarah Manguso
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Manguso’s slim volume of precise prose reads like autofiction as she dispassionately describes the end of her fifteen-year marriage to John who’s cheating. “When you’re a liar, you always know something that other people don’t know. Maybe lying to me made John feel extra smart.”
But no one gets off the hook as the narrator admits: “I remember how desperately I had to cling to the story of my happy marriage. It took effort. It felt so good to stop lying,” hence the title. Her reactions are visceral and compounded by the questions her young son asks.
I welcome another Manguso.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

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1,000 Words, a Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round

1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round by Jami Attenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round is a book of enjoyable essays with writing advice, interviews and inspiration by well-published Attenberg (six novels, a memoir, a short story collection) generated on her motivational social media site Extolling the virtues of a daily writing practice, Attenberg has set her own output at one thousand words every day and encourages her readers to try doing the same. In June, the sixth version of this communal two-week practice starts with a daily letter of encouragement from the author. The book uses the four seasons of the writer's cycle to discuss creativity, motivation, drafting and publishing. There are notes and insights scattered throughout, all geared to inspiring the writer to make art. And the book's messages could be used for other art forms as well. Highly recommended. Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC.

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The Body in Question

The Body in QuestionThe Body in Question by Jill Ciment
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Body in Question hums along as a story of a sensational murder trial of a young girl accused of murder, and the participating jurors, each identified only by profession or number. In Part Two, the story shifts our focus to one of the key jurors and her aged husband. Now each juror is identified by name and an irregularity surfaces which could challenge the verdict. Journalists hound the jurors and alliances crumble at the same time as one juror's husband is dying.
"Feet planted on the floor, he is half off the bed, half on, the posture of a man who has passed out from a night of hard drinking, but the scene lacks all the joys of inebriation. Only a drunken old poet would imagine that he is going to rage against the dying of the light. At whom? Death is excessively attentive. Death taps her husband's shoulder each time he falls asleep, startling him awake only long enough to remember that the is going to die. Death puts ice packs on his already cold feet. Death fill his bladder..."
Not only funny in bits, the prose is succinct and the pace moves swiftly to a surprising end.

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Saturday, March 30, 2024


HeroinesHeroines by Kate Zambreno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are some disagreeable reader comments about the author's excessiveness in this book, but I applaud its combination of memoir and literary commentary about the women writers who are psychologized and pathologized by their creative male partners, i.e. Zelda Fitzgerald, Vivien Eliot (Painted Shadow: The Life of Vivienne Eliot, First Wife of T. S. Eliot), Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, June Miller (Henry and June), Sylvia Plath, Anaïs Nin, as well as fictional characters in Virginia Woolf, Kate Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Anna Kavan, H.D., Elizabeth Hardwick'sThe Ghostly Lover, etc. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, the doctor tells the woman writer "to never touch pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live." Kate Zambreno describes "mean reds," fears of abandonment, her IBS and endometriosis, obsessive shopping, and her history of depression and sleeplessness, hence shrinks, pills, hospitalization as one of the "slit-your-wrist girls." She is accused of writing which is too personal, too emotional, too excessive. While some of the stories were familiar, I was sorry to finish this enlightening book and I was grateful for the extensive bibliography of over 150 books and articles about these women's lives. My TBR (To Be Read) quakes under the strain.

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Monday, March 25, 2024


AbigailAbigail by Magda Szabó
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finally finished Abigail by Magda Szabó translated into English by Len Rix in 2020 which I started in CA weeks ago.. This was a dense piece of writing, a coming-of-age novel, which is not my favorite genre but the emphasis on plot kept me moving along. The narrator is placed unhappily in a strict girls' school in a small town in Hungary during WWII by her beloved military father, a general, and each chapter is skillfully filled with suspense so that it is unthinkable to abandon the book. By the end, the final pages pick up the pace and suspicions are confirmed as the heroine encounters grown up revelations and political insights about allies and enemies and the statue named Abigail who allays the troubles of the girls. I recommend Magda Szabó's work to Elena Ferrante fans for its youthful themes and wartime era as well as its psychological underpinnings. I preferred her earlier work, The Door, but have no regrets about reading either and welcomed the chance to learn a bit about Hungary.

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CostalegreCostalegre by Courtney Maum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Costalegre is a story in which I keep trying to fill in all the fictional blanks with real artists. Evidently about Peggy Guggenheim (the mother is called Leonora) and her cadre of Surrealists on the Pacific Coast of Mexico near Careyes doing art and escaping from Nazis in 1937, it is told from the viewpoint of the lonely lovesick teen daughter (inspired by Guggenheim's ill-fated daughter Pegeen), this erratic crew bond, scrap and neglect each other like the real Marcel Duchamp, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, Djuna Barnes and Leonora Carrington might have. The chapters are short, labeled for days of the week as though a diary, and a smattering of drawings contribute to the whimsical touch of a lively coming-of-age contribution to the many writings on Peggy Guggenheim, her family and friends.

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